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Snowboarding losing popularity, while skiing heats up

Snowboarding losing popularity, while skiing heats up

Interest in snowboarding seems be cooling, while skiing is gaining in popularity. (Photo: Stockbyte)

Is snowboarding no longer cool? A recent article from The New York Times explains that the sport is "sputtering in the United States."

The numbers in the article paint a stark picture for the extreme sport. This isn't just anecdotal evidence. According to Nate Fristoe, who monitors winter-sport trends, the number of days that snowboarders go to resorts has fallen from 7.6 days a year 15 years ago to around 6.1 days per year today. Skiing, on the other hand (or foot?), has remained at around 5.5 days per year for the past few years.

There isn't one reason behind snowboarding's apparent face plant. The Times writes that a large factor is the age of the participants. When the sport became all the rage in the '90s, the paper writes, many original snowboarders were in their mid-teens. An early 2000s article from ABC News reported that snowboarding was the country's fastest growing sport three out of five years, from 1996 to 2000, thanks in large to young snowboarders.

Not anymore. Now, nearly 20 years later, those guys and gals are older with more responsibilities like jobs and families and less time to spend on the slopes.

Also a problem, according to the Times: Fewer people are learning to snowboard. "In the 2003-4 season more than 42 percent of all beginners on the slopes ages 14 and younger started out on a snowboard. The percentage has steadily fallen since then, last season dropping to about 34 percent, according to the ski areas association."

Fristoe puts it like so:

Snowboarding lost some of its mojo around 2005, 2006, and we've been running on fumes since then. …It's like any kind of trend: It's full of all sorts of energy ... until it isn't.

A 2004 article from CNN echoes Fristoe's sentiments. Back then, snowboarding was on an epic upswing. Participation in the sport surged 300 percent from 1988 to 2004.

Yahoo!'s search data doesn't go to the early days of snowboarding (we're not that old), however, we can look at snowboarding search trends from the past several years. Whether coincidence or not, the searches on "snowboarding" have tumbled steadily since 2010. Meanwhile, Yahoo! searches for "skiing" have remained relatively constant over the past several winters.

According to a piece from the Los Angeles Times, skiing and snowboarding have switched places. While snowboarding is fading, skiing is gaining ground. "Sales of snowboards and snowboard equipment have slipped 21% over the last four years, while sales of skis have climbed 3% in the same period, according to SnowSports Industries America." Part of that is due to new ski designs that make skiing easier to pick up and enjoy.

Of course, snowboarding is more than just a fad. It's in no danger of going the way of the pet rock or leg warmer. But the numbers are serious enough for industry experts to take notice and fight back. The Times explains that some resorts are installing benches at the top of chairlifts so snowboarders won't have to roll around in the snow while they fasten their boots. And Burton, the world's largest snowboard manufacturer, has developed new boards especially for young kids.

Gotta get 'em while they're young, before they're gone for good.

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