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alpine snowboarding industry today


Cindy Kleh
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what I want and what is out there

and though I have not seen the numbers for the smaller companies that do not have the ability to get their stuff into every shop in the country I would assume that it has helped incredibly with the mom and pop operations

I think Alpine will grow as the snowboaders that started during the big growth of the sport in the mid and late 90s mature and get sick of jibbing

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There are plenty of comments and if you look hard enough, some facts, available on this forum. If nothing else you'll understand the level of dedication to be found among alpine riders.

My personal opinion is that the small companies like Donek, Coiler, Madd, Prior, Bomber and Catek are the lifeblood of the sport, especially here in North America. I buy almost all of my boards and bindings from them and am always telling people about them, even for non-alpine when applicable.

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I'm guessing (and hoping) that Bob is right - when the jib crowd's knees start to wear out, they're going to be looking for other challenges, and carving will get more popular. Skinny boards and stiff boots will get more popular as the core demographic gets into their thirties.

I kind of doubt that it will ever be as popular as softbooting, but I'd like to be wrong about that. Hard boots are for people who are willing to sacrifice walking comfort for riding performance and I doubt that's more than half of the snowboarding population. I'm pretty sure that's a whole lot more people than are riding hard boots today though.

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Opinions are easy, facts perhaps a bit more difficult.

FWIW...

I think that most equipment is what used to be called "beginner/ intermediate" stuff, and there seem to be many boarders who attain that level. That's perhaps ok whilst the fashion is for "freestyle", but it doesn't really cut it out on the mountain.

Hence I think that at the moment snowboarding might be losing a lot of people back to skiing. Once you know how to sideslip, and assuming you're not interested in ballet-boarding, then there's no where to go. There will presumably be some data which would confirm or deny this.

The fashion wheel does turn, and some people always want to be expert, so there may be an opportunity ahead. The challenge for the industry fashion leaders will be to change with the fashion, but the're good at that. Look at Solomon: the epitome of ski and golf fashion takes snowboarding without breaking stride. The challenge for the small players who are helping us now, will be to capitalize on any shift and increase their share. That's a tough one.

I have a mate who's opening a snowboard shop in north america to sell "real snowboards". He's not a hard-booter, but he wants to sell expert gear for ripping, not beginner junk. Of course the market for the latter's going to be bigger than the one for the former.

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Thanks for the comments! I am especially interested in media and marketing's role in phasing out alpine and the larger companies' reluctance to discuss it. Has anyone purchased equipment from klugriding.com? Is Klug the only alpine rider that Burton has kept on their team? Do any other manufacturers sponsor alpine riders? What about the Olympic GS event? Is that just a joke to manufacturers? Why did boardercross make Olympic status ahead of slopestyle or big air? (FIS?)

Just curious ...

Cindy

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What hurts alpine:

1) The availability of equipment or lack thereof.

2) Zero media exposure.

3) Steep learning curve.

What helps alpine:

1) It's just the coolest goddamn thing to watch.

People see it, they want to do it but then they hit #1 and #3 in the first list. So they think it's some kind of wacko crazy fringe thing like swamp buggy racing or kite boarding.

What can be done about it? Encouragement and promotion from within. Convert two friends and they'll convert two more and so on and so on.

Then Burton will get back into alpine and ruin it. But we can all brag about the good old days.

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Cindy,

Clearly we represent an older group than the softboot riders. As the latter group ages, carving will be an attractive alternative.

I encourage folks of my vintage (circa 1946) to try hardboots and some are showing interest. One of our club members is a 55 year old PSIA snowboard instructor who's never been on skis. My goal next winter is to convert him to hard boots.

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Originally posted by Cindy Kleh

Thanks for the comments! I am especially interested in media and marketing's role in phasing out alpine and the larger companies' reluctance to discuss it. Has anyone purchased equipment from klugriding.com? Is Klug the only alpine rider that Burton has kept on their team? Do any other manufacturers sponsor alpine riders? What about the Olympic GS event? Is that just a joke to manufacturers? Why did boardercross make Olympic status ahead of slopestyle or big air? (FIS?)

Just curious ...

Cindy

As a manufacturer I can say that I don't consider the olympics to be a joke. The Joke was, however, on us. If you watched the olympics carefully, you would have noticed that every rider not on a Burton had their board cropped out of the frame whenever possible. The only US snowboarder who's run was not televised, was Pete Thorndike who was and is riding our boards. To have worked so hard to get someone on my boards in the olympics and not be able to see him take his run was a major dissapointment for me. I can only imagine what it was like for Pete to not have his family and friends share in that moment. Not to mention the timing system error that made it impssible for him to qualify.

We continue to sponsor riders on the national team. Our roster includes Pete Thorndike, Adam Smith, and Michelle Gorgone. We hope very much that one or all of them will make the next olympics and our riders will get the opportunity to be seen and recognized for their efforts.

As for the addition of one event over another, I have no involvement in that, but would say that it has very much to do with the entertainment value. Seeing riders crashing into each other and fighting head to head sells tickets to a broader audience.

As always Cindy, you are welcome to call me and ask questions.

Thanks for giving this sport the exposure it deserves. Everyone here appreciates it.

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Guest Tim Tuthill

Cindy; I bought a new pair of boots from them at the end of last season. It looks like Burton is selling out there alpine gear thru Klug?? Rumers are all over the place. I'm 61 and have a few other friends that are my age and older that ride all the time. They will not put on a pair of soft boots. They learned with hard boots an no instruction. This was ten years ago. When you go to Mammoth you will only see 2 to 5 Alpine guys on the hill if your lucky on a given day. Tim

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Sean:

A suggestion for you - ditch your cable company and get yourself a Canadian satellite dish. Then, treat yourself to the CBC feeds for the Olympics. CBC coverage for the Olympic Games is so much better than the American networks. Just take a look at the schedule for Athens:

http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/schedules/

Yes, there is a focus on Canadian athletes but it's not nearly as bad as the jingoistic coverage that you get on the U.S. networks. The CBC coverage is thorough, professional and honest. They never try to fool you into thinking a taped event is actually live.

Furthermore, CBC actually shows FIS snowboard racing live or at least same day.

If you're also an F1 fan, you can catch the international feed for all the Formula One races on TSN rather than having to suffer through the likes of Jason Priestly (a Canadian nonetheless) on the US networks.

And wouldn't it be nice to have an alternative to CNN? How about BBC World News, CTV Newsnet and CBC Newsworld?

We have two satellite providers:

www.starchoice.ca

www.expressvu.ca

Yes, you need a Canadian mailing addess but email me offline and I'm sure I can help you out.

Henry

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Sean

I do remember a small anti-smoking ad that Pete was in during the Olympics. They showed a shot of him riding and, if memory serves me, the Donek logo was visible. Of course it could be that I knew he was one of your team riders too - but I could swear I remember seeing that logo!

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Hello Cindy,

I am currently a level 2 PSIA skier and snowboarder and have been doing both for a long time. I started in 90 on a Burton asym-air and was big into learning to carve it. Once I figured that out, it seemed like I had to learn to ride the pipe and big air jump at our hill here in the midwest. It was mostly because no one was riding hard gear and to be considered "good" you had to be able to get out of the pipe and at least pull a big Method on the jump. After learning to do these things, I started really working on carving again and paying attention to what was happeneing and how to change it. At this time I started racing and found 1 guy who was riding hard plates. After a year or two he talked me into it and I never looked back, and even ride my freestyle board in the pipe with plates and hardboots now because I have so much more control. Amazingingly this made the younger kids notice my setup, and also my carves on the hill. I started to get a lot of requested private lessons to learn to carve on softboards, and alpine gear. Its been about 5 years since that time and we now have 2.5 teams of 10 riders on alpine gear for our race night, and many young carvers on hard gear.

The big problem is exposure. Until I took my setup in the pipe the young kids didn't really notice the equipment or style. Also, the lack of places to buy the alpine gear hurts too. Most of the people at our hill rely on myself and a few others to buy gear from or to find gear for them on e-bay or Bombers site because they generally don't know what to be looking for. Fin has a great site with tons of info and once people find it they can have pretty much any question answered. I love the fact that there are Coilers, and Doneks, and many custom boards available because it really is the best way to get a board that works for you, but until there is some more media coverage(TV or Mags) it will be hard to get a big audience I think.

Whew...that was like one of Jack's posts. Sorry for being so long.

:D

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I think that the alpine section of the snowboard market will continue to grow, but by very modest gains. The main reason for this will be the lack of support from the mainstream snowboard manufacturers, who are struggling in a consolidating market to keep their market share.

The big snowboard manufactuers are pinning their industry growth on the expansion of the youth market, that's why all of them are expanding their product programs to cover crossover lifestyle items such as clothing, eyewear, shoes and accessories.

The core market for alpine will always be a male dominated, technically proficent, affluent rider who has the time, finances and ability to spend a lot of time on the hill. Combine that with the unforgiving nature of alpine riding, and you will always have a very niche market.

George

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Guest Tim Tuthill

You hit it! I was told a few years ago that the manufacturers were in a decline as far as hardware was concerned, ie. snowboards. Clothes etc were what they were consintrating on. This was said by a mono ski manufacture in southern California.

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Cindy,

If it wasn't for alpine snowboarding, I wouldn't even bother snowboarding all season. I'd keep a watch on the big powder days and go ride those exclusively. The little mom and pop hill I ride at has no Pipe Dragon or multiple trauma parks.

The fact that I can access all off the mountain, groomed, trees, unpacked, and occasional out of bounds runs with alpine equipment makes my weekends in the winter a whole lotta fun with my sons.

The lifeless short noodle-boards and generic strap bindings that come out every predictable Labor Day Ski/Snowboard sale makes me yawn uncontrollably. Clothing? Really? Each season seems to be another exercise in how logoed (core?) companies use color, seamage and pattern to amuse infantile minds into spreading their wallet gap wider to remove all the credit available on an alreadly maxed-out credit card.

Though I browsed klugriding.com incessantly this past year, I ended up buying used/new alpine gear right here on BOL for all of my snowboard purchases. I can buy whatever I want, sadly, the modern snowboard companies don't agree with my thinking: You'll buy what we tell you to buy.

That's when I vote with my hardboots and slide the other way. I have nothing against softboots as I often ride softies. But, to have them continually shoved down my throat is irritating even in the short term, and bad business for the sport in the long-term.

Good luck on your article,

Mark

No Flow = No Go

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The main problem, I think, is about versatility. Alpine gear is widely perceived as good for racing and bad for everything else. Personally I ride an all-mountain setup all over the mountain and wouldn't have it any other way, so I know that perception is wrong - but alpine will remain a niche interest until that perception changes.

And then theres the cost... as hard booting lost popularity, production shrunk, so per-unit costs went up... since it's more expensive it's less popular, so production shrunk further (shrunk to zero for many brands). The cycle repeats until we have three brands of boots to choose from, all of which cost two or three times what soft gear costs, and none of which are carried in more than a handful of retail shops.

I try to put a positive spin on the economic thing when people ask me how much my setup cost. Yes, it's more expensive - because it's worth it. But that's a tough sell when I'm talking to people in the terrain park, even if I'm getting more air than most of them. :)

The high prices can't come down until the volumes come up, but that's going to be a challenge when hard boots and bindings cost twice as much as soft stuff and most people think they're only useful for racing. It's going to be difficult for the alpine segment to lift itself out of this hole.

I kinda wonder what would happen if the manufacturers put some of the top pros on all-mountain alpine setups and put some hard carving and big hardbooted air into the videos. Would consumers follow?

There's been a resurgence of long-board skateboarding lately, and I have a hunch that it's due to aging skateboarders. It will be interesting to see if alpine snowboarding benefits from the same changing demographics.

I'm hoping that it will, but I'm not ready to place any bets yet.

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