Originally Posted by JohnH
You must ski at a place where lots of people return. I think the actual percentage of non-returning 1st time skiers is way higher than 60%. If 40% of the people in beginner classes came back, skiing would be growing instead of stagnant.
This is indeed a problem for any business trying to make a living off of skiing. Skiing requires a certain amount of affluence (although not much, if you're really determined), the right climate and terrain, and a willingness to undertake at least some training and skill development in cold weather. Although there is a small group of enthusiasts who are taking skiing to places it's never been before, along with a larger population that enjoys "conventional" alpine resort skiing, the barriers of money, cold and physical skill requirements don't seem to have created a winning combination in the last two or three decades.
Given the tendency of North Americans to gain weight, I don't think skiing is going to become any more popular in the future. The popularity of snowboards, terrain parks and "new school" skiing notwithstanding, the vast majority of people who might become skiers prefer video games, television, and Big Gulps(tm). Many people today find skiing uncomfortable and inconvenient. It requires too much precious vacation time to get reasonably good at it. Even so-called "ski vacations" include almost anything but skiing. Skiing becomes a minor diversion on a vacation dedicated to shopping, dining out, drinking and soaking in the hot tub.
A few people are interested in adventure, new experiences and skill. Most are interested in comfort and ease. They will never find the fun and fulfillment beyond the initial frustration, and they don't particularly care.
It's possible that skiing (never as popular as watching football or soccer) is destined to become a niche sport, like whitewater kayaking. This is not good news for the big resorts, and they're fighting it with all the marketing they can muster. They are also hedging their bets, turning themselves into "four-season" resorts, offering golf, among other things. Golf has the advantage of being low perceived risk with relatively low physical fitness requirements. Even if they're not very good at it, people still find it fun to drive around in the cart and whack the ball. And the club beverage cart makes it convenient to drink while you're driving!
If skiing becomes a niche sport, maybe, in some sense, it will be a purer one.
That's my soapbox. Skiing will get leaner because Americans are getting fatter.