Fresh white powder, icy wind on your face, adrenaline from speeding down the slopes–Santa Clara native, Brian Bensch turned his passion for skiing into a new business.
Bensch launched Snow Schoolers in Lake Tahoe in December 2016 for the current snow season. Snow Schoolers is a business that connects prospective ski students with certified instructors through his user friendly website.
Bensch explains that Snow Schoolers can be compared to Uber and Airbnb. The instructors have complete flexibility to teach when they want to. The website that Bensch built simplifies the process of booking a ski lesson. You can book a lesson immediately with an available instructor–like hailing an Uber on your phone–or you can browse through about a dozen ski instructors and pick one.
Bensch and his brothers grew up in Santa Clara. As a young man Bensch loved to ski and even worked as a ski instructor while he attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire to study economics and political science.
“I was pretty obsessed with skiing in high school and went to Darthmouth partially because of it,” said Bensch.
After college he made his way back to the Bay Area and eventually got a job at Google in advertising. His job at Google was an essential stepping-stone to bring Snow Schoolers to fruition.
“Google is an incredibly innovative company,” he said. “It’s almost like a breeding ground for entrepreneurs because the company culture.”
The idea for Snow Schoolers came to Bensch in 2013 when Uber, Lyft and the sharing economy were booming. He was able to tie a similar idea back to his passion for skiing. He wanted to simplify ski lesson process and also make it more affordable.
He thought, “why not start an Uber for ski school and just connect instructors to students directly?”
However, Bensch put the idea on a shelf for a later date. Eventually, he left Google in 2014 and started his job at MetroMile, a car insurance start up.
Bensch fell in love with the start up world and started to get an itch to become apart of it. In 2015, he was on one of his regular trips to Lake Tahoe. He was filling out his application for Stanford Business School and as part of his application, he had to write about a business idea–Snow Schoolers was his subject. Writing about this coveted idea that he held in the back of his mind inspired Bensch.
“I was sensing this pull for, ‘I wanna do something more big and bold,’” he said.
In June 2016, he finally decided it was time to bring Snow Schoolers to life and he threw his whole life into it. He took a four-month coding boot camp and did a ton of research. It was a like a full time job and then some.
Bensch built his business from the ground up and on Dec. 19, 2016, Snow Schoolers started selling lessons.
Right now Bensch is only partnered with one resort–Homewood Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe. He hopes to connect with about a dozen more resorts when the snow season is over to grow his business for the next snow season. He is even working on expanding to Utah and Colorado.
He said that this first season was focused around creating a successful case study to help him pitch to more resorts.
“Overall it’s been a great first season,” said Bensch. “We’ve dealt with our fair share of challenges, not unlike any business getting off the ground… it’s been exciting to say the least. That being said, we’re generally pleased with the amount of business we’ve generated, and are looking forward to finishing the season strong, and having even more options for customers next year.”
Snow Schoolers will be accepting lessons as long as Homewood is open. As of now, Homewood will be open until April 9 but with recent weather, they might extend.
Next year, Bensch hopes to open up lessons by Dec. 1–weather permitting.
Visit www.snowschoolers.com to learn more, subscribe for updates, or book a lesson. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
In full disclosure, Brian Bensch’s brother, Andrew Bensch, is a writer for the WEEKLY.