According to the New York Times, the sport of snowboarding scarcely existed 30 years ago, but appeared to take over ski resorts around the world overnight by adding over 5 million participants in two decades. The sport of snowboarding has recently dropped off, due to participants ditching the boards for skis, even professional snowboarders are feeling the hurt by the lack of sponsorship opportunities available. Nike, a previously large snowboarding company, decided to discontinued its snow-sports division in 2014 and when that happened, several leading pro riders faced an uncertain future because other companies, many of which were in the midst of slashing their rosters too, could not afford to sign them all, reordering the entire market.
“A few bad winters and Nike pulling out meant a lot of good riders without a boot sponsor and an outerwear sponsor. It was a problem,” said Louie Vito, an American professional snowboarder.
A weakened global economy, shifting weather patterns that have proved to be tough this year, and changing tastes and technology among the consumers have added up to create a difficult environment for the snowboarding industry to succeed. Retail distribution that carried the culture of board sports across the country eventually proved too much and the market became oversaturated, according to Marie Case, the managing director for Board-Trac, a lifestyle research and marketing company focusing on action sports. The market is very sensitive when it comes to these changes, so this explains the abrupt changes that the snowboarding industry has experienced.
Snowboarding reached its peak popularity during the 2010-11 season, with nearly 8.2 million participants, which steadily decreased throughout the next three years. Last season, there was a slight increase, to almost 7.7 million participants, thanks to the increased popularity among those under 17 and women 18 and older. Snowboard equipment sales are down $60 million annually from 2007, along with flat or declining equipment sales across skiing and snowboarding throughout the past five years. According to preliminary data for this season, despite the 25% increase in snowboard sales across the Western United States, they have still decreased 4% nationally.
“When it comes to retail sales, you have so many factors working for and against you. That’s going to have a huge effect on our business.” said Nick Sargent, SnowSports Industries’ president, who cited Sports Authority’s announcement last week that it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and close more than 100 stores.
25% of snowboarders live on the West Coast, and California had been in a historic four-year drought until this El Niño season, along with the large number of snowboarders that are experiencing a horrible winter on the East Coast this year! Snowboarding increased immensely over a short period of time and the sport of Alpine Skiing felt the affects of it with two million fewer participants than 20 years ago. Snowboarding and freeskiing are now in the Olympics, so they have worked together to gain popularity. The televised market for snowboarding has been hurt due to the options for live streaming, which significantly lower the profitability of these events. For the sake of the Snowsports Industry, lets hope the snowboarding market picks back up.
“The original challenge is the weather dependency. To not have snow across the East Coast for this current winter really has an impact on getting people’s mind-set on getting up to the mountain,” said John Lacy, the president of Burton Snowboards, an industry pioneer.
Original New York Times article: