If you’re looking for an affluent market that spends money on travel, hobbies and leisure activities, you can’t go wrong with skiers. According to the National Ski Areas Association’s (NSAA) 2007/2008 National Demographic Study, 29 percent of skiers have incomes of $100,000 to $199,999 (vs. 16 percent of U.S. households according to the U.S. Census Bureau), and 19 percent of skiers have incomes of $200,000+ (vs. 3 percent of U.S. households). Skiers spent close to $3 billion on their sport last year, including $835 million in equipment, $1.6 billion in apparel and almost $1 billion in accessories, says David Ingemie, president of SnowSports Industries America.
When we talk about skiers, we’re discussing snowboarders as well. “It’s becoming entwined,” says Lenore Cunningham, sales director of Lake Group Media, which manages the SKI and SKIING magazines mailing lists. “Most catalogs and suppliers cater both to the snowboarder and the skier. In the beginning, a lot of ski resorts wouldn’t permit snowboarding, but that’s all changed. So now skiers and snowboarders coincide.”
Sleuthing Out Skiers
Twelve million to 15 million people in the U.S. call themselves skiers, says Troy Hawks, managing editor of the NSAA Journal, the magazine of the NSAA. While ski areas have set record seasons for seven of the past eight years, the number of skiers remains flat. The reason for the record seasons is that people who are already skiers are becoming even more loyal to their sport. “It’s not so much that we’re expanding to new participants, but our current participants are going more often,” Hawks says.
Most skiers hail from good ski areas—but not all. Many skiers are from warmer regions who travel to their favorite ski spots. “We generated about a million visits out of Florida and Texas,” says Hawks.
According to the NSAA’s demographic study, the skier population has trended older over the past several seasons. The average age of participants increased to 36.5 this season from 36.4 last season—and has increased from 33.2 during the 1997/98 season. “Some of that is attributable to the baby boom generation,” explains Hawks. “You’ve got these folks that have the resources, the second home in the mountains, and obviously they’ve got resources as far as time goes. So I think you’re seeing them stay in the sport.”