Reports from the mainstream media about the imminent
demise of the sport aren’t helping. Newspapers and websites from
the Boston Globe to Outside Magazine and ESPN have devoted
significant page space to the issue without o;ering any potential
solutions. And last January, the New York Times ran a feature story
titled, “Has Snowboarding Lost its Edge?”, which pointed out that
the first wave of snowboard participants had grown up and started
families, while fewer young people were taking up the sport and
women were hanging up their boards at a higher rate than men.
It also ran on oft-repeated quote from Nate Fristoe, RRC
Associates’ director of operations, who, writing in the NSAA
Journal, said, “Today, there is every indication that the growth in
snowboarding we took for granted has stalled, and visitation from
snowboarding is headed toward a path of substantial decline.”
;e sport is still a young person’s game. According to SIA
research, nearly 80 percent of the snowboarders in the U.S. are
34 years old or younger, compared to about 60 percent of skiers.
But that may also be changing. ;e story in the Boston Globe,
titled “Snowboarding Appears to Be in Serious Decline,” said that
because of innovations like rocker technology, (which, of course, is
available in skis and snowboards) more potential riders are taking
THE INSTRUCTIONAL EQUATION
None of this is good news for instructors, and the AASI
Snowboard Team faced the issue head-on at the 2013
Fall Workshop and Fall Conference, taking an active role
in identifying the root causes of the trend, as well what
actions the industry – especially snow pros – might take to
AASI Snowboard Team Coach Lane Clegg and team member
Scott Anfang sat down with ski and snowboard school directors
from around the country to present their findings, and to discuss
“;e sport has seen such steady growth for so many years that this
might just be a normal – and expected – fluctuation,” Clegg told the
assembled directors. “But whether it’s a matter of keeping students
or retaining quality instructors, we do need to address the situation.”
Here are some of the highlights of that discussion.
Potential Reasons for the Decline
; Economics. In the country’s recent economic downturn,
snowboarding participation may have taken a bigger hit
than alpine skiing, particularly because of the relative youth
of the market.
; It’s a normal part of a growth cycle. Given the sport’s incredible
growth over the past four decades, the decline is a natural part
of the sport’s cycle… which will continue to show signs of
both growth and decline.
; Freeskiing. Much of the energy around the present freeski
market has been at the expense of snowboarding. As Clegg
noted, it has certainly been inspired by snowboarding and
; Other reasons. Given the lack of in-depth data, this is an issue
we will need to continue to study – with the idea that there are
still many lessons to learn.
; Marketing. Encouraging areas and manufacturers to continue
to market the fun, community, and benefits of snowboarding is
in everybody’s interest.
; Ticket pricing. Gains could be made by working with areas
to establish either promotional ticket rates or park and pipe-based pricing to reflect the specific features of an area that
snowboarders are accessing.
; Park crew/amenities. Helping to build superior park features
and services to encourage media coverage could attract additional snowboard participation.
; Ski and ride schools. As Clegg and Anfang noted, this is the area
in which our members have the most leverage, and in which
they can continue to make a di;erence in participation and
The Snow Pro Difference
; Connect with sta;. In addition to keeping new riders in the
sport, more could be done to keep new instructors engaged for
the long-term. By understanding and respecting the desires
and goals of professional snowboard instructors, we can all
do a better job of retaining them.