Women Who Ski, By the Numbers.

If you’ve ever been skiing and felt like you were the only girl out there, you’re not imagining things. There’s no dispute that there are more male skiers than female. In fact, one of the reasons I started TheSkiDiva.com was so I could find other women to ski with. Self serving, I know, but none of my friends skied, and most of the people I saw on the hill were men.

Ski Divas at Big Sky.

Ski Divas at Big Sky.

That said, it’s one thing to think something is true, and another to back it up with data. I mean, did you ever stop and wonder about the actual numbers? How many women skiers are there? How often do they ski? And really, how much do we really know about this group?

It’s something I think about, myself. Then again, beneath this ultra cool Ski Diva personality is a geek who loves stats of all kinds. (Also map. I love maps. But that has nothing to do with this.)

Kelly Davis, SIA's Director of Research

Kelly Davis, SIA’s Director of Research

Recently I attended a presentation by Kelly Davis, Snowsports Industries America’s Director of Research. Kelly makes it her business to compile data about just about everything to do with snowsports, and she had some fascinating information about women and skiing. So I thought I’d share some of it with you here:

• In ‘15/’16, there were 11.631 million downhill skiers. Forty one percent, or 4.769 million, were female. (This is actually more than I thought, so encouraging news.)

• Thirty five percent of the 8.158 million participants who consider themselves skiers or snowboarders and didn’t participate last season are female. Their three most common reasons for not participating are as follows:  (1) nobody to go with; (2) increased family commitments; and (3) bad weather/snow conditions.

• Half of women skiers ski fewer than 9 times a season; 25% ski 10 to 19 times; and 28% 20+ times. Compare this to men: 39% say they ski 9 days or less, 25% 10 to 19 times, and 37% 20+ days.

• Women tend to rate their ability levels lower than men. About 17% assess themselves as beginners, 50% as intermediates, and 33% as advanced/expert. For men, 5% assess themselves as beginners,  36% intermediates, and 57% as advanced/experts.

• Women who return to skiing after dropping out cite lack of time as their primary reason for stopping. Many return because they want their children to experience skiing. They also return when they feel they have enough disposable income to afford to ski again.

• Women who are new to the sport see four key hurdles to participating: (1) intimidation because they feel that they don’t have adequate skills; (2) lack of confidence due to not having or knowing how to choose the right gear; (3) uncertainty about planning a ski trip, and (4) price sensitivity because they think it’s too expensive.

• Women make up just 25% of a subgroup of skiers that Kelly identifies Core Skiers, a group that accounts for only 5% of the skiing population. Her description of Core Skiers is as follows:

“This participant lives to ski. They might be found hanging around back bowls, tree runs, or skinning in the backcountry. Many live and work in ski towns just so they can focus on their passion for skiing. They are planning trips to exotic ski locations around the world. They have a quiver of skis and will buy high end gear with superior technology including equipment, apparel, and accessories. They probably ‘know a guy’ that works in a specialty shop in town who hooks them up with the best gear. They read SKI, Skiing, Powder, and Freeskier magazines and play close attention to gear guides. They consume ski media and produce their own online content.”

And here’s the group’s demographics:

• College degree
• Household income $25K to $50K and $250K to $1M+. Note: on the lower end of income and age, this person may work at a specialty shop, on the mountain, as a guide, or at a restaurant in a mountain town. On the high end, this could be a consultant or the founder of a successful business venture.
• Averages 30+ days a season
• Age 15 to 30/ages 45 to 65 (about 585K)

So what do we get from these numbers? What do they mean? Why are women such a minority in skiing? It’s a question the industry has grappled with for years, and it’s one I put to the members of TheSkiDiva. Here are a few of the insights they offered:

• Many, many women, especially in my mom’s generation, seem to have this ingrained sense of needing to take care of everyone, including their husbands, while the men have an easier time really embracing a day off. This may affect womens’ willingness to give time over to skiing, because it can be a very, very time-intensive sport, especially if you live in day-trip proximity to the big mountains. They may just be thinking about all the stuff that won’t get done if they spend this or that day up in the hills, and then they go less, and their skiing doesn’t get better. Meanwhile, the men are thinking, “Great! A day off, let’s ski!”

• A lot of my friends skied when I was in college. But fewer and fewer did, as I got older. For some it was because of  kids, and the whole process became just too difficult. For others, it was money. And for others, it was just lack of either time or interest. I’m the only one of us who’s managed to keep at it.

• I think as woman age their priorities change. High School age and younger, they have no responsibilities and are able to enjoy skiing without guilt. College age, there’s more responsibility with school, but no families or children yet. After graduation there’s jobs, thus less time for skiing, more dedication to climbing the corporate ladder etc. Finally marriage, kids, lots and lots of responsibility less and less time for skiing. Skiing isn’t a priority any longer and goes by the way side.

• Women are supporters. And part of the reason for this is because of the way we’re brought up. But I think another part of it is that we reorganize our lives and reprioritize our lives all the time. We tend to reinvent ourselves when things happen in our life, and adjust our priorities. If a guy is a skier when he’s single, he’ll likely be a skier when he’s married, and when he becomes a dad…………..(you get the idea), When an average woman makes those transitions her her life, I think she tends to adjust priorities more readily, and thus the lack of enthusiasm for a given activity.

• It seems women get distracted from skiing by the parenting and total family expense; unfortunate more fathers don’t step up and insist on hanging in the lodge and encouraging mom to get back out there. I don’t live in the land of make believe — a couple of my friends’ husbands did encourage them to get back out there and take turns in the lodge. It makes the difference, for these friends they are still skiers — with and without family.

Next month is Learn to Ski and Ride Month. Many ski areas are offering special rates for lessons and rentals. So if you have a friend who might want to learn to ski, check it out. Or check out my list of women’s ski clinics for the ’16/’17 season. For women who want to return to skiing, it’s a great way to brush up on rusty skills and learn some new ones in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.



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