Skiing is a popular winter sport that many people of all ages enjoy. From beginners to expert-level skiers, it’s an activity that can bring joy and excitement to the slopes each season. With its unique combination of adrenaline-pumping thrills and calming tranquility, skiing has become one of the most popular winter sports worldwide.
To better understand the skiing industry, let’s look at some interesting facts and figures about this beloved winter activity. In this article, we will cover the following:
- The skiing industry, its market share, and important industry statistics
- Ski gear, sales by type, and the impact on ski enthusiasts
- Current ski-related costs and trends for the future
- Popular ski resorts, destinations, and their revenue
- How climate change impacts the skiing industry
- An analysis of trends & changes in the ski industry
The History of Skiing
The skiing industry has a long and varied history stretching back centuries. Initially used as a means of transportation through the snow-covered terrain, skiing quickly became popular among Europeans in the 19th century. It wasn’t until the 20th century that skiing began to gain traction as a recreational sport and an Olympic event.
Today, skiing is a popular pastime in many countries throughout the world. There are dozens of ski resorts, ranging from small family-owned establishments to large commercial operations. According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were 462 ski resorts in operation in the 2020/21 season, with an additional 1,500 mountain resorts offering skiing and snowboarding as part of their activities.
Skiing dates back further than most people think. The first skis were used as early as 8000 BCE in Russia, while ski fragments and carvings depicting the activity have been found in the Arctic regions of Scandinavia and Finland, dating back between 1,500 and 4,000 years. Skiing has been integral to many cultures’ wintertime rituals, from Sweden to Norway, Finland, and even China.
Surprisingly, skiing has also been used in war-time endeavors since the Battle of Oslo (1200), during which Norwegian men on skis scouted out the area. In addition, Finland, Norway, Russia, Poland, and Sweden also utilized ski troops between the 15th to 17th centuries. Captain Jens Emmahusen’s manual for Norwegians was published in 1733, followed by military ski competitions with monetary prizes beginning in 1767.
The first competition to feature an alpine ski race was held in Norway in 1843. By the late 19th century, skiing had begun to spread to other countries, with the United States organizing a competition in the 1860s and France in the 1870s.
The first organized ski club in the United States was established in 1872, and the National Ski Association of America was formed in 1905. Decades later, the National Ski Patrol was founded in 1938, becoming a vital part of ski resorts in the United States.
Today, skiing continues to be an integral part of winter culture worldwide. It is estimated that there are nearly 50 million skiers and snowboarders worldwide, making this one of the most popular international sports.
The Ski Industry By Market Share and Demographic
The ski industry is massive and profitable. When considering the tourism aspect of the sport, skiing and snowboarding have a direct economic impact of $20 billion on the United States economy. Canada has an estimated $800 million in economic activity annually.
Regarding market share, ski resorts in the United States represent a market of over $4 billion annually, while the global ski gear and equipment market was valued at 1.3 billion in 2021.
How Many People Ski and Snowboard in the World?
Ski destinations all over the world draw in millions of visitors each year. The sport has become increasingly popular among all age groups, with young people, in particular, taking up skiing in droves.
It’s estimated that there are more than 135 million active skiers and snowboarders worldwide, with the United States, Japan, and Austria making up the majority of this figure. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 15 million active skiers annually, with nearly 8 million of those being snowboarders.
Ski Participants By Demographic
While skiing is popular among all age groups, some demographics are more likely to participate. According to the NSAA, or the National Ski Areas Association, men comprise the majority of participants (63%), while women account for 37%. Effective the next season, a non-binary option to the NSAA questionnaire to reflect the increasing number of people who do not identify as either gender.
In terms of ethnicity, Caucasians have more access to the ski industry, with an 88.7% participation rate. 5.7% of Asian/Pacific Islanders, 5.5% of Latinx, and 1.5% of African Americans participated in the sport in the 21/22 season.
In terms of income level, those with higher incomes are more likely to ski or snowboard than those who make less money. The most common household income among participants is $100K and above at 45%, while households earning above $75k make up 63% of participants.
Encouraging More Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Ski Industry
The ski industry has recently focused on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the sport. Organizations such as The National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) have been working to make skiing more accessible for people of color and to identify, develop and support athletes of color to represent the U.S. in international and Olympic winter sports competitions.
In addition, resorts all over the U.S. have been making changes to become more inclusive for all skiers and snowboarders. This includes offering ski lessons for those with disabilities and providing beginner packages that make skiing and snowboarding more affordable.
When it comes to income level, many resorts have implemented discounted lift tickets and rentals for low-income families. They have also begun to increase the number of scholarships and grants available for youth who may not otherwise be able to participate in skiing due to economic constraints.
The NSAA stated that “that understanding issues of diversity, equity and inclusion – and doing the work to create and foster inclusive mountain recreation and communities – is not a linear, “check the box” process. It requires a lifetime of listening, learning, and action. We might make mistakes along the way, but we should not be deterred by tough conversations or situations.”
This type of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion will go a long way in making the sport more accessible to all, tearing down barriers, and fostering an appreciation for the outdoors among those who may not have had the opportunity to enjoy the sport in the past. With the right initiatives, skiing will likely become even more popular in years to come, as people of all backgrounds and demographics can participate.
How Covid-19 Affected The Demographic of the Ski Industry
The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the ski industry, as resorts across the country have been forced to close their doors and limit access for skiers and snowboarders. Despite this, skiing participation numbers remained relatively strong in the 2020-2021 season, with approximately 15 million active skiers annually.
However, the economic disparity between those who could ski and those who were unable to has become more apparent. Lower-income households were forced to stay home due to financial constraints, while higher-income households were able to purchase season passes or book vacation packages at resorts that provided reduced capacity access.
Additionally, some of the larger demographic trends seen in previous years have been disrupted by Covid-19. For example, younger and more diverse demographics have taken advantage of outdoor activity during the pandemic, driving a surge in skiing and snowboarding participation among millennials, Generation Z-ers, and people of color over the past year.
These numbers demonstrate the need for continued efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within the ski industry and greater access for those unable to afford or who do not have the opportunity to participate in skiing and snowboarding.
Ski Gear, Sales By Type, and the Impact on Ski Enthusiasts
With the global ski gear and equipment market valued at 1.3 billion, ski enthusiasts are eager to invest in the best gear to ensure their experience is top-notch. The most popular types of ski equipment include skis, boots, bindings, poles, helmets, and goggles.
Regarding ski gear, sales have been fairly strong in the 2020-2021 season compared to previous years. Skis are the most popular equipment purchased, followed by snowboards and boots. Interestingly, there has also been an uptick in purchases of backcountry gear, such as split boarding and touring skis, likely due to the increased interest in outdoor activities during the pandemic.
Backcountry ski gear sales growth is an encouraging sign for ski enthusiasts, as it indicates that more people are interested in exploring off-piste terrain and taking advantage of the great outdoors.
The pandemic has severely impacted the ski gear and equipment manufacturing industry. As production, delivery, and operations were halted due to a lack of access to sites, supply chain disruptions, and workforce shortages during Q1 & Q2 2020, these companies have experienced tremendous losses. COVID-19 has truly taken its toll on this sector as it struggles with an unprecedented disruption in business activity.
The government travel ban, lockdown restrictions, and social distancing norms have also deeply affected the industry. Ski resorts were forced to close from March 2020 – July 2020 and faced a steep decline in bookings for the winter season due to a lack of consumer confidence & travel restrictions.
Despite this, ski resorts continue to innovate by investing in new technologies such as online booking systems, snowmaking operations, and artificial intelligence to appeal to the changing dynamics of skiing. This technology has enabled them to better manage social distancing & crowd control measures, helping them remain operational during a global pandemic.
Gear Costs, Inflation, and Its Effect on Consumers
Ski gear is expensive and has been for many years. With the cost of materials, production, and labor increasing yearly, consumers must be more mindful when spending money on ski equipment. The average price of a pair of skis can range from $600-$1,000, depending on the type of ski and the quality.
Purchasing gear can be an overwhelming and expensive task for novice skiers, as the cost of quality ski gear is much higher than entry-level options. Inflation has caused prices to increase significantly over time, making it difficult for those with a limited budget to access the sport.
To get a better understanding of inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U). This index tracks changes in prices that urban consumers pay when they purchase everyday items and services. The CPI-U is based on detailed surveys which tell us what Americans spend their money on each month to accurately represent how much people are paying for these goods and services.
When it comes to the ski industry, inflation has caused a significant rise in equipment costs over the last five years. From snowboards and boots to gloves and helmets, prices have increased steadily since 2016. This is because companies need to charge higher prices to cover their increasing production and labor costs. Here are some price comparisons of various gear and lift tickets from 1979 to 2023:
|Cost in 1979 (Dollars)||Cost in 2023 (Dollars)|
|Aspen Lift Ticket||16||149|
|Alta Lift Ticket||8||154|
|Vail Lift Ticket||10||209|
|Average Price of Skis||150||400-1,000|
|Average Price of Boots||180||200-500|
|Average Price of Ski Poles||20||50|
The calculated inflation prices of ski gear and lift tickets have increased significantly over the last four decades. However, they’re nowhere near the actual current costs of the same goods today. Considering inflation, the cumulative price increase from 1979 to 2023 is just over 308%, but many of today’s current prices reflect an almost 2,000% increase. This puts an added strain on consumers, making it harder for them to access quality ski gear and enjoy a day on the slopes.
The Future of Skiing: Costs, Innovation, Climate Change, and More
The ski industry has been through a lot in the last year due to the pandemic. Despite this, it still remains optimistic about its future as technology continues to advance, and people continue to enjoy the sport.
The cost of skiing will continue to rise each year, but there are ways for skiers to save money. Renting gear and taking advantage of early-season discounts are a few ways to do this.
In terms of innovation, ski resorts continue investing in technologies that make skiing more accessible, efficient, and safe for their guests. Ski instructors use artificial intelligence to track progress and give tailored advice, while interactive maps help customers find their way around the mountain.
The ski industry has also seen a rise in the popularity of winter activities such as snowshoeing, ice skating, and fat biking. These activities are becoming increasingly popular with tourists due to their affordability and convenience. This could be an opportunity for ski resorts to expand their market and make them more accessible to everyone.
How Has Climate Change Impacted the Skiing Industry?
As temperatures continue to rise, the amount of natural snowfall will decrease, leaving ski resorts with no choice but to invest in snowmaking technology. This is expensive and time-consuming and could increase ski lift ticket prices.
Climate change has had a significant impact on the skiing industry. Warmer temperatures and shorter, less predictable snow years have meant that ski resorts are struggling to stay open. Some ski areas have even been forced to close due to a lack of snowfall or unsafe conditions.
Climate change also poses a threat to glaciers around the world, which are essential for supplying water during summer months when natural snowfall is scarce. Glaciers provide water for rivers which can be used to make artificial snow, allowing ski resorts to stay open even during dry seasons.
Ski resorts are also facing the threat of melting permafrost and landslides due to higher temperatures and changing weather patterns. These conditions can cause damage to infrastructure, resulting in costly repairs or even closure.
As climate change continues to have a major impact on the ski industry, it’s important that resorts remain proactive in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. This includes implementing renewable energy sources, investing in snowmaking technology, reducing water usage, and looking for ways to minimize waste. By taking these steps now, ski resorts can ensure that the sport will continue to be enjoyed for years to come.
Popular Ski Resorts, Destinations, and Ski Holidays
Popular ski resorts, destinations, and ski holidays vary geographically depending on where the snow conditions are ideal. Some of the most popular destinations in North America include Breckenridge and Vail in Colorado, Aspen in Colorado, and Whistler Blackcomb in Canada.
In Europe, the Alps region is a popular destination for skiers from all over the world. It is home to some of the world’s highest peaks and most picturesque resorts, such as Chamonix in France and St Moritz in Switzerland. With the highest number of ski resorts, at 462, the United States offers a wide range of options for skiers. Here are some of the most popular destinations for skiing and snowboarding in the U.S. in terms of annual visitors, according to Travel and Leisure:
|Ski Resort/Location||Annual Visitors|
|Vail Mountain, Colorado||1,634,250|
|Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado||1,600,750|
|Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California||1,128,500|
|Keystone Resort, Colorado||1,036,000|
|Steamboat Ski & Resort, Colorado||923,576|
1. Vail Mountain, Colorado
Vail, Colorado, is a premier ski resort and the fourth largest in the United States, with over 5,000 acres of terrain and a vertical drop of 3,450 feet. It is known for its challenging ski runs and beautiful surroundings. Vail also offers a variety of special events, such as concerts, festivals, and races throughout the year.
Located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Vail is one of America’s most popular ski resorts, with an annual visitor rate of 1,634,250. Vail, Colorado, is also home to the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, making it a popular destination for snowboarders and skiers alike.
2. Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado
Breckenridge Ski Resort, located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, is the second most popular ski resort in the U.S. With over 2,908 acres and a vertical drop of 3,398 feet, there is something for everyone at Breckenridge Ski Resort. They offer some of the best terrain parks, groomed runs, tree skiing, and plenty of night skiing and snowmobiling options. Breckenridge has an annual visitor rate of 1,600,750.
3. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California
California’s Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is the third most popular ski resort in the United States. With over 3,500 acres and a vertical drop of 2,080 feet, it offers some of the best skiing on the West Coast. They also have an extensive snowmaking system to supplement natural snowfall, allowing for some of the longest seasons in the United States. Mammoth has an annual visitor rate of 1,128,500.
4. Keystone Resort, Colorado
Keystone Resort, located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, is the fourth most popular ski resort in the U.S. It offers over 3,148 acres, a vertical drop of 2,945 feet, and 22 lifts to access all that terrain. Keystone also has plenty of activities for non-skiers, such as snow tubing and sleigh rides. Keystone Resort has an annual visitor rate of 1,036,000.
5. Steamboat Ski & Resort, Colorado
Steamboat Ski & Resort, located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, is the fifth most popular ski resort in the United States. With over 2,965 acres and a vertical drop of 3,668 feet, it is known for its powdery snow conditions. The town of Steamboat Springs is known for its warm hospitality and is a popular destination for families. The ski resort features activities and events like tubing hills and après ski entertainment. Steamboat Ski & Resort has an annual visitor rate of 923,576.
For skiers and snowboarders of all levels, these five ski resorts offer something for everyone. From challenging trails to family-friendly activities, each resort offers its own unique experience. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back ski vacation or an adventurous getaway, these popular North American ski destinations are sure to impress. With such a vast array of options and activities, it’s no wonder the skiing industry continues to thrive.
To get an even better understanding of the Skiing Industry, here are some more key facts and figures you should know:
- Ski resorts in North America employ over 80,000 people each year.
- The skiing industry in North America generates over $20 billion annually.
- There are roughly 800 ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada combined.
- The average price of a lift ticket is around $100 per day.
- The largest ski resort in the United States is Park City Mountain Resort, with 7,300 acres of terrain.
- The most visited ski resort in the United States is Vail, with an estimated 1,634,250 visitors per year.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier, the skiing industry continues to be a popular and lucrative option for those looking to enjoy some time in the snow. With challenging trails, family-friendly activities, and plenty of resorts to choose from, there is something for everyone.
The ski industry shows no signs of slowing down, with over $20 billion generated annually and more than 800 ski resorts in North America. With such impressive figures, it’s no wonder why skiers and snowboarders worldwide flock to the mountains each year. Though there are challenges to face in the industry, such as climate change and increasing costs, the ski industry is sure to remain a top travel destination for many years to come.