You might have noticed more folks out skiing last winter than you expected. I sure saw that in our local backcountry skiing zones — sometimes the increase in numbers was pretty stunning. This after much talk about how skiing in general is a flat sport, and that our economic woes could perhaps reduce the numbers of participants in all branches of skiing due to the cost of entry.
We’ll, the numbers bear up the impressions.
Of the most interest to me: Snow sports participation increased by more than than 1.5 million people during the2008/09 season. That includes 573,000 alpine skiers, 309,000 Nordic skiers, and 262,000 snowboarders. I wasn’t able to get a raw numbers idea of how many in the above were doing their thing in the backcountry, but the chart below gives an inkling:
The chart seems to indicate that about 20% of skiers are going backcountry one way or another. According to the SIA website, the study indicates that U.S. snow sports participation has reached 30,000,000, close to 10% of the total population. I’m assuming SIA is talking snowboarders and skiers in that number (don’t know about snowshoes), so let’s assume the percentage of backcountry going snowboarders is roughly equal to that of two-stickers. That means we backcountry snow sliders are about six million strong? Wow, even if that includes snowshoers it’s still huge number of riders.
Another interesting thing from this spring’s study releases: Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association says regarding their annual study that:
“The recreational transport category suffered a double-digit category decline in 2009. Wholesale sales were $27.33 billion in 2009, down from $31.48 billion in 2008 – a decline of 13.2%. As recently as 2007, the recreational transport category was at $37.47 billion. The line items in this category include motorcycles, jet skis, recreational vehicles, snowmobiles, bicycles, and pleasure boats & motors.”
It’s rather amusing they didn’t break bicycles out of that pile of petrotainment, but let’s just assume that bicycles did NOT decline since simple observation of the bicycle boom bears that out.
In any case, a decrease in petroleum based recreation is quite the interesting trend. Combine that with the _increase_ in skiing, and we’ve got something going on, don’t you think?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.