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May 08, 2007

Changes in the Ski Industry

A few months ago, I posted about the top skiing innovations. There is an article in the Spokane Review (registration required) that talks about some other things that one futurist sees coming:

In his new book, "The History of Modern Skiing" (University Press of New England), Fry addresses the past: "Americans produced many of the innovations that transformed the sport — including the chairlift, the metal ski, the plastic boot, the modern ski pole, snowmaking and grooming, professional head-to-head racing, the waxless cross-country ski, the freestyle movement, and snowboarding."

He offers only one look ahead: "There are strong indications that some skiers who took up snowboarding will be going back to wide, short skis that can carve a turn. That was the big attraction of snowboarding in the 1990s — you could arc a pure curve turn on the snow. Now, you can do that with skis."

Here is where it gets interesting for me:

Imagine a skier from 50 years ago surveying the scene in a modern lift line. What would he think of iPods wired into jackets? GPS wrist units? Cell phones with cameras? Digitally scanned lift tickets? Polarized contact lenses designed to cut snow glare? PDAs that allow skiers to check in at the office while they're on the lift? These innovations have shaped the sport and will continue to do so, believes Jim Carroll. Carroll, a noted futurist who lives outside Toronto, says the concept of a work/life balance is a major trend that will continue.

He shares this story: "An engineering company was trying to hire this engineering student in British Columbia, near a bunch of (ski) resorts. He turned their offer down. They called him back and were mystified. He said, "You talk about your 9 to 5 culture; that would mess with my powder time."

The way younger people define themselves has changed, Carroll says. "They don't tell you what they do for a living, but what they do." Carroll sees a ski area in the future "with a lot more people hanging out at the hill with a little portable office, doing their thing."

I cannot imagine skiing for me as being a once a year trip to a resort using my vacation time. Telecommunications has come so far. It enables me to work from home or from the condo seamlessly. I can catch a couple of runs during lunch and check in with the office on my cell phone. (I still don't have a Blackberry yet) Even resorts are getting in on the concept and expanding their business centers to allow folks to keep in touch while on the mountain.

I think that I am a part of several of the new trends in skiing. I am in my early 30's. I work remotely via high speed internet and am a huge consumer of technology. I am a twin tip skier (though not much of a jibber). All of these things are part of the trends we are seeing on the mountains. These things are good for skiing because they help replace the baby boomers with new participants.

I guess the real question is--what will things be like for the industry when Jake is my age in 20 years? I assume that by then I will have had both knees replaced from years of skiing abusing them. I will be semi-retired and live in a nice resort town. Probably wearing a sweater with trees on it and trying to look cool. I am hoping not bald. I try not to think that far in advance though...

Posted by Justin at May 8, 2007 12:45 PM