Denver Post reporter Jason Blevins interviewed me a few weeks ago for and article he’s writing about the popularity of backcountry skiing. It was refreshing to speak with someone who didn’t worship telemark turns, and was willing to acknowledge the usefulness and popularity of randonnee alpine tour bindings. Indeed, he went out and found some very interesting numbers from an outfit called Leisure Trends.
Blevins wrote: “Since the 2001-02 ski season, Leisure Trends survey of the nation’s ski shops showed a 129 percent increase in alpine touring sales and a 53 percent increase in sales of backcountry accessories.”
Telemark evangelists are fond of crowing industry numbers that show explosive growth in their sport (seems they want the crowds in the backcountry to grow, even while worrying about the imaginary mass of humanity overrunning the backcountry). Not doubt there are more telemarkers than ever, but one suspects that growing randonee sales numbers may be wrapped up in the “tele” numbers.
If anything, Leisure Trend’s survey shows that the randonnee AT ski binding market is significant, and needs to be broken out in any analysis of backcountry ski gear sales.
But my favorite thing about Jason’s article was that he covers how ski resorts have groomed and improved to the point of reducing skiing to a boring series of easy turns on slopes that resemble a bowling lane. Then the industry is surprised when kids start skiing down stair railings, while others duck under the boundary ropes in record numbers.
For most people, sliding on snow isn’t about doing something that’s “easy.” It’s about fun, challenge, excitement. One can only laugh as they watch ski resorts spend millions of dollars and thousands of gallons of diesel fuel mashing their slopes into submission, then turn around and spend more millions building terrain parks for people suffering from toxic groomer syndrome.