Happy Pants!

Why spend a lot of time describing to your pals what your day was like when you can just point to your Happy Pants?      …’nuff said Bro!

It wasn’t an “epic” powder day.

There was no chin deep Blower…. No thigh-high Cold Smoke.

It was just another day Out West.

We usually have some kind of fresh snow to ski on. For those who take the time to look, there is always some stash left somewhere.

We didn’t have to send out a search party for the Pow today. The 6 inches of light stuff fell after the groomers had finished their dastardly deeds for the night.

Fresh tracks were available everywhere.

It was a week day so not much trackage during the day. It was cold enough that the crud and harbor chop stayed light and bust-able all day.

Totally-like dreamy-creamy all day long 🙂

I always feel a little thankful at the end of a day like this.

It takes a village to create Happy Pants!

I thank Ullr for the snow, remembering to partake of his sacred elixir and to sacrifice the ribs of his sacred swine to the fires of Kingsford.

I thank the gazillions of people involved in keeping the mountain operating and safe.

I thank Lefty the Lifty who bitches all day that the chairs arrive from his right  but who always has a happy hello and a gentle seating for me.

I don’t take lessons any more but I thank the instructors. Been there, done that, wore holes in the t-shirt. It is a thankless job that doesn’t pay even half what is worth to our sport.

I even thank that pimply faced kid who operates that Ferris Wheel gizmo they keep the hot dogs on.

I thank Warren Miller for the stoke when I hit my late 30s and wasn’t skiing much. As he  said, “I never made anyone ski better but I made them ski more.

I thank folks like John Clendenin and Rick Schnellmann at Skier Village on Facebook for their ideas about making skiing easier and more fun. They took the pain-of-aging out of skiing.

I especially thank the men and women of the highway crew who do an AMAZING job of making the road up to the mountain safe for us to travel. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is 3 feet of January powder or, a half inch of March ice they make sure we can get there by staying up all night.

Even when my pants are clean, I always hoist my first glass of apres in thanks to the hundreds of people who made the day possible.

It takes a helluva lot of people to make Happy Pants! 🙂

A heartfelt handshake and a thank-you go a long way. If you saw their pay stub, a hefty tip at season’s end goes a fair distance. A beer, or a bowl, whatever suits your style of thanks-giving…..

DO IT!!!


Try to be demonstrably thankful to the Cru!


Happy Feet!

Happy feet are a good thing.

Educated feet are invaluable.

Anyone who reads these tropes of mine regularly know that I am a huge supporter of educated feet.  All “Good skiing”, no matter how YOU define the terms, gegins at the feet.

I almost stayed home. It was blizzard conditions up top, 4 degrees, snowing hard, and blowing hard. I conjured the voice of Me Dear Ma and dressed accordingly. Bibs are something you wear when you mother gets cold 😉

I actually made first chair and first tracks on my favorite warm up run and, on six inches of yummy coldsmoke. That was unusual enough.

Things only got better.

After 3 runs the chair lift had to be shut down for repairs. I went to ski elsewhere. After lunch, I just happened to be first chair AGAIN when they fired the that lift back up. There was six MORE inches of powder and the wind had filled in all the tracks from the morning.

First Chair… First Tracks…TWICE…on the same Pow day!

As the legendary coach Cal Cantrell said, “It’s the feet, stupid!” Yesterday, my feet proved the value of a good education. None of my other sensory tools were available.

It was snowing at a rate of two inches per hour. The Southwest was wind at 20 mph and gusting as high as 35 mph. The top half of the run took me straight into it’s teeth.

There was no sign of the separation of Earth and Sky, nothing to mark the way ahead but the ghostly gray suggestion of pines along the fringes…only the most vague sensation of gravity provided any evidence of the effort.

There was no sense of forward motion.

The snow was so soft and quiet that only at the end of my turns, where the pressure builds, did I really feel a connection to the planet.

A feeling of weightlessness dominated my senses. It was almost as if I had ceased to be and I had became part of the storm. It was like living inside a frosted light bulb. It was college-in-the 70s all over again..deja vu…surreal. (who needs a pot shop when you own skis?)

The weather had deprived me of sight.

The wind howling in my ears robbed me of my hearing.

It was like skiing in a sensory deprivation tank. The only part of me that provided any clue as to my whereabouts, was my feet. They spoke. I listened. Call it “skiing sole-fully.

I became deeply aware of every inch of skin inside my boot. If I felt the pressure on the inside of my left foot, I surely MUST be turning right? Well, maybe but, once I decided not to care, I stepped through the Looking Glass into a world I had never experienced before.

My eyes tried to probe for obstacles ahead, trying to focus on a scene that my camera refused. The auto-focus only whirred in confusion. “Help us Landru!” (gratuitous Star Trek reference)

There was nothing out there to focus on. No objects. No light. No dark. No shadows. Just white. Opaque. Impenetrable.

I wonder if GoPro or, NASA  might mount a radar to a helmet? Infrared would be of no use. Nothing ahead but raw, white cold.

The snowing finally slowed and the sky lifted just enough to see ahead 40 or 50 yards.  The rest of the day was a joy of Freshness.

Twelve inches of uncut powder, in places punctuated by shots to the face, as I blasted through hip deep wind drifts and knee deep board slashes.

Deep Harbor Chop crud had always been a nemesis. I didn’t ski it well. I avoided it. The problem is that crud is everywhere. NOT skiing it closed off a lot of the mountain.

This year I made a goal to change that. I find the nastiest snow I can and force myself to stay in it. Learn it. Embrace it.

Discovered new ways of using this ancient body. It works.

As it turns out, that junk snow is actually a heck of a lot more fun. There are slashes and cuts and piles to provide a launching pad. I move from feature to feature as if running down a dry creek bed hopping from rock to rock.

Rediscovering the power of play. Every turn is different. Every turn has new and different vertical dimensions. New shapes. Leave the drudging, dreary sameness of corduroy turns behind and go play. Go BACK young Senior Skiers! Go BACK!

If I get to a section where the snow looks like something new or difficult, I slow down so my feet can learn to feel it. A new bit of code for my skiing app:)

And so, here they are. Happy Feet.


Tired and cold feet to be sure but, feet whose “eyes”  and education made the day.

Six hours of the rich taste of fresh snow and cold air does something to the aroma of wood smoke and the flavor of a glass of Pendelton (neat) that I am sure the distillers never counted on….But then…they weren’t me…Not on a day like today 🙂

Like the golfer who makes that one hero-shot keeps going back to the grass in the hopes of making two such shots the next round. (My personal golfing goal is to play 18 holes without cursing)

Every once in awhile, Mother Nature decides to reward us and despite the prospects of another day on New England Blue…we go…and go again because…..you will just never know…unless you go. And, listen to your feet. Just because the are smelly doesn’t mean they aren’t smart 🙂

Senior Ski Lessons – When Hiking for Turns Was Life or Death

Army ski

There is no telling what the North American ski industry would be like today if American soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division had not been trained this way and seen service in Europe. Many senior skiers knew these heroes personally and their legacy will never be forgotten!

US Army Ski Training Film 1941

Here’s link to the Wikipedia on the history of military skiing 

Senior Skiers – Video Nostalgia – Edelweiss, California 1950s

I just love the days of wood, leather and wool! Maybe take some truly senior ski lessons!

th (20)

Edelweiss Travelogue 1950s

Senior Ski Lessons – Purposeful Practice: by Derek Tate

For our poor and snow-deprived friends in the southern hemisphere, it is hard to imagine skiing whilst floating about a pool in 99 degree heat. OK..no…it isn’t that hard.


But, as every year before, I start wondering what that first run of the season will be like. It’s like that first tee shot in the spring. It might go down the middle of the fairway or it might well fly into the woods, ricochet off a gopher and roll into the men’s water closet. No doubt, some practice sessions will be required.


winter golf
I wonder where this one is going?

Here is an article from Derek Tate of the Irish Snowsports Instructors Assoc. on how to make your practice sessions more productive. Last winter I put up a series of articles on a few things I do to be more productive.

Your Skiing Sucks?

I know many of senior skiers prefer to teach themselves. Even if you do take lessons, remember..you are not with your coach every day. Most days, YOU are your own coach. Having the skills to structure your own learning sessions is absolutely essential to effortless, effective…FUN!

Horse Training Tips for D-I-Y Senior Ski Lessons

I did have to make a few small edits to Derek’s article to make it work on smart phone screen formats. The full article and many others are available on Derek’s website.


About the author, Derek Tate holds a postgraduate diploma in Sports Coaching and has completed the first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). He holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Diploma and the IASI Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro. He is a former trainer of ski instructors for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) and current Head of Education for the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). He lives near Chamonix, in France where he is director of British Alpine Ski Schools (BASS) in Chamonix and Megeve.

The man knows what he is talking about. Here’s Derek…

Purposeful Practice

Statements such as ‘correct practice makes perfect’ and ‘practice makes permanent’ are commonly used in relation to improving skills and there is no doubt that without sufficient practice you cannot expect to develop your skills to a high level let alone achieve mastery.

But practice needs to be more sophisticated than simple repetition. It needs to be purposeful and if possible deliberate.

In this lesson I will look at what purposeful and deliberate practice are and how you can ensure that the time you spend developing your skiing skills is time well spent. I will also look at what ‘mastery’ is and how you can remain motivated to achieve such high skill levels.
What is purposeful practice? Anders Ericsson (2016) differentiates purposeful practice from ‘naive practice’ in that the latter is where you simply do something repeatedly expecting that the repetition alone will improve your performance.

Purposeful practice, on the other hand, is thoughtful, structured and focused.

There are several key aspects to purposeful practice;

Well defined specific goals, focus on the task in hand, ongoing and immediate feedback and getting outside of one’s comfort zone . Goal setting is vital in so many areas of life and the acronyms SMART and SMARTER (Lockerbie & Tate, 2012) are well established pathways to both setting and achieving your goals. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, broken down into chunks of time, create enthusiasm and have some kind of benefit or reward.

Focusing on the task in hand was covered in detail in the first lesson titled ‘Focus Your Attention’ (Tate, 2017) and by developing this skill you can ensure full engagement on skills that you are practicing.

Without feedback there is no way of measuring your progress or knowing how you are doing. Essentially, feedback can come from an extrinsic source, such as a teacher or watching video playback, or an intrinsic source i.e. from you, as you are doing the task. The latter is very important especially as the skill becomes more reflexive and ultimately is more likely to lead to optimal experience (flow).

Getting outside of one’s comfort zone “ is perhaps the most important part of purposeful practice” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.17). It is too easy to stick with what is familiar and comfortable but in order to improve you need to challenge yourself beyond what you can already do.

There is a clear link here with the ‘challenge skills balance’ aspect of flow (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). What is important is that the challenge is just enough to stretch your performance rather than push beyond your limits.
Which areas of your performance do you need to practice most?

Can you allocate sufficient time to this practice?

Will you practice with others or alone?
What makes practice deliberate rather than just purposeful?

Deliberate practice includes all the components of purposeful practice plus the following; guidance from a teacher or coach, rigorous formal training methods, a well developed field with experts who have achieved mastery and effective mental representations

Guidance from a teacher or coach can not only help you to learn what and how to practice but also helps to ensure you learn the correct fundamental movement patterns from early on, reducing the need to unlearn bad habits.

For this reason finding a good teacher is important. One of the suggested defining outcomes of deliberate practice is, that because it demands rigorous formal training methods, it is not always fun! You are often required to work outside of your comfort zone and at “near maximal effort” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.99).
July, 2017 by Optimal Snowsports & Parallel Dreams Coaching 2

“The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016)

Deliberate practice also requires a well developed field with experts who have achieved mastery. A sport like Alpine skiing clearly has such a field with experts who perform to an exceptional level across a number of disciplines.

Finally, deliberate practice needs effective and sophisticated mental representations that are developed over time to correspond to external reality. In skiing this takes the form of mental imagery and forming these mental pictures comes from a combination of knowledge, understanding, seeing and feeling.

Higher level performers often use mental imagery as an integral part of their practice.

What is Mastery and where does talent fit into the equation?

It has been widely publicized that to reach mastery in any domain takes around 10,000 hours of quality practice (ideally deliberate practice). The actual number of hours required is difficult to nail down but suffice to say “nobody develops extraordinary abilities without putting in tremendous amounts of practice” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.96).

Mastery can be defined as comprehensive knowledge and/or skill in a particular domain.

For us, in skiing, this translates to ‘expert performance’. The are many examples of expert performers but one that springs to mind is the American slalom specialist, Mikaela Shiffrin who also epitomises the importance of deliberate practice. See 7 Keys to Drill Mastery https://youtu.be/96VN_Brmnz0.

The nature vs nurture debate often comes up when discussing ‘talent’. The best description that I have found on talent is by Scott Barry Kaufman who says, “Instead of treating talent as an ‘innate ability’, with all the knowledge and skills fully present at birth, I think talent is more accurately defined as a predisposition and passion to master the rules of a domain (2013, p. 247).

So, the good news is that no matter where you start you can get better with purposeful practice.

How do you maintain motivation?

It’s been established that to become an expert performer requires a great deal of quality practice, but how do you maintain motivation? Once again goal setting is all important here.

If you follow the SMARTER process then you are more likely to maintain interest and it is interest that shapes your motivation. Understanding your learning style will also have a positive impact on how you structure your practice and even better if you can build learning flexibility where you move through the learning cycle using all nine ways of learning (see Peterson & Kolb, 2017 for more information).

Developing ‘Grit’ can benefit your ability to keep practicing and pursuing your goals. The components of grit are passion and perseverance over the long term despite set backs and failure (Kaufman & Duckworth, 2015).

Ultimately falling in love with the activity will fuel your motivation and help give you grit. Remember: Learn it, Love it, Live it.


Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0 to find out more. http:// learningfromexperience.com

TRY THIS Use videos of skilful skiers to develop more sophisticated mental representations of expert performance. A great place for this is https://www.projectedproductions.com

Ericsson, A., & Pool, R. (2016). Peak, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

London: The Bodley Head. Jackson, S. A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Flow in Sports, The keys to optimal experiences and performances.

Human Kinetics. Kaufman, S. B. (2013). Ungifted, Intelligence Redefined.

New York: Basic Books. Kaufman, S. B., & Duckworth, A. L. (2015). World-class expertise: a developmental model.

Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Lockerbie, A., & Tate, D. (2012). Ski Instructors Handbook, Teaching Tools & Techniques.

Edinburgh: Parallel Dreams Publishing. Peterson, K., & Kolb, D. A. (2017). How You Learn Is How You Live.

San Francisco: BerrettKoehler. Tate, D. (2017, June). Lesson 1 – Focus Your Attention. Optimal Snowsports.

Web links

British Alpine Ski School Chamonix http://www.basschamonix.com

Kolb’s Nine Ways of Learning http://www.learningfromexperience.com Learn it, Love it, Live it http://www.optimalexperience.co.uk

Ski Coaching & Mountain Life http://www.paralleldreams.co.uk

Ski Instructional Videos http://www.projectedproductions.com

About the author Derek Tate holds a postgraduate diploma in Sports Coaching and has completed the first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). He holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Diploma and the IASI Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro. He is a former trainer of ski instructors for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) and current Head of Education for the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). He lives near Chamonix, in France where he is director of British Alpine Ski Schools (BASS) in Chamonix and Megeve.

Want to improve your performance this winter and learn how to practice more purposefully? Then book a lesson with Derek at BASS. To find out more go to http://basschamonix.com/ lessons2

All photographs © Parallel Dreams.
July, 2017 by Optimal Snowsports &

Time to Get this Party Started!

Enough of this off season! Last Spring was chock full o’ news with Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL running amok with huge bags of cash buying up resorts. We’ll be keeping an eye on how that all shakes out.

dog fighting cat

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

We have some product reviews coming your way that you won’t want to miss.


You will likely finish reading this installment confused by the many twists and turns and incomplete directions. GOOD…You darned well should be! The ski industry is slowly killing itself and the reasons are as complex as they silly.

Trust me though, I’ll get you straightened out on it all by the end of this season 🙂

What finally shook me out of my summer doldrums were two articles from the same author and source. Both articles referenced “experts” who talked about why the ski industry isn’t growing. I am always interested in that subject and I read them both, several times.

What struck me was not the specific opinions of the two experts but how two experts could be looking at the same industry and come up with conclusions that are perfect opposites. Could it be that the industry is failing to grow because there simply isn’t anyone who knows what is really going on?

The first article I saw was posted by ISPO.com and you can read it here. READ ME. 

Basically it claims that skiing is too “elitist” and needs to find a way to get more people from lower income demographics to participate. The article didn’t say it in so many words but I had the distinct impression that the intent was to socialize or, at least, to have governments subsidize snow sport participation.


China plans to grow snow sports in an unprecedented way. If they are successful they would nearly double the number of active participants in the world. I wrote about that last year in…

Senior Skiing To Grow 400% Worldwide. 

If the rest of the alpine world is to survive, they may well have to learn how to compete against government subsidized resorts in China and Russia.

From that perspective, I can sort of understand where this expert is coming from. BUT, it seems like “experts” in Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada, and the US are gearing up for what they believe will be a  Wave of affluent Chinese coming their way.


Given that China has proved it can build a world class ski resort in less than a year, it is likely that millions of folks from Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada and the US will pass them in the air…on their way to China...to enjoy government subsidized, world class skiing…on a free seat on government owned Chinese Airliners.

What I am saying is that China would very easily take the decision to offer free everything from travel to lodging to meals and lifts. One or two seasons of that could absolutely trash the ski industry in most traditional alpine countries.

Sometimes I wonder if Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL understand that the 30 some resorts they own between them will be the only ones open in 15 years and are aligning themselves to serve only the wealthiest of the wealthy from around the globe. It’s already cheaper to take the annual ski vacation in Europe than it is to Colorado. How soon before it is even cheaper to enjoy world class powder in China?

The second article, from the same author and website… different expert.….posted in the same week contends exactly the opposite…Skiing is not “elite” enough. It needs the elite and not the “masses”!

First, I am curious to know who gets to decide if YOU are an “elite” or a member of  “the masses”. That decision almost never works out for you when you don’t get to make it.

This second article I didn’t spend a lot of time with. From the perspective of industry specific knowledge, the “expert” didn’t seem to have much. It was more like the standard Google/SEO – blast the world with “branding” thing that appears 400 times a day in my Facebook news feed.

From my view, it is really just a guy trying to sell some consulting time. I based that on the claim in the article that in a market populated by fairly affluent people he seems to think that dominating Google is the strategy of choice.

My thought is that the more easily you can define a target the easier it is to hit it. You go on LinkeIn, search keyword “ski” and bang – 1,000,000 affluent skiers that you can contact directly. His claim that “targeting” is dead is foolishly myopic and “tech-centric” and flies in the face of everything we know about how people in those “elite” classes make buying decisions.

Look, I am a free market guy and if you can get someone to spend $40 for a Cheeseburger by putting it on the menu as “Boeuf Haché avec du Fromage”…congratulations! PT Barnum told us many decades ago how that works.

I will make a prediction right now that $40 cheeseburgers and $300 lift tickets aren’t going to save the ski industry. Neither will socialized skiing. 

Again, the problems facing the industry in its traditional haunts has been the same problem for more than 20 years. The number of participants isn’t growing and neither is the number of times they go skiing each season. The industry has known for a long time that they need to do a much better job of hanging on to beginners.

The woeful statistic is that 82% of people who try it, don’t come back. NOTHING the industry has tried in the last 25 years has had any significant impact on that number.

According to the 2017 global industry study by Luis Vanat, participation in snow sports has been, and still is, in steady decline in traditional alpine nations.

The only places where it is growing are in Russia and China. 

The only demographic data that tracks directly with the decline in alpine sports is the decline of the middle classes in traditional alpine countries.

This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that Russia and China enjoy rapidly growing middle class. It is also supported here in the US that of the 200 plus ski areas lost in the last 20 years  most are predominantly small, local, low cost ski areas.

The cost of a day of skiing has grown much faster than inflation during a period when fewer and fewer people could afford even the low end of the cost spectrum.

All that boils down to that the ski industry really cannot have any impact of political and economic models. If current political and economic policies are eating away at your sources of revenue then you have to do something.

There are two ways to make a million dollars. Sell one million people a one dollar item or sell one million dollar item to one person. Between those extremes there are any number of potential blends of strategy and tactics to reach that goal.

So far, all we see are companies inching their way up the ladder. The cost of participating in lift served snow sports has been rising at a rate much higher than wage growth.

At a time when part of your client base is rapidly disappearing to economic policies, driving prices in the opposite direction only exacerbates the problem. Given the shrinkage in youth participation, the industry may well be heading toward a bubble that will fundamentally alter it and leave it no means of recovery.

When I was a kid in the late 50s and early 60s there simply weren’t many ski areas around. There were mountains of surplus military ski equipment that could be used on whatever local bump kids used for sledding. Our family “ski vacation” consisted of driving up Thompson canyon west of Ft. Collins and skiing the roadside ditch. Mom would drive us up and Dad would ski down with the kids. Then Dad would drive and Mom would ski with the kids. I had been skiing 15 years before I experienced a mechanical lift at a ski area. The current growth in a return to those halcyon days of hiking for turns is a breath of fresh air

In many towns these days the local sledding hills are shut down due to legal liability concerns. Kids are less active generally. Thanks in part to the explosion of a million cliff hucking, drowning-in-an-avalanche, GOPro videos, millions of mothers are deciding that skiing is too dangerous for their children.

There seems to be a growing list of reasons to NOT participate. At least, that list is growing faster than the list of reasons to give it a go and stay with it. The high costs certainly make it easier to stay away.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t stick with it. Costs are certainly a part of that equation. Costs won’t change until the industry feels that is the only way it can survive.

One of the reasons that shows up in the annual surveys is poor proficiency. People think their skiing sucks and who is going to spend their annual vacation money doing something they suck at?

The problem is that there is much the industry can and should do about proficiency but they simply don’t care to do them. Lessons are expensive and will remain expensive, period.

When ski resorts are operating a government granted monopoly, there will not be any competition for the monopoly ski schools. Until there is, instruction will remain as expensive as it is ineffective and customer losses to “poor proficiency” will continue. Collision accidents on the mountain due to poor proficiency and over-crowding will continue to climb.

Sure skiing is expensive. The interesting thing is that once you reach a point in your life where you have the time to go skiing and you can afford to go skiing, the industry isn’t interested in you anymore.

Have Senior Skiers Been Abandoned? The Wrinkled Irrelevants…


The outlook for increasing average proficiency is pretty bleak. Instructors with a lot of experience are “aging-out” of the profession and not enough young people are taking it up.

Instructor shortages are so severe that resorts are offering $1000 bounties to any employee who helps them poach an instructor from a another resort.


The outlook is so bleak, in fact, that the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) have taken to designing instructional programs for companies who make teaching machines.

But hey, it’s almost December and the local mountain is open. So, we’ll just keep on skiing and riding and muddle through somehow.

Kowabunga!! Tips Up Folks!



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!

Screenshot (198)

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”….


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.


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”.


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.


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”.


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.


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.

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.


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


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

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…