outliers_megan-middleton

There have been a lot of articles written recently about the decline of snowboarding. While these articles make some valid points, a lot of them seem to be coming with a “told you so,” tone. It’s one thing to read an article about the decline of snowboarding in the New York Times, and easy to brush aside as misinformed. After all, these are the publications that feature the same, out of touch, Guy in the Sky photo in any snowboard coverage. The most recent article about the decline of snowboarding came from a rather unexpected source—Outside Magazine. While never considered an endemic snowboard magazine, Outside is still a respected outdoor industry publication featuring in-depth editorials, ads, and reviews of outdoor gear—including snowboards.

Boasting many inaccuracies, misquoted facts, and perpetuated stereotypes that most had thought died out years ago, this article does little to bridge the skier vs. snowboarder divide that had been shrinking over the years. Without going point-by-point through the entire article, it is worth noting some other reasons snowboarding is declining that weren’t addressed, and why this decline isn’t necessarily something to construct a bomb shelter over.

In nearly every article predicting snowboarding’s demise, the issue of lift ticket prices never seems to be listed as a factor. It’s interesting that instead of resorts offering an affordable family experience, they are racing to create an elite, luxury resort visit. With ticket prices constantly breaching the $100 mark across the country and the economy crawling its way out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, most low and middle-income participants have been quickly priced out. There must be some demand for a high-end ski experience, but there also needs to be more affordable avenues if the industry is actually worried about increasing participation.

Another thing not often brought up is the fact that there is really only one generation of snowboarders, most starting in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, versus the nearly 60 years of ski participants, post-WWII to now, to pull data from. If one was to look back at skier participation over the years, they would surely see rises and falls caused by everything from global economic recessions to equipment innovations like shaped skis. It’s easy to look at such a small sampling of snowboarders experiencing their first decline with tunnel vision and shortsightedness, and declare the end of the sport. Snowboarding is in a decline now, but in five or ten years it could be gaining popularity and participants again, it’s really too early to tell. And after experiencing a decade-plus of exponential, double-digit growth, it was inevitable, impossible, and unrealistic for snowboarding to keep that pace up.

So while perhaps snowboarding is on the decline, that doesn’t mean the sport is headed the way of the Heelie. With anything new, there will be booms and busts as certain participants slough off and move onto the next thing, whether that be the latest smartphone, fad diet, or winter sport. What the industry doesn’t need, skiing and snowboarding included, is sabotage from within. Rather than coming off with the tone of a skier from the 80’s declaring snowboarding as the dying fad they predicted, why not come up with constructive ways to increase participation? There has been enough negativity from both sides over the years, it’s time everyone realize that skiing’s success relies on snowboarding and snowboarding’s success relies on skiing.

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