Skiers, beware—you’re being watched! Just kidding. The numbers featured here are part of a comprehensive annual participation report conducted by SnowSports Industries America (SIA) that polls tens of thousands of United States citizens to gather valuable information about winter sports enthusiasts who enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and alpine touring. As the ski community (and snowsports, in general) aims to diversify and welcome new audiences, this report offers critical insights into consumer habits, what age groups are participating in these activities and where these folks call home.
The latest report discloses similar trends that we’ve seen in years past, namely that backcountry skiing continues to see a huge uptick in participation, with the female backcountry/alpine touring skiers seeming more committed than ever to exploring the mountains outside the resort. But the trend is widespread: Across the country, every region (except the South Atlantic) saw a year-over-year increase in alpine touring users; the Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, had the most growth. It’s no wonder, then, why trailheads are more crowded and uphill skinning at the resort has become a more popular way of getting exercise. The secret is out… backcountry skiing is officially part of the vernacular.
So, what are the big takeaways here? Why should you care about the numbers, even as a consumer? It’s simple: The skiing community consists of millions of people all seeking the same thing. We’re all part of the same fraternity, we’re all in this together. But, what really matters, is how we’re all different—that is what makes the sport so special, and it’s what helps gear manufacturers decide on the equipment they strive to produce in the coming seasons.
Nowadays, “freeskiing” tends to equate to “finding freedom” out on the ski hill, however the skier wants to interpret that; it’s not necessarily linked to freestyle, terrain park or big-mountain riding as it might have been in the past. This means that the gear being produced and the equipment consumers purchase has a direct effect on how we’re achieving this sense of freedom. As skiers and the individual approach to the hill is better understood through analytics, like the numbers highlighted below, that translates to better equipment and more fun exploring the mountains.
SKIERS IN THE UNITED STATES
25-34 YEARS OLD
THE AGE DEMOGRAPHIC WITH THE MOST SKIERS IN THE UNITED STATES
(AND THE MAJORITY OF FREESKIER’S CORE, GEAR-SAVVY AUDIENCE)
3 MILLION SKIERS
THE PACIFIC REGION (CA, OR, WA) HAD THE LARGEST NUMBER OF SKIERS IN THE UNITED STATES THAT WENT SEVEN OR MORE TIMES IN 2020-21
STATES WITH THE GREATEST SHARE OF TOTAL SKI POPULATION
NEW YORK (9.5%)
STATES WITH THE GREATEST PERCENTAGE OF SKIERS PER CAPITA
NEW HAMPSHIRE (12%)
SKIING PARTICIPATION BY REGION
WEST SOUTH CENTRAL: 1.1M
WEST NORTH CENTRAL: 800K
EAST NORTH CENTRAL: 2.0M
EAST SOUTH CENTRAL: 500K
NEW ENGLAND: 900K
MIDDLE ATLANTIC: 2.3M
SOUTH ATLANTIC: 2.2M
ALPINE TOURING PARTICIPATION SEES ANOTHER YEAR OF EXPONENTIAL GROWTH
If there’s one story worth discussing heading into Winter 2022-23, it’s the continued rise of backcountry/alpine touring interest, including resort uphill travel. Backcountry gear sales in shops across the country skyrocketed in spring 2019, through the summer and retailers are still finding it difficult to keep their shelves stocked—much of this can be attributed to the uncertainly surrounding resort skiing this season, but the modern freeskier has been trending in this direction for years. Interestingly, while the number of men heading out on the skin track still outweighs the number of women, the female demographic is more committed to getting out of bounds with more frequency. In coming years, expect the female community of backcountry skiers to continue to grow as women-specific avalanche clinics and female mentorship in the mountains becomes more prevalent.
THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ALPINE TOURING PARTICIPANTS IN THE UNITED STATES
ALPINE TOURING PARTICIPATION BY GENDER
66% MALE | 34% FEMALE
ALPINE TOURING PARTICIPATION BY REGION
WEST SOUTH CENTRAL: 7.7%M
WEST NORTH CENTRAL: 3.8%
EAST NORTH CENTRAL: 15.6%
EAST SOUTH CENTRAL: 0.8%
NEW ENGLAND: 6.5%
MIDDLE ATLANTIC: 15.7%
SOUTH ATLANTIC: 19.8%
SIA is the national non-profit, member-owned trade association representing the winter sports industry. Established in 1954, SIA’s mission is to help the winter industry thrive. For research inquiries, contact [email protected]