Ageing skiers and climate change; a double blow for winter sports

Ageing skiers are gradually and inevitably giving up the sport. The problem is that the numbers are not being made up fast enough by younger skiers.

Demographics plus the impact of global warming, pose a dual threat to the skiing industry.

According to this article in the Economist magazine, the number of skier-days (visits to ski slopes for part of or a whole day) in the world’s main ski destinations fell from about 350m in the 2008-09 season to about 320m in 2015-16. This includes declines across the developed world and, most markedly, in fast-ageing Japan.

The drop would be bigger still were it not for breakneck growth in China, where skier-days nearly tripled in the same period to 11m.

In America, over-55s make up about a fifth of skiers; the most avid are ageing skiers 72 and older.

The Economist article suggests several reasons why younger skiers are not filling up the ranks;

  1. Cost. In many places ticket prices have risen faster than inflation. Although resorts offer discounts for season passes and early booking. In America, there is a trend for richer people to ski more than they used to, and poorer ones to ski less.
  2. Education. In Europe, school trips to the slopes are less common, even in countries such as Austria and Switzerland that think of themselves as nations on skis.
  3. Global travel, means that people with money can just as easily fly to a beach in winter.

My guess is that most resorts are not age-friendly and have done little to accomodate the evolving needs or their older skiers. They remain temples optimised for the young and fail to accomodate the 25 effects of physiological ageing that we will all experience as we get older.