Peak Snowboarding: A Sport In Decline

Posted by: 4realAdmin on March 7th, 2014

Blue collar snow sliding


Snowboarding started out as a blue-collar alternative to traditional skiing, way back in the 1970s. Skateboarders looking to take their sport to the slopes adopted snowboarding in droves in the 80s and 90s. For a long time snowboarding existed on the fringes of the winter sports world. Resorts like Aspen banned the sport entirely. Skiers bashed it, calling the sport dangerous and itspractitioners reckless.


Accepted by everyone


Snowboarding has long since become mainstream. It’s not uncommon to meet people on the hill riding a snowboard one day and trading it for a set of skis the next.


But has the sport peaked? Are fewer people today snowboarding than when the sport was at its most popular? When was the sport at its most popular?


According to, 4.3M people strapped into a snowboard in 2000. 10 years later, that number would grow to 6.1M. But something interesting happened between 2008 and 2012 if you look at the money people spent on snowboarding equipment.

People spent $453MM on snowboarding equipment during the 08/09 season.


But they only spent $437MM during the 11/12 season, representing a slight decline.


Why the decline?


The first reason that comes to mind is the global recession that started in early ’09, right after the stock market crashed. Unemployed people don’t buy a lot of things, and that goes double for expensive sporting goods. The decline in spending was slight, meaning plenty of people still hit the slopes – they just didn’t spend as much on equipment as they did in years past.


The reason for this is the global recession hit the poor and the middle classes harder than people and families who were better off. And that means something in the snowboarding market, where a huge 44.5% of participants have a household income greater than $100,000.


Money’s down but what about participation?


Stats compiled by tell almost the same story using participation rates.


According to their stats, snowboarding participation peaked during the 10/11 season with 8.2M participants. The 11/12 season attracted 7.6M participants. And the 12/13 season was good for 7.4M participants. Declining numbers from one season to another aren’t enough to make a trend. But declining numbers for 3 whole seasons? We can safely call that a trend.


It’s interesting because participation peaked a year after the recession started while the amount of money spent on snowboarding equipment declined.


Could it be the snow?


Winter sports participation rates probably have more to do with on-mountain conditions than they do with the recession. And all you have to do is ask a skier or snowboarder how the slopes have been the past couple of years. They’ll tell you that conditions have been less-than-epic, and certain lifts and runs at popular resorts (Breckenridge’s Imperial Bowl, for 1) have opened later in the season than they ever have.


Even for people who love snowboarding, it’s easy to skip out on a long trip with a rented condo when the recession hits people in the pocketbooks. Skipping the slopes entirely is an easy decision to make when you’re broke and there’s a good chance even the Rocky Mountain resorts are covered with more ice than powder. If you need something to blame, blame global warming for declining winter sports participation.


Austin Bourke is a writer who lives in Denver, CO.


Image credit; Ripley119 CC-ASA-3.0

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