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Diversity and Skiing

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by ski diva, Jun 25, 2017.

  1. ski diva

    ski diva Administrator Staff Member

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    POWDER had an interesting article this past winter about bringing more diversity to skiing. Here's an excerpt:

    "Skiing is a homogenous, insular experience. Much like golf, with an average household income of $95,000; sailing, with an aging white male majority; and hockey, where 95 percent of players in the NHL in 2015 were white, skiing’s participation demographics are embarrassing. For the sport to be healthy and robust, it should represent the country as a whole, which includes socioeconomic and racial diversity. To ensure future generations are able to enjoy it, we must reach new participants by lowering the barrier to entry and making the sport more affordable and accessible.

    "For 40 years, skiing has failed to market itself beyond a single narrow (and diminishing) demographic. In 1974, resorts had 53 million skier visits; 2016 had 53.9 million. (In the same period, the total U.S. population swelled by another 100 million people. The percentage of Americans skiing has decreased from 25 to 17.) Similarly, the socioeconomic and racial makeup of the sport remains steady. In 1976, 70 percent of skiers made more money than the average American; today’s figure is 72 percent. And the snow sports world has always skewed whiter than the greater U.S. In 2014, seven percent of skiers were African-American and 13 percent were Hispanic, compared to 12 and 17 percent nationwide."


    You can read the whole thing here.

    Your thoughts?
     
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  2. bounceswoosh

    bounceswoosh Moderator & Angel Diva Staff Member

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    Have you read Stuff White People Like? It's amazing, and unfortunately there hasn't been a new post in years.

    Much like the blog itself, I'm posting this in a "JK, not JK" way. Skiing needs diversity to survive. I'm not sure non-whites need skiing, though ....

    https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2009/08/14/128-camping/

    "When white people begin talking to you about camping they will do their best to tell you that it’s very easy and it allows them to escape the pressures and troubles of the urban lifestyle for a more natural, simplified, relaxing time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In theory camping should be a very inexpensive activity since you are literally sleeping on the ground. But as with everything in white culture, the more simple it appears the more expensive it actually is."

    https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/20/9-making-you-feel-bad-about-not-going-outside/

    "As mentioned earlier, white people love to be outside. But not everyone knows that another thing they like to do is make people feel bad for wanting to watch sports on TV or play videogames. While it would be easy to get angry at white people for this, remember it is hard wired in their head that the greatest thing a person can do in their free time is to hike/walk/bike outdoors."

    https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/03/11/87-outdoor-performance-clothes/

    "If you plan on spending part of your weekend with a white person, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a jacket or some sort of “high performance” t-shirt, which is like a regular shirt but just a lot more expensive."

    https://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/27/31-snowboarding/

    "White people enjoy activities that cost a lot of money and require expensive clothes. Even though pro snowboarders make far less than football or basketball players, it is an activity that is exclusive to those who have money. Below are some of the prerequisites for snowboarding

    – $500 North Face or Burton Jacket
    – $200 Snowpants
    – $40 wool socks from Mountain Co-op
    – $60 thermal underwear from Mountain Co-op
    – Living in an expensive area that is close to mountains ie) Boulder or Vancouver
    – $200 Snowboard
    – $100 boots
    – $20 to pay for your overpriced burger"


    (And of course the irony is that that the numbers for snowboard and boots are way low, even for 2008 when this was posted.)
     
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  3. Obrules15

    Obrules15 Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    I'm always conflicted by this topic because I think there are multiple issues to think about when it comes to this topic. Fundamentally, I look at it as an economic issue that is hooked strongly to the survival of the sport. I think that in general figuring out innovative ways to grow the sport will improve diversity and ignoring the stagnant numbers will ultimately result in it's demise.

    In the 70's and 80's there was a ski school in the Detroit area that designated pick-up areas in multiple spots around the metro area where kids could get picked up every Saturday morning for 10 weeks in the winter. Cost was relatively reasonable; equipment was inexpensive (season long lease), discount lift ticket, and lunch money. Program was paid for prior to season--installments OK.

    There were buses from all over including from the city, and the best thing about this model is parents didn't need to ski for the kids to learn. This kind of thing could lower the barrier to entry for everyone because a parent wouldn't have to budget for a family of four to go on a skiing vacation (obviously, since it is no longer in business it wasn't a viable ongoing model, but at least it was better than what exists now).

    This is how I started skiing at age nine. I guarantee you that as the child of a black social worker born and raised in Texas that I never would have started skiing without that kind of program. My mother hates the cold, she never would have considered skiing, and likely she only sent me to get me out of the house in the winter.

    The problem I have with any kind of push to increase skier numbers is that climate change seems to be affecting the number of accessible ski areas and the number of days per season available to ski. So how do we invite new people in to the snowsports industry when the next bad season could be catastrophic? On the other hand if the numbers don't increase there won't be enough people who care to even try to innovate solutions.

    There is a revolving ski deck opening in my area this fall and I'm keeping my eye on Buck Hill and their Nevaplast experiment. It may be that dry slopes are the way to stabilize the functional length of the season by making it possible to improve the on snow learning curve (and experience) and decreasing the cost of the first ski day.

    It would be nice if indoor snow domes were viable but having researched the multiple failed attempts to bring them to the US, I think that that model may not be financially viable here. Goodness knows, the NJ facility does not look like it will ever actually open for business even though it has apparently been completed for years.

    I don't know what will happen but I often feel that the snowsports industry has multiple problems roaring towards each other like freight trains and that sooner or later there will be a collision if we don't start thinking outside the box and come up with some seriously innovative solutions,
     
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  4. Skier31

    Skier31 Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    A significant factor with regards to skiing is location. I lived in St. Louis, MO until
    I was 35. My parents were not skiers and I was not exposed to skiing as a child. There are other activities (camping, hiking, ice skating etc) that can be done without traveliing very far but skiing is both expensive and geographically limited so I can see why many people do not do it. Plus, skiing is a sport that takes time to learn and I can see why people may not be willing to invest money or effort if it isn't easily accessible.
     
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  5. marzNC

    marzNC Angel Diva

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    Haven't read the article carefully yet, but one thing does stand out to me. There is no mention of Asians at all. "Non-white" seems to mean African-American or Hispanic, and it's implied that those groups don't have enough money to ski. At Massanutten, while whites are probably still the majority on the slopes, it's no longer anywhere near 75%. In addition to African-Americans from DC and VA who have vacationed at Massanutten for years, there are many Asian-Americans including those who immigrated from India in the last few decades.
     
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  6. mustski

    mustski Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    Skiing is driven by the free market which apparently has been able to support continuously increasing prices for those taking vacations. On the other hand, there are various bundling packages (MCP, MAX, Epic pass) by resorts which makes it more reasonable for the more avid skier to take multiple vacations. Season passes are also offered at many resorts at early bird prices for those who are paying attention. I guess that I don't buy the whole "diversity" buzz word thing. Asians aren't mentioned at all and yet Asians ski- lots! There are a lot of Hispanic snowboarders in SoCal. I couldn't tell you percentages but it's probably darn similar to the surf culture which has nowhere near the expenses of skiing. I would guess that there are cultural traditions at play and those take generations to change. For example, if you come from a tradition of giant, extended family Sunday dinners, holiday gatherings, and annual vacations, you are unlikely to go skiing very often if at all. I am sure that many of my church friends don't understand why we are perfectly OK skipping church services all ski season.
     
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  7. SallyCat

    SallyCat Angel Diva

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    It's hard to talk about racial diversity divorced from economics. Skiing even at local hills is expensive, and new skiers aren't buying season passes right away; they are paying the brutal ticket window prices and jumping on any day-ticket discounts (and skiing sporadically as a result). It's also hard to access if you don't have someone to introduce you to it (family, friends, school club, etc.). That's going to continue to be a barrier to groups that don't traditionally ski, absent the sort of outreach that @Obrules15 mentions. The ski industry might stop wringing its hands about reasons for the lack of diversity (though I'm very glad that they're attuned to it, for sure) and get busy finding ways to make skiing accessible to kids who are not likely to otherwise find there way to it. (You don't even need huge vertical to create a park and pipe venue, e.g.).

    Purely anecdotally, what I see in PA is that the ethnic groups that are relatively recent arrivals and economically ambitious for the second generation tend to be represented at Poconos ski areas, and probably because skiing is something that one "does" when one reaches a certain income level. So, there are a lot of South Asian and Eastern European skiers in our area.

    Another economic anecdote: I was downhill mountain biking at Northstar recently, and walked around the spectacularly upscale "village" or whatever it's called, with all the crazy expensive shops and spas and...well, what the British would call "posh" people. The bike park gondola and ticket office is right there in the village, too, and the juxtaposition of grungy mountain bikers and posh people brunching was jarring. I kept half expecting to be escorted away for general dirtbaggery. So I mentioned this dichotomy on the gondola to someone, who immediately said: "Well, mountain biking is expensive." And so it is. But it's also a growing sport. Truckee, for example (like many other towns and cities) has a kick a** bike skills park that's free and open to the public. Volunteers are building trails all over the country, and there's a booming high school XC racing league. Granted, skiing has unique logistical hurdles, but it could take a cue from other sports that might help it grow numbers.
     
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  8. bounceswoosh

    bounceswoosh Moderator & Angel Diva Staff Member

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    The points about Asian skiers are interesting ... I suspect that this is one of the many areas where it is hard to disentangle race from income level. Is it "Black and hispanic people don't ski," or is it "People below a certain socio-economic line don't ski, and that's most obvious when it comes to black and hispanic people?" The hispanic people I see skiing at Breck aren't usually locals - they are wealthy tourists from Central and South America.

    I meet *so* many people on lifts who are stock brokers, software engineers, doctors. It's startling.

    I see @SallyCat posted on the same thing - I will say that lift-serviced mountain biking is crazy expensive, and a new downhill bike will run you thousands of dollars. Just because someone looks like a dirt bag does not mean they aren't wealthy (or more to the point, don't have wealthy parents). Lift-serviced skews younger than skiing, but otherwise - same demographic. You just may be talking to the kids of doctors etc, not the doctors themselves.
     
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  9. santacruz skier

    santacruz skier Angel Diva

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    I was thinking the same thing. If anyone has skied the Tahoe resorts, there are many Asian- American skiers. As there should be. Why not?
     
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  10. mustski

    mustski Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    I did not mean to imply there "should not be ... (fill in the blank)" anyone. I was pointing out that the general discussion of skiing diversity often ignores the large population of Asian skiers. It's definitely a socio economic issue but I believe it is also cultural. Where I grew up - The West Island suburb of Montreal, everybody skied and everybody ice skated. My sweet Irish parents did neither but when we asked to learn because our friends did it, they arranged it for us.
     
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  11. Obrules15

    Obrules15 Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    As I said, this is definitely a complicated layered topic. Especially when the word "diversity" is used to define disadvantaged minority instead of all minority populations.

    I should also be clearer about the ski school in Detroit. It was not an outreach program at all. However, kids who participated were from a much more varied racial and economic background than currently seen in skiing. The kids who came from the suburbs included the (white) children of factory workers and the kids from the city included the (black) kids of doctors, lawyers, and second generation professionals.

    In the '70's in Detroit skiing was seen as something you did when you "arrived," it was one of the things young professionals checked off on their list. House in Sherwood Forrest, BMW, Ski Vacations. Now, first generation black professionals aren't interested in skiing and the newly arrived professionals turn to other things.

    This is why I focused on growing the sport in general. There are barriers but if people are interested they will come.
     
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  12. Obrules15

    Obrules15 Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    Didn't think you were, and in fact you make excellent points. Black folk (as a generalization) are not sitting around wishing they were skiing. Recently I was telling a group of black physicians ranging in age from late 20's to 70's about my trips to Denver and only the older ones had ever skied or were interested in skiing. Residents tend to have a post training bucket list and we need to get back on that list.
     
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  13. ski diva

    ski diva Administrator Staff Member

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    It's interesting to hear about the make-up of skiers/boarders in SoCal, PA, NC and Tahoe, but here in VT, non-white skiers are few and far between. It's extremely unusual to see anyone who isn't white on the hill or in the lodge. I can understand this more during the week, when the skiers are mostly locals -- VT is a very white state. But still, we are within 5-6 hours of some of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country (NY/NJ, Boston, Philly), and non-white people just don't show up. So yeah, at least to my eyes, skiing is a pretty non-diverse experience.

    Yes, I do think socio-economic factors are a major part of this, though this assumes that non-whites don't make enough to ski. Which I don't think is completely correct. Sure, there are many members of minorities who can't afford to ski, but I'm sure there are many who can and just don't. And as we all know, there are ways to make skiing more affordable. So is it an issue of culture, exposure to the sport, or access? I'm thinking all of the above.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
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  14. bounceswoosh

    bounceswoosh Moderator & Angel Diva Staff Member

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    Purely observationally, Breck visitors are overwhelmingly white.

    Wendy, while there is not a one to one correlation between race and socioeconomic status in the US, neither is it realistic to ignore trends. There is overwhelming evidence that black people in the US have experienced systematic financial oppression long since slavery. Look, for example, at the practice of redlining. It is still the case that demographically, black families of a given income are less wealthy than white families of the same income, and one major factor is redlining, which makes it difficult to acquire a significant savings vehicle, and also prevents these families from moving into neighborhoods where houses appreciate well over time. Of course there are exceptions, but they are just that.

    Yes, absolutely, there are well-off people of all races, and I do think there are subculture forces at play. My links to that blog were not just a joke. Skiing is expensive, time consuming, and cold. If you don't have someone to indoctrinate you, why would you ever start? I'm white; my whole family is white. My parents had both skied. But neither was bitten by the bug, and skiing was not something that ever came up in our family till my boyfriend invited me in high school. Of note, both of my parents came from very poor backgrounds. If I hadn't been close to my boyfriend, I doubt I would have ever considered skiing.

    None of this is to say that the outdoor industry should not be reaching out. It needs to, for its own survival. There should be more (er, any) ads featuring people of color. PoC should be made welcome. Absolutely. But how do you get someone excited about going skiing when no one in the family or close friends is passionate about skiing already?
     
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  15. Obrules15

    Obrules15 Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    There is an important component of how white the sport "appears" to be vs. true numbers that was also profiled by Powder Magazine. The National Brotherhood of Skiers which was founded in the sixties has quite a few members that only ski with that group. The biannual summit has had as many as 5000 skiers who take over an entire ski area. Last year it was Keystone in early February. When that happens no one else can ski there because there aren't enough rooms left. Since the 2008 recession the numbers have been smaller (1500-2500) but it's still quite significant.

    They do quite a few trips a year. The national body does one or two big ones but each region also does a trip, together it's about one per month throughout the ski season. Each individual chapter also does it's own trips as well but those go to local places mostly.

    The group originally started with a few core ski clubs the first of which was founded in Detroit in 1959. The early idea was that in groups you could be fairly certain you would be safe traveling to some of the more daunting regions. Now the group is aging and the reasons to travel together are mostly social/economic but it's still quite large.

    The Midwest Region had a week at Winterpark this April that I attended because they negotiated slopeside condos for $90/night. So while I'm perfectly comfortable in a ton of places you wouldn't necessarily expect to see me (I spent the summer of '86 at University of Vermont Medical School doing a research apprentice program). I still take trips with them because really, how could I say no to $90/night slopeside.

    Without a doubt there are way more black skiers than it appears, we just tend to cluster a lot more, but even within that group you see aging of the population and low levels of buy-in in the younger generation. Unfortunately on this last trip I was the youngest one there (who was not a child or grandchild) at 47, so getting younger people interested is a problem.

    I'm pretty sure the resident physicians and medical students I'm working with now will at least try skiing because they've seen me go off to Denver grumpy two or more times and come back glowing with all of my limbs and ligaments intact (so I've done my part), but skiing and winter sports do not seem to have the same cachet as they did 40 years ago. Also, since I'm currently working at both a majority black and majority white medical school/university hospital, that's a decent chunk of all people that have a good chance of being infected with my -skiing is great- brainwaves.
     
  16. ski diva

    ski diva Administrator Staff Member

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    I was at Snowmass a number of years ago when the National Brotherhood was there, and it was quite a party! Looked like a great time!
     
  17. bounceswoosh

    bounceswoosh Moderator & Angel Diva Staff Member

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    Interesting. That hadn't occurred to me. (I was aware of the existence of The National Brotherhood of Skiers, or anyway something similar, thanks to the TV show Black-ish.)

    As I understand it, youth participation in skiing is down all across the board - not just among the black population. Again, when I look at skiing objectively, it is a heck of a lot of hassle. Frankly, I'm amazed so many of us stuck it out long enough to get hooked.
     
  18. newboots

    newboots Angel Diva

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    Aak - my winter-long Constitutional difficulty with the separation of Church and Ski!
     
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  19. Skier31

    Skier31 Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    I went to a surf camp in Costa Rica a few years ago. Despite having my tooth knocked out by an errant surfboard and an emergency root canal, I had a fun time and enjoyed the surfing experience. I did not enjoy it enough to spend the money, effort and time into doing it again. There are other activities I prefer.

    While I am not saying this is the entire issue, I imagine alot of people feel the same way about skiing. I do not think I would ski as much as I do if it were not for the fact that I have a condo in the mountains. When you add up the costs of a ski trip coupled with cold weather and the misperceptions of injury, it may be a hard sell.
     
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  20. Gloria

    Gloria Ski Diva Extraordinaire

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    I think youth skiing ebbs and flows anymore. When DD skied as a youth her program had an average number of participants and then when they grew up, there is now a gap between where her age group left off and then 5 years younger there is a healthy amount of participants starting out at the comptetitive level but none in between. Both programs here have had to turn down kids the past 3-4 years in the 8-10 range due to lack of available coaches and interest. So it's definately coming back but yes there were some dry years.
    I think youth are as tied to diversity as economics though. When I was younger the majority of sports were more intra mural or school athletics that ran seasons and through the week and weekends were pretty free. All kids when I was a kid knew how to ski where I grew up even if it wasn't their main sport, now skiing is gym curriculum grades 5-12 and the kids ski once a week for 4 weeks a year. Many kids have never skied before and the program is ussually so disoriented the kids only get about an hour on the hill and this for many is all they ski. When you look back at intra-murals, anymore so any of these sports have grown into serious year round practices and extensive travel on weekends, camps over weekends etc. In addition we are seeing the trend of kids specializing in a sport at super young ages and I think the trend has been towards more scholarship worthy types of sports or team sports or those that are more covered by media etc. So I think that when you take a sport that has largely been undiverse in it's past and have so many families of all races participating more fully in these single expanded youth sports instead of doing many sports like when we were younger, you just don't see alot of growth either in the sports numbers generally or much change in diversity as the overall number remain more or less stagnant. ( Possibly growing in the past few years, time will tell if the trend continues or is larger and not just regional. )
    In addition when you look at the number of families where both parents work, sports have taken a big role in what many families consider their family time. So when you have parents who haven't skied or aren't big skiers, a sport that they can watch entirely from the sidelines is much more doable than one where they may not be able to view a practice or it may be difficult to get to a course etc. So skiing maybe hasn't been as popular.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017