What Is The Biggest Mistake In Ski & Snowboarding Today?

November 17, 2015.nwt3k.0 Likes.0 Comments

All of us have made mistakes before, some bigger than others, but ultimately it’s natural for us humans to make mistakes (and hopefully learn) over time.

But what about the bigger picture? What about the mistakes that have literally changed ski and snowboarding as we know it today?

Below are six of some of the most innovative and experienced industry experts that voice their thoughts on some of the biggest mistakes that have happened to skiing and snowboarding over time.

This is the first post in a series of opinion-focused articles we’ll be publishing throughout the season.

Nick Marvik

Founder & CEO, Northwest Tech

Bryce Phillips – Founder & CEO, EVO

Bryce Phillips is the founder & CEO of EVO, a leading action sports lifestyle retailer and e-commerce website specializing in ski and snowboard equipment and apparel. EVO has been one of the fastest growing retail businesses in the country with an award winning store in Wallingford, Seattle and now Portland, Oregon as well. Additionally, Bryce is also the founder of Evolution Projects, a real-estate investment company known for creating distinct experiences and spaces meant to engage and build community. Most recently, The Pass Life located on Snoqualmie Pass.

Problem: past and present division between skiing & snowboarding

“I guess I’d say that the biggest mistake has been the mostly past and still present division between ski and snowboard. It’s not always the case but the industry really has been more hung up on the two being different and separate etc. than the customer. Customers have been over it for a long time and those who are still hanging on to some sort of strange resentment or conflict really aren’t the ones you want anyway.

It’s actually been good for EVO because of the fact that we embrace both whole-heartedly and have a passion for creating community for those love the mountains and the lifestyle surrounding both ski and snowboard. Sure, there are some differences in culture, style etc. but there are many more commonalities and the thread that ties it all together is the passion for being outside, innovating, learning, having breakthroughs and spending time with great people that share common values.

Moreover, the differences are to be celebrated, just as there are differences within each sport. Jeremy Jones, Gus Kenworthy, Ingrid Backstrom, Austin Smith, the list goes on are all very different athletes with different styles and competencies but they all share a love for the sports and all of the elements that surround the sports.”

Jason Levinthal – Founder & CEO, Jskis

Jason Levinthal is the Founder and CEO of Jskis.com,  an innovative direct-to-consumer customized ski company. Prior to starting Jskis in 2013, Jason founded Line Skis which has been credited for building some of the first true twin tip skis and ultimately paving a new era for free skiing. In 2006, Line Skis was bought by K2 Sports and eventually grew into one of the top 5 US ski brands. Additionally, Jason also launched Full Tilt Ski Boots which he quickly grew into a top 10 US ski boot brand.

Problem: ski companies went public

“At one time ski companies were privately owned by skiers. Then ski companies started being purchased by public companies. However, public companies only answer to Wallstreet investors, not skiers. Those investors only care about one thing, making more money each year regardless of the realities of the business they’re invested in. The ski industry is actually a very small niche market that requires a lot of reinvestment back into the sport to retain participants because skiing simply does not grow exponentially in participation, sales or profit like other business like electronics, disposables, etc. do.

The reality is, however, that public companies still continue to squeeze more profits out of the ski brands in their portfolio each year to show growth in profit along with the non-ski industry brands they own. Since more skis aren’t actually sold each year, ski companies are left with no choice but to fake “growth” by reducing their spending. The skiers working at these publicly owned companies are forced to cut employees, put more workload on fewer people, cut athlete support, marketing, promotions, events and even cut initiatives that introduce the sport to potentially new future participants.

The result is a downward spiral that won’t stop until skiers buy back the brands and run them as private companies using the already plentiful profit to invest back into the sport of skiing to guarantee it a healthy future.”

Grant Gunderson Photography

Grant Gunderson – world renown action sports photographer

One of the outdoor industry’s most dedicated photographers, Grant founded The Ski Journal where he served as Photo Editor for over six years. In addition to curating his passion for the mountains, he has shot for every major snow sports and outdoor publications worldwide including ESPN, Outside, Skiing, Backcountry, Aka Skidor, Fri Flyt, and Kootenay Mountain Culture. He currently serves as a Senior Photographer for Powder Magazine and is Photo Emeritus of The Ski Journal. He skis close to 200 days a year and when he is not on snow you can find him on his bike or trekking throughout North America and beyond. Grants stunning images and prints can be viewed on his website at Grantgunderson.com.

Problem: ski resorts loosing sight of skiing and focusing on real estate development

“I think the biggest single mistake that’s happened to the ski industry is the mega resorts loosing sight of skiing being their primary driving force not real- estate, and thus out proving the average guy from taking his family skiing.

Many of the mega resort corporations developed a business model that totally depended on them selling real estate – I.E. condos, multi million dollar homes etc. and forgot about skiing its-self being the reason why people wanted to be in the mountains. When the real estate market collapsed many of these areas got into a financial trouble because they where too focused on making money off the real estate and not supporting the reason why people where there in the first place, the skiing experience.

Lift tickets at most of the major resorts have been increasing at a pace that far exceeds inflation. It used to be that the average joe could take his family on a few big ski trips a year and not break the bank. Now a days its so expensive that the average family can’t afford a ski vacation and that means less skiers overall which is bad for the entire snow sports industry.”

Joel Gratz, On the Snow

Joel Gratz – founding Meteorologist & CEO, Opensnow

Most commonly known for forecasting knee deep powder days, Joel started Colorado Powder Forecast as an email list in 2007 forecasting snow days to skiers and borders throughout Colorado. Years later Joel co-founded Opensnow.com and is now the go-to source for snow forecast and powder alerts for skiers & boarders alike. In addition to being one of the leading meteorologist, Joel hikes, bikes, climbs storm chases and does just about anything else outdoors which has also led him to co-found Chance of Weather, providing weather forecasts for non-snow sports too.

Problem: too much complexity around the marketing of skis confuses customers

“I’ve skied for 31 years, since I was 4 years old, averaging about 30 days per year, and I work in the industry, so I consider my knowledge of skis to be pretty good, far from expert, but likely better than most average skiers. And I still find all of the choices confusing.

When people ask me what ski they should buy, I don’t steer them toward a specific brand. I give them a general idea about how waist width and length affect their skiing, and then send them off to find a ski that’s pleasing on the eyes and the wallet. Pretty simple. I also caution them to get a lighter ski with lighter bindings as a heavier system can prematurely tire out our legs.

The die-hard skiers will want to know every statistic and have infinite choice, so I understand why there is so much data around skis.

But the vast majority of skiers just need something that’s “about right” in the key areas of shape and length, and they’ll be fine.

Also, one other pet peeve. Most ski reviews show all skis with ratings between 4 and 5 stars. How is that helpful?! That means all the skis are pretty good, or, there is not much difference between skis. Now, show me some 1 star ratings next to 5 star ratings, and that is truly helpful.

For the record, I participated in a ski review demo day a few years ago and I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the ~5 skis that I tested. I bet some pro skiers could tell the difference, but if I couldn’t figure it out as a lifelong 30+ day per year skier, I doubt that most average skiers could tell the difference between skis of similar shape and weight.”

newschoolers freeskiing publisher

Doug Bishop – General Manager, Newschoolers & Ridemonkey

Doug Bishop is most commonly known for managing Newschoolers.com, which for over a decade, Newschoolers, has been freeskiing’s largest online community, connecting and empowering the voice of freeskiers all across the world. Doug’s experience growing Newschoolers into the largest network of online skiers globally has allowed him to experience and see many of the changes impacting winter sports today.

Problem: forgetting the past

“When I grew up skiing (at least on the east coast) it was all competitive. Everything was about winning. Racing is always like that but Freestyle let itself slide from the super awesome Hot Dogging movement into a hyper-regulated, restrictive and boring sport to watch. Snowboarding was born because there was a ton of skiers who thought this was bullshit, and the same thing happened with the Newschool Freestyle movement. Right now, we’re ignoring a path we’ve already been down and racing as fast as we can back to being a hyper competitive, stale sport. The filming, recreational and artistic side of skiing was and always will be what people like secretly and we need to ensure that there is healthy support from our industry around it. Sure out west you have loads of powder to ride, but there are unfathomable amounts of mid-west and east coast skiers who simply don’t have that.

TL;DR – don’t forget that park isn’t just about training for the Olympics. Park on the east is about having a super fun place on a shitty hill to hang out with your buddies and learn to love skiing. Shredding big mountain can come later.”

Sakeus Bankson – editor & action sports writer

Sakeus Bankson is an editor and action sports writer that’s commonly featured in some of skiings most popular online and print publications today. Known for covering both winter (ski) and summer (bike) topics, Sakeus, has experienced first hand many of the pitfalls within the industry today.

Problem: the age of the sub-$200 beacon and the avy combo package

“As far as price points are concerned, getting into skiing is not a welcoming endeavor. It’s expensive, it’s complicated, there are dozens and dozens of product options you must choose from before you can even get on the hill. It keeps people away, and if you’re not growing—as a person or an industry—well, then you’re dying.

There is one area, however, where I’d say the intimidating pricing has been a benefit, and that’s backcountry gear. Even five or six years ago, the cost of a beacon, shovel, probe, pack, touring gear and all the other do-hickeys required a huge financial commitment…which, if you had already jumped into spending the $2,000 or more to purchase the necessary gear, meant that you were serious. Which meant that you were most likely willing to spend the money on an avalanche course as well. Which meant that a good chunk of the people in the backcountry were equipped, (at least somewhat) educated and dedicated (for the most part).

Then came the age of the sub-$200 beacon and the avy combo package, the cheap, absolutely bare-bones essentials all packed together in a neat bundle. It required no knowledge, no comparing beacon options or features or what you specifically needed or didn’t. You didn’t even need to look into the bag to make sure it was all there. Just $350, and you’re good to go.

With that barrier removed, it required no extra thought to get into the backcountry—hence, more people, with less education and no concerns beyond getting rad and freshies. The stories I’ve heard from patrollers checking people leaving the resort—combo packs with all the gear still wrapped, one cheap beacon for a group of three dirt bags, folks who are trying to learn to ski in the backcountry rather than buying a pass—are terrifying. Not saying owning an expensive setup means you’re safe or know everything. It just requires more of a commitment to getting out there, which tends to mean more of a commitment to staying safe while out there. Which is far, far, far more important than any pow, any line or any rad stash.”

What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes that have occurred to skiing or snowboarding over time?

We’ve love to hear your thoughts as well – share this with your friends and get the conversation going. Use hashtag #NWT3K or tag @NWT3K and we’ll choose some of the best answers to receive a $75 Northwest Tech E-Gift Card. Happy sharing!

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