The Boston Globe just published an article exploring what has happened to snowboarding and why snowboard sales and use are declining so rapidly. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
by Tony Chamberlain/The Boston Globe
Whether it’s technology, culture, demographics, or some combination, the trend is clear that snowboarding, once in skyrocketing ascent, has leveled and even declined in many markets.
“Our ski sales have just hammered our snowboards,” said Mike Murphy, Sanchez’s boss at Sportworks in Duxbury, which he manages. “For every 25 pair of skis we sell, there’s maybe one snowboard. It used to be 50-50.”
Earlier this year, in a report published in the National Ski Association Journal, RRC Associates director of operations Nate Fristoe warned that the growth of snowboarding was reversing itself.
“Today, there is every indication that the growth of snowboarding we took for granted has stalled,” wrote Fristoe, whose office is based in Boulder, Colo. “Visitation from snowboarding is headed toward a path of substantial decline.”
No one, it seems, is clear on the entire picture, but the numbers add up from every region of the US snow-sports market.
In its ﬁrst decade of popularity, beginning in 1991, snowboarding grew from a 7.7 percent share of the skier market to 32.6 percent in 2000. Since that was a decade when skiing’s growth was at a standstill (or in slight decline), snowboarding has been referred to as having saved the industry.
The snowboard scene bloomed as a kind of counterculture to mainstream skiing, featuring the familiar baggy clothing and any number of bad-boy touches borrowed from the hip-hop world.
And even while some boarders reveled in being the rebellious alternative to mainstream skiing, boarding itself was slowly being co-opted by that mainstream. At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, when boarding competition was introduced as a sport, one of the ﬁnest riders in the world, Terje Haakonsen of Norway, boycotted the Games because snowboarding had capitulated to the control of the International Ski Federation.
At that time, boarding was in the midst of its greatest ascent, but a few years later, according to Fristoe’s presentation to the National Ski Areas Association, “Snowboarding lost some of its mojo around 2005 and 2006, and we’ve been running on fumes since then. It’s like any kind of trend — full of all sorts of energy until it isn’t.”
Whether the answer lies in better ski technology to ﬁt the off-piste trend, or simply a maturing process, there’s no question that boarders are older. In the same Fristoe study, the “young grommets” who were teens when they started boarding in the 1996-97 season, are now 30 — an age the youth culture views uneasily. According to Fristoe, “Nearly 38 percent of snowboarders are either part of a couple or have children, up from 23 percent a decade before.”
At the Mountain High Ski Area in southern California, president Karl Kapuscinski noted last November that in exactly a decade, beginning in 2002, the number of boarders had fallen nearly in half, from 80,000 to 42,000.
Read the full Boston Globe article here: