Accessibility, possibly the one word that could be used to describe the biggest issue in snowboarding. Anyone that thinks snowboarding is accessible is fooling themselves. Whether it’s the costs of everything or the fact the industry is kidding themselves when it comes to the average rider, it’s the most prevalent issue we face. Snowboarding has sold out, anyone denying that obviously must have missed the memo. It has become a part of pop culture and mainstream media. It’s not like it was even 10 years ago, everyones mother really is doing it. Still there’s been a steady decline in participants from both returning and new. What’s going on when somethings bigger than ever and yet there’s a steady loss?
Somewhere along the way companies forgot who it was they were trying to entice. Snowboarding went from being the punk rock cousin of skiing’s country club elite in the last three decades. In that time the big business side of the industry has only seen the bottom line which is the almighty dollar. This is where the segregation between marketing and the average rider begins. Add to that a growing disconnect between companies and the general public.
I remember being told the average amount of days people get on snow is somewhere around 15 per year. That number is low but it might actually be less than that now. Then you have to look at whom the industry tries to say is the core market and that’s still people 13 to 21. They might be the ones that are progressing snowboarding in the freestyle department, but they aren’t the ones with a higher discretionary income. That goes to the slightly older age bracket of 22 to 35 years old that seemingly drift in that grey area between carefree youth and career conscious responsibilities, it’s also the generation that ten years ago was the dominate age group. The fact is the 100 day a year rider isn’t who drives the market, they aren’t the ones that drop hundreds if not thousands every year. That amount of cash spending really does go to the average rider. Honestly when I see that 100 day a year rider bull shit I can’t help but laugh. I’ll be putting up a video interview with a bunch of Breckenridge locals about what it means to be a 100 day a year rider sometime this summer.
Have you picked up a magazine lately? Sure the over all size of the magazine is smaller than it was less than a year ago, but has the type of content changed? Honestly no! I can dig up old Transworlds and Snowboarders from the late 90’s flip through the first 80 pages and find similar articles that you can get in the newest issues just switch names and locations, but that’s not the point. The point is that in that time magazines haven’t shifted the content to cover a wide variety of ages. It’s part of the reason they’re failing now, on top of the fact that even their online content doesn’t cater to a broader demographic.
How hyped up are public demo’s verse industry demo’s? I won’t lie I hear more about shop demo’s than I ever hear about public demo’s. It’s always something that’s mystified me, if you can take someone from the general public and give them the product to test out that gives them the first hand impression, which is far better than any online review, shop person, or friend telling them what is good. Companies need to make an active attempt to show up and hang out with the public and be stoked on them. I remember the owner of Never Summer telling me about 3 years ago that he cut advertising with one magazine so he could buy another truck and have it tour around to resorts and get people on their boards because, if they could get someone on the board chances are they’d buy it. It’s true, the best selling method I ever had in all my years working in a shop wasn’t the amount of product knowledge I had, it was the ability to put someone on a demo board to actually try it, let them decide. I hear more often than not from my readers that there aren’t any demos in their area. This year I had the chance to meet the guys from Trew Gear, a new company that spent all winter touring around in an RV spreading the message of their product and hanging out with the average rider. Great concept, which more companies should do. The other thing is having skate style demo’s like what Ashbury did at Bear. Get the riders out where people can hang with them, totally awesome way to attract people to your brand.
Cost is always going to be the obvious deterrent whether it’s lift tickets, gas, food, or the gear. That’s undeniable, luckily there’s more price points in gear than ever before. Add to that Internet shopping, which has seriously made it easier and cheaper for a lot of people. Sure it sucks that local shops are closing, but on a plus side people can get into snowboarding easier than ever. Unfortunately there’s not much to be had with lift ticket prices, sure there’s sites like Liftopia, but the ultimate rise in prices besides inflation is the fact Ski Resorts are more or less Real Estate Companies now. So for them to afford making more condo’s, hotels, and retail space they just raise prices. Anyone wonder why Intrawest is in financial trouble right now?
OK so what programs are there to help get people involved? Burton’s doing Chill and created the Learn to Ride programs. There’s also the Snowboard Outreach Society and Outward Bound. All are great programs in their various respects for getting people that wouldn’t have a chance involved. Denver has the Ruby Hill rail park that has a bunch of corporate sponsors to get kids out there and learning, even if it’s just going down a 300 foot hill. Awesome concept especially if you can get parents out there with the kids.
For the Their Take interview series I asked companies how they were trying to make snowboarding more accessible. There’s a bunch of varying answers but a lot of positive thoughts on this subject. More importantly what would you personally like to see companies do to make snowboarding accessible, and what could we here at The Angry Snowboarder do to help out?