Young people are saving the snow for Christmas – or not

Back in February, when I was a senior at Brown University, I spoke to about 130 ski students on a panel during the Brown Ski Touring Symposium and ended up talking about the need for more modern, affordable, sustainable alpine equipment.

Today, in 2017, those needs seem even more urgent.

The alpine sport of skiing, a particularly challenging sport to master, is a spectator sport that appeals to one of the biggest entertainment markets of the 21st century: millennials.

The New York Times reported in August that millennials spend up to 70 percent more on going to a ski area than the average person. Spending more than $500, on average, is considered a moderately healthy expenditure.

But according to data released by the state of Colorado, from 2000 to 2012 there was a 48 percent decrease in the number of people over age 30 visiting ski areas. For millennials, spending an average of about $100 per day to ski ($80 more per day than the veteran skier) has turned into a measure of personal splurge.

Related Image Expand / Contract A worker checks the slopes of Giant Mountain in Traverse City, Mich. — March 15, 2012 (Jim Michener)

Americans as a whole are cutting back on many leisure activities and have been for the past few years. I spent time with friends from the ski world at the 10th annual Greg Tietze Memorial Summit Sports event on Main Street in Waukesha, Wis., held last weekend.

Tietze, an avid snowboarder, sport manager at Ski Haus at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, and an avid risk taker died in 2015 after he clipped the edge of the chair lift and fell onto the skis he was standing on.

I became aware of the flu epidemic concerning people in ski areas right after Thanksgiving. If you had seen the news stories this week of skiers in Arapahoe Basin with a 20 percent immunity from the flu — who had not even skied there all season — it reminded me that not everyone is a child.

The winter months in the West may become a time of great resilience on the part of ski areas.

One father, Jeff (who is staying off the ski hill this year), and his daughter from California have been following both the Olympics and the ski hills around Colorado (and through social media) all season.

But behind closed doors in Washington D.C., the focus in Congress is on finding ways to spend the American people’s money at every turn. Time will tell how the politics of each state plays out in determining where the seasons will begin to turn.

Funny what happens when you are the biggest industry in America.

Dan Burns is the editorial director of Forbes Magazine, and a member of the Forbes Advisory Board. @DanBurnsForbes

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