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Boarders growing older

Brent Gardner-Smith

While it may prove little solace to skiers who believe that letting snowboarders on Aspen Mountain will hasten the decline of Western civilization, recent ski industry research shows that snowboarders are getting older, that many are former skiers, and that they take a lot of lessons.

“People are holding on to a stereotype of a snowboarder that isn’t true anymore,” said Nolan Rosall, president of RRC Associates in Boulder, a firm that specializes in ski industry research and planning and has done some work with the Aspen Skiing Co. “The age and income gap between skiers and snowboarders is closing.”

Rosall and colleague David Becher recently computed three industry surveys to come up with demographic information on skiers and snowboarders.

Snowboarders now account for 26.4 percent of on-slope visits on a national basis. That’s up from 24.9 percent the year before but also reflects a slowing down of the rapid rise in snowboarding over the past five years.

And yes, it’s true, not all snowboarders are 17-year-old crazed mutants, despite what one might hear at the Aspen Mountain Club.

“The share of 25- to 34-year-olds on snowboards has increased from 19 percent in 1996-97 to 30 percent in 1999-00, and the share of 35- to 44-year-olds on snowboards increased from 5 percent to 9 percent over the same period,” Rosall writes in the NSAA Journal.

Those on snowboards have also been a boon to the “ski” schools across the country. Snowboarding lessons are up 14.3 percent since 1998-99 while alpine skiing lessons dropped by 6.7 percent.

The surveys were the Kottke National End of Season Survey, the Transworld Snowboarding Business/National Ski Areas Association Ski Resort Snowboarding Survey and the National Demographic Survey.

One finding from the surveys may help reduce the perception by some skiers that most snowboarders have no clue about on-slope etiquette.”There are alpine skiers that are crossing over to snowboards in really large numbers,” said Rosall.

“Among people snowboarding for the first time or season, the proportion who have have previously alpine skied has increased steadily from 41 percent in 1996-97 to 52 percent in 1999-00,” Rosall wrote in the National Ski Areas Association Journal. “The growth in snowboarding is increasingly being driven by the conversion of skiers to snowboarding, rather than an attraction of entirely new entrants to snow sports.”

And Rosall sees one trend that may warm the hearts of the Skico – those who snowboard tend to get more days in.

“The enthusiasm in the sport is really in snowboarding at this point,” he said. “The snowboarder who comes to Aspen is going to be out on the mountain much more often.”


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