VIDEO: Why Boomers Are to Blame for the Declining Ski Industry

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Skiing is the quintessential winter pastime. But recently, the multi-billion dollar industry is in decline. The number of skiers is falling fast and the industry is scrambling to make up the difference. Is this going to be the end of the ski resort?

According to the video, skier visits down were down 11% last year, to the same participation 30-years ago, and it’s the Baby Boomers that are leaving the sport. As they get older, retire, and die, the Millenials behind them are not replacing them in the same numbers. Right now, Boomers represent 21% of all riders, down from 36% a decade ago.

The Millenials share is growing, but they don’t ski as often, take shorter trips, and don’t have the spending power of the generation that had everything. For every Boomer that gives up skiing, two Millenials are required to generate the same income.

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23 thoughts on “VIDEO: Why Boomers Are to Blame for the Declining Ski Industry

  1. Expense and unreliable conditions are two things that people complain about and you can’t blame them. This is why more people are taking up backcountry skiing. The snow is always better than the resort, it is really good exercise and once you buy the equipment it is relatively cost free. Ski resorts need to lower their prices if they want to increase skier visits and also have programs to get new skiers into the sport for a relatively low cost that includes lift tickets, lessons and equipment. Once you are hooked you are typically a skier for life as it is so damn much fun!

  2. Our family loves skiing, but it is extremely expensive. We have figured out how to stay in the Midwest to save costs. When you drive and ski outside of peak holiday times, it is a little less pricey. We have adult children who grew up skiing in a local ski club. They come with us on our trips. They have continued to enjoy downhill skiing with us boomers, but they rarely go on their own because of the high cost. We are also interested in Nordic skiing and snow-shoeing. We are wondering if those sports are more sustainable because of less upfront cost and greater ease of learning.

  3. I grew up in a small town in S.Cal, my family had a cabin in Twain Harte. I learned how to ski @ Dodge Ridge. When we moved to Reno in 1973, I did the Junior Ski Program. I remember skiing at Slide MTN. NV ( Old Reno Ski Bowl ) when I was a teenager. It was $4.00/ day. We would ski at a Mt.Rose once in awhile. In the 1980’s I could afford to buy a Student Pass for $200/ season, while at a local CC college.
    Most of my buddies had seasons passes. It was great, lots of snow.
    We skied all over the Tahoe Basin, and trips to Bachelor, Mt Hood Meadows and points in between. Skiing was still affordable. In 1990 I moved to the PNW. I skied Crystal MTN, White Pass, Mt. Baker, Whistler, etc. Having Family in Arizona, Colorado, Montana I expanded my skiing to many other places across the West.
    After getting my BS at WSU – Puyallup, work was a priority, skiing was just a hobby. Skiing Equipment Changed, Prices went up, some places the grooming went downhill, then the big ski companies came in bought ski areas and the prices went through the roof.
    I said No Way!!! I stopped skiing in 1995.
    Skiing stopped being Fun !!!!!!
    I have more FUN riding a quad or SXS in the snow now….See ya.
    { I loved skiing on my 210’s, with my friends, we had Fun. I would use my Mono board on deep Powder days ( bought my Mono board when I skied the Rockies. )

  4. I’m a 66 year old boomer who’s been skiing since age 7. Blessed with good health and still handling whatever the terrain throws at me, except for icy bump fields. I think there is truth in all the foregoing comments. The cause isn’t a single issue or trend, but combined, the result is participation in skiing is in a major decline, one likely to continue before bottoming-out. Fundamentally, the thrill of sliding on snow will keep the sport alive, but ultimately, with fewer ski resorts and fewer participants. Skiing and riding will always be expensive compared to other outdoor pursuits. Those resorts can figure out how to overcome the challenges and have access to capital to keep facilities safe, efficient and enjoyable will survive. The implication for those who can’t is a sad reality.

  5. I agree with most of what is being said here. Lift ticket prices are currently part of a going out of business strategy. Hopefully there will be a market correction, but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime (I’m an early Gen Xer).

  6. Boo. Mers
    Unfortunately there are bigger issues for this planet than if or not skiing is a declining sport.

    And perhaps unless you re a wealthy gen x or millenial trust-afarian type, the choice of living a mountain sport based life may well no longer exist for next gens as cost of living and affordable housing are major barriers to ways to make a mountain snow sliding lifestyle work.

    And corporate skiing always has and still sucks companies such as
    Alterra Mtn Corp aka AMC Already More Crowded and their iklown passes are fully to blame.

    Build more condos and who is going to staff and take careof ongoing maintenance of such when there is no affordable workforce housing for underpaid employees who cannot even find longterm rentals.

    But hey they get great public news reviews for their advocacy for eco based car pool parking and tesla charging spots.

    Oversold and under delivered is not a good product in any business btw.

    All just total geniuses no doubt. Such corporate idiots more like.

  7. Did a millennial write this article, and that’s why they are blaming the boomers? I’m a Gen-X and teaching my boomlets to ski. We have season passes, and invite friends. The high daily ticket prices are killing the industry, not the customers wanting to ski. Thanks for giving me a good laugh while watching your video!

  8. Agree with the analysis. The industry needs to adjust simply throwing multi-passes at the demographic shift will not solve the problem. They need to get creative with things like off peak pricing models to relieve weekend congestion created by their multi-pass solutions. Stay and play models and other ideas to promote general tourism. Millennials and all customers are interested in a quality experience.

  9. I buy a 10 time pass at Mt Hood Meadows for $450. It is $250 for under 18. It is a local place in the National Forest so there is no development. The terrain is great. It is empty during the week. A long lift line is 15 minutes on the weekend. The daily rate just cracked $100 and people are complaining. There is no question that corporate development has changed the program at the big resorts. We used to regularly make trips to Utah, Colorado and BC and no longer do it even though we can afford it. $1000/day to take a family of 4 skiing is too much, especially when the slopes are packed and lines are long.

  10. I as a boomer have knees that can no longer do a day of bumps. I will increase days on the mountain if there is a larger number of groomed trails throughout the year. I enjoy powder but again I cannot be skiing into buried bump fields. Many of the people I talk to are my age and have the same problem. I can make runs in the NASTAR courses for a good part of the day but to move out onto the other slopes I have little that is not knee to waist deep bumps. Even on the intermediate trails this holds true. I sometimes find a trail or 2 that groom well and don’t bump until late day but for the price of a ticket 2 trails is not very enticing.

  11. I’m will try very hard to keep on skiing to prop up the industry with my old knees, we must be skiing longer as I have seen an increase in the age for the seniors pass, 70 is the new 60 for sure. Guess we have to thank joint replacements but at this rate I will have to be 80 to qualify.

    Our local areas do have very affordable packages for skiers including an under 26 season pass to try to keep the young people in the sport as they (hopefully) establish careers. The smaller areas also have wonderful kids programs that are community supported and cheap. That said I look at families with day tickets in the lodge buying lunch and do a mental calculation of the cost of their day skiing – wow, it is scary.

  12. The industry is pricing itself out of new customers. From the cost of a lift ticket, the lessons, to the lunch bill it has just gone nuts. Lodging and airfares are also out of control. These costs keep ordinary folks from teaching their kids to ski.

    The Wall St economy is doing great, but we have exported a lot of jobs, the younger folks are not making enough to have play money, especially after paying their college debt, another American disgrace story. Main St is not doing so well at all.

    The majors basically only seem to want the rich folks on the hill. And that makes sense because the real estate play is a major part of the business model. The little people aren’t going to buy a time-share…

  13. Gen Xers are the generation behind Boomers but alas, we don’t seem to exist anymore. We’re out skiing pow.

  14. Vail Resorts and Interwest are to blame for the changes in the sport. They invented the modern ski industry business model which includes lowering season pass rates, raising ticket costs and raising food costs. Their business model relies on money made from real estate development, condo’s, hotels, etc. That is why you see villages popping up at all the resorts that they own and copy cats like Squaw. They invented the model and have ruined the sport in the process. They don’t care about skiing. They care about making money and packing the resort full and squeezing every dime out of the customers.

    I wouldn’t blame the boomers I would blame the big companies that turned mom & pop ski resorts into large real estate deals.

    1. My son was driving out west last year and spent a couple of nights with our cousins who live in Vail. He is a casual skier and I said “Hey, while you are there you should hit the slopes, my treat” When he saw the obscene prices for lift tickets he wouldn’t even spend MY money on that. Not sure how any family can justify skiing there unless you have a season pass.

  15. Very interesting video. I’m a boomer who has been skiing for over 60yrs (since I was 3) and I really don’t plan on “unwaxing” any time soon. I’m blessed to be able to afford my pass (One Epic and one at another resort at Tahoe), but if I had to walk up to the window and lay down $150-209 (thanx Vail!) I wouldn’t take up, gulp, golf. I really liked Sugarbush’s package for new skiers, and it would be great to see other resorts give this type of incentive instead of pricing themselves for the “rich and famous”. My son has 3 little girls (11, 9, and 8) and there is no way they can get them into the sport that their dad grew up and love, b/c one day at Heavenly would cost them over $500 (tix, rentals, and a glass of milk). Plus, the two young ones will probably only ski for 1-2 hours, and then sit and enjoy hot chocolate.
    Until the industry starts showing that they care for the middle class and millennial, this sport will go the way of Rope tows and bearclaw bindings

    1. Rico, covered every point that was on my mind: price points for skiing are ridiculous if you don’t buy a season pass, same here I am also blessed to be able to afford season pass for Heavenly and limited pass for Squaw but my son and his friends cannot afford season passes and walk up rates are out of range for working and middle class kids and young families. Sugarbush has the right idea on getting people to take up the sport and god for them, Epic and Altera are you guys paying attention? I just turned 60 and just like the report says we are on our way out and whether you are a skier or boarder the constant price increases are not sustainable.

  16. Skiing has become overpriced. It started with snowmaking which doubled the capital cost and tripled the operating cost. It tended to overcapacity the lifts versus the trails. Overinvestment in base lodges also contributes

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