Aspen Untucked: Millennials on the Slopes
October 19, 2017
Last Friday, the Colorado ski resort known for having the longest winter season, Arapahoe Basin, started its lifts and welcomed thousands of excited snowboarders and skiers. With the opening, ski season in the state is officially underway, and people of all ages are ready to shread.
With a new winter season comes a look at a lot of numbers, from inches of falling snow, to cost of lift tickets, to attendance rates. In the past week, a few stories have surfaced that show some ski-industry experts are concerned with the growth, or lack thereof, of the sport. And who are they pointing the finger at? You guessed it: millennials!
A recent article in the Summit Daily interviewed Jim Powell, the vice president of marketing for the Park City Chamber. He said that it's a worry to see more baby boomers hanging up their skis for good, because less millennials are getting out on the mountain to pick up the torch.
"Skiing is not a growing sport," he was quoted sayingin the article. "We have a problem: the baby boomers are aging out. And they have been a big source of skier days."
According to Powell, it takes two millennials to make up the spending power of one baby boomer. Apparently, we youngins aren't skiing as many days and, when we do, we don't spend nearly as much money.
Michael Berry, the president of National Ski Areas Association, said the big reason millennials aren't skiing as much as the baby boomers is we haven't established ourselves enough, financially and professionally, to be spending the time and money on ski vacations. Plus, we like more variety in our adventure. We don't just want to go to one place and do the same thing day after day on vacation.
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As a millennial who moved to Aspen to ski, news that my generation wasn't doing its part to support the industry came as a huge surprise. Sure, I know that we don't love buying homes or eating at Applebee's or Hooters (as I've written about in previous columns), but there aren't many millennials I know who aren't jonesing to get on the snowy slopes, even on the most beautiful days of summer. Up here, we don't just love to ski, we live for it. So the idea that young people are the problem feels almost offensive. However, when you get out of the Aspen bubble and down toward sea level, our similarly aged cohorts may feel a bit differently. They didn't fall in love with one resort town and move their life there. The city slickers see their time off as sacred (I guess they don't get lunch laps at work), and so they want it to contain adventure and a lot of variety. Jeff Hanle, the director or public relations for Aspen Skiing Co., said when it comes to younger people, it's all about offering variety. The company does this with concerts, quality dining establishments and many events throughout the season.
"They want to have a broader experience, and not just their grandparents' ski trip," he said. "The activities we have are designed to enhance their experience beyond just skiing. Music and food is important to millennials."
Offering variety also extends to different seasons. That's a big reason why Skico has so many plans for additional mountain biking and hiking trails in Snowmass, as well as an alpine coaster and zip lines. They want to make sure there is something for everybody at all times. As for the winter, another way to give millennials — and everyone, for that matter — choices is through the Mountain Collective Pass, which gives two-day passes to 16 different resorts in one season.
"It's for those that want to get out and adventure and may never settle on a resort — (for) people who want to explore and try new things, this gives them that option," Hanle said.
As for me, I'm all about adventuring and trying new things, but I'm quite certain I've found my resort. It's Aspen, and it opens in about five weeks. And almost every single millennial I know can't wait to get on its slopes again.
Barbara Platts is ready for ski season. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.