John Fry

John Fry is an important thinker in the world of skiing. For many years he was editor-in-chief of SKI Magazine, and he was founding editor of Snow Country Magazine. He created Nastar and invented the Nations Cup of alpine ski racing by which the relative strengths of the world’s national ski teams are ranked annually. He was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1995. More recently, he authored the award-winning Story of Modern Skiing. John is the current Chairman of the International Skiing History Association, which publishes Skiing History Magazine.

The current issue of Skiing History features his article, The Impact of Soaring Season Pass Sales on Ski and Snowboard Participation RatesIf you are interested in the quickly evolving economics of skiing in the US, this article is not to be missed. 

Among his many observations: 

  • Last season, ski area visits were down to the same level of 1987. 
  • Twenty-eight percent of all skiers/boarders account for 70 percent of all visits.
  • Last season, the average U.S. window lift ticket price was $122.30, thirty times the average price of a weekend ticket ($4.18) in 1965. Before you say “Of course!,” consider that over the same 53 years, window lift ticket prices grew ten times faster than disposable income, which multiplied only 2.75 times. 
  • He talks about the decline of recent college grads entering the sport. Historically, they were a significant factor. Today, they’re struggling to pay student loans. 
  • He cites NSAA (National Ski Areas Association) research showing that 4 out of 5 newcomers exposed to skiing/boarding decide not to continue. 
  • And he discusses the bundled pass offerings from IKON, Epic, and others and asks if, despite their sales success, they serve the best interests of the sport.

Fry concludes,  “The ski industry is not synonymous with the sport… The cross-country ski and freestyle crazes of the 1970s, and later snowboarding, which attracted hundreds of thousands of new participants, were not ski industry marketing programs designed to increase participation. They arose out of the sport’s heart, and in some cases the “industry” didn’t initially respond well to them. 

“In the long run, the ski industry exists because of the sport, and not the other way around.” 

Join Us in the Alps

Join us the week of March 10 when we ski in the Aosta Valley with guides from AlpskitourEach day, we’ll go to a different resort in Italy, Switzerland and France. The all-inclusive price — $4500 to $5500 per person– depends on where you fly to and whether you stay in a 3 or 5 star hotel. Orsden is a sponsor and giving a parka to each participant. If interested, email me: [email protected].

Another Terrific Ski Cake

Iris and Victor with their 45th wedding anniversay cake

Iris and Victor Yipp of Oak Park, Illinois, sent in this photo of their 45thwedding anniversary cake from October 2016. Their note says “We wish we could ski as well as the skiers on the cake!” It is a beauty!!! Belated congrats. If you have a photo of a cake depicting skiers, boarders, snowshoers, or other snowsport fun, please send it along.

Free X-C at Cross Country Ski HQ in Roscommon, MI

Next week (Monday, 1/7 – Friday, 1/11) is Silver Streak Week at Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Michigan. If you are 60+, you’ll ski free and have the opportunity to demo new boots and skis at the demo center. Trails there are meticulously groomed, and few things are as pleasant as enjoying something yummy in front of the huge fieldstone fireplace.

Short Ski Videos Worth Watching

Most things Salomon makes are first-rate. Clothing looks good and wears well. Skis are exceptional. Even their videos. This one, titled “Higher Truths,” follows a few skiers on an unclimbed Tibetan peak. It’s the intermingling of the journey with Buddhist thinking that I find appealing. The video is a little over 11 minutes. 

Many of you have had the pleasure of skiing Alta. I’ve been a regular there since 1973. This 2 ½ minute video showing a cat grooming at night is consistent with Alta’s lovely, low-key vibe. 

Your Suggestions, Please

If you have topics you’d like explored in Short Swings!,  please let me know. Alternatively, if you’d like to express your own interests on these paperless pages, we’re always open to article ideas and article submissions. They could be about your personal experience, your ski club activities, interesting skiers you know, etc., etc.  Click here for submission guidelines. Fundraiser

In a few weeks, we’ll start our second annual fundraising campaign. The newly minted SeniorsSkiing cotton twill baseball cap is yours for a donation. It’s the best fitting cap I’ve worn…even makes me look good!


  1. I just finished reading John’s book, The Story of Modern Skiing, for a second time. It was as informative and interesting as the first time I read it. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of our sport.

  2. Bob Margulis says:

    The significant growth in backcountry skiing and boarding tells it all. Keep raising the price of tickets and skier/boarders will increasingly take to the hills without lifts! When I began running and moved to a low fat diet (read that as no red meat) in 1976 those of us who did were called health nuts–today its a mainstream lifestyle. Now the same is becoming true for backcountry skiing.

  3. peter McCarville says:

    Thanks for posting the article about John Fry and his work. Very informative and seems to say exactly what us youngsters (between 50 and 60) are noticing over the last 10 years, especially. The industry is rather appalling and probably due to the massive corporate agglomeration and the dying of family/small company-owned areas.

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