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Is skiing dying?

Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,743 Mega Baller
edited July 2010 in News & Other Stuff
<p>
This seems like a popular discussion topic, but it keeps showing up in other threads where it is off-topic and therefore hard to find.
</p>
<p>
So I decided to start a thread actually dedicated to this.  Please complain about how ZO is killing the sport <em>right here</em>!
</p>
<p>
In my opinion, skiing WAS dying, and a lot of damage has been done.  The first Nationals I attended had over 1000 competitors, the most recent one I attend had 700.  30% decline in participation (even with slightly easier qualifying in my opinion) is a baaaad sign.
</p>
<p>
But the <em>current</em> direction, in my opinion, is one of growth.  In the last few years, I've seen numerous new faces, most 'graduates' of INT -- some old, some young.  And there is a very obvious surge in the kids divisions.
</p>
<p>
It seems like we "missed" a generation -- I rarely see many folks in M1, M2, W1, W2.  But I think rumors of our continuing decline are not only exagerated but outright incorrect.
</p>
<p>
IF these trends continue -- i.e. we MAKE them continue -- then 3-event skiing may be a very healthy sport as the future unfolds.
</p>
Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
«134

Comments

  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,743 Mega Baller
    <p>
    Also relevant here: The count of 'high end' skis that Horton just did.  People don't normally look to enter a market that is dying...
    </p>
    <p>
    Technically, this can't tell us anything about <em>tournament</em> skiing, as it could be just folks skiing "seriously" at home.  But I would claim that the total slalom population is very tightly correlated to the tournament population anyhow.  So more customers == healthier sport.
    </p>
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • HortonHorton Posts: 29,428 Administrator
    <p class="MsoNormal">
    <font face="Calibri" size="3" color="#000000">I skied a few weeks ago with an executive from O’Neil. He told me he thinks across the factories, wakeboarding sales are flat and water skiing sales are trending up. Tournament skiers seem to be in decline but rec skiing looks to be making a come back. </font>
    </p>
    <p class="MsoNormal">
    <font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"><span> </span>It is not secret that more than one water ski factories thought 2010 was going to suck so they made less product and were surprised when they sold out so fast. It is a good sign. </font></font></font>
    </p>
    <p class="MsoNormal">
    <font face="Calibri" size="3" color="#000000">As for the lack of M1-M2 & W1-W2 … . . I don’t know. </font>
    </p>
    <p class="MsoNormal">
     
    </p>

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  • MattPMattP Posts: 6,182 Mega Baller
    The lack of M & W 1&2 IMOP is a reflection of when we thought the sport was dying. This was mainly because wakeboarding hit its peak when those skiers were younger and want to be cool and thus went to the dark side. Because they stopped skiing tournament attendance went down as well as ski sells as wakeboard sells went up. Now people are starting to get back skiing. One of the best skiers I know was on the Canadian Junior wakeboard team and then converted to slalom skiing and was in the top 3? I think at the Pro-Am. I think I heard of a retired pro wakeboarder who reverted back to his roots of skiing because it is easier on his body and he still loves the sport. My 2c.
  • Ed_ObermeierEd_Obermeier Posts: 1,345 Crazy Baller
    <p>
    Thanimal wrote "...<em>Technically, this can't tell us anything about tournament skiing, as it could be just folks skiing "seriously" at home.  But I would claim that <strong>the total slalom population is very tightly correlated to the tournament population anyhow.</strong>  So more customers == healthier sport."</em>
    </p>
    <p>
    If so the correlation would perhaps be as a percentage of all "serious" skiers who do choose to actively enter tournaments.  I'd say that number would be somewhere under 10% of the total population of "serious" skiers and that's only if you're including INT'ers (you said "serious", not necessarily "good").  I know lots of "serious" skiers capable of holding their own even in serious tournaments who could care less about entering one.  I'm probably in that group, although I do ski in the INT some...  Reasons - lack of time, lack of interest, lack of funds, did I say lack of interest?  They just don't care about "competing".  Personally I'd rather hit the early Saturday morning sets with my buds than travel, sit all day to get a couple of rounds, etc, etc, etc and I know plenty who agree with that mind set.
    </p>
    <p>
    There are plenty of quality skiers and those trying to become quality skiers out there buying skis, buying slalom courses, buying other gear whose numbers aren't and probably can't be counted because they're out skiing with their friends rather than entering tournaments.  Being in the water sports business myself I'm confident in the accuracy of my statement when I say that at least from my perspective the sport is definitely not dying.
    </p>
    <p>
    Ed 
    </p>
    Ed Obermeier - owner, EZ-Slalom Course Systems
    www.ez-slalom.com
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,375 Mega Baller
    <p>
    Horton - executive at O'neill? Are you calling BM an executive? Just kidding - dude is very cool and a great skier.
    </p>
    <p>
    PS - saw the ghost skier and his hot girl friend at regionals. I had to confirm that he was in fact "the ghost skier". She had to confirm to me that she was the "hot girl friend".
    </p>
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
  • HortonHorton Posts: 29,428 Administrator
    Yea. I do not know GhostBoy's title at O'Neil but I am pretty sure he is not cleaning bathrooms.

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  • ForrestGumpForrestGump Posts: 6,117
    My ski partner owns the nautique dealership in Houston.  His quota on Nautiques for 2010 was 15 boats. He's sold I think 37 at last count. Sold out his lot, in fact, and is just now getting a new order of boats in. Although the majority are wakeboard boats, he's sold 5 SN200's to retail customers who are not tournament skiers and who don't live on private lakes. They are recreational skiers who live/ski on big public lakes without any slalom courses. That # right there surprised me, him, and a lot of people. Had he known he would sell that many, he probably would have ordered more 200s earlier in the year because he lost sales by not having any in stock.  I bet there wasn't a single 196 sold in houston in 08 and 09 to non tournament skiers.
    Shane "Crash" Hill

  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,039 Mega Baller
    edited July 2010
    I am at the Eastern Regionals right now and they said last night that half the field is junior skiers. The Eastern region isn't huge and there were 17 Boys 2 slalom skiers.
    Mark Shaffer
  • PJPJ Posts: 99 Baller
    I saw some report last year that talked about how the baby boomers had a lot more extra cash left over at the end of the month for fun/recreation. I'm not surprised to see so few skiers in M1-2, W1-2. They are either in college or just getting out of college and have no money. Unless mommy and daddy are still footing the bill, it takes a while before you have any money for fun nowadays.
    MS's chief boat driver
  • konakona Posts: 529 Baller
    Interesting topic I have been waterskiing for 42 yrs now and snow skiing for about the same. I worked in the snow ski field for some 25 yrs. I saw the evolution of snowboarding and wake boarding. Both have giving the their respective industries shots in the arm. I watched the skier numbers decline the increase again with the next generation of kids and their new tricks. I dont think you can base the growth or decline of a sport on how much money is spent or who is showing up to a competition that day. Just because peeps are not spending money doesnt mean they are not skiing. I think skiing is alive and well. Water skiing has been mainstream has it?
    Bob Boyle - I am my girls father
  • BoodyBoody Posts: 613 Baller
    We need to find a way to get the word out to everyone about Novice and Int. We need to get courses on public sites and encourage newbies to give it a try. Maybe have a "Learn to Ski Day" thru some kids summer camp.
    I think most people are more comfortable with skiing than wakeboarding. I think it would grow by leaps and bounds if people just knew about it.
  • boarditupboarditup Posts: 585 Crazy Baller
    <p>
    People know about waterskiing.
    </p>
    <p>
    I have 5 "Learn to Ski Clinics" at my site this summer.  We have taught people to ski the course, let people ski the course with ZO for practice and to choose a setting, taught little girls to ski the first time, taught some to get up on a slalom ski the first time, and coached people to new PBs in the course.  This is great.  It was a life long dream for some to ski the course on a private lake that most only see in magazines (CR is [email protected] off and 236 in night jump).  We will do it again next year as well.  However, it is a very small result.
    </p>
    <p>
    The culture has changed.  There are so many forms of entertainment in the summer that did not exist in the '70s and '80s.  People do not want to spend the time necessary to learn to ski.  When I was a kid there were few summer options - Little League or summer church camp.  Now, soccer, track, dance, LL, Rocket Football, wakeboarding, wakeskating, wakesurfing, horses, video games, paint ball, Facebook, cars, mopeds, etc.  Couple that with restrictions on time and locations where you can ski, jump, the cost of boats, the cost of skis, the cost of gas, etc.
    </p>
    <p>
    Waterskiing has passed from a middle-class aspirational activity to an elite sport for a high-middle class few.  Wakeboarding has responded with cable parks and 2.0 systems (I have one on my property) where you can ride cheap without a boat.  In 3-event, we have such an incredibly high cost (money and time) overhead for organized events that it no longer makes sense for a lot of people.  While some blame ZO, the real culprit is we have sucked the fun out of the sport for the elite few.  As for officials, I can get an MBA faster than a Regular Judge credential.  In today's culture, who has time or even can respect that?
    </p>
    <p>
    Wateskiing is not dying, it is adapting to the culture.  We will never recreate the heyday of the Coors Light tour.  Eventually, the IWWSF and USA WS will also adapt after the money dries up because the culture will no longer support the old ways and perspectives.  It will be difficult to watch, but eventually it will happen.
    </p>
    <p>
    Karl DeLooff
    </p>
    Karl DeLooff - Powered by the wind
  • lakeaustinskierlakeaustinskier Posts: 369 Solid Baller
    <p>
    Great topic.
    </p>
    <p>
    <strong><em>" The culture has changed.  There are so many forms of entertainment in the summer that did not exist in the '70s and '80s.  </em></strong><em><strong>Wateskiing is not dying, it is adapting to the culture.</strong></em> "
    </p>
    <p>
    Good news..................I have a 6 girl, 7 boy and 10 boy.  Everyone skis.  We spent a week at Bennett's in June.  I own a home on the water on a public lake in Austin with a boat and.............also own a lot and a boat at a private ski lake (Aquaplex - several US Opens and two Big Dawgs).  I'm constantly teaching every neighborhood kid how to ski and as a Scout Leader.........the Cub Scout Pack.   SInce my kids can now ski I just started skiing in tournmanents again (after being absent 15 years). 
    </p>
    <p>
    Bad news...................most people on the public lake wakesurf or wakeboard - not ski.  Believe it or not!.........some people wakesurf/board at Aquaplex.  No one has time to spend an entire weekend at a tournament ( I don't).   And who the heck has time for 3 Event with 3 kids?
    </p>
    <p>
    Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts has the same problem with relevancy.  My entire family just spent last week at the BSA training center at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and the Scouts are also struggling to stay relevant in today's society.  I mean when you think about Scouts you think about "outdoors, and hikes etc."..............but yet, Scouts just came out with a video game badge that can be earned as an achievement?!   I read that they specifically came out with the badge to become "modern" and I guess relevant.
    </p>
    <p>
    BUT I agree that traditional skiing is not dead..........<u>traditional skiing just needs to adapt</u>.  Don't just complain - do something.  For example wakeboard tournaments are an "event" with music and fun whereas most ski tournaments are......yawn........a tournament where everyone stands around and talks geek speak about slalom technique.  Food for thought.
    </p>
    <p>
    Ted Thomson
    </p>
    Ted Thomson, Austin Texas, Aquaplex
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,743 Mega Baller
    <p>
    But, but, it's so fun to stand around and geek out about slalom technique...  <img src="/vanillaforum/js/tinymce/jscripts/tiny_mce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-smile.gif" border="0" alt="Smile" title="Smile" />
    </p>
    <p>
    No, I agree that it's a time for adapting, but also think that process has started.
    </p>
    <p>
    Against the backdrop of there being a zillion things for kids to do, there is also a shift in culture <em>toward</em> formal competition.  Ironically, I am one of those people who thinks that's kinda silly.  Even though I am naturally drawn to measuring myself in formal competition, I don't see that as a key aspect of growing up -- I prefer the concept of kids playing purely for fun.
    </p>
    <p>
    BUT this represents an opportunity, and several of the posts above show how it's already becoming one, with heavy participation in the kids divisions at both INT and AWSA tournaments.
    </p>
    <p>
    We have more to learn, for sure.  But I think it's not too late.
    </p>
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • TeamWallyTeamWally Posts: 121 Baller
    Right on Karl, succinct analysis as always. I was asked over and over at Regionals "how come the INT events are so much fun ? How can we make AWSA more fun ? The problem and the soloution permeate the tournament culture. Classic example was the morning flag ceremony. I was schooled that Presentation of the Colors was always done in a respectful manner, yet we had to combine the flag run with a "simulation pass" to appease the elite officials, as they say on TV "give me a break " RE officials ratings : I've had one fellow who did a great job announcing do some research on getting an announcing rating, from his work looks like it's going to take me several years to become a rated announcer LOL, WTF. The fun factor in my limited perspective comes from the "event" focus, rather than ratings and record chasing. The Bud and Coors tours were presented as events, vendors were there with tons of stuff for sale, boat mfgs had displays, there were on and off the water entertainment segments, a "party on" atmosphere where spectators mingled with the stars. I am conviniced that somewhere along the line, perhaps as the 4&5 skiers move on and a new guard comes in that some new energy will find it's way back in. Our culture now is focused on a sport of attainment: rankings, records and ratings as opposed to level playing field competition. I get off on events where I ski with folks working on the passes and issues I am, I love seeing the high end guys go deep but most of the time I can't tell who's on the water , let alone what line length. Sounds like you have really put Placid Waters on the map. Great job. That is all.
  • Jean BJean B Posts: 83 New Baller
    <p>
    I believe it has to do with the cost of water skiing. Just rec skiing is expensive. To ski in tournaments cost even more. You have the cost of lake rental times, boat maintenance,  you need gas to commute to practice, for the boat, and to/from tournaments and the entry fees. With gas prices the way the are, the younger generation can't afford it. They have college cost or are still paying off their college cost, they are newly married, have little kids. Also you need a boat. At this time in the job market, they are lucky to even find a good job. If they have a good job, you need years to build up sick days, so you can call in sick to ski. You need years at one company to build up paid vacation days. Etc........ .  You also need to have good medical coverage too, skiing can cause trips to the Docs office, for x-rays, casts and crutches. Having enough MONEY is the key. I might mention too, if your married, a spouse that doesn't mind you gone skiing, even though there is more important chores to do.
    </p>
  • Thomas WayneThomas Wayne Posts: 550 New Baller
    <p>
    "<em>if your married, a spouse that doesn't mind you gone skiing, even though there is more important chores to do.</em>"
    </p>
    <p>
     "More important"?  More important than skiing?  What kid of kooky talk is <em>that?</em>
    </p>
    <p>
    TW
    </p>
  • boarditupboarditup Posts: 585 Crazy Baller
    <p>
    Ted and Jean B:
    </p>
    <p>
    If the tournament was 3-4 hours maximum, had events for the kids (wakeboard, kneeboard, wakesurf, silly games, etc.), and had ability based competition for men, women, and children, would that help with getting the entire family out?
    </p>
    <p>
    I have found that 3-4 hours is the maximum tolerance of a mom with small kids.  The problem is this kind of format is non-traditional, takes more people to run (board sport judges), uses different boats (towers, ballast), and does not comply with current rules and structures.  Also, traditional 3-event lake owners are hesitant to run a wakeboard boat.  What I just described is an INT tournament.  I have also tried to do this with a USA WS sanctioned tournament, but am stuck with an F designation.  That does not even count for building officials qualifications - a shot in the foot for the organization.
    </p>
    <p>
    The ski clinics are more successful because it is organized, but do not require the officials or level or organization or stress of an actual tournament.  Think of a Poker Run.  No scores, just skiing, riding, and hanging out with people who want to be there.  Lots of families show up.
    </p>
    Karl DeLooff - Powered by the wind
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,743 Mega Baller
    <p>
    I am extremely thankful that INT exists.  It has exposed tons of people to the concept of competitive waterskiing in a friendly, non-threatening, "fun-focused" atmosphere.  It seems to be by far the main source of "new blood" for AWSA tournaments.
    </p>
    <p>
    I am also thankful that AWSA events are not like that.  I don't want to listen to music.  I don't want to watch someone wakeboard.  I don't want ability-based divisions and qualification standards that are based on participation.
    </p>
    <p>
    I just want to ski with the best folks around and measure myself both against myself and against others.
    </p>
    <p>
    So I reject the standard criticism I hear (not from boarditup, just in general) that AWSA is doing it "wrong."  I think they are just providing one small piece of the puzzle that serves a very narrow clientelle.  They and others should strive to serve more clientelle, and that is happening.  But serving more clientelle doesn't mean "one size fits all" -- it means having more options so that everyone can experience water skiing in the manner that THEY enjoy!
    </p>
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • boarditupboarditup Posts: 585 Crazy Baller
    Dead on right - more options!  Let's have some variety so local organizers can respond to the local culture.
    Karl DeLooff - Powered by the wind
  • Chef23Chef23 Posts: 6,039 Mega Baller
    I have an 11 year old and we have been skiing three event tournaments starting last year. My son has been having a blast. There are other kids that he gets to run around with, he has made a bunch of new friends and they are all very supportive of each other and their skiing. I have been really impressed with how nice the kids are at the tournaments. We are new to the scene and the other kids have been great to my son.

    The biggest challenge is that if you have a three event skier it does take the whole weekend. This is good and bad. I have met a bunch of great people, get to spend the whole weekend with my son and he is outside running around and not looking to sit in front of the TV. The downside is that my daughter isn't as into this right now and she has had conflicts with some of her activities and we haven't been able to go to the events together.
    Mark Shaffer
  • JimJim Posts: 28
    USA-WS 3 event lost another 475 members thru April of this year over 09. Wasn't so long ago that there were 15,000 members and now it is half of that and going down every year so yeah I would have to say it has lost favor with individuals and families. Maybe the grassroots program can turn that around but accessibility is a huge problem.
    Wish there was a magic pill to change the trend but with the economy probably in the tank for the foreseeable future it doesn't look good. Doing my part to bring people in but it is not easy. Yes you can teach them to ski and I do, but that is a far cry from getting them sufficient quality water time to get them hooked.
  • Ed_ObermeierEd_Obermeier Posts: 1,345 Crazy Baller
    <p>
    Jim wrote "...<em><strong>Yes you can teach them to ski and I do, but that is a far cry from getting them sufficient quality water time to get them hooked</strong></em>."
    </p>
    <p>
    You pretty much nailed it IMO Jim.
    </p>
    <p>
    Ed 
    </p>
    Ed Obermeier - owner, EZ-Slalom Course Systems
    www.ez-slalom.com
  • HortonHorton Posts: 29,428 Administrator
    <p>
    Ed,
    </p>
    <p>
    I wounder what INT #s are in the same time? I am a USAWS guy but if INT is growing there maybe a trade off
    </p>

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  • Ed_ObermeierEd_Obermeier Posts: 1,345 Crazy Baller
    <p>
    I'm told they're down too John but I don't have any specifics to back that up.  I know here in Kansas our numbers are down, particularly in wakeboarding.  Slalom is down some but not as much.  As someone stated earlier I think the economy has as much to do with it as anything.
    </p>
    <p>
    Ed
    </p>
    Ed Obermeier - owner, EZ-Slalom Course Systems
    www.ez-slalom.com
  • HortonHorton Posts: 29,428 Administrator
    I think the sport has had some big miss-steps. I think the sport is sick but not on its death bed. It is easy to second guess USAWS on some things but there are still a lot of us who live and breath the sport. I look at the traffic for this web site and I realise just how many of us are out there.

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  • RichardDoaneRichardDoane Posts: 4,445 Mega Baller
    We had a 3 event tournament this weekend, almost 30 Jumpers/Trickers on Saturday and 50 slalom skiers yesterday. By the large numbers of kids involved, I think that "dying" is the wrong word for what's happening to our sport.  Junior Development is a big part of the Western Region's function, and if you attended the Jr. Banquet during the Regionals a couple of weeks ago, you would have seen the rising stars that are growing up around tournament waterskiing as we speak.
    BallOfSpray Pacific Northwest Vice President of Event Management, aka "Zappy"
  • 35 in the bag35 in the bag Posts: 76 Baller
    <p>
    A cost counterpoint.
    </p>
    <p>
    The bandwagon that has been jumped on here seems to be that competitive waterskiing is too costly and therefore reserved for the upper-middle-class as more of an elitist activity.  The costs, as I calculate them, do not particularly support that argument.  In fact I believe it is much less costly today then it was decades ago.  The advent of dedicated ski sites across the country, has in my opinion, made the sport much more accessible to those with less income.  Years ago the only real option you had was to own a boat and lakefront property on one of the few lakes which had a slalom course. Then it was also likely that there was a lot of other activity on the lakes during prime time (i.e. weekends and evenings).  One needed to be very dedicated to get quality water time on a daily basis.  You either got up before sun up or you pay big bucks to live on a private lake at which it was customary to limit other water activities in the area of the slalom course.
    </p>
    <p>
    Today, if one decides to make waterskiing their passion it is affordable!!!  You are probably thinking what is this guy smoking?  But let's look at the numbers.
    </p>
    <p>
    1st you need to live generally in an area that has active ski clubs/sites. This cost no more than living anywhere else.
    </p>
    <p>
    2nd you need to seek out club openings and pony up the annual dues which I see range from 1500 to 3500 year. This includes the site(used exclusively for waterskiing - and of mostly pristine conditions for 5 to 7 months), a boat, gas and ski buds who are your driver, coach and friends.
    </p>
    <p>
    3rd you need to gear-up. For well under $1000 you can outfit yourself with a 2 or three-year old used top-end ski and everything else that takes.
    </p>
    <p>
    4th you need entry fees for local tournaments at approximately $50 each.
    </p>
    <p>
    So let us add this up..........
    </p>
    <p>
    Ski site and boat, etc. $2500/year
    </p>
    <p>
    Gear $1000.00 divided by 2 years of use until obsolescence equals $500 per year
    </p>
    <p>
    Tournament entry fees (6 tournys @ $50) plus travel and eating expenses (6 @ $25) equals $450 per year.
    </p>
    <p>
    Ball of Spray Membership.............Priceless!!!! <img src="http://www.ballofspray.com/vanillaforum/js/tinymce/jscripts/tiny_mce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-laughing.gif" border="0" alt="Laughing" title="Laughing" />
    </p>
    <p>
    That equals in the range of $3500 per year......... that's under 300.00/month for a 12 month period.
    </p>
    <p>
    If one has the passion for something one can certainly arrange their life to afford the $300 a month it costs to pursue that passion.
    </p>
    <p>
    And certainly it can be done for less than that.  The truth is, that because it is our passion, most of us on this forum choose to spend a lot more than that.  But no one is making us do so.
    </p>
    <p>
    Now go buy or build a house on a private lake, on a boat, pay for the insurance and all of the costs that go along with ownership, and surely, the affordability for the "average Joe"is out the window.
    </p>
    <p>
    Time to go ski!
    </p>
    <p>
    John Miller - Michigan 
    </p>
    <p>
     
    </p>
    John M
    I used to think that ski tuning might be more complicated than Rocket Science.........
    Now I know it is..
  • jdarwinjdarwin Posts: 1,381 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    John:  Perfect analysis.  As a site owner, it is amazing how affordable I've made it for 13-15 individuals.  By sharing the costs of the site, boat and various equipment, we've lowered the costs to an affordable level for all.
    Joe Darwin
  • skidawgskidawg Posts: 3,353 Mega Baller
    AGREED
    Mr. Mom is Horton's favorite movie!
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