Other skiers and snowboarders save big bucks by buying season passes, some of which pay for themselves in as few as five or six visits. Traditionally offered by individual resorts and pegged toward locals, newer passes such as Vail Resorts' Epic Pass (unlimited skiing at 12 resorts for $729) and the Mountain Collective pass (12 days at six destinations for $379) extend the concept to those who don't live at the base of the hill.
"If you look at the season pass deals out there, by some definitions skiing has never been more affordable for our core participants," said Michael Berry, the ski association's president.
And therein lies the proverbial rub. That core audience is getting older and they're not being replaced by enough new participants to grow the sport. Last year, the median age on the slopes was 38, compared with 34 a decade ago, a worrisome shift for the industry.
The overall result is little or no growth in participation and the potential for future declines as baby boomers "age out" of the sport. Last year, skier visits hit 56.9 million, an increase of 11 percent over 2011 -- which was the worst season in 20 years -- but still below the sport's 10-year average of 57.4 million.
The challenges are only expected to grow. As the major resorts spend millions on new lifts and posh lodges, smaller areas -- so-called "feeder and breeder" resorts -- can't afford to offer competitive amenities. In 1978, there were approximately 700 ski areas in the U.S.; last year, there were only 477.
The future of the ski industry, Quinby said, looks increasingly like the travel industry at large: a two-tiered market in which wealthier participants are more optimistic, more able to travel and more willing to accept higher costs. The rest, by contrast, are less optimistic and less likely to spend -- with one major caveat.
Regardless of their economic status, skiers and snowboarders are nothing if not passionate about the sport, and most will find a way to satisfy their passion.
They're people like Elizabeth Rodgers, a lifelong skier who lives in Boise, Idaho. She can hit the local slopes at Bogus Basin, where season passes sold for $229 earlier this year, or drive 2.5 hours to Sun Valley, where day tickets during peak periods are $105.
For Rodgers, a mother of two who skis about 20 times a year, the economics are simple: "Bogus is much smaller but it's accessible, it's affordable and you can still ski a lot."
And Sun Valley? "It's just heaven -- it's only gotten more beautiful and more fancy -- but only the one percent can afford to have a real family vacation there."
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Too much BAD going on in society... to much greed... and it's evident in Skiing as well as most sports now.
Almost gone are the family owned resorts with somewhat reasonable prices. Hardly a handful exist and those are best kept as secrets so they don't feel the pressure.
I was a lower middle class child, did paper routes to help with recreational costs but still managed to be on a Ski Team (Olympic dreams too) and ski 50+ days a year. Even up until the early 90's it was somewhat possible for lower middle class families to find a way to ski a dozen times a year. NO WAY NOW... there is more at work than just greed in the ski industry. This is a social shift. Major social shift... The Haves are international now and the Have Nots have been redefining a new lower class of less mobile and are just those that are not good business.
Will this change the resorts or sports? or any of the inflationary recreational activities? Yes but not in a way to allow more to go. Unlike Walmart with it's cheap China made goods and processed goods that are less healthy, the recreational and sport world is going to increase price to reduce exposure yet profit off the few. In their book it's called work smarter not harder.... Large margins off a few works in this case. Corporate resorts make a better experience for their clients. It's simple business with the usual dash of corporate greed. And get real, the corporate world and the upper class don't care to see poster children from the lower class and the lower class idolizes the upper classes success stories. Straight forward as it is. Somehow enough idolize the Kardasians, Hiltons, even what British royalty uses to wipe their bum with. Sadly these people have little to nothing to offer the world (other than drama or admiration of their Aristocracy, hence Jersey Shores junk!).
So back to the point of the article. About catering to fewer yet wealthy ski customers paying more for short lines, who will then give great reviews about wonderful open trail experiences at a better profit margin, that's what it is about. As the numbers of Skiers started to dwindle in the 80's the industry started to shift its efforts and changing it's ways. Before snow boarding it realized it had to focus on upper middle class families! period! Then with the invent of snowboarding and marketability by corporate powers the industry established a new social class & client profile to appeal too. In this case the mass of frugal less wealthy customers who packed lunches and thermos's just didn't make sense. Besides these are the people who, if given the chance, would filling trails and lift lines creating an issue requiring lift upgrades, expansion and more. It's harder to cater to 5,000 than 2,000. This new model is a "Starbuck's" experience on the hill. I'm one of the lower class so I'd never buy a $4.00 cup of coffee just because it's fashionable or offers an experience. So I won't be doing what I love anymore... and neither will my children. However there are enough worldly wealthy people who can and do and they have enough to spend at the resorts so those at the helm wealthier than ever.
Sadly, after being a ski instructor who taught thousands to ski and enjoy it, as a once national level competitive racer and freestyle skier, my children ( all 4) will hardly be privileged to ski only a handful of times in their entire life. The subject is sad! I know so many who feel the same way.
There are the Haves and Have Nots now. Seems like we are OK with that!
And social mobility has been struck a major blow. I'm not Liberal and not Conservative as both are purely screwing the broad middle.
When was downhill skiing ever really for the lower classes? Maybe cross-country...skis and poles. But travel...equipment...hotel/lodge...lift tickets?
Unless you lived in or very near a ski area, never all that cheap.
I doubt there is any significant grass-roots push out there to make downhill skiing affordable. Especially if, at existing prices, the resorts are so crowded that the relative financially elite are complaining about overcrowding. Like the resorts are gonna cut the costs so not-so wealthy people can get their opportunity to enjoy the sport among the rich and crowd the silver spoons out even more? Forget it. Downhill skiing will continue to be for those who can afford it. Market economy says the prices will be as high as possible while still filling the slopes. Simple economics.
Poor or middle class folks - find a small local ski resort and save up to go once or twice a year. That will be your experience; better than nothing right? As far as the "major" ski resorts? Hey, they've been strictly for the financially well-to-do from the beginning. Since when has a student group from Watts gone to Innsbruck?
I gave it up 10 years ago because of the cost. I also can't afford a BMW M3. Some things in life you simply have to accept.
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