Aging boomers dominate ski slopes |

Aging boomers dominate ski slopes

Scott Condon
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The ski industry’s customer base aged significantly in the last decade, according to a demographic study released this month by the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group based in Denver.

Skiers and snowboarders also tend to be much wealthier and whiter than the population as a whole. And the mix is stuck at about 61 percent male, the survey showed.

The ski association said 92 of 485 ski areas in the U.S. participated in the survey last season. They talked to 138,919 customers.

The survey’s most significant findings might be on the graying of skiers and riders. The average age jumped from 33.2 years in 1997-98 to 36.6 years last season.

The number of skiers and riders 45 years of age and older showed “strong growth” while there were proportionate declines in younger age groups, the study said. The number of customers between ages 45 to 54 increased by 5.5 percent over the last decade. Customers ages 55 and older doubled over that period.

That news “is a double-edge sword,” said ski association President Michael Berry. It shows that the ski industry is achieving its goal of retaining aging baby boomers, people roughly defined as between ages 45 and 61.

On the other hand, the aging demographics show the industry must eventually make adjustments. Even if it draws young customers, they won’t come in numbers high enough to offset future losses.

“The aging baby boomers won’t be here forever,” said Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry.

Berry said small ski areas located near cities are flush with youngsters. Those ski areas are regarded as “feeders” for the destination resorts that dominate in the Rocky Mountain region.

Berry said skiing is in no danger of evolving into an elitist sport with a limited future.

The demographic survey showed that “core” skiers and riders, those truly dedicated to the sport, are hitting the slopes more than ever. A decade ago, 37 percent of skiers and riders said they would hit the slopes 15 or more times. That jumped to 45 percent last season.

Meanwhile, the number of skiers and riders who said they would venture out between four and 14 days dropped.

“We’re in really good shape in the industry,” said Perry.

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