Nurture Your Inner Skiing Geezer….

 

 

Growing older is a goal we ALL share.

Wouldn’t it be nice that when you reach 40..50…60…70…80…90 , the snow sport industry would still be interested in you senior skiers as an active participant? You may not consider yourself a senior skier now but you WILL be one day. Why wait until the last minute to insist the industry will want you around?

In the 1940s and 50s, from coast to coast an idea sprang from the mountains. My father’s generation returned from WW II in Europe with a notion and built the American ski areas. My generation, baby, our generation, built the industry as we know it today. Yet, if you pick up nearly any ski-related periodical or surf the web, you might get the notion that skiing is illegal for anyone over the age of 25

                                                 .th-52

According to the AARP, seniors control 70 percent of the world’s wealth. That makes seniors the third largest economy behind the US and China. In the US alone, the 100 million seniors represent $200 billion dollars in disposable income. They spend 20 percent—that’s $40-billion—of that on their kids and grand kids. Seniors who ski or board spend a lot of money on their families!

We take our families on winter vacations, pay for their lodging, buy the lift tickets and often, rent or buy their equipment. In the immortal words of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, “We are going to be spending an obscene amount of money in here. So, we’re going to need a lot more help sucking up to us…’cause that’s what we really like.”

It turns out the seniors skiing is worth a lot to the industry!

kotke-demographics
Which demographic is trending up? Yep…Seniors          Credit:NSAA

( for more analysis, go to: The Wrinkled Irrelevants?

As an age group, we spend 27 percent more time on the mountain each season than any other group. By 2030, there will be 34 percent more people in the 50-plus age group than there are now. Nielson calls us, “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing” but also say less than five percent of all advertising targets our age group. HEY! Ski industry! Time to get in a little practice on seniors skiing, maybe?

 

Ever since the unfortunate industry report that the senior skiers who built and supported the  industry for the last four decades would be dying off in large numbers, the industry has treated the senior skiing segment as a lost cause. As if we are the last seniors to walk the Earth.

cropped-th-72.jpg

Their focus on the 24-40 year-old segment may appear to make sense from an economic perspective, but the industry is being more than a bit short-sighted.

Barring an Extinction Level Event, those young whippersnappers are aging, too. Time for the industry to gain some valuable experience in hanging on to the one demographic that will always control the bulk of disposable income. Yep, you would think so, wouldn’t ya? You would be wrong

(for more on skiing for cheap, go to: Skiing on the Cheap

hippy sit in

Take heart, active, sporting Boomer skiing souls! All is not lost. If you could take over the Student Union in 1968, you can handle a few ski bums. In the upcoming series of articles, we’ll take a look at resorts with successful senior-focused operations in “Right This Way Ma’am, Happy to See You Again”. We’ll show you how to handle a resort deaf and blind to the needs of seniors with “A Girl Scout Could Handle this Outfit”. Once you have your mountain under control, we’ll show how to wring the last ounce of joy from the slopes with “How to Shred for the Nearly Dead”. See ya up the road a piece. Talkin ’bout my generation…Peace….

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Aspen Nips the Catz Tail! Trump Saves the Ski Industry!

Tony Robbins would have to admit that backing out of the Paris Agreement is a genius leadership move…

Ya, I know what you are thinking. But really…

I already went off on Vail’s climate announcement so I won’t repeat that (read it here)

Predictably, Aspen today announced they too are “#StillInIt” and all about living up to the Paris Agreement (PA) even if the evil Orange Dragon isn’t putting the federal government in the game. I am still at a loss about why on earth they aren’t saying, “Thank goodness!”

I will get to reasons why the lift-served snow sport industry ought to be thanking Trump for pulling the US out of the PA. I promise….

dog chasing cat

Most people, meaning those for AND against the PA, have no idea what is actually in it. (many will read it and still have no idea what it says)

So, how can they make an informed decision? Truth is, most people don’t. They take whatever collection of 15 second sound bites they have from whatever sources they prefer and they follow that.

We live in an “Information Age” but most of what we consume as “information” isn’t really information. It is a collection of other peoples’ conclusions. In the same way that computer models produce conclusions NOT “data”, consuming news only gives you the chance to vote on their conclusions it doesn’t give you “information” you can use to make your own decisions.

So, I read the PA It isn’t very long. Here is a link to the December 2015 version. Paris Agreement. (I can’t make the URL link work. I found it with the search terms “Paris Agreement Document) If you don’t want to read it, I’ll just tell you that someone at the DNC photocopied the first page and used it for the party platform.

The PA does nothing less than take for itself all the responsibilities of a government. The PA is going to eradicate poverty, promote LGBT rights, fight for the ubiquitous “social justice”, “climate justice”. Lots of justice in there. They will 3D print sliced bread, canned beer and real sex partners for everyone on the planet. The only shared feature of their various definitions of “justice” is the transfer of money.

Some people say. “It isn’t binding so why not just sign it?”

The obvious answer is that if it doesn’t actually DO anything then why bother with it at all?

If you were buying a car, the PA is that moment when the sales guy says, “Just sign the work up sheet here and I’ll go ask my manager to approve you”…unh huh….

But, the reasons run all they way down to our constitutional roots. It is deeply tied, believe it or not, to the current travel ban broo-ha-ha. If you recall, a judge held that the travel ban was discriminatory in its “intent” not because of the language of the executive order itself but because of things Trump said during the campaign.

If SCOTUS should uphold that decision it sets an interesting precedent. If Trump had verbally supported the PA, any regulation that doesn’t fit the PA mold could be overturned by citing the Travel Ban decision and Trump’s verbal remarks would carry the full force and legal weight of a treaty DOMESTICALLY without ever having passed a two thirds vote in the Legislative branch. That would essentially neuter the Legislative branch and turn the Executive branch into the hand maiden of the judiciary branch and effectively give any entity foreign or domestic the opportunity to circumnavigate the Constitution by filing a lawsuit. Any Ork with a pile of cash and a lawyer can become “President of Middle Earth for a Day”

Another popular meme is, “But only Syria and Nicaragua haven’t signed it”

My Mom used to say, “Just because all the other kids are jumping off the bridge does not mean YOU should!”

Ya, whatever, Mom, but seriously..read the PA. If you are the dictator of Bumfuckistan and you get millions in free western cash and are NOT bound by the PA to spend it on anything related to the climate, why the hell would you NOT sign it??”

The world is NOT a collection of unconnected dots, people. There are NOT 195 nations overflowing with love for the planet…yer gonna have to trust me on that..

All the PA really does is establish the global pecking order and loosely define the nations who will pay the bills and which nations will receive payments. The winners and losers have already been determined.

One thing is does communicate clearly. It does NOT like free-market solutions. It prefers money raised by taxation.

MOST of the payments will go to support the massive global bureaucracy that the PA calls for. In order to manage their involvement in the PA, every country will be forced to develop it’s own bureaucracy. Ka-Ching!

In the US that would have meant a new cabinet level position and many thousands of pages of new regulations. Ka-Ching!

Surely, those mountains of regulations would mean that cities, states and counties would have to have their own new bureaucracies…. Ka-Ching

Individuals and businesses (such as Aspen and Vail) would also have to pay the direct costs of compliance with all these new regulations as well as the incremental tax increases associated with the PA… Ka-Ching

Businesses such as Aspen/KSL and Vail would have to hire an army of people to cover the army of government employees who would want to see their plan, approve the plan and monitor the plan, receive massive reports on the plan. ..Ka-Ching

Because the technologies to make a huge reduction in energy consumption are not cheap, businesses would have to raise prices to customers, reduce headcount, reduce benefits, reduce pay raises…in short some pretty tight austerity measures…Ka-Ching

Or, receive massive government subsidies….KA-CHING!

We already know that folks in countries who have gone whole-hog for the renewable technologies have seen unsustainable increases in their electric bills….Ka-Ching

The price of fossil fuels, petroleum in particular, were predicted to rise 300-400% by 2030. We know that is a political target anyway. It was part of the Obama platform in 2008 and 2012. I can’t put that all on the PA.

When China surpasses the US in oil consumption, the trading currency would likely switch from dollars to yuan. The PA would simply accelerate the inevitable change. With US domestic oil production reduced and in many cases, blocked, the US doesn’t have a strategic fall back position…KA-CHING

The economic pressure of high fuel and electric prices is going to mean the end of vacation travel for millions of middle class households that currently participate in snow sports...Ka-Ching

You are maybe wondering who are all the beneficiaries of all this Ka-Chinging?

The simple answer is that if you love lift-served snow sports..it ain’t you…OK?

If you are a skier, YOU are the Ka-Chingee!

The cost of getting to a ski resort is going to go way up…Ouch

The cost lift passes and staying, eating and apres-skiing there is going to go way up…Ouch

There are going to be millions fewer customers who can afford to ski. Guess what happens to everything the resorts charge for and who will pay for that?…Ouch

Perhaps this gloomy economic outlook is the strategic driver behind the flurry of acquisitions? In the potential scenarios created by the PA, only a few resorts will survive. Only the top economic demographics will remain as customers and the dramatic increase in prices won’t affect their participation habits much. But what about all those small businesses in those ski towns who think The Consolidators are the savior returned? What about all that public infrastructure built to support twice the capacity?

Perhaps the “consolidation” craze is just preparing Aspen?KSL and Vail (who already own that market segment) for the inevitable and crushing demise of the lift-served snow sport industry. They intend to own the few resorts they believe will survive.

I was scratching my head over Vail and Aspen volunteering to live up to the PA…

But, if they can suck the budget-skiing resort owners into a “climate war” or influence legislation and regulations in a way favorable to their strategy, it would hasten the demise of those smaller  venues, that’s a win. They are already positioned financially and, as they grow larger, will enjoy more political influence. A huge chunk of the funding for the US Forest Service already comes from VR and Aspen/KSL.

If you are one of the millions of participants who struggle or make sacrifices so you can go skiing or riding, there is absolutely nothing in the PA for you to be happy about. 

 People yak about building “awareness” and take fat donations to do that. I am just wondering if the problem is awareness or “careness”. Everybody from Kindergarten on up is aware of climate change….not that many people care.

The battle cry on the slopes these days is “save our winters!”

My question is, “For Whom?”

But let’s not stop there. Let’s spin the dreidl again and see what turns up.

Even though they are not going to be REQUIRED to suffer all the slings and arrows of outrageous legislation (and YOU won’t have to pay for it all)…

Aspen and Vail just said they are going to do it anyway, which means you will pay for it in one way or another.

BUT…because they won’t have the heavy burden of regulatory compliance and exponential growth in fuel and electric bills, it makes a nice strategic and tactical windfall. They have the opportunity to take the money they had set aside for the effects of the PA in their long range plans and put that money to good use reducing their elephantine carbon clog hoppers.

 

Aspen says they are STILL in it. That surely means they were ALREADY in it before today. I wonder how they were planning to deal with all the requirements of the PA. Let’s take a look at just some of the things that Vail, and now Aspen, have committed themselves to fund. I don’t mean “support” or “signal intent” or lobby or protest…I mean PAY FOR..send money…..moola…dinero….scheckles

Payments to “The Convention” to be distributed to foreign governments to;

fight poverty…. create food-security… support LGBT rights…create climate justice, social justice..the list is really long. How will Aspen and Vail determine how much money to send off every year? Without a government to tell them how much, it should be interesting to watch. I want to see a photocopy of the checks…

Maybe we are seeing the emergence of a Vail v. Aspen Slugfest (click here to read it)“climate competition” that would blow the roof off their goals. Wouldn’t that be something if free enterprise took the lead over tax driven, ineffective government bureaucracy?!! I mean, after all, the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs worked out so well….

So, I am heartened by these announcements by various companies to toe the PA mark and soldier on alone.

As Tony Robbins has often said, “Real leaders don’t create followers. They create new leaders”

+It just might be that backing out of the Paris Agreement has lifted America from becoming a band of dogged, slogging  followers and created all these new leaders.

Rather than having surrendered “American Leadership”, the Orange Dragon just broke away from the pack of followers and unleashed these new leaders on the world.

To be fair, it just might turn out to be the most genius leadership move ever.

 

 

Katz Steps in the Litter Box

Copied from the Vail Resorts Facebook page…

We are deeply saddened by the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. As a global company, Vail Resorts believes we have a unique responsibility to protect the incredible natural landscapes and environment that surround our mountain resorts and those across our planet. Climate change is a global challenge that requires global cooperation, and it is disheartening to see the United States pull away from working with the other 194 countries that were part of the Agreement. Vail Resorts will redouble our efforts to find significant ways to minimize our carbon footprint through reducing our energy use to help address one of the most serious challenges facing our worldwide community.” – Rob Katz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts”

Before I launch into the rest of this rant, let me offer full disclosure. I LOVE lift-served snow sports and I intend to keep on using the hell out of the mountain environments as long as I can. I simply refuse to be a hypocrite about it. Meanwhile, Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, seems to have no problem exposing just how hypocritical he can be.

whack a mole
We know it is fashionable for catz to Dump on Trump. Just make sure your own shoes are out of the way!

 

First, let’s get the math out of the way. Roughly half of voters just voted for Trump. It is statistically probable that half of Vail’s customers voted for Trump. Katz just told half his customer base that he doesn’t like what they stand for. THEN he turns around and tells the other half of his customers, who might be receptive some Trump-hating, that Vail Resorts hasn’t been doing all it can to save the planet. Bad math, bad optics Rob.

Second, here is where I stand. Whether or not man is causing climate change is completely irrelevant to the job at hand. We each and every  one of us ought to be PERSONALLY doing everything we can, every day to reduce our impact on the planet. Only a change in personal habits make a difference. Use less gas. Recycle, re-purpose reuse..

It is beyond comical to say one will change man’s impact on the planet by waiting for someone to create a global governing body that then builds a massive bureaucracy, that imposes new taxes so they can write, promulgate and enforce mounds of laws and regulations that then come knocking on YOUR door to tell you that you must now do what you have ALWAYS known you SHOULD do but have NOT done. It’s frigging moronic.

The problem with subsidized “green” energy is that it does not MOTIVATE companies to develop technically, economically effective products, only politically effective, fashionable technologies. Government involvement, only and always, serves to make things much more expensive than they need to be.

On with the rant…Without giving it any critical thinking, Vail Resorts’ CEO Rob Katz just stuck his foot in the political doo-doo. Rather than thanking President Trump for giving him a 4-8 year reprieve from predatory environmentalism, Katz excoriated the President for his decision on the Paris Accord.

It is like tying a rope around a sapling and the noose around your neck and then watering the tree. It may take a while but, eventually you are gonna hang.

There simply is NO individual recreational sport with a larger carbon footprint than lift-served skiing & riding.

Math Quiz:

How many gallons of jet fuel does it take to fly 10 million people an average of 1,200 miles with 200 people per flight? How many tons of CO2 and particulate matter does this produce?

 

Every day in the winter, all around the world, tens of millions of people get into cars and buses and trains and airplanes and travel. They get into rental cars and trains and buses and planes to get to a resort. There, they walk down streets lit 24/7 with millions of twinkling lights. They climb into boots made from carbons.

They strap boards to their feet made of carbon. They slather carbon waxes all over the bottoms of these boards and get into chair lifts run by a LOT of carbon to ski on snow that uses even MORE carbon to make artificially…some even add getting into helicopters or cats…then they reverse the process and go home.

It’s completely ridiculous and intellectually dishonest to go after the President for stepping out of an agreement that may well have spelled the end of Mr Katz run. Trump just saved your Friskies Mr Katz. Be grateful.

manure

The Paris Accords would have placed heavy burdens on the US, Canada, Australia and Europe to dramatically..DRAMATICALLY reduce emissions. The ski industry, as represented by Vail Resorts and, now Aspen KSL, makes a very easy target for predatory environmentalism.

To boot, the cost of compliance would have meant spiraling, nearly unbearable financial burdens on that portion of the middle class that may well make or break the lift-served snow sport industry.

Factor in the ski industry’s poor record on diversity and it’s a cauldron full of social and political trouble. Like the old COPS theme..”Whatcha gonna do when they come for you…?”

A 1500 acre ski resort uses as much fuel in a day as a WWII US Navy Destroyer, at cruising speed…just to make the snow. The US ski industry, as a whole, uses enough carbon- based energy to power the navies of  several nations..And Katz wants to attack the President? Katz is a carbon guzzling capitalist, serving capitalist investors all while doing the absolute minimum for the “environment”. I am fine with it! I just detest a hypocrite.

Do I know I am not doing the planet a favor when I ski? Sure I do,but like any well meaning sinner, I do my best to make it up.

Katz just announced that, up until now, Vail hasn’t been doing all it could do to reduce it’s emissions. Just now he vows to “redouble” his efforts. What took you so long? Did you think that if Trump decided to stick with the Paris Accord you wouldn’t have to “redouble”, that you could just cruise along doing less than your best? Only now, when you feel you could make some marketing hay by jumping on the hate wagon, you suddenly become fully committed? That is the ultimate in hypocrisy…and disgustingly obvious.

It’s like putting up signs everywhere asking your customers to tip more so you don’t have to pay better wages. It gets old.

Let’s face it. There are hundreds of millions of “environmentalists” out there. Only a relative handful are snow sport enthusiasts. As “Corporate Skiing” grows into “Big Skiing”, it makes the entire industry an ever larger target for predatory environmentalism. Activists LOVE going after deep pockets and VR’s pockets are deep and bulging.

vail at nite
All that glitters may not be gold, but it DOES burn a heck of a lot of fuel!

Stock holders of VR ought to be truly concerned about a CEO who doesn’t understand the very basics, who so seriously misreads his constituency. This is nothing more than the global version of Chuckie Cheese Whack-a-Mole. Katz didn’t just stick his head out of the hole, he JUMPED out with a bulls-eye on his nose.

People ski and ride to get AWAY from all the madness. If you turn participation in the sport into a political statement you will find that a lot of people don’t care to make the statement. Others won’t care to confront their own hypocrisy.

Ask Kapernick where he will be working next year, or the laid off employees at ESPN. You are always free to be as political as you choose. You are NOT free from the consequences of your choices.

His post on the VAIL Facebook page got HAMMERED with negative responses. Share holders ought to be damned concerned about  a CEO who so seriously misreads his social media base.  He might want to give that some thought next time before he texts.

One would at least hope that the leader of skiings’ global-corporatist movement would be a bit more wise. You don’t stand up and condemn Trump for his Paris Accord decision while happily taking money from Trump’s kids (Ivanka skis Whistler) and polluting the hell out of every resort town you touch as you expand its carbon footprint and strain its infrastructure.

ivanka whistler

Or, if the suspicions are true and Katz is really care if he drives out the “middle income riff-raff”. Does he simply believe that his interests will always be protected from intellectual honesty and people will always be available at the Vail milking stool? Who gives a shit about Joe the Plumber and his family when Leonardo and Al are due in on their separate private jets? Hey, Ivanka dropped 30-40 grand at Whistler. Who needs a truck driver from Houston?

I recall a rant on LinkedIn recently by a Food and Beverage manager complaining bitterly about all the people who buy an Epic Pass but bring their own lunch. How ungrateful! Oh the temerity!

One person responded that in the first YAA (“year-after-acquisition”)the 25% increase in food prices made him decide to bag his lunch. He could easily afford to buy his lunch on the mountain but they just made him mad, so he won’t.

Years ago, the catch phrase was “Think Globally, Act Locally” meaning, think about the planet but change YOUR personal behavior. Here, Katz takes the toddler approach, “Think selfishly and cry loud enough and long enough for an adult to solve your problem for you”
 
It is not up to Trump or anyone else to change VR’s soiled diaper or anyone else who wants to strike some moral equivalency. If you want to save the planet, grow up and stop using lift served resorts..period..or make some kind of sacrifice. Katz makes no attempt beyond the cosmetic “green washing” and from the other side of his rant, admits that VR hasn’t been doing its best to reduce its footprint.
But, now…NOW waving his mighty Excalibur in one hand and a severed head held-on-high in the other, our hero bravely sallies forth to do battle with the evil Orange Dragon. What pure twittery.
 
cat whack amole
There was a saying when I was in the military. “If you wait for the drill sergeant to find something for you to do, you probably won’t like it”
So Rob, as you kick your arms and legs and hold your breath and cry and whine about Trump, be aware. Be aware that demanding the government do something that you can easily do yourself may have consequences you have not considered.
 
Should the Trump administration save the planet? You say yes so, you must be willing to accept any or all of the following;
Are you willing for a government to tell you the Epic Pass is only good for 15 days a year per customer?
Or, that you may not travel more than 100 miles to ski?
Or that your resort can only be open 4 days per week?
How about opening on January 1st and closing on March first?
How about a mandatory 50% reduction in snow making?
Multi Resort passes incentivize more carbon guzzling travel. Those should be made illegal. You know, to save the planet. Think globally, Ski locally!”
No, you won’t take any of those steps to save the planet, will you? You think grabbing a keyboard and frothing at the textual mouth is sufficient to the moment.
Like every other self serving child you demand that someone else take action, someone else make the sacrifice. There is no courage in your alleged convictions, no moral clarity, no action, just more solar cells and green paint.
Well screw that. If you believe in saving the planet so much that you are willing to alienate customers, close one resort next season or each resort one day per month..or something..or shut up about it.
The US goal was a 25% reduction in energy consumption so tell us how you are going to do that. You better have a plan. If you supported PA you must have already planned a 25% reduction, right? That crazy bastard Trump just might make you do it anyway. Right? Just because he pulled out of the PA does NOT mean he won’t do something unilaterally. 
 
Of course you won’t do any of those things voluntarily, but when you leave it up to a government to solve your problems for you, when you put the decision in someone else’s hands, those are only a few of the obvious solutions governments can implement. You put yourself in the position of the lazy recruit and the drill sergeant. You may not like the outcome. You put the entire industry at risk.  
 
As I said previously, perhaps Katz should be thanking Trump for sparing his enterprise for another 4 or 8 years from the ravages of predatory environmentalism.
 
If I were him, I would shut it down to a whisper and enjoy skiing while I can. Stop talking and DO something meaningful. Flying around talking about what OTHER people should do is not a productive action. Posting on Facebook is not productive either. It’s just one can of green paint in a world that needs 10 million solar panels…
Only about a third of the nations that signed the accord have lift served snow sports. The other 130 could care less about the ski industry. The global powers envisioned by the authors of the Paris Accord put the industry ONE edict away from shutting down the Alps or Whistler or…..ONE edict…one moment of brain gas….one bribe from a foreign government
If we look at the recent tumble by the NFL, and ESPN, the catz may well have just stepped in the litter box. Share holders in Vail Resorts have to be concerned that their CEO may create that “Dixie Chick” moment. Time will tell.
In the mean time wipe your paws and leave them off the keyboard. You aren’t doing anything positive for yourself, your shareholders, your customers, your employees, the industry, the country or the planet. I know that now because you just told the whole world on Facebook that you haven’t been doing your best.
America has been busily exporting it’s middle class and it has already had a negative impact on the numbers. What middle class that remains is quickly being priced out of lift-served snow sports. Pissing off a large chunk of the remaining available market makes no sense.The King may be handsomely dressed, but from here it just looks like another naked ass…

 

 

 

Senior Skiers Remember!

A great Memorial Day article from The Ski Diva! And a great old movie, Roger Corman’s “Ski Troop Attack!”

Link to The Ski Diva – http://www.theskidiva.com/memorial-day-ski-style-6/

Learn More about the 10th Mountain Division click here

 

Senior Skier’s Network Update

Thanks to you, the Senior Skiers’ Network is growing like a weed. As our three months anniversary approaches we have 8,633 readers in 82 countries around the world! Each of you reads more than one article when you visit, with a very low “bounce rate” of only 11%.

You prefer news about the snow sport markets around the world by a 3 to 1 margin. That kind of surprised me. The most popular articles concerned the Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL acquisitions

Articles about inexpensive alternatives are the second most popular, followed closely by Do It Yourself ski instruction.

Well Done World!                      Thank-you for your support!

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Senior Skiing To Grow 400% Worldwide

This article in SkiAsia.com truly fascinates me! It’s really hard to pin down an exact number of active snow sport participants in the world. Outside of Winter Olympic news, The whole notion of skiing in China has been mostly off my radar. Bad analyst..Bad analyst!

So, just thinking “out loud”….

china6

Many resorts don’t report visits and many people who haven’t skied in years identify themselves as skiers in blind surveys. The number is estimated at around 100 Million worldwide.

Whatever the real numbers are in traditional winter sport countries, the emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, China and elsewhere are on the verge of swamping existing demographics in a very profound way.

china5

The US has roughly 12 Million active participants who generate about 55 million visit/days each year. It has been that way for a couple of decades.

Now, here is China setting a goal to increase the number of skiers and riders in their country from their current 15 million to 300 million over the next five years!

You read that correctly Three…Hundred…Million…New…Participants.

In Five Years!

The American ski industry has struggled for 20 years just to break even on participation growth.

In reality, the US industry has not created a net gain in participant numbers in a VERY long time. In fact, if you look at this chart, there appears to be a serious “down-bubble” on its way in the U.S. as the number of new, young participants has been shrinking and older participants “age-out”.

kotke-demographics

According to the 2017 Laurent Vanat report, the recognized authoritative study of global snow sports market data, while Vail Resorts, and Aspen-KSL are making headlines by moving the deck chairs around the Titanic, China has grown to 646 ski areas and Russia to 354 resorts. Sure, many of them are on run with a surface tow but, it won’t stay that way.

A friend of mine from Kyiv just sent pictures of her Ukrainian ski vacation. Good slopes, good snow, great accommodations and the food was 5 stars on any gourmet’s chart. All at the cost of about 20% of a Colorado vacation.

china2

For a long time, in the US, the number of participants and the number of visits per season has been either flat or declining. Western Europe is seeing declining numbers as well. Switzerland is tanking in a major way.

Revenue growth has come almost exclusively from price increases.

Coupled with declining visitation, that model is unsustainable as fewer skiers are forced to pay ever higher prices to float the industry boat. VR and Aspen/KSL may enhance their margins by aggregating revenues and creating some economies-of-scale but it doesn’t change the industry’s foundation elements, declining numbers and rising prices.

Products like the Epic Pass are merely the hand the magician wants you to be fascinated with while he lifts your wallet. With declining numbers of customers, the only way they can keep their investors happy in the long term is to raise prices. They have proven incapable of creating new customers.

Faced with emerging, growing markets with cheap and in some cases, government subsidized pricing, it will be much less expensive to enjoy your annual winter vacation in China or Bulgaria than in Colorado.

china skiing

China recently flew its first domestically designed and manufactured airliner. 

China recently announced it will open a new “Silk Road” for western trade.

Do the math folks. The world’s fastest growing economy plus 300,000,000 new participants plus government built and operated airliners plus millions of acres of new government subsidized ski resorts. They already manufacture an awful lot of the equipment you buy.

Should China decide one winter to offer free flights, lodging and skiing to Europeans and North Americans, what might be the result? Overnight, the entire western snow sport industry might well become what has been sneeringly referred to as a “feeder resort”.

china4

The pressure on prices in the western industry will be tremendous. In the short term, the pressure on publicly held North American consolidators may well be more than investors are willing to bear.

Certainly there will be downward pressure on pricing at destination resorts as more options become available in emerging markets

The good news is that small non-destination venues that do not rely on snow making will enjoy a significant competitive flexibility. If they can cover the costs of operating the lifts, they can stay afloat. Highly leveraged operations will struggle…unless…

Unless, large western operations can involve themselves in development of resorts in these emerging markets…(They probably have and I have just been focused elsewhere) It certainly puts the Whistler acquisition in a whole new light for me!

And, it makes sense for them to do so. Pricing in traditional western markets has been treading the tipping-point of the supply & demand curves for a long time. Growth in participant numbers are flat or declining.

Conversely, Eastern Europe, China, and Russia are creating new snow sport participants in very large numbers already. Now that China has made snow sports compulsory for kids in Beijing, the number of new participants may grow as much as 40% year-over-year for the foreseeable future.

Let’s talk about Brain-Drain.

You cannot pack 300 Million new people on the existing slopes. There is going to be a whole lot of building going on.

North American resorts are ALREADY having trouble finding enough ski instructors to cover the demand.

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China and Russia and Eastern Europe will need expertise and the only place to get it in a hurry is from the mature markets of Western Europe and North America.

With Snow-Job wages in the US as ridiculously low as they are, it would not be hard for subsidized, emerging markets to drain off the best and brightest. Resort design, engineering and construction talent, snow making experts, resort operations and travel experts, all of these skilled workers, and many more, are targets for predatory hiring practices.

American snow sport organizations such as NSAA and PSIA already spend a lot of resources on fishing for new instructors on college campuses. The North American instructor corp is already an aging population.What happens to the supply of new, young instructors should China decide to offer a one year paid internship with free housing on American campuses..or worse..to already certified instructors?

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There are a variety of competitive responses available to western snow sport operators, not many, but some very interesting possible outcomes. The one that I find the most worrisome is this…

The NUMBER…..300,000,000 new participants is mind boggling, breath taking.

Add that to growth in other emerging markets and who the heck cares about a paltry 12 million Americans?

If I am Vail or Aspen/KSL I get over there and develop a cut-rate feeder market and drive North American skiing development into THE destination for the global elite. Private gondolas and $20,000 per night rooms….THAT kind of “elite”.

Broad based North American participation from the middle class would no longer be a significant business consideration. If you can consistently attract 60,000,000 visit/days out of the world’s wealthiest skiers, who the heck cares if Joe the Plumber can afford to ski?

What bugs me is that current operations such as Aspen/KSL and Vail are already boiling that frog. Pass prices are going down but the cost of everything else associated with a ski trip are going up at rates higher than inflation.

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They have their Old-Schoolers too! Very Old school 🙂

Slowly as the glam and bling rise, and the western middle-class declines, snow sports are increasingly out of reach for a growing number of traditional participants.

But, with millions of new participants on the near horizon there may be enough of the world’s newly minted millionaires in China and Russia that the western ski industry can afford to simply walk away from it’s traditional base.

The article doesn’t spell out HOW China will create these millions of new skiers and riders. Even if it is just all grade school kids, they will grow up one day.

Time will tell and I will be watching closely from here on out. Now if you will excuse me I have to go read Benny Wu’s market studies on the Chinese snow sport industry….

Stay Tuned!

Product Review – Intelliskin

Michael, sit up straight! If you slouch like that your back will stay that way your whole life!”

Yep, I’ve been a lifelong sloucher. Mom may have been right. I am the poster boy for disc problems. So, when I had a shot at testing the anti-slouch base layer from Intelliskin, I was, at once, intrigued and skeptical.

If you are familiar with Kinesio-Taping, then you understand how the product works. By scientifically arranging the various stretch fabrics, this shirt will actually help you stand up straight all the time. Mom would be happy.

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Test One: My slouchiest position is sitting, particularly in the car. Road trip testing is always a pleasure so I put on the shirt and went for a two hour drive.

I noticed the effects immediately. My shoulders were back where they belong, and I was sitting up taller than I usually do.

What is amazing is that you don’t feel like anything is being pulled into place by the fabric. The sensation is more as if suddenly all those muscles were young, well-toned and doing their jobs. Usually, a long stint at the wheel leaves my lower back and shoulders sore. Not this time!    Road Test: PASS

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Test Two: Splitting backache. I heat with wood and that stuff doesn’t split and stack itself. I enjoy the work, but it can give me a splitting backache.

Not this time! One of the things the garment does is help your back maintain the proper “S” curve. That supports your core and a strong, aligned core makes all your exertions more efficient.

When I was done splitting a cord of wood, there was some lower back stiffness but not the usual where-is-my-couch soreness. Splitting Backache: PASS

Ski Test:This is a skiing blog so I bet you were wondering…One ski pal asked me if I had been doing a lot of bench pressing in the off season or was I just strutting around with my (previously southward drifting) chest out to impress people. I can’t find any harm in a garment that makes me look like the stud muffin I am in my mind.

On the snow, Intelliskin’s ability to help me hold a more stacked postured paid off in spades with both performance and staving off the nagging aches that have begun to creep in by mid-afternoon. On-snow performance: PASS

As a base layer it provides no insulating effects on its own but with another base layer over it, it becomes nice and toasty. PASS

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Intelliskin is not just for winter. They have a wide range of products for all sports and all seasons

Comfort Test: Like many men, I have hair on my chest that tends to find its way thru the material and taking it off can be like pulling a Band-Aid. I also found it a bit itchy. Both problems were solved by putting another thin compression shirt on under it.

The benefits of the Intelliskin layer far outweigh the negatives.

Intelliskin is a must-have base layer. It will keep you on the hill longer and send you home with fewer aches and pains. It will not fetch you a beer or, scrape your windshield, but buy ya some anyway. Check them out at www.intelliskin.net

Mike Tested, Mother Approved.

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No bits of stretchy fabric can replace your Mom, I am sure she will appreciate Intelliskin keeping an eye out for you. Someone has to…