Following a difficult few seasons of low snow levels and a recession in Colorado, the ski industry is hoping that a recovery is soon to follow. However, in Denver Business Journal’s Perils Ahead?, Ed Sealover, reports that one large factor that may ultimately hinder the recovery is that younger ski enthusiasts are not taking over the empty seats on the chair lifts as older skier put away their poles, retiring from the slopes.
If the current trend continues, Nate Fristoe, director of operations, RRC Associates argues that the industry will see a drop from just over 57 million visitors in the 2012-2013 season, to 45.3 million in 2029.
What is contributing to this decline in ski visitors? The rising costs of lift tickets (above $115/day at some resorts this past season), congestion on the I-70 corridor, and accessibility for the growing number of minority families in Denver. Fristoe also sites a decline in interest of women aged 40-59 who often make household decisions.
The growing income level gap between participants of the sport suggests that many former participants may simply be priced out of the recreational activity that Colorado is best known for. Participation from households with annual incomes over $150,000 is rising, while households earning $50,000 or less annually are becoming less likely to participate.
In over 30 years of practicing ski injury law and participating recreationally in the sport, we have seen ebbs and flows in the industry. Some of these were caused by financial factors, weather conditions and even stagnant attitudes in the sport. Just before snowboarding was introduced, the industry was facing similar issues of participation and enthusiasm. Perhaps a new and innovative addition to the sport is to follow? Or maybe next season will bring epic snow conditions that have everyone, quite literally, “running for the hills!”