Former publisher of Couloir Magazine and inventor of the phrase Earn Your Turns.
A copy of the Ski Industries of America Intelligence Report for 2009 arrived at my doorstep a while back. In the opening pages there is a headline suggesting reasons for optimism. After careful study of their numbers I would agree, but not necessarily for the same reasons.
There is no way I think the folks at SIA are deliberately deceitful, but due to how they categorize different snowsports as well as how they gather numbers, the veracity of their take has been suspect for many years. Paul Parker, author of “Free-Heel Skiing” and a major player in the promotion and development of backcountry skiing products reminded me that SIA’s “numbers reflect only what their members wish to give them, and their membership doesn’t fully represent” the outdoor sector. In other words, historically there is data missing from SIA’s numbers.
Even so, glimmers of reality are reflected in the SIA reporting. One of the key claims for optimism is a recent uptick in alpine skiing after a relentless 20-year decline (see graph near end of this article). The low point for alpine skiing was 07/08 with only 5.5 million skiers that season. Snowboarding hit a relative low that year too, and both rebounded in 08/09. One year of growth is encouraging, but not a strong basis for optimism. Even so, there is plenty of good news in this report, especially for backcountry skiers who like to see their sport grow. (Yeah, not everyone likes growth, but you have to admit it has possible and frequently concrete benefits such as better gear, more huts, more access opportunities, etc.)