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Growing the sport of skiing - One Man's View - Page 2

post #31 of 44
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post

Going back to the original findings, they don't appear to match what the NSAA has found. http://www.nsaa.org/nsaa/press/historical-visits.pdf


Looking at those figures, the total numbers appear to hover between 50-60 million, with obvious peaks and troughs that coincide with snow totals and the economy. So, although the number of people who have skied at least one day might have decreased, the number of ski days logged has remained relatively constant.


If you want a full report of total figures, this is pretty good http://www.vanat.ch/RM-world-report-2011.pdf. (The author really needed a native editor to smooth out the language, but the statistics are brilliant.) This report even states that the number of skiers in the US is up over the last 10 years.


That was interesting. A couple of things: "Austria is also the only country where the schools are still going on ski weeks on a systematic basis. This may 

be a secret of the steady growth in attendance."
And I'll just c/p most of the section on the US, and highlight a few things:
The United States are the biggest ski market, with a high number or 
resorts and of skier visits. The industry is dominated by several big 
players, operating several mostly integrated resorts. Besides, it accounts numerous independent ski areas of various sizes. Nevertheless, further to closures and other misfortunes, their number has 
been decreasing over the years. 
The United States ski industry is the one that has been the most 
closely analysed over the years. There is a substantial history of statistical data available.
It was the first in the industry to raise issues of 
the discrepancies between population growth and attendance in the 
ski resorts, especially as it mainly depends on its domestic participants.  
The 2008 crisis impacted the U.S. resorts more than the European 
ones. This is explained partly because of declining consumer confidence and
rising unemployment. On the other hand, winter sports in 
the U.S. lead to greater mobility, the distances to the resorts being 
larger, also causing longer stays. They are thus more sensitive to 
budget cuts caused by the crisis. However, the ski areas of the East 
Coast, closer to their catchments areas, were in a better position. To 
attract customers, accommodations prices were reduced and numerous last minute offers proposed.
The number of foreign customers 
who attended the U.S. resorts has also been on the decline, due to a 
stronger dollar, in addition to the sluggish international economy.  
However, the U.S. ski  industry experienced a quick recovery during 2009/10 season.
With an attendance of 59.6 million skier visits, compared to 57.1 million skier visits recorded in 2008/09,
it is considered as the second best ever season. This performance is highly remarkable in a still weak
economic environment. Furthermore, snow and weather conditions were only average.  
Apart from the 2008 crisis, highs and downs of the weather conditions have been modelling the shape of the evolution
over the years, more than anything else. The evolution of the skier visits up to the 
beginning of the decade was just continuing a tendency that is already showed in this mature market since the end of the 1970’s. 
However, things began to change over the last 5 years, where 3 seasons were very good, leading thus again to a growing tendency.  
The 5-years average attendance has been slightly rising, further to the acknowledgement of the demographic issue and the set up of 
the “Model for Growth”. It aims at addressing the aging of the population, the increasing proportion of ethnical minorities and the skier’s 
retention scheme (increasing the interest of beginners, converting them into regular skiers and preventing regular skiers from abandoning). For several years now, measures have been taken in order to implement this “Model for Growth”, even if some drawbacks appeared and the U.S. industry still continues to have difficulties in extending its customer base. The results show that continuous efforts are required and their benefits are limited, so they need to be multiplied. With a market as big as Europe but only one third of the number of skier visits, the U.S. industry still seems to have some potential.
The good news for the U.S. ski industry is that the number of skiers is growing significantly, with an average increase of 1.2% over the last ten years.  
post #32 of 44

The thing that I found surprizing was that the Northeast has fewer ski visits than the Rockies despite the proximity to a much, much larger local population. I'm not really sure what's going on there. Either they can't get the same number of skiers or the skiers in the Rockies log a far larger number of days on the mountain.


Also, it's interesting to note that the US has only 4% of the population skiing. Even Spain, Poland, Hungary, and Bosnia have a larger percentage.

post #33 of 44

Xela is right- every sport with a steep learning curve needs an incentive for the beginners to stick with it to start enjoying it.  It's not that you get on skis, take a run down a groomer and get hooked for life.  As for the opinion that there are too many people on the slopes- sometimes it feels like it too, but without that customer base we wont get new infrastructure, investment, and economies of scale on gear manufacturing, etc.   BTW, local small businesses are the first who would feel the impact of shrnking customer base. Backcountry.com can easily afford to loose 10,000 skier customers, a local shop may not afford to loose 300 of those.


So, I am all for subsidizing beginner lessons and beginner rentals.  Squaw has this pretty awesome beginner deal with a rental, lesson, and lift ticket for a very reasonable price, but they keep those people on a puny Papoose lift and dont let them go up the main lifts (in fear of obvious abuse that people would buy the beginner package and then take off to ski Headwall).   I'd like to see that program extended to other beginners lifts- just make the lesson all day, and if there are people abusing the system, so be it.  I am sure that Squaw looses a lot more money on the scam perpetrated by groups that buy only two lift tickets and use them to shuttle people to the upper mountains where there are no ticket gates and you (theoretically) can ski for free all day. I'd rather have them clamp down on that mode of gaming the system and put the proceeds into beginner subsidy.    Cheap season passes is paradoxically another way to attract people.  Someone who bought a cheap pass is more likely to come to the mountain on a extra weekend, but more importantly, he/she will also bring friends with them.  We brought a lot of new people to the mountain through our ski lease (and out guests are naturally brought to the mountain that we know best).

post #34 of 44

The resorts out West are part of the culture of living, from what I've seen.  If you live there, it's likely you ski, and are out there regularly.  In the East, that's not so much the case unless you live near VT, NH, or some eastern NY resorts, possibly Quebec.  There are a few considerations:

Eastern seaboard is no match for the west in terms of ski experience, terrain, resorts, and so on.  Yes, there are some nice eastern resorts, that is entirely true, but not near a large population base within an easy drive.  And if it's a long drive, then people would likely just as soon go out west.  I know I would.

Further, the love of skiing begins (usually) with the younger folks.  Yes, older folks learn to ski, but the lifelong passion doesn't generally start there.  It starts when they're young, exposed to a school trip, etc.  But here's the thing:  kids learn all sorts of sports in gym....baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, whatever.  There are much fewer winter sports by comparison, and most of them are expensive, other than ice skating.  

Much of the reality is simple economics, but not at the macro resort level.  It's at the family level.  If a parent can put their kid in a local sport, for the price of a pair of shoes and a glove or hat, it's easy, affordable, accessible, social, and doable.  Contrast that with skiing, which despite what anyone says about beginner lessons/rentals/etc, is eventually an expensive proposition.  Gear when they grow out of it, lift tickets, and so forth.  Not to mention you need to GO TO THE HILL since you can't ski on flat; those other summer sports don't need much in terms of dedicated facilities and there are tons of courts, fields, and such nearby.

So you're left with a "ski trip" to a destination resort.  That's a trip, not a sport.  Compare that with baseball, basketball, soccer, or even hockey for example....... very different story.  Those are not "trips" to "destinations".  Those are pickup (or organized) sports that are close, cheap, and accessible.  Skiing absolutely doesn't make the cut unless you live near a hill or are rich.  It's just simple math; skiing is expensive, face it.

We're lucky we live near a local hill, so it's great for the kids.  But there will come a time soon where the 200' vertical doesn't cut it.  So then what?  An 8 hour drive to Vermont every weekend?  A 2 hour drive every weekend to find a 700' hill?  And new gear (even used isn't cheap) every other year?  When my kids can just strap on a pair of skates and go skating 5 minutes away at the arena instead?  It's a hard sell.

My kids LOVE skiing and boarding. But I am very concerned that they are investing time, energy, money, and love into something which will become increasingly difficult (impossible?) to support and achieve, except for that odd "ski trip" once a year which becomes a huge expense.  That's not sport, that's not constant learning or exercise.  That's just a boutique getaway trip.  That doesn't even compute.  If we lived out West, near a mountain, it would be different.  But 200' verts around here only last so long before the need to jump to the next level.  Sadly that places much of that passion out of reach, in the context of what else is available out there in terms of other activities and sports.

I'm sure many will argue otherwise, but skiing just is not mainstream, and never will be.  It's a niche sport to some, a luxury getaway activity for many, and something to watch on TV for most.  Of all the people I know, a small percentage can ski, and of those only a handful could be called skiers.  I'm almost shocked when I talk to someone and learn they can ski, let alone get out regularly.  It's a rarity.  Sad perhaps, but true.

post #35 of 44

Most of Europe is north of Seattle, the northernmost major city in the US. It is surprising that in the warm latitudes of the US that there are as many snow skiers as we see. Skiing in the US is relatively well developed, presented and promoted. Well done, keep it up!


Squaw's old cheap $5 or $10 kid's tickets was the best program ever! Parents would bring the kids to the mountains and the kids would get hooked. The parents would end up getting dragged along by the kids (and pay full price so Squaw didn't lose money overall). Squaw became the family destination because of the cheap kid's tickets. The kids learned to ski Squaw and were disenchanted by the flatter resorts and would end up coming back to Squaw to ski the radical terrain - even when they had to pay adult prices. Great long term thinking! KSL are you listening?


Social skiing rocks! Skiing alone at a quiet resort gets lonely and boring. Great for a workout or a skills refinement session but not pure fun. If the mountain is hopping you can pick up new friends and party down (the hill). Meeting and skiing with Trekchick and the others from Epic was one of my highlights of the year. Skiing with friends adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment.


It's up to us, the passionate skiers, to promote the sport and a physically active lifestyle. Populist attitudes do more than any advertising campaign.



post #36 of 44

Agree with Eric here.  If we expect to attract more people to skiing, they need to see us having a good time and providing ample evidence that the expense, time and trouble is totally worth it.


Re: warm latitudes.  Altitude and latitude both are factors for snow.    Roughly speaking, 300 miles of north-south latitude change is equivalent to a 1000' of vertical.   Mt Baker has the record for annual snowfall, with an elevation of 3500-5000'.  That's below the snowline at most places in the southern Rockies.   With high mountain ranges in the US west, there are a lot of great ski areas.  This also explains why BC resorts that have a 4000' base can have great snow.

post #37 of 44
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

This seems to be a frequent subject for discussion.  Among the ideas that resonate with me are:




6. Raise season pass prices to allow day passes to become more reasonable.




I don't know where you ski but my season pass is already over $1000 !

post #38 of 44

In addition to cheap/free lift tickets for kids, another way to keep beginners and families coming back is to groom more slopes. Yes, I know it's heresy, and I personally wouldn't like to see more groomers myself. But the fact is, most beginners and intermediates can't handle powder, crud, bumps, and so on. So, when they're on a mountain with very few groomed slopes, they feel limited and crammed into overcrowded trails.


I was at PCMR last March during a dump and its aftermath, and there were loads of beginners and intermediates nervously going over the trail map to make sure they always had an easy way down. I also saw quite a few struggling their way through the cut-up snow on the ungroomed slopes (quite a few blues and even a couple of greens), which was more Euro-style heavy stuff than champagne powder that week. As much as I enjoyed the lack of grooming, I could understand how a lot of people found it difficult.


I think that's one of the reasons the European resorts get so many beginners coming back. They offer them miles and miles of groomed slopes to cruise or race around on. It comes at the price of pushing people like me off piste, but the truth is, the cruisers outnumber the off-piste crowd by quite a bit. Powder makes good movies, but corduroy makes good business.

post #39 of 44

Yes, C'Vortex, catering to the intermediates is mandatory. My home mountain is a success because they have turned it into an intermediate paradise with award winning grooming and a schedule that grooms 35 to 40 runs/night which is just under half the intermediate runs. They also have a groomed beginner run off every chair.


Another thing that Sun Peaks started to do part way thru last year: On the grooming report a snowflake icon appears beside the name of a run that has received at least 15cm (6") of fresh snow after it has been groomed. This allows the powder skiers to go directly to the runs that will be the max. amount of fresh snow with a smooth base underneath and it allows those who are intimidated by powder (some intermediates and some eastern skiers) to find the powder free groomers. Brilliant.yahoo.gif


Here is another get people skiing idea: Back in the 19.... (guess the decade) Stowe, Vt. charged $7/day for lift tickets but if you bought 5 consecutive days (Mon.-Fri.) it was $35 and they included a free morning or after noon lesson/day. After 5 half day lessons in a row it was pretty much guaranteed that you ended up a better skier.


My home mountain offers season passes for half price if you buy before the end of June and this is equal to the cost of 8 day tickets. A very popular program that more than tripled season pass sales when first introduced several years ago. But for those who will ski less than eight days/season I would like to see a variation of the Stowe promotion: The introduction of 5 day pass that includes half day lessons any mid week day of the year. I might just make this suggestion to a friend who works in the Sun Peaks marketing dept.

post #40 of 44
Originally Posted by Rossi Smash View Post


I'll pay more....


If you'd rather ski with the current slope saturation, you enjoy that and your savings. I won't even ski Friday through Sunday as it is!

Someone really should try more country club models for those of us that avoid the more social aspects of the sport and just want peace to ski quiet, barren (but lift servedrolleyes.gif) slopes to themselves.  I'm on that wavelength quite a bit myself.  I heard that recent one failed, and not sure about how the Sierra Club is doing these days.  I could see myself joining something like that in retirement though.

As for the more normal folks and areas, I'd LOVE to see more middle school and high school ski clubs, possibly even weekend versions for towns that are over an hour from the terrain.  if your folks don't ski you're not likely at all to get exposure to it as a youngster unless you have fairly wealthy friends that will take you along with them.  Public school ski clubs are an affordable and easy way for children of non skiing parents to get a taste of it/plant the seed.

Edited by crgildart - 6/26/12 at 9:26am
post #41 of 44

The Denver area has had a successful ski club for kids for decades ... https://www.eskimoclub.com/ ... they used to take the train up to Winter Park, but have used buses for many years. I believe it's $40 rt for the ride, and $36 discounted tickets, and lessons are available as well. $75 for transportation and a lift ticket  ... It's not exactly cheap, but not bad, either. The amusement park costs about $40, and the ick factor is huge. I had a ton of friends who grew up in the Eskimo Ski Club ... my parents always took us, and we always took our own kids, but not all families are the same. 


I know other resorts around here use buses to get kids up to their seasonal programs, so it happens, but it's not exactly a budget thing. It is discounted, but by enough? ... does anyone know if these things are subsidized at all? 

post #42 of 44

Programs that get kids skiing together assure future adult participants. Perhaps there were more clubs and programs years ago - I first went skiing on a high school / Mogul ski club trip. But there were no lessons or packages other than the bus ride to Tahoe from the Bay area. Just a bunch of my friends having a fun day on the hill with the guy who knew how to ski as our guide/instructor. Perhaps San Diego is too far south (but only a couple hours from local hills) or perhaps my kids were too established as skiers but I never heard of clubs for my kids. We went to Tahoe too often for the the kids to join the local Socal race teams and didn't go to Squaw enough to justify sending them to Mighty Mites. Still the kids got a lot of social skiing and love to ski as adults today.


Squaw's Mighty Mites might be the best skier development program! Every kid from that program loves to ski and skis well. Outside kids want to be good enough to ski with the Mighty Mites and work hard on their skills to be able to keep up even if they can't join. I'm sure other mountains have similar programs. It is a commitment for the parents - again we the passionate adults are a driving force by what we do for our kids.


On another note, grooming the whole hill flat is NOT a good way to grow the sport. Beginners and intermediates do not want to see a whole crowd struggling on an easy hill. That's just not fun or exciting. They want to see and copy the experts ripping the ---- out of a line. Groom half the hill so there is an easy way down. But leave bumps and powder on the other half and encourage the advanced skiers to show off for developing skiers. The developing skiers will see the experts, learn from them and have good bar stories about what they saw and how they tried the expert stuff. Skiing is a challenge - don't mask the challenge with snow cats. Unless the snow cat grooms a perfect zipper line of bumps!



post #43 of 44

Ya, it seems that most public school "ski clubs" are mostly just a little marketing hype to sell a large number of lift tickets at a slight discount.  Probably a result of the megga conglomeration of ski area ownership and management, less competition.  When I was younger the local areas fought hard and fast for the local school club business.  If I remember correctly, hadn't been in one since 8th grade, but taught lessons to them through high school and in to college...  In the early 1980s Minneapolis area ski club deals usually included 6 weeks of skiing Thursday evenings after school until 9pm with a one hour lesson each evening for half the retail cost of a lift ticket (most kids skipped the lesson after the first week of the program).  Rental equipment was also available at 50% off retail price for an evening.  If one or two large firms had owned all of those little ski hills I'm betting that it would have been a lot more expensive.

post #44 of 44
Originally Posted by eleeski View Post


On another note, grooming the whole hill flat is NOT a good way to grow the sport. Beginners and intermediates do not want to see a whole crowd struggling on an easy hill. That's just not fun or exciting. They want to see and copy the experts ripping the ---- out of a line. Groom half the hill so there is an easy way down. But leave bumps and powder on the other half and encourage the advanced skiers to show off for developing skiers. The developing skiers will see the experts, learn from them and have good bar stories about what they saw and how they tried the expert stuff. Skiing is a challenge - don't mask the challenge with snow cats. Unless the snow cat grooms a perfect zipper line of bumps!




Well, for the last five years (after moving to the UK), I've been skiing in the Alps. In every resort I've been to, almost all the marked pistes are groomed (usually, there are a couple of "freeride zones" or "nature" pistes, but that's it), and yet Europe has a far higher percentage of the total population that skis/snowboards than the US. So, as far as I can see, they know what they're doing.


The beginners and intermediates get hundreds of miles of trails to cruise around on, which keeps them entertained and coming back year after year, even if they're not progressing. They also get steep blacks that are groomed so that they can get a taste of the steeps without all the other difficulties thrown in. All of this while watching the experts carve around at Mach Schnell with ease. Then, once they progress to the point where they want to get a taste of the powder and bumps, they can jump off piste and give it a go.


Perhaps all the people you see want to learn how to zip down the bumps or slash through powder. But the thing is, there are far more people in the world who just want to cruise around or race down the hill. And they like the groomers because it's hard to cruise or go really fast over bumps.


For example, here's a video of a guy carving down one of the blacks in St. Anton http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRi0RnLicco. For every guy like me who goes off the side to ski in the bumps and soft stuff, there are dozens of people who stick to the groomed section, including a lot of decent skiers who've been going to the mountains for years. If you leave that whole section of the mountain ungroomed, you lose all of those dozens of people for the benefit of the handful of skiers like me.


Like I said, it's not a business model that I particularly like, but I have to admit that it's very effective.

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