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Thoughts on Skiing in the US & Europe

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
There are some major differences between skiing and boarding in the US and Europe.

1) Equipment Costs: Equipment generally costs a lot less. Since most of it comes from European companies, their wholesale cost to retailers is the close to the cost USA distributors pay for it. There is a markup by US distributors, so they can make an understandable profit, when they sell wholesale to US retailers.

2) Lift ticket costs: Much lower than they US. Many of the major resorts in Europe are publicly owned, and priced accordingly. They are, part, public works projects that seasonally employ large numbers of people. The benefit is that they also bring a lot of tourists in who patronize the privately owned hotels, pensions, restaurant and shops. It's a win-win situation for the government and the private entrepreneurs.

3) Lodging costs: Can be much lower than the US if you stay in a 3 or 4 star pension or even a hostel, most of which include a large breakfast as part of your cost or only charge a nominal price if it is not included. Are there as many equivalent priced lodgings in US resorts?

4) Demographics: 10's of millions of skiers live within a reasonable half day trip to a world-class ski resort in Europe. How many of us in the US live within striking distance of the biggies in Colorado and Utah?

5) Skiing in the US made a conscious effort in the 90's to go upmarket. A friend, who was, before he retired, a big consultant with several large international companies, took a look at both Ski Magazine and Skiing. He observed that there was not enough money and income around to sustain the type of condo building going on at most major Western US resorts. Nonetheless, the ski industry has become an upmarket sport. It never did what golf adn tennis did decades earlier. How many young Warren Miller's do you see camping in their cars in the parking lots of Aspen nowadays?

6) For ski racing: Even though I love the fact that Bode won this year, half the podium places were won by Austrians, and the remaining ones by Europeans. When I was in Italy a couple of years ago, many Italians asked me: Why, with the Rocky Mountains, isn't the US the dominant alpine power? I believe that it is, in the main, demographics. They have more people who have access to ski resorts, so there are more racers in Europe. And racing in Europe costs less, has more consistent coaching, and, maybe most importantly, is nutured by technically better early instruction that makes, later on in development, for technically better racers. They also have a tradition of young racers learning early on that they have to excel, they have to point towards becoming a Sailer, Killy, Thoeni, Gros, Stenmark, Girardelli, etc.

This is not to say that there aren't problems down the road for European skiing, especially related to global warming, and ageing population. Here a link to that one: http://www.spacedaily.com/2004/04011....brn11odm.html

Just some thoughts--looking forward to the responses!
post #2 of 14
There is danger in over generalizing about the delta between Euros and Americans, but looking strictly at skiing/boarding as a form of recreation - the big difference I see is that Euros view ski trips like Americans view beach vacations, i.e., relaxing, partying, wine&dine, sunning, with a bracing outdoor activity thrown in. Americans go skiing for all of that too, but often with a more hardcore physicality or exertion element to their vacationing. Americans skiers/boarder may also have a little more of an elitist aspect whether that be the highly fit or the highly affluent. I suppose over a lifetime and across all demographics the Euro "funtimes" model might facilitate a more sustained participation in the sport by the masses?
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Good point, James. But I do think that cost and proximity to the slopes helps.
post #4 of 14
As far as ski racing I think there are a few other points than just cost and proximity to the slopes.
-Just as in cycling most of our best athlete's play basketball, football, baseball and now soccer.
-All of the above sports are better spectator sports. My wife and I attended the Olympics in SLC and being skiers it was great, but skiing and cycling are just not set up well for the spectator.
-In countries like Norway, Austria, ect. you better enjoy outdoor sports in the winter. There would not be much else to do. In the US and other countires we can play many outdoor sports year round.
-Gambling also makes sports interesting to fringe fans. When was the last time you saw an office pool on skiing or cycling? but there will be plenty of office pools coming up on March Madness and the fall for the NFL.
Just my 2 cents
post #5 of 14
I think to some extent you have to like winter to like skiing. A lot of Americans seem to be pretty soft when it comes to winter. They cringe at the thought of snow and being out in the cold. At the first sign of winter their thoughts turn towards heading south to Florida or places where it's warm to get away from the winter. The SE is the fastest growing region of the country in part because people are trying to get away from the cold winters of the North. So these people are not going to get into skiing. It's actually even true of some skiers I know. Just my observation, and I have no idea if it has anything to do with why more Europeans are into skiing. Maybe this is something that is more true in the NE because our winters can be a lot harsher than elsewhere.
post #6 of 14
you Made some good points about skiing in the Us but i have to say your satistics are slightly scewed in regards to day trips. You say 10 million Europeans live close to the Alps I'm sure that is true Yet in the US There might be 25 million or more that live within a few hours of mountains in the East. There are more resorts in NY state then any other state in the country. Ski clubs and package vactions to the rockies and the west make skiing a lot less expensive Then it would be other wise. The new Condo or 2nd Home in most resorts is the time share resort. They are poping up all over at all major resorts. Right now with the weak US Dollar I have seen more skiers from Europe over here then i have in years. All Those Brites, Germans, Austrians and a few French skiers have found Utah. I rather like hearing all the diffrent languages. they all seem to have 2 things in common 1 they are haveing a good time and 2 they complain about our 3.2 beer while drinking gallons of it at a sitting.
post #7 of 14
Skiing is big where it has a strong tradition.
Without it, it´s in no position now to become big.

The only change on the world skiing map could be China - if the overall promotion is strong enough.

I agree, the desire to escape cold is one of the biggest enemies to skiing. Relatively cheap winter flights to exotic destinations are becoming increasingly attractive even to traditional European skiers.

In December 2004 a friend of mine paid about 360 USD/person for 12 days in a good hotel + half board + flight in Egypt at the Red Sea.
You must be a big ski fan to prefer the risk of bad weather and winter discomfort and pay (much) more for a week (no 12 days) somewhere in the Alps.
post #8 of 14
We have been having a similar conversation in a different context on this thread:


As regards podium positions, I would only note that these are reversed when it comes to freeskiing. And while you do run into off piste people (especially in France where I think they invented the term) they are no where near the number of Americans who want to get lost on the hill.

I think the observations are essentially correct in that Europe has developed more of a mass market philosophy to making money from ski vactioners, whereas the Americans seem to have focussed more on the up market/real estate sales mode of making money.

Personally, I like going on a ski vacation in Europe more than the US (because of the food/friends/conviviality factor), but I like the skiing in the US much better than in Europe (terrain, conditions, off piste, etc). And the high Euro makes them less attractive right now.

Canada has great terrain at very reasonable prices, so they are actually somewhere in between the two. Red Mountain, anyone?
post #9 of 14
Originally Posted by gobig
-Just as in cycling most of our best athlete's play basketball, football, baseball and now soccer.
-All of the above sports are better spectator sports. My wife and I attended the Olympics in SLC and being skiers it was great, but skiing and cycling are just not set up well for the spectator.
To counter your point, gymnastics, diving and skating can make great spectator sports but, unlike elsewhere, in this country they will never get a small fraction of the coverage in any of the sports mentioned. What about car racing, how is that more interesting than downhill skiing to watch (besides the hot rod chickies, that is)? And, golf, I'll say no more... IMHO, it's all in first the hands of the promoters and second the tradition of the culture.
post #10 of 14
Originally Posted by Utah49
There are more resorts in NY state then any other state in the country.
I'm sorry, most people in NY State are complaining wusses, especially those living in the Central region. That is sad that most have to dread the 4 to 6 less-than-warm months each year when they can be out and enjoy the abundance of resources (OK, maybe not in the really cold days). Most of us living upstate is less than an hour from a ski slope.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
The big issue in the States is price and demographics. It costs less to ski in Europe. And, more people live closer to world-class skiing there than they do over here in the US. For sheer number, btw, there are many more skiers in Europe than there are in the US. If the sport is to grow its numbers or or even maintain its base here in the States, it's going to have come to terms with price. It could be a much bigger sport than it is. Skiing is very much in the position now that golf and tennis were in the pre-Arnie and pre-Laver/Ashe days. Those sports became less elitist--and part of the difference was price. Skiing is a great sport and deserves to be enjoyed by more people. As some have noted, we should get people outside into the cold during the winter. As all of us skiers and boarders know, that ain't so bad.

Btw, think of the kids in the US who are poor and can't afford to get to the slopes. A bunch of them show up to Bristol Mountain every MLK Day each January. Many come without gloves. This is their only shot at skiing and boarding. For goodness sake, this is America. Can't we think of some way to open the sport up? Each of you think about how the sport has made a difference in your lives.
post #12 of 14
These topics have been discussed so frequently in the past that a proper use of the search function would have brought up pretty much all what has been said here, honestly.

Just one thought to add to the general confusion:

The shift in exchange rates has pretty much leveled out the cost differences between the two regions for skiing and equipment. An extensive internet research as per today would bring exactly that up. Therefore it doesn't matter that much any more where you book your trip or buy your equipment except for eventually additional flights.

For an average European percentagewise the same chunk is cut out of his/her income to ski the Alps than it is for the NA citizen to ski his/her domestic resorts.

It all has been different in the past and there may be the one or other exception but in general that's history IMHO.
post #13 of 14
Fully agree with PowHog

Dollar was flying HIGH up until a year ago, roughly. Now that things have leveled out things have gotten MUCH cheaper in the US in the past few years for foreigners. And Europe has become significantly more expensive for Americans.

That's why we see so many Europeans touring Boston this year, while we will definitely not be going to Europe because it's too pricey.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
True about the exchange rates, but they don't apply to EU citizens, since they already live with the Euro. There are, what, maybe 50 million skier visits a year in the US--and 35-40 million skiers in Europe? A lift pass in Val Gardena is 31 Euros a day and 154 Euros for a week. A one day pass at Stowe is $65, while a week is $282. The rates at Stowe are higher on holidays. You can stay at a very nice hotel in VG for about 90 Euros a day that includes breakfast and dinner. Although you can get a similar deal in Stowe of $99 pp. Just one more comparison. Stockli Stormriders are around 530 Euros in Europe, while your going to pay probably $750 for them Stateside. You can guys can protest all you want, but skiing is way cheaper in Europe, there are literally 100 million folks within a days ride to world class resorts, and, as the Viking Kaj pointed out in another thread, Bode's win will not change any of this. Skiing will remain the small sport that it is in the US and the Italians will continue to wonder why only Bode with magnificent Rockies on our continent. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: It's the economics, stupid.
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