By Freddie Bacon 2015
There is no one reason that can explain the global decline of snowboarding. In this article I will cover many reasons and offer my opinion as to what we as industry professionals can do to prevent any further decline.
The issue that predominantly affects us as instructors is the decline in people taking lessons. This has been seen in snowboard schools globally with some schools claiming that snowboarding now accounts for only 15% of revenue. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is parents choosing to put children into ski lessons rather than snowboard lessons. The majority of snowboard media shows riders hitting large jumps and rails. These images and films could be interpreted as extreme and dangerous particularly to parents who have their child’s safety at the fore front of any decisions they make. Another issue is possibly the cost of lift tickets and financial issues affecting global economies. Inflation is increasing in most countries and individual incomes are not rising in line. Quite simply snowboarding is not accessible for as many people as perhaps it once was. There are a lot of other sports that are accessible and perhaps more people are taking up more inexpensive hobbies. Soccer is a prime example. This can be played on the streets of a third world slum. Variable snow conditions could also play a role. Booking a family ski/snowboard holiday can often be quite a gamble and as personal budgets continue to tighten this may be a gamble not worth taking. Unfortunately for us this is one factor that we can do nothing about.
Perhaps there is more of a culture to ski surrounding the people that can make regular trips to the snow. This is possibly a generation thing or maybe people would rather tell their friends that they ski rather than snowboard. The industry needs to find a way to make snowboarding more welcoming.
So what can we instructors do? I think there are a number of things that can be done. Firstly we need to look at the way we sell snowboarding. Extreme images behind lesson booking desks could possibly be a deterrent. We need to sell the fun aspect and the hours of endless joy people can gain from just turning on a snowboard. This I think needs to be an industry initiative with resorts, governing bodies and industry leaders working together. From the instructors point of view I think we need to look at the way we teach. It’s no secret it can take longer to pick up the fundamentals of snowboarding than it can on skiing. Are we loosing guests in these early stages? We spend a lot of time training instructors on Communication and learning styles. I believe we should spend more time and offer more training in these areas to ensure that when someone comes and takes a snowboard lesson we can teach them efficiently, get them stoked on day one and more importantly keep them coming back. The enthusiasm and attitude of the instructor can play a huge role in how much a guest enjoys their snowboarding experience. We need to ensure our instructors are teaching for the right reasons and want to put smiles on the faces of our guests.
Snowboarding is still a very young sport that is constantly evolving. This decline will be temporary. Economies will improve and industry leaders will start initiatives to get people snowboarding. It is a sport that will continue to prosper and we instructors arguably play the most important role. It is us that give people the skills to truly enjoy snowboarding and keep them coming back for more.