Snowboarding stalls after a decade of rapid growth | AspenTimes.com

Snowboarding stalls after a decade of rapid growth

Snowboarding still rules among teens and young adults, but its explosive growth has slowed. (Aspen Times file)

The once-explosive growth of snowboarding has hit the flats at U.S. resorts this decade.

A national survey last winter showed that 28 percent of visitors to ski resorts were snowboarding, down 1 percent from the year before, according to results the National Ski Areas Association released this month.

The loss in 2006-07 is largely the result of weather, according to a study that analyzed the survey results. Poor snow conditions kept people off the slopes in the Pacific West, Midwest and Southeast ” regions where snowboarding is particularly strong, the study noted.

But the weather last winter cannot explain the trend throughout this decade. The explosive growth of snowboarding in the 1990s leveled off this decade. The percentage of snowboarders at U.S. resorts has hovered between 26 percent and 29 percent since winter 2000-01.

While the NSAA’s survey during the 2005-06 produced the largest number of snowboarders ever, at 29 percent, there hasn’t been consistent growth. When compared to the prior season, the number of snowboarders dropped in 2002-03 and 2004-05 as well as last season, the study showed.

Snowboarding still rules among teens and young adults. The study showed that 59 percent of resort visitors between ages 15 and 17 were riders, as were 55 percent of those between ages 18 and 24.

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The Aspen Skiing Co.’s mix of snowboarders is lower than the national average, according to Skico Senior Vice President David Perry. Local surveys showed 15 to 16 percent of adults at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk riding last season, he said. Kids aren’t included in the surveys. If they were, the overall percentage of snowboarders would rise to the “low 20s,” Perry said.

The NSAA demographic study forecast a solid future for snowboarding, even if growth has stalled.

“The high levels of snowboarding participation in most younger age groups suggests that snowboarding is likely to continue to grow in the future, provided that existing participants stay in the sport and continue to snowboard as they age,” the study said.

The NSAA survey showed that 66 percent of resort visitors used alpine skis last season, on par with the season before. Another 2 percent were on telemark skis. The remaining 4 percent of visitors used other types of equipment.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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