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Ski Sales Down - Boarding, Tele and XC Up!

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
I just perused the Sporting Goods Business site:


A few interesting points from this year's US sales:

Alpine equipment sales: down 14% to $392 million.

Snowboards and associated equipment sales: up 16% to $208 million.

Nordic equipment (cross country) sales: up 43% to $ 37 million.

Tele gear was up 86% to $7 million.

Can any conclusions can be drawn from these trends?
post #2 of 33
Thread Starter 
My own thoughts: In order to skiing to avoid further declines against other forms of sliding (especially snowboarding), the alpine ski industry needs to re-invent itself again, via technology - as it did with the "shape ski" revolution of the mid-90's.

New ski geometries and materials, I feel, could accomplish this. This year I became an Atomic "Metron" convert. I believe such designs are re-defining the shape of skiing. Nothing I've skied before offered such smoothness, angulation and pure fun.

Other brands, Nordica and Rossi from what I've read here, will soon also unveil radical new designs.

Will this be enough to stem the decline in alpine skiing? Only if new skiers, or returning skiers find the learning curve flatter, and the process more enticing.
post #3 of 33
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato
My own thoughts: In order to skiing to avoid further declines against other forms of sliding (especially snowboarding), the alpine ski industry needs to re-invent itself again, via technology - as it did with the "shape ski" revolution of the mid-90's.

New ski geometries and materials, I feel, could accomplish this. This year I became an Atomic "Metron" convert. I believe such designs are re-defining the shape of skiing. Nothing I've skied before offered such smoothness, angulation and pure fun.
I can agree that technology will help...but what needs to change is the grassroots image of skiing. We have seen over the last 10 - 15 years a switch toward snowboarding by the youth because boarding is perceived as cool, radical, cutting edge, rebellious, yada, yada, yada. Skiing on he other hand has the image of an aging, pompous, embedded in tradition, mother & father sport. And god forbid a teenager, do anything like my parents.

IMHO, the Joe Commonman relates skiing to racing, rich and high stung. While he relates boarding to park, laidback and cool.

So to be hip, cool, and accepted IMMEDIATLY by your peers, you carry a single plank around. You can be the freaking elephant-man with ADD and carry around a board and you immediately have street credibility. If you have skis on your shoulder....you are a sellout, not cool, and worst of all.... "you are like your parents or worst MY parents". As a skier you have to prove your-cool-self every time you snap in. Teens will take the easy road and buy a board, they have enough social issues, they dont want another one.

The market must change this image. It is changing, as more skiers enter the park and are become as prolific as boarders. Then ski sales will turn. I say this with a heavy heart....but IMHO the park will control ski sales in the future not the on-piste allure of skiing.

I could be full of $hit, but these are my observations from raising an racing adolecent who loves his twin tip freesking/park time and ,today anyway, sorta likes his parents.
post #4 of 33
Perhaps there will be new applications of gear: In honor of Hunter Thompson I propose a new sport, by which skiers leash and allow snow boarders to diss eachother and dogfight on the slopes. Preferably the run will be steep and tree lined so a dog/boarder can shove another dog/boarder into the trees for a quick, clean end. One needs to channel the primitive aggressions of these breeds to allow nature to run it's course, and decrease the exploding population of these dangerous and uncontrollable pests. Follwing the Fete, expired dog/boarders will plucked from the trees, caped, quartered and roasted, and then served to the latest and most aggressive breed of dog/boarders, who hungrily anticipate more bloody mano a mano, or should I say paw to paw fighting on the slopes.
post #5 of 33
They could start by lowering the prices. I could buy a car* for the price of what I'd pay to get outfitted today, proform prices too.

*A well running, reliable mid 1990's model.
post #6 of 33
Thread Starter 
Spork: Insightful observations and well-stated. I agree, "street cred" has a lot to do with it. Teenages would rather be dragged naked over broken glass than risk loosing their status among peers (we've all been there).

Valid points.
post #7 of 33
I can't figure it out. Seems like 5 years ago everyone was trying to get me into boarding. Then I take a 2 day trip to Vt last month and couldn't believe the scarcity of boarders. I skied Snowbird for 2 full days 10 days ago and rode up Little Cloud a number of time w/o seeing a boarder coming down, NOT ONE in the bowl. Skied a whole bunch of chutes with no evidence of boarders scraping, not like it seemed to be years ago. Same thing with many of the mogul fields, their presence just didn't seem to matter in the condition of the hill. Not like years ago when I noticed their scrapings in the steep narrows, and their sideways ruts. Maybe they are just figuring out they truly don't belong in the rough terrain and should stick to crusin and layin in the pipes.
post #8 of 33
Thread Starter 
SnowbirdDevotee: Some on this forum have questioned whether as many boarders as skiers stick with their sport. In other words, if more new people opt for boarding, sales will rise.

But, if they're just hanging with their buds (socially motivated), and not serious about alpine adventures, the higher turnover rate will reflect fewer boarders on the hill.
post #9 of 33
Maybe snowboarding and telemark are more fun than alpine. Having tried all three many times this is my conclusion. If you are like me, you will continue alpine ski for a long time after you start telemarking and snowboarding but it will phase out as you improve. Learn to telemark and snowboard, you should do both, they complement each other.
post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 
Telerod: This may be entirely possible. It feels weird to say it, but in 35 years of skiing, I've never tried tele or boarding. Maybe I'm stubborn, or I perhaps I'm just reluctant to go through the indignity of learning another technique from scratch (ego).

It takes a long time to become an "expert" skier (the word is used way too loosely - probably also by me). Starting over again seems daunting. I shudder at the thought of sitting on my butt so often (again, middle-age ego),

As an outside observer, boarding looks limiting - unless you're off piste. Here, boards have a huge advantage. No question, they're better tools in the BC.

However, I can't see technical advantages of boarding on the front side. They don't look as nimble as skis - too wide a platform.

Tele skiing just looks like a heck of a work-out. Those guys are lean and burn the calories. I always regard them with amazement. I've no idea how they get around so well on those skinny sticks.

It's possible that both sports are a LOT more fun than they look. Somdbody must think so, otherwise, why would boarding and tele be soaring (86% for tele) while alpine skiing falls?

You've done all 3, so you'd know better than me.
post #11 of 33
You're not wrong, Captain. But snowboarding groomers must look fun if you look at someone who can carve on a board. Telemark in bumps must look fun for twenty turns at least if you are watching a good skier, nevermind if he keels over gasping for air after those twenty turns. Good turns, good exercise (anaerobic, fun!) it's all good!

Technical advantage of snowboard on front side? Do you need a technical advantage on the front side? If putting a grin on your face is a goal, snowboard might have technical advantage on groomed runs.

If you are always in great terrain or great conditions maybe you don't need to try new forms of sliding to have more fun. When the skiing is good you want to be on the gear that you know how to use the best, that will be more fun. I got into alternative forms of sliding to make a small hill with packed snow more fun. When it dumped or I went on vacation, I used the alpine set-up to get the most out of the mountain and snow.
post #12 of 33
Captain, you can do what you want, but you are always posting about snowboarding and telemark. I know you have mad cash, gear up and find out. Will it make you crunchy or young? No, it's not about the rebel or hardbody stereotypes, it's about you trying something new and having fun.
post #13 of 33
I like snowboarders, they do a great job of grooming the moguls. At my mountain they actually improve conditions by making nice troughs on the bump runs.
post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by telerod15
You're not wrong, Captain. But snowboarding groomers must look fun if you look at someone who can carve on a board.
Totally true! Once I watched a snowboarder lay outriggers like the best surfer I've ever seen. Friggen' amazing. At that moment, I'd have given anything to have been a boarder.

The boarders on this forum can probably do this stuff (don't you need hard-shell boots for it?). But, most I see don't come close.

I suspect the duuuudes fall-out of boarding quickly (no proof - just a gut feeling). The good ones are awsome to watch.
post #15 of 33
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by telerod15
Captain, you can do what you want, but you are always posting about snowboarding and telemark. I know you have mad cash, gear up and find out.
Telerod: you make me smile. You're right, I have the cash to gear up. But, to get the point where I'd get the same thrill on a snowboard or tele gear as I get on skis, I'd be looking at years.

I love the g-forces I get from arcing my alpine skis. It feels fabulous! Technically, I think I'm still improving (at age 51). I've never skied as well as I do today, although I don't have the endurance or muscle of my youth.

I'll settle for watching the tele guys (always a treat - amazing what most of them can do), and the few boarders who take my breath away.

I appreciate the art of superb execution. It's beautiful!
post #16 of 33
If you don't do it this year, you will be another year older when you do!
post #17 of 33
Good points from everyone. It's price. Several people have recently told me they'd love to take up skiing but can't afford it. It's also pretty stodgy, too. I took up alpine boarding a few years ago and also tried my hand at softbooting it. Boarders are pretty cool. Very friendly. Supportive. Too many skiers are, well, "I can't talk to you, I've got my Lange race boots on." Snowboarders are never like that.

Golf and tennis went mainstream, in part, btw, based on price. A non-skiing golfer told me he thought that skiing was about where golf was before Arnie came along.
post #18 of 33

I have skied my entire life 30 plus years. 4 Years ago i took up snowboarding. Started spending more time on the hill with the wife and less with time in the woods with my buddies.

Purchased a 3 day lift, lesson, ticket deal. I ended up leaving the 2nd lesson with the instructer's blessing because I was being held back. By day 4 I was riding blues. Day 5 I had my own board and boots setup. I rode about 16 days the first year and by the end of the season I was riding pretty much every trail.

I'm sure Tele skiing (which I still haven't tried) is much harder to learn...but the learning curve on a board was quite easy...especially for one who is an experienced skier.

It does hurt more when you fall on a snowboard....when skiing the momentum is downhill...hence you slide a bit when you fall..however, on a board..your momentum is more perpendicular to the hill..so, when you catch an edge you snap down into the snow.

Not sure what the moral of this post is..but I enjoy snowboarding...but I did always consider myself a skier that snowboarded. This year, I purchased new alpine boots and have only skied. Completely enjoying every run this year. Will I board again, yes, in time. I must admit..as I believe was mentioned earlier in this thread that riding in powder is quite a thrill....as you definitely float and stay up easier. (Although this past weekend, the skiing in the woods in the powder was quite effortless).
post #19 of 33
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato
The boarders on this forum can probably do this stuff (don't you need hard-shell boots for it?). But, most I see don't come close
At one point I was close to riding pure carved turns though not layed out level to the snow. I can not lay out turns on skis either (drag hip). Once when I thought I was going pretty good, a softbooter passed me on an arc, jumped up, spun 180, and kept arcing switch cleaner and faster than I was doing on hard boots! Yes it can be done and that was impressive. He wasn't in the pretty, angulated, hands and hips skimming snow, hard booter position but balanced and trenching, forward and backward, fast! Nice! Now I settle for scarving on a freeride board with K2 clickers. Still a lot of fun, more than before, really. More than ever.
post #20 of 33
Thread Starter 
Marcski: An inspiring post. It gives hope to us creaky souls who shy away from making fools of ourselves.

Perhaps, with examples like yours and encourgement from Telerod, I may get up the gumption to board one day (forget tele - that's for freaks of nature - in a good way).

That total outrigger carving stuff described by Telerod is indeed enticing. But that's a totally different level. One must be realistic. It's like starting surfing at age 51 and then planning to do the big tunnels in Hawaii. Well, maaaybe.

If my daughter had boarded, I would definitely have done it. But, she insisted in skiing (I think because she once had a "Skiing Barbie".)

Hmmm. My sliding fate hinged upon Mattel? How's that for empowerment?
post #21 of 33
Looking at the numbers-I not sure snowboarding is the story (or emblematic of the "problem" with alpine skiing). The biggest and most impressive percentage gains are in Tele and Nordic-which tells me, people are getting fed up with resorts (cost/hassle, et al.) in general. I suspect more and more people (particularly the fitness oriented among us) are discovering the relatively cheap and truly sublime thrills of getting off the resort grid (or at least climbing yourself to the off-piste goodies). I'd love to see the percentage increase in the sales of AT equipment and the percentage of Alpine skis being set up with AT bindings (or even the sale numbers for climbing skins). I suspect these would be in positive correlation to the drastic increase in Tele and Nordic equipment.

I don't think that alpine sales are down due to a stodgy image...'afterall how would you explain increased nordic and tele sales...the bread and butter of winter sport stodginess. Truthfully, the sky-rocketing cost of resort skiing and all that entails, the rules, the crowds, the cappucino are the reasons, I suspect, for the impressive growth of other non-alpine (or strictly alpine in the case of Randonee) disciplines. And of course, the technology boom has hit these once more arcane disciplines making all that they promise for the winter sport enthusiast ever more attainable.

Those are the reasons I stuck with my older alpine set up this year, but bought my first xc ski set up and my first AT set up as well. I doubt I'm alone.
post #22 of 33
Thread Starter 
Liam: Intersting points! I'm sure the desire for self-sufficiency and freedom from the resort grid (cost, rules, crowds and cuppucino) are factors in the tele and XC numbers spike.

I admire people with a desire to return to our roots and savor the purity of mountain adventure without all the trappings. It's a soul-enriching experience.

My concern: dying. XC is generally a safe sport - little risk of danger. However BC skinning in randonee or tele gear (total freedom) entails risk of avalanches, getting lost, or accidents without a ski patrol safety net.

In some BC situations, a broken ankle can be a death sentence.

Up here in the PNW we hear the same tales of avalanche and BC deaths each year - always with the same admonishments: "don't go BC without an experienced guide." Yet, how many of us qualify? Last year, 17 people died in this area alone - backcountry.

I've known a few top ski mountaineers (highly trained guides - friends of female uber-skier Kristen Ulmer), and even they say it's a numbers game. Go up long enough and often enough, and eventually your number comes up. 50% of their friends have died over the years - including the word's best: Alex Lowe.

I used to ski BC all the time with alpine gear in my youth. Loved it! Today's tele and randonee gear render excusions possible that could not have been undertaken with our equipment.

Yet, how many people are well-enough trained, and lucky enough, to avoid the risk of dying?
post #23 of 33
I agree with the peer image comment. It is much easier to pick up a board and go straight to the top of the hill with your friends and teach yourself, rather than watch your friends take the lift to the top while you take a lesson. The laid back image of snowboarding makes it extremely appealing to the younger crowd for that reason.

I think the take-off in telemarking is the younger ski crowd being bored with skiing or feeling like they need to master something else. It is extremely appealing to me to watch an accomplished freeheeler make an amazing bumps run on the lift line.

For the Nordic boost, I see my parents, looking for some activity of low impact to keep them in shape, that they can do on their own, keep good company and see some wildlife.

I am glad that the sales are up in other facets.
post #24 of 33
I can not argue with national sales figures, but at my home mountain, the school director says boarding lessons fell off the cliff this year after several years of climbing, while ski school numbers were up slightly. there are obviously fewer boarders on the mountain. Maybe they just go somewhere else.
post #25 of 33
Thread Starter 
dady8tor: There are home ski mountains in Texas?
post #26 of 33
I really don't see skiing going anywhere. I have too many friends that are having too much fun with it. Alpine skiing became the standard with the invention of lifts and has what around 50 years of history? Snowboarding (which is really a monoski with the bindings mounted correctly) came around in the 80's. Telemark skiing refound itself in the 90's. Both of those sports are still relatively new in the scheme of things.
I think you can somewhat liken the sport of skiing to skateboarding. Skateboarding has seen huge spurts of popularity, then it almost dropped off the radar. Each time it came back a little bigger and is now enjoying a huge amount of popularity. Skiing never died, but it's just going through an ebb and flow. Even though I don't ski, I still think it's cool and enjoy watching people doing crazy stuff on ski's just as much on tele, or snowboards.
post #27 of 33
Capt'n we share more in common than you know. For me, 2004-2005 has been the year of the carve. Short skis making fast railed turns. 05-06 will be crossover backcountry. I just bought the Mantras and am applying Fritschi FR bindings. We might call this an Epic setup. So, I am doing what I used to do by bootpacking 30 years ago, but with modern equipment; its once again easier as a result of technological advancements in our sport.

So AT skiing has a lot of attraction for me, and a pretty big learning / spending curve to get equipped and trained for modern backcountry. Its mainly a matter of stepping up my game to take advantage of whats offered. I doubt I ever become a "gray-tray"; just won't join the snowboard movement after this many years. But BC powder skiing is something I can definitely relate to. I have been earning turns for years by slogging out of flats and traverses off powder runs, and bootpacking up ridges near the lifts, or in stashes to take advantage of some less-traveled turns. Fat skis, AT heels, skins, beacons, friends we never had it so good!

The popularity of Tele and AT is obvious if you think about it. Particularly with AT, we now have alpine bindings that free-heel on demand, and lock down with all the precision and control we are accustomed to. Skis and boots can remain the same. I am looking forward to the next several years, and can only say, too bad we didn't have this opportunity sooner. Then I could have been a maggot instead of a gaper.:
post #28 of 33
Thread Starter 
Cirquerider: I admire your initiative. I share your enthusiasm for the BC. Pure and settled, it's imbued with a peace no resort can provide. Bootpacking or skinning up a ridge just makes it all the more worthwhile.

My hesitation is only the point in post # 22 above. Deaths from backcountry excursions continue to rise, likely because increasing numbers of people, like you and I, wish to transcend the resort experience. We had 17 deaths in just in the PNW last year (most in southern British Columbia).

I'm not avalanche certified. Even if I was, it's no guarantee.

Avalanches aren't the only concern. Accidents which are unfortunate, but manageable in-bounds, may end in death out there. Every year, people get lost because they become disoriented among the ridges and trees.

I'm not a worrier by nature. But, as I've gotten older, I've realized how lucky I was to have survived some of the incredibly dumb things I've done, including skiing deep, steep backcountry runs with no knowledge of the snow-pack.

Anyone can get killed crossing the street. In-bounds skiing is also plenty dangerous (count the tobaggans every day). Perhaps the risks inherent in back-country adventures are reasonable, given the rewards.

But, as I mentioned before, some of the world's best mountaineers, who I met while in Utah, told me that 50% of their friends have died doing it (this included climbing as well as hike-to-skiing). These guys were no slouches, and half their group is gone.

I'm sorry for the somber note of this post, but when you hear reports like this, how do you ignore it?
post #29 of 33
Here's my 2 cents observation from my experience....I started skiing in the 1960's and was a pretty faithful skier up until the mid 70's when marriage and kids put the skiing on the back burner for quite awhile. In the early 90's my kids(4) began to get interested in snowboarding, so I took up skiing again. We had to go mostly on nights when the deals were the best, and then when my oldest daughter got a job as a lift operator that was one less kid I had to pay for. She eventually spent her first winter after high school as a liftie at Mt. Baker, and got pretty good on the snowboard. But since that year she has only gone boarding maybe 8 times in the last 9 years....too expensive for lift tickets, etc. My other kids are in their 20's and on their own, and also don't go to the mts. more than once a season. I, myself have just within the last 2 years resumed my former passion for skiing(too bad about our lack of snow this season) and am on this quest to acquire better equipment. However with the cost of equipment I won't be getting new skis each year so I have to make wise decisions. Of course the business wants us to desire to have the newest and the best stuff, but what I see is that most that I know will buy new stuff and make it last for awhile, so if you bought the hottest stuff last year, you'll probably be hanging on to it a bit. Most of the kids my kids knew that were into boarding don't have the funds to go to the mts. especially when dad's not buying. I think the process may repeat itself when my kids get older, and can hopefully afford lift tickets. Myself, I'm having fun again, and with the improved equipment I'm skiing better than I ever did before, and I'm really encouraged when I see lots of folks older than I am on the slopes and having fun. I believe in cycles.
post #30 of 33
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato
I'm sorry for the somber note of this post, but when you hear reports like this, how do you ignore it?
Obviously, no guarantees, but our respect for the dangers of avalanche, terrain and personal limits keeps us safer. Willingness to take the training, buy the equipment and our sage knowledge that the cliff we can't see down a coulier or over a roller can kill us. I ski in the same places I hike in summer. Carry a GPS, take friends, use a beacon, minimize risk; but elimination of all risks is neither possible or desirable, on or off piste. I have always had a relatively high risk tolerance, and those that do not share that trait will not do what I do. Similarly, I will not engage in terrain and conditions that larger risk takers find tolerable. At 51, I think I finally do know my limits, and want the fitness and spiritual aspcts as well as the untracked.

The next concern then is for those that will use this equipment to access backcountry with without respect for the dangers, and investment in training, and especially a conservative awareness of risk and mitigation factors. Backcounty risk is probably (in the long term) a constant; increasing numbers of casualties in backcountry are probably related to the sheer numbers of people accessing this area and the kind of terrain they now expose themselves to, It would be interesting to know if the accident rate is actually increasing, or if it is driven by more access (exposure). The terrain and conditions factors at least can be mitigated by not exposing yourself to it. Zero exposure means you don't go and don't incur the risk.

Anyway, the opportunity is there for those that want to make responsible use of BC. Always has been, but its definitely getting easier to access. Whether its more gates off lift served ski areas, CAT served, helicopter served, or just hiking; The increased training opportunities and improvements in equipment make it accessible to more people; and that is being reflected in sales, as the fastest growing segment of the ski market.

So with that in mind, your location, and skiing abilities, you are not even considering this for yourself? Aren't You tempted by some pristine lines just a little out of reach with a fixed heel that could be yours to ski with the investment in a different binding technology?
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