NSAA’s recent spotlight on the leveling out, and even decline, in snowboarding’s numbers is a cop out. We are doing ourselves a disservice by concentrating on this single element in our numbers, and we are deflecting the glare off of our not-so-great conversion numbers for both skiing and riding. That’s the real issue.
Let’s collectively get our heads out of the snow pile and realize that we, as an industry, have failed to address an aging skier population and to welcome the new markets that grow bigger every year—viable markets full of new blood.
Snowboarding was a gift, a shot in the arm for our winter action backdrop. And that made us complacent. We jammed this new sport into the Alpine model and happily ran off to the bank for our Monday deposits. But, guess what? Snowboarders now have mortgages, too. And they’ve got jobs and families, just like skiers. Snowboarding is going through a natural growth and maturing cycle. Much like skiing did in the 1970s, and skateboarding in the 1990s.
So let’s stop singling out snowboarding and step back and take a look at our bigger picture. We have the unique venues to host action sports that thrill and excite. We can debate forever which one has more “edge,” but does it matter whether our guests choose two edges or four? Let’s let the manufacturers and the kids at school battle that one out. Our job, as mountain resorts, is to welcome sliders on whatever equipment floats their boat, help them learn, and make them want to come back for more.
And there are some great ideas out there to welcome emerging markets and make them part of our culture. And even better ideas about how to better teach them to love sliding in winter.
But this is going to require a huge shift in culture—our culture. Folks, we are not ski areas anymore. We haven’t been for a while—we’ve got snowboarders, tubers, zipliners, Segway riders, and the list goes on. We’ve got to throw out the Swiss chalet, the handsome instructor with the accent and rethink everything.
In future issues of SAM (yes, we will still be SAM, which now stands for Slide Around Management), we will gather some of these great new ideas, and we hope to hear many more. This discussion is just getting started.