There’s an interesting article in the Denver Post which basically states that the last 2-3 years has seen a decrease in the number of people snowboarding.
In short, the article states 3 statistics:
- Fewer people are buying snowboards
- Fewer people are snowboarding
- Snowboarders are averaging less days on the hill each season
While it’s not a huge decrease vs. previous ski seasons (about 2% decrease), it’s still a noticable downward trend over the last 2-3 years.
Here’s my take on what’s causing this:
1) The economy… duh
When the world’s economy is having problems (unless you’re China), it’s not surprising that less people go on ski holidays. Luxuries like holidays are one of the first things to go when people are worried about their finances.
Don’t forget that snowboarding is an expensive sport. Between lift tickets, travel, clothing and rental equipment / buying gear, the sport is never going to be as cheap or accessible to the public as something like skateboarding or basketball.
I actually think the fact that there’s still a reasonable amount of people snowboarding in the current economic climate is a good sign for the future.
2) It’s not 2002 anymore
Snowboarding peaked during the early 2000′s. We’re not the hot new sport on the ski slopes anymore and even skiing is adapting and trying to catch up with the gradual increase of freestyle skiers.
It’s only natural that growth slows after the huge burst of popularity snowboarding received in the early 2000s.
What should be done to get more snowboarders on the hill
Focus on beginners
There’s a decent chunk of snowboarders who will try snowboarding once on some random ski holiday and never try it again. We should be doing what we can to give those people the best learning experience possible.
For one, I think things like Burton’s learn to ride program should be at every ski resort or at least something comparable. The less falling and frustration a beginner snowboarder deals with the more likely they are to come back.
I’ve had countless stories over the years from people who tried snowboarding once, ended up freaked out at the top of some ski run that their friend took them on. These are people who will never try snowboarding again.
This shouldn’t happen. Beginners should have easy access to cheap instruction, so their friends don’t end up trying to teach them and failing horribly. Lessons shouldn’t be an optional thing, every beginner should be taking lessons at the start.
But wait, how can a snow resort offer cheap lessons and stay in business?
Doesn’t the resort have to make money to keep the lifts running and the terrain groomed? Well, that’s what repeat business is for. Make less money on the first visit, but convert customers into loyal repeat business.
Give beginner snowboarders an awesome experience and you’ll encourage repeat visits to the ski resorts, which means more money in the long term.
Unfortunately, I think there’s the tendency to focus on the short term money making, which basically means getting as much money out of a visitor straight away, instead of looking at increasing the long term loyalty and value of each customer.
Repeat customers are some of the most valuable customers in the world. Look at companies like Apple who have a loyal following that buys anything they release, regardless of the price.
Take care of beginners and give them a kickass experience on their first visit and they’ll come back for more.
Just my 2 cents.