Earlier this year the New York Times, the standard in snowboarding journalism, wrote that snowboarding had lost its edge. They concluded that snowboarding had peaked and its growth was on a downward spiral which means its death is near and skiing would be crowned the king of cool.
Inside the article they also took a look at how our image had changed. Well at some point in life you have to grow up a bit, right? Today’s radical is tomorrows conservative sort of thing. Lets face the facts the guys that lead the charge of the growth are all older now. Life has a way of creeping up on you and when you’re out of college doing the career, wife, kids, 9 to 5 thing there has to be something given up. For a lot of people that’s snowboarding. It’s not a cheap cop out of ‘Oh I don’t have time’ or ‘Oh we don’t have the money’ it’s just the truth. This doesn’t mean they don’t love it any less.
In the original article it stated:
From just 7.7 percent of all visits to American ski slopes two decades ago, snowboarders accounted for nearly one-third of visitors two years ago. Now that surge has fizzled. The percentage of visits to resorts by snowboarders even declined slightly each of the last two seasons, to 30.2 percent last winter, according to a survey by the National Ski Areas Association. The average number of days that snowboarders — usually a more hard-core bunch than skiers — hit the slopes also has seen a “sharp drop” from 7.6 days a year at its height 15 years ago, to 6.1 today, Mr. Fristoe wrote. Meanwhile the average number of days that skiers went to the mountains has remained consistent at about 5.5 days for several years.
Here’s the difference between skiers and snowboarders in case anyone is wondering. Skiing has been around far longer than snowboarding which means there are more generations that started out on two planks. You look at the fact there’s still Baby Boomers that haven’t had their hips replaced or their knees go out on them skiing and then you realize some of them are grandparents or great grandparents and that means three to four generations that were started on skis or inundated with ski culture in some form from their elders. Where as with snowboarding the founding fathers are barely into their mid 50’s and most of them aren’t even grandparents yet. That means we have what? One generation maybe two underneath those that paved the way verses four? Add to that the lack of programs to get kids under the age of 5 sometimes 7 on a shred stick and we’re already impeding ourselves.
Anthony Scaturro from Flow wrote an open letter calling the industry to action after the Transworld Snow Conference about some key points snowboarding as a whole faces. Many of these points addressed what the NY Times article had said about us.
Below are some key points he mentioned:
We hear more than ever that skiing is cooler than snowboarding. Do we accept this? We blame the economy, weather, and the price of lift tickets and the cost of equipment. Is this really the root of the problem? The list of anecdotal statements run wide and cut deep from the outside, and from within our industry. What is fact or fiction?
The skiing verse snowboarding battle is over. We’ve moved on, I doubt anyone wants to go back to those barbaric times. I know now at the age of 30 I would never want a 15 year old to have to endure adults throwing better bottles at me from the ski lift or having pompous day-glo clad douches named Blaine or Chad trying to stab me with ski poles. This isn’t the fight we need to be concerned with skiing is doing its thing, we’re doing our thing, and snowsports is the collective group we are a part of. As a whole snowsports is hurting so lets move past this and try to make it work for all of us.
This is what people think is replacing snowboarding? Talk about a bunch of over privileged kids.
Like Dr. Peter Philips, the Professor of Economics at the University of Utah, said when commenting about our industry in relation to the challenging economic times: “you are now all sitting at the adult table.” So true!
Yes it is true we have grown up. Yet marketing dollars are spent to attract tweeners to teenagers, which in case anyone is wondering does not have the most discretionary income. Why is it that the ‘core’ rider is put ahead of the five day a year rider, weekend warrior, or once a year vacationist. The old saying of, “core is poor” is true. The industry makes little to nothing off a 100 day a year ‘core’ rider as they’re going to suss out the best deals on gear, not eat at the resort, rarely buy day tickets, utilize their season pass to the point it breaks down to a minuscule amount that the resort makes, they aren’t doing lessons, and they’re definitely not renting. Yet this is who we cater to harder and harder.
Now I’m not saying companies need to start targeting the late 20’s to early 40’s demographic by showing families riding blue groomers. But I think it wouldn’t hurt to look at our push plank brethren and see how they still recognize their older generations. The best example of this is the Legends events at Dew Tour and X-Games. Why can’t there be something like this for snowboarders? Sure it won’t be as progressive as Mark McMorris doing triple corks or Shaun White’s 24 foot high half-pipe airs, but it would be something cool to that older generation to watch their heroes still riding.
To follow up on Dave Wray’s shout out (thanks Dave); with respect to “the brand of “SNOWBOARDING” (call it what you/we want), is to put an independent management team in place whose sole mission would be to achieve the collective goals of the industry. An example of such a goal could and should be, recovering former and attracting new participants to snowboarding in order to return the industry to a healthy and sustainable growth trajectory. This group would be selected to represent the unbiased, overall objectives of the industry’s highest priorities. This is not a task force. This is a company. This is a structure implanted, empowered, and accountable to the collective. They deal in real-time, full-time, and are backed by the full-force of the membership.
Do we really need a special interest group to help with the “brand” of snowboarding? That’s a good question. One of the best responses to this comes from Russell Winfield a man that knows snowboarding.
“Heavy man.. From looking at other industries that have used industry wide marketing I can see how it could work.. This is a very , very sensitive thing to put together. There is a multitude of people out there in the industry who claim they have been around and know not only marketing but also our sport.. Sadly , very few of them know anything. My biggest fear with this marketing team is that it would be run by People who might know marketing but don’t know our sport or even worse are trying to exploit it….. With that being said snowboarding is about having fun..Regardless if its 1988 or 2013 the main objective of packing your car and going to the hill is to have fun and create awesome memories with others…. THAT IS WHY IT GREW. Oh and as far as skiing being “cooler” than snowboarding…… Have you been to the hill? Does the cooler kid start trends or follow them? Answer that honestly and you will have your answer.
And he’s right, who do we put on this task of branding snowboarding? There’s already an abundance of people that don’t snowboard that are just here to tell people they work in the industry and try to look cool to their peers. They also don’t know snowboarding. Add to that who oversees this committee and its members? Here’s my belief on it, we don’t need a special interest group for this. We as snowboarders owe snowboarding. It has given us our lives, memories, friends, spouses, passion, lifestyle, and countless other individual reasons. It is time for us to stop taking and start paying it forward to the next generations and to pay it back by rekindling the love with those past generations that have stepped away. We need to be the stewards of this sport and its lifestyles destiny.
The biggest hurdle that we are going to face does not come from the brands itself or the shops selling the lifestyle. It will come from the resorts. When a day ticket skyrockets over 100 dollars that is what hinders people. We and I mean companies, shops, and resorts need to find a way to bridge that gap to reduce the initial cost to hook people.
The final point I would like to make is this is not a battle of brand recognition, market share, or sales. While those are all part of our industry at the end of the day consumers for the most part do not care about these things, they’re here to have fun. We need to find a way to share our stoke with them and our lifestyle choice.
In closing I leave you with this what are you going to do for future generations. How will what you have done and are doing impact them to share in the stoke that is snowboarding? We are the masters of our destiny.