Indoor skiing is one entrepreneur’s bet on how to diversify and grow skiing and snowboarding
Angel Williams is heading to Breckenridge this winter for her first ski vacation ever and she wants to be ready.
“I’m practicing,” the New York City resident says as she boards the chairlift at Big Snow, North America’s first indoor ski area, located at a massive new mall a few minutes from her home.
“My plan is to go every weekend until it’s time to go to Breckenridge,” she says, her snowboard dangling from the four-seat Doppelmayr chairlift above the 1,000-foot-long snow slope. “Then I won’t have to spend all my time on the bunny hill. Maybe I can go to Peak 9, which I hear is awesome. This is the first time I’ve ever gone snowboarding on consecutive days. I feel like I’m getting better.”
By removing some of the critical challenges facing skiing — like long trips to a far-flung mountain, pricey access and a daunting learning curve — Big Snow founder Joe Hession hopes he’s found a key for a resort industry that needs new skiers to thrive as older generations fade from the sport. And those new skiers need to look different than the departing skiers. Of the roughly 9.5 million Americans who ski, about three-quarters are white, according to the latest participation survey by the SnowSports Industries America trade group.
“Who else is doing more to grow the sport?” Hession says amid hundreds of first-time skiers and snowboarders exploring their first moments on snow. “Anyone who wants to argue that point, they should come visit us here and see this diversity.”
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