Resort Survey

Snowboarders are making up a greater percentage of resort guests than ever before, according to the third-annual SNOWboarding Business/National Ski Areas Association End-Of-Season Resort Survey.

Resorts report that on average 27.1 percent of their ’98/99 season visitors were snowboarders–a 22.6-percent jump compared to last year (22.1 percent), and a jump of 41.8 percent compared to the ’96/97 survey.

The survey was sent to 558 resorts and 136 responded to the survey, providing a solid 24-percent response rate. The results provide some interesting insights into the continuing growth of snowboarding at resorts from across the United States. Respondents represented a broad cross-section of small and large resorts, with an even geographical spread across the country.

Geographic Distribution Of Respondents

NortheastSoutheastMidwestRocky Mtns.Pacific West
’98/9925%9%27%22%17%
’97/9825%14%21%21%19%
’96/9727%13%20%20%20%

• Only Five Resorts Still Ban Snowboarding. Of the more than 700 resorts in the United States, only five maintain a no-snowboarder policy: Alta and Deer Valley in Utah; Aspen Mountain in Colorado; Mad River Glen in Vermont; and Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico.

However, three percent of the resorts responding to the survey do have restrictions on when or where snowboarders can ride. Generally, these take the form of restricting snowboarders from a few of the resort’s runs. Snowboarding is allowed on all of the mountain except two runs,” says one resort. Another simply responded, “No inverts,” which could also apply to the skiing population.

• Snowboarders Are Becoming A Greater Percentage Of Resort Visitors The Pacific West continued to lead the way in the percentage of snowboarders compared to skiers, but every region showed some statistically significant growth compared to last year.

Percentage Of Resort Visitors Who Are Snowboarders

NortheastSoutheastMidwestRocky Mtns.Pacific West
’98/9924%34%28%22%37%
’97/9818%23%23%17%35%
’96/9720%20%19%22%31%

• Projected Number Of Snowboarders Holds Steady Resorts predict that in five years, 34 percent of their visitors will be snowboarders–a statistically identical result to last year’s survey, and up 21 percent compared to the ’96/97 survey results. When you look at this estimation on a region-to-region basis, some interesting trends do appear.

Compared to the ’96/97 survey, there has been a marked decrease in expectations in the Northeast, while resorts in the Southeast anticipate a far greater percentage of snowboarders than they did just two years ago.

Expected Percentage Of Snowboarders In Five Years

NortheastSoutheastMidwestRocky Mtns.Pacific West
’98/9928%46%39%27%46%
’97/9827%39%35%30%46%
’96/9736%38%34%37%48%

Many of the respondents anticipate that this growth will be from the broadening demographic profile of snowboarders. “I anticipate snowboarding teens and young adults will move into the work force creating an older, more affluent snowboarding market,” predicts one resort manager. “Snowboarding will continue to broaden across all demographic groups, but will still appeal to adventurous teens the most,” says another.

Snowboarding Is Very Important To Bottom-Line Profitability When we asked the resort how important snowboarding was to the overall profitability of their resort, 73 percent of respondents marked “very important” (compared to 77 percent last year), and 26 percent said it was “somewhat important” (22 last year).

Once again, the Southeast leads the way this year with a every participating resort listing snowboarding as “very important” to the overall profitability.

Fewer resorts in the Northeast and Rocky Mountains said snowboarding was very important, a curious fact when you consider that both regions had sub-par snow years and snowboarders are generally viewed as less fickle about conditions.

Percentage of Resorts Who View Snowboarding As “Very Important” To Their Profitability

NortheastSoutheastMidwestRocky Mtns.Pacific West
’98/9966%100%61%73%88%
’97/9875%82%61%89%82%

• Resorts Improve Slightly In Visitor Tracking When asked how they track the number snowboarders at their resort, 48 percent of the respondents said they guess or don’t track the visitor types at their resort–a promising seventeen-percent decrease from last year. On-slope surveys is the technique most resorts are turning to, increasing from 20 percent in ’97/98 to 28 percent last season.

Other visitor-tracking methods used include lift counts (thirteen percent in both the ’97/98 and ’98/99 surveys); ticket-office survey (five percent in both the ’97/98 and ’98/99 surveys), and different tickets for snowboarders and skiers (three percent this year, one percent the year before).

Seventy-six percent of respondents say they will not be implementing a tracking system in the next few years (compared to 41 last year and 51 percent the year before).

• Resorts Expect More Women Snowboarders The percentage of women snowboarders on the hill compared to their male counterparts slipped a statistically insignificant amount last season (28.8 percent in ’98/99, 29.3 percent in ’97/98, and 27.4 percent in ’96/97). However, resorts still anticipate that the ratio of male to female riders will narrow in the next five years.

Resorts estimate that 35.7 percent of snowboarders will be female in the next five years (down slightly from the 38.3 percent estimate of last season).

The Pacific West continued to have the highest concentration of female riders–33.9 percent. (up 4.6 percent from last year), and the Midwest once again brought up the rear with 22.6 percent (up a hopeful 9.2 percent from last year).

• Resorts Owners Usually Know How To Snowboard The popular perception is that once resort owners/managers start to snowboard on a regular basis, they’ll be more likely to loosen the purse strings and spring for more snowboard-specific facilities and events.

Seventy-one percent of resort owners snowboard, up from 69 percent the year before. While only 22.7 percent of resort managers/department snowboard, 34.3 percent of the staff as a whole gets out to sideways slide. Once again, the Pacific West had the greatest percentageuntains said snowboarding was very important, a curious fact when you consider that both regions had sub-par snow years and snowboarders are generally viewed as less fickle about conditions.

Percentage of Resorts Who View Snowboarding As “Very Important” To Their Profitability

NortheastSoutheastMidwestRocky Mtns.Pacific West
’98/9966%100%61%73%88%
’97/9875%82%61%89%82%

• Resorts Improve Slightly In Visitor Tracking When asked how they track the number snowboarders at their resort, 48 percent of the respondents said they guess or don’t track the visitor types at their resort–a promising seventeen-percent decrease from last year. On-slope surveys is the technique most resorts are turning to, increasing from 20 percent in ’97/98 to 28 percent last season.

Other visitor-tracking methods used include lift counts (thirteen percent in both the ’97/98 and ’98/99 surveys); ticket-office survey (five percent in both the ’97/98 and ’98/99 surveys), and different tickets for snowboarders and skiers (three percent this year, one percent the year before).

Seventy-six percent of respondents say they will not be implementing a tracking system in the next few years (compared to 41 last year and 51 percent the year before).

• Resorts Expect More Women Snowboarders The percentage of women snowboarders on the hill compared to their male counterparts slipped a statistically insignificant amount last season (28.8 percent in ’98/99, 29.3 percent in ’97/98, and 27.4 percent in ’96/97). However, resorts still anticipate that the ratio of male to female riders will narrow in the next five years.

Resorts estimate that 35.7 percent of snowboarders will be female in the next five years (down slightly from the 38.3 percent estimate of last season).

The Pacific West continued to have the highest concentration of female riders–33.9 percent. (up 4.6 percent from last year), and the Midwest once again brought up the rear with 22.6 percent (up a hopeful 9.2 percent from last year).

• Resorts Owners Usually Know How To Snowboard The popular perception is that once resort owners/managers start to snowboard on a regular basis, they’ll be more likely to loosen the purse strings and spring for more snowboard-specific facilities and events.

Seventy-one percent of resort owners snowboard, up from 69 percent the year before. While only 22.7 percent of resort managers/department snowboard, 34.3 percent of the staff as a whole gets out to sideways slide. Once again, the Pacific West had the greatest percentage of staffers who snowboard: 53.5 percent.

Eighty-three percent of resorts say they had at least one member of the ski patrol on a snowboard last season (up from 78 percent in ’97/98). Approximately four patrollers are on a snowboard at each resort.

• A Big, Happy Snow-Sliding Family–Almost Twenty-seven percent of resorts say that skiers have fully accepted snowboarders (22 percent last year), and 74 percent of resorts say relations between skiers and snowboarders continue to improve (down slightly from 80 percent during the ’97/98 season).

On a region-to-region basis, Midwest skiers are the most likely to be fully accepting of snowboarders (37 percent), and the Southeast had the greatest percentage of resort owners saying relations were improving between snowboarders and skiers. (92 percent say relations are improving.)

However, a handful resorts–rightly or wrongly–still sterotype snowboarders as foul-mouthed and disrespectful punks.

“Snowboarders don’t care where they fall and don’t move for other skiers,” says one resort. “When you find stickers that say ‘skiers suck’ produced by the snowboard companies, it doesn’t help,” says another.

One resort manager points the blame not just on the riders, but on the snowboarding media itself–including SNOWboarding Business: “It really bothers me that you have a segregationist attitude–no wonder snowboarding presents more customer-problems and complaints. It’s inherent in the sport right from the top–plus advertising too.”

It looks like we all still have work to do.

• Snowboard-Specific Services Becoming Commonplace Much like last year, resorts generally offer a full range of snowboard-specific services to their snowboarding guests. In fact, most categories saw a slight increase compared to last year. Snowboard rentals and lessons are nearly universal.

Here is a percentage breakdown of resorts that say they offer the following services:

Services Offered

TotalNortheastSoutheastMidwestRocky MtnsPacific West
Snowboard Lessons97%100%92%93%97%100%
Snowboard Rentals97%100%92%93%97%100%
Snowboard Events87%97%