Why aren’t skis designed for and marketed to the 20% of the U.S. skiing population over the age of 52? In other words, is the industry ready for a senior’s ski?

I’m asking now, because this is the week ski manufacturers write orders for next year’s crop. They’ve gathered at the Denver Convention Center for the Snow Show, the industry’s annual trade exposition.

There will unisex skis, women’s skis, and kids skis. But nothing specifically for the older skiing population.

One question is why should there be? We know that numerous models in the unisex category are suitable for older skiers. In his annual ski review process, Jackson Hogen of Realskiers.com identifies the characteristics that define skis for the older set. They generally have softer flex, which helps them engage with snow with minimal exertion. This allows skiers to turn more easily and to ski longer without tiring. (Readers can locate the list of Best Skis for Senior Skiers by clicking “Community,” then “Subscriber Only Content.”)

Shouldn’t older skiers simply shop for those characteristics when they shop for skis?

Alberto Varagas illustration from WWII honoring ski troops.

A similar argument could be made for women’s skis. When they were introduced, with few exceptions, manufacturers simply changed the cosmetics of existing models and targeted them at women. There were some companies that designed skis specifically for female size and physique, assembling panels of racers and others to help define what should go into the female model.

The manufacturers recognized the potential for women’s skis. It seems they made a good bet.

Why aren’t they placing a similar bet on a ski for seniors? Older skiers ski more frequently than the national average. Our reader surveys show that 25% intend to purchase new skis in the coming season. The surveys also show that 68% are financially independent (i.e. they have money to spend).

I’ve heard the argument that older skiers might be reluctant to admit or to accept their age status. That may or may not be a real obstacle.

I’ve also heard that the state of the ski industry is such that manufacturers are shifting money from marketing to providing retailers with bigger discounts. That way, some brands are able to dominate display space and account for a larger share of the retailer’s sales.

If a ski manufacturer simply wanted to explore the possibilities, it could apply different graphics to suitable existing models and test them in a handful of outlets. Alternatively, it could select existing models best suited to the older skier and identify them with a sticker or a hangtag, or give sales staff the information that would help present the skis to older customers.

Those are possibilities. But visit the ski section of the Snowshow, and virtually everyone representing the ski companies – the marketers, the salespeople, etc – are young. Can we really expect them to understand the value of making or marketing a ski that may appeal to the one-in-five U.S. skiers who ski more, spend more, and try new products in order to stay in the game?

Industry To Try Luring Drop-Outs

National Ski Areas Association is looking at new goals for increasing the number of skier/boarder days. They include getting people who left to return to the sport. One estimate indicates that in the past decade, up to 8.5 million skiers/boarders dropped out for more than a year. Other figures suggest that up to 15 million skiers/boarders left for a year then returned. Given rising costs of getting on a hill, competition from Disney, Princess Lines, etc., student loan and mortgage payments, and stagnant wages, it’s not hard to see why the number of skiers/boarders in the U.S. hasn’t grown in 35 years.

Climate Change Initiative Heats Up

This week, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) formed the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership to provide leadership on climate change. Several  state ski area trade associations immediately followed suit. They are Colorado Ski Country USA, Ski Utah, Ski California, Ski Vermont, Ski Areas of New York, Ski New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association. The announcement from the state groups included the following statement:

“Pursuit of climate change solutions is a defining issue for ski areas across the United States…As economic drivers in our respective states we urge policy makers to understand that we can’t wait for lasting, bipartisan action to reduce carbon emissions, promote energy innovation and support a rapid, responsible transition to a clean energy economy. We applaud and join with the broader outdoor recreation community and the National Ski Areas Association as they pledge leadership and advocacy for climate solutions across the country. We pledge to do the same with our respective state advocacy efforts.”

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 — $4,500 to $5,500 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].

Coming Soon: SeniorsSkiing.com Annual Fundraising Campaign

In a few weeks, we’ll start our second annual fundraising campaign. Please support our efforts to bring you weekly information and to advocate on behalf of older snow sports enthusiasts. Thank you!

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Avatar Sherm White says:

    I’m a ski instructor, almost 71, and I also rep for Blizzard skis. I think the skis are out there for older skiers, and Realskiers is a good source of info.
    I don’t think graphics are answer (as the ski companies figured out with women).
    The real issue is the age and training of retail shop employees. I just got back from Pico from the annual shop demo for New England, where buy decisions begin. There were a lot of younger (as well as some older ones), who just wanted to try either aggressive and carvy skis, or wide (over 100mm). There was not much interest in more “recreational” oriented models. There were some who took the testing of more consumer oriented skis seriously, but they were in the minority. These are the people who are advising customers in the shops, who would love these skis, which might encourage them to ski more.

  2. Avatar Chris Stannard says:

    At the age of 81 I decided that my Atomic Blackeyes were a bit much, especially as costs came into the equation and my wife and I decided that we could no longer afford to come to North America but would have to stick to Europe. I had a long conversation with Atomic technicians and we eventually agreed that the Atomic Vantage skis were most appropriate. It was clear that they had never thought through the need of seniors for a softer ski. Just got back from Flaine in France and the skis worked for me but it is clear that advice from the manufactureres would be a help

  3. A number of manufacturers build CA and a TI model of the same ski where the TI (or similar nomenclature) is the stiffer version. If expanded upon and advertised the softer version would fit the needs better for lighter skiers and gray beards better. Use the same graphics with a little change and you have a product for: the lighter, the older, the less aggressive, the less skilled, that looks like the skis you see in the ski films. pride is not harmed and skiers get a more appropriate ski. The young turks in the shops should easily adapt to that one up. What is old is new again.

  4. I live in Denver and one of the reason for dropouts in our area is traffic on I-70. When you spend 5 hours in the car to drive to the resort and back on the weekend it is detrimental. I’ll be glad when I can retire and can go during the week.

  5. Avatar David Irons says:

    We already have senior skis. I have always skied race skis which work best here in Maine. At 80 I no longer ski the 210 GS models but the Volkl Race Tiger with a rockered tip at 175 cms couldn’t be easier into the turn and it holds on the hard stuff. For cruising days my 180 race stock GS models are truly fun. I prefer SL’s in full camber. The point is today’s shorter skis have made it a lot easier for us seniors. One problem is the shop kids recommending wider models for skiers who rarely go off piste. My advice to seniors and all skiers who stick mostly to groomers is try the new race skis. They are easy ot turn and carve nicely.

  6. I believe the increased costs are a major contributor to the decline in ,the number of skiers. Lift tickets over $100, skis costing over $1,000, expensive lodging, etc. are major factors. Many seniors are faced with decreased retirement funds ( no more defined benefit pension funds, , dependent on 401K self funded programs- fear of out-living retirement funds).

  7. Avatar danno in SLC says:

    re: dropouts
    2nd what Mark & Bruce say above.
    as i heard it during a chairlift ride from an industry veteran:
    “skiing is a victim of it’s own success…”
    roadway and uphill capacity notwithstanding, the biggest gripe today?
    (read: the ‘dirty little secret’ here in the SLC area, just for example)
    on a powder day, just try and get some!
    hint: not without extreme aggravation and lucky if you get ONE run!
    that said, we’ve got weather ‘that made donner pass famous’
    on the way over (and wishing i was at mammoth… 😉

  8. Avatar danno in SLC says:

    re: dropouts
    just typed a somewhat longwinded comment, but somehow it didnt post?

    traffic jams, lack of expansion in uphill capacity, ticket prices are
    certainly factors, but just try to get some on a powder day!

  9. Retirement & fixed income with no large pension limit resorts available to us. Thankfully many resorts have senior rates & we can ski during the week and some resorts don’t offer their senior rate on the weekend(bad decision). We don’t ski those w/o senior rates. Smaller ski hills are great but we’re losing some of those.

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