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Another article about the decline of snowboarding - NYTimes


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Sad news indeed. My local shop recently commented to me that they might as well not stock boards because the online market is so flooded with them there is no margin. They have reduced the snowboard rental fleet to one or two boards - they don't go out and when they do they come back thrashed often so it's a money pit; ski rentals are on the rise and never return damaged. I feel a twinge of guilt when I shop there because I don't make any major gear purchases there - of course they don't carry anything I want either. The rest of my family does buy gear there so I try.

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Insightful.  The snowboard industry is certainly reaping what it sows.  The insistence of marketing only to rebellious youth has left the grown-up segment feeling left out.  

 

If the ski industry can borrow technology from snowboarding, why shouldn't the snowboard industry borrow marketing approaches from skiing?  In the world of skiing, off-axis 540's can coexist with family ski trips.  Why not for snowboarding?

 

Snowboard Life tried to tap into a different demographic, but the snowboard marketing machine sent them the same crappy ads of riders spending 90% of their time in flight.  Perhaps now, the demographics are in their favor as the rebels have aged, but the machine is showing no signs of recognizing this change.

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I think that the SB industry has somewhat stagnated.  This might be a symptom or a cause.

 

For example: One thing that draws me to hard-boot snowboarding is the ease of binding in/out.  There doesn't seem to be any advances in the SB area in this regard.  Talking to SB friends they tell me "well I the bindings I have are good enough for me".  This "good enough" is the death of any field.  I think this is somewhat representative of snowboarding in general. 

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Season passes if exercised are well worth the price of admission. I do think as stated before, marketing towards 20 somethings with little or no income and boarding being sold as a rebel sport that only takes place in infinite powder fields and urban settings has stagnated the progression pond. Those of us with a long history of riding will spend their hard earned dollars where it counts. I don't think lib tech (or any other production manufacturer) makes a board I would even glance at and say, "I want to try that" the industry left us all hanging. I'm all for letting them hang them selves at this point. I'll take my custom boards and burly bindings and spread the word that there is an alternative to the marketing machine! I'm no against competition and freestyle snowboarding but I am against vulgar boards in my kids faces. And that is what the industry has come to... It's a shame...

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the thing about snowboarding in spite of all the 'marketing forces' behind where its gone is that I still find skiing more accessible for everyone in the end.  The past weekend my 6 yr old son learned to link skidded turns together on his snowboard for the first time.  Was amazing to watch.  I will credit the snowboard industry for the full rocker boards in this application because my son would have had a much tougher time with those turns on a cambered boards (immediately noticeable by how easy he can spin the board without  catching an edge). 

 

WIth that said, the two falls he had while barely moving on his snowboard (10km/h?) were (way?) worse than anything that he has experienced on any of his falls on skis since he started 3 years ago.  Snowboarding is just painful to learn - is it more prone to concussions?  I think so.

 

Now with THAT said, my son actually like snowboarding more than he likes skiing - even though he can go on any blue run with his skis and can handle only the shallowest of inclines on his snowboard at near 0 speeds.  I'm not sure if its the learning that he likes or the feeling that I got when i learned to snowboard - the oneness with the board, and the complete mastery of gravity and momentum with simple transfers of weight only (not manipulation of, two skis for example -even if only one is doing most of the work at a time).  

 

(PS - I bought skis so that i could go out with my son three years ago- its nearly impossible to physically control someone when either the teacher or the student, let alone both, is on a snowboard - and I actually really like skiing now too - its all about the turn still.  Just not as much as snowboarding) 

Edited by Missionman
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One of the primary problems is that SIA doesn't even understand their market in a meaningful way.  They have allowed some highschool intern to dictate how they have looked the market for years without actually thinking about what they are looking at.  If you continue to follow this graph, you will eternally believe that the 17 and under market is the largest.

Capture.jpg

 

The problem is that the age groups don't tell a story.  If you resegment the market in a meaningful manner, you begin to see where your marketing dollars must be spent.  And it's definitely not with the 17 and under demographic.

Capture2.jpg

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It's nice to be involved with a forum with thoughtful, intelligent people! All valid points so far.

I would like to add another potential straw to the camel's back. Two of my best friends are retired snowboarding professionals. They are brothers, and I'll leave their names out unless they want to join the conversation. One was a moderately high profile professional snowboarder, and the other was a filmmaker.

We talk about this subject, snowboarding in general, and the things we like to see, and the things we've seen enough of. Some of the problems we see come from how far modern freestylers have taken things, and how much emphasis is placed on amplitude in film and competition. When I was getting into the sport, I could watch Craig Kelly do it all with style (Including carving!) and it made me want to go out and ride, but also to try some of the things I'd seen.

What's a kid to do now? Watch the X-games and try to emulate Shaun White? Good luck with that. Plus, in my opinion, he doesn't have the style of a Kelly or a Terje. Or watch videos of guys dropping over 100 feet while cranking as many spins as possible. None of this makes me want to go snowboarding. Granted, I'm an older snowboarder who has completely lost touch (Or has snowboarding lost touch with me?), but I feel the enormity of what pros are doing has put too much distance between themselves and kids getting started.

The enormity is what partly made my buddy hang it up. He says it wasn't really fun to fire up the snowmobiles and head to the backcountry to film anymore. He would wake up feeling kinda sick to his stomach knowing that he was going to have to do something way out of his comfort zone to get a film worthy sequence. That and the possibility of somebody getting seriously hurt that day would be pretty high.

What does he see like to see? What makes him want to go snowboarding? Somebody laying down some sweet carves, and maybe some frontside powder slashes. More fun and/or beautiful stuff, and less gnarly/scary stuff. I gotta say, anymore, those short little Ryan Knapton Youtube vids and some of the Japanese softbooters are the only freestyle oriented media that makes me want to drop everything and go riding (Of course these are carving oriented... so biased for sure, but you get the idea!).

Blah, blah, blah... sorry for the lengthy post.

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The best part of snowboarding (IMO) is floating through un-tracked powder. I don't find many older skiers or boarders that don't talk about "The" powder day.  If you want to capture the demographic that has the money to invest, you're going to have to appeal to the beauty of boarding, not the hucking, shucking, tucking and any other ucking of the freestyle crowd.

 

 Laying down carves often times feels like work and a for me it requires a self-critique that doesn't impart a smile on my face.  I get much more out of being in the gladed runs than being on the groomers.

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Simple truth: skiing is easier to get started on than snowboarding, ask anyone who has done both. If you don't have a bias or other influence to try one vs the other, you are probably more likely to ski, especially for a weekend or 1 day rider. This only applies to new riders of course and doest take into account those choosing to switch to skiing.

Edited by AcousticBoarder
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Ski sales declines on a much higher rate than snowboard sales decline actualy in Europe.

There are upcomming markets like Russia and China, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran and so on. Snowboarding is a hype there, like we had it once upen a time on Western hemisphere.

Well, in Russia it's more a market for the elite and Russia will run out of money (bancruptcy) within the next 2 Years. So ??? to rising sales figures for snowboarding there.

On Western hemisphere we can count now much more (younger, but older too) couch potatos as on the fly-high Years of snowboarding. They are realy not interessted to go to the mountains for doing sports.

erazz: One thing that draws me to hard-boot snowboarding is the ease of binding in/out.

We could find once many stepin binding systems for softboots too on market.

Snowboard industry declared them later as un-cool (Burton ahead) and discontinued to produce them. That was the most significant and worse fault of snowboard industrie ever. (And yes, newer binders are comfy to open now too, but entry isn't that easy like stepIn's)

Even children up to teenagers, which want not to ride that spectacular like them on ESPN X-Games and Olympics, are kept out of snowboarding this way. Children often have not the power to close themself strap-bindings tight as it must be. And it take a lot of time, but energy too to them, to sit down, strap on and stand up again. What can be a cool thing shown by riders strap-on the bindings on X-Games and Olympics, wouldn't be that practical for normal snowboarders. They don't need "hype", they just want ride snowboards and have fun!

So Step-In's had helped them once alot to get into snowboarding and they had been only some vew seconds slower for to be ready to ride with companions on skis.

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What is free skiing here? Is it also part of the alpine number? Part of the snowboard number too? Without knowing this I can't imagine how u figure out even the most basic trends from their efforts. I'm assuming a cross country skier is allowed to snowboard too. Maybe? I can't find the explanation. Hope it's not obvious and shame on me.

http://www.snowsports.org/research-surveys/snow-sports-fact-sheet/

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Sean is right on.  There isn't any real crisis here.  The Times article is primarily about a drop in sponsorship money at the very highest levels of freestyle riding - not surprising in the current economic environment. But a look at demographics show that more people are turning 40 (or 50!) than are born each year,

 

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(Wikipedia - Demographics of the United States)  and participation in snowboarding among those over 25 remains strong.  As the population ages, it makes sense that skiing and snowboarding will actually grow (in the near term) because middle aged adults have more time and money.   It's also possible that the ranks of hardbooters will grow.  I didn't get involved until I was 49, and, at 59 I'm still improving and still as stoked as ever.    

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