Skiing’s gender gap widens with age
VAIL – Sue Mason of East Vail doesn’t ski as much as she used to. And many of her girlfriends don’t ski at all, while their husbands have remained die-hard skiers, she said.”The women I know don’t seem to be that enamored (with skiing),” she said.Research by the National Ski Areas Association shows that women make up a declining percentage of skiers as the population ages beyond 40. At age 40, women make up just under 50 percent of skiers. At 47, women make up 40 percent of skiers and snowboarders, and by 67, just over 30 percent of skiers and snowboarders are women. “It’s been true for a long time,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. “We felt the most impact of that when the middle bracket of the baby boomers passed 40.”With the large baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, the trend is poised to become more pronounced. As women approach retirement, they are looking for shared experiences with other women as well as outdoor activities that are also learning experiences, Berry said.”Adrenaline may not be a primary need for women,” he said.
Ski resorts are focusing on alternatives that fit into this pictures, such as snowshoeing, he said.Many reasonsMason, 65, cited several factors behind the decline of women’s participation in skiing as they age. Women like to ski in groups, and sometimes it’s hard to find friends who are willing to get together to go skiing, she said. Many older women are plagued by injuries that prevent them from skiing, she said. Lack of time is another factor, she said. Many of Mason’s friends are heavily involved with volunteering in the community, she said.Another reason is cost, she said. The over-70 ski pass, which was free several years ago, now costs $599. Mason also cited equipment differences.”Maybe it’s because the equipment still is less friendly for women than it is for men,” she said.Mason said she snowshoes and cross-country skis when she has time.
Perhaps a big reason is that men and women are simply wired differently, she said. Her husband committed to major rehabilitation after a serious leg injury. “I don’t know a single woman who would do that,” she said.Other amenitiesBill Jensen, chief operating officer for Vail Mountain, said the dropout rate for women has been a factor in the sport for decades.However, resorts such as Vail and Beaver Creek that offer a lot of activities in addition to skiing, such as spas and shopping, are able to continue to attract women. In addition, Vail’s emphasis on grooming its ski runs is aimed at attracting older skiers, including women, Jensen said. The resorts also have snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, he said.
While the aging baby boomers could mean the ski industry loses out on more women, Jensen said those losses are offset by the benefits that baby boomers bring to ski resorts. With advancing technology and increased grooming, the ski industry will continue to enjoy benefits of baby boomers for the next 10 to 20 years, he said.Jensen, qualifying his statement as a generalization, said women fall behind when they settle down to have children and raise families. “When they come back to the sport, they’ve fallen behind in the development curve,” he said. “They’ve taken off a few years. They’ve lost the edge, the continuity.”Another reason could be the adrenaline factor, Jensen said.”Part of the thrill of skiing is that there is an element of risk to it,” Jensen said. “Some women over time realize that they want to carefully control their risk.”Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado