I have been around the ski industry most of my life. Skiing has never been cheap, but it is quickly becoming a sport only for the most affluent. I have heard some estimates that claim that the avg. skier at Vail spends $800-$1000/day. That seems a bit high to me, but even if it is close by half - that is too much to be sustainable in the long run.
I know that the industry thinks that skiing public is demanding more amenities. Like, high speed lifts, ballroom smooth grooming, terrain parks with all types of artificial features, palacial lodges with gourmet food, etc, etc. The base areas around these resorts are built up with high dollar condos, hotels, and shops. All these are extremely expensive to offer. Now it is not uncommon to see lift tickets in excess of $100/day, to help cover the costs. Maybe it was important to offer all this in the last 10-15 years. Not so sure now.
For years many of my customers would take their spouses and family skiing for a couple long weekends to regional destination resorts (Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, Steamboat). It was relatively affordable for those folks, as there were some good deals (for lodging and skiing) offered to these regional customers. These deals have dried up recently. Now these resorts have shifted focus towards national marketing, and only want the "jet set" affluent customer. It is really apparent that the big "resorts" don't want the middle class family skier, or local, only the wealthy.
There is a new trend for these middle class, family skiers and locals. They are starting to seek out smaller, locally owned ski mountains that are focused more on the skiing rather than the resort. This is a good development. Or they are getting out of skiing altogether because it is too expensive. This is, obviously, bad. Or just cutting back to a few days a year, and just renting equipment. Also, not so good.
The biggest demographic group of skiers have been the 'baby boomer" generation, many of them are falling out of skiing as they are aging and are physically less able to participate. Younger generations are not participating in skiing nearly as strongly. Probably due to many factors, but the major factor is expense. Unfortunately, it appears that more folks are giving up on skiing than are taking up the sport. This will spell a much diminished ski industry in the future.
What needs to be done? Everybody in the ski industry needs to work much harder to embrace new folks. Some of the bring your buddy programs or affordable1st timer rent/lift ticket/lesson packages are a good start. Offer more deals for families or locals. Cut back on some of the amenities - groom only 1/2 of the width of the run, cut down on the artificial features, when replacing a lift - just put in a standard speed chair, not a high speed or gondola, etc. Offer Chili or Hamburgers or Hot dogs or simple sandwiches rather than gourmet meals.
And ski companies, focus more on value oriented, relevant products. All the marketing focus is on pinnacle, specialty, product (superfat powder planks, or carbon fiber/systems) rather than on skis and boots that are most appropriate to the vast majority of skiers. The world doesn't need any more $1000+ skis and $800+ boots. The industry does need to focus on gear for the average person and make it functional and affordable.
I don't have all the answers, and know that this rant won't help much. But, I am a little sad watching the sport I love fading into irrelevance, and becoming inaccessible to most people.