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Snowsports Industries America

New SIA report reinforces snowsports’ pervasive inclusion problem

The report, which examines trends among the "next generation of winter participants," indicates what the industry might look like in years to come.

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A new SIA report released last week—aimed at understanding the “next generation of winter participants”—has once again underscored the need for greater inclusion initiatives across the snowsports industry.

The study, titled “A Report on the Next Generation of Winter Participants,” included survey responses from more than 1,400 individuals under age 45 who met certain household income and geographic thresholds. The report drew correlations and comparisons between those who identified as winter outdoor participants and those who identified as “non-participants.” Additional in-depth interviews were done with 40 respondents.

“We want to understand where winter sports sits in a greater context, especially with non-participants,” SIA president Nick Sargent told Outside Business Journal after the report’s release.

Part of that understanding, the report shows, involves a problem that has plagued the industry for many years: participation among non-white individuals. By sampling a younger group of individuals, the report outlined in concrete data how generational privilege may play a role in access to activities like skiing and snowboarding.

More than 70 percent of survey respondents, the numbers indicate, said they were introduced to snowsports through family or friends. That statistic is particularly illuminating when considered in tandem with another set of numbers: Just 41 percent of respondents who identified as Black non-participants, and 35 percent who identified as Hispanic non-participants, said they know someone who actively participates in snowsports.

The lack of access suggested by these numbers is reflected in the breakdown of “participants” versus “non-participants” along income lines. The report noted that just 41 percent of those with annual household incomes of $30,000 -$49,000 were snowsport participants, while to 61 percent of those with household incomes above $100,000 said they participated in winter sports. Participants largely identified as male and white. 

Interestingly, sledding came in as the most popular snowsport in the study, with almost half of all surveyed participants saying they’ve tried the activity at least once, and are eager to try it again this winter. Snowboarding came in second, with downhill skiing ranking a distant third.

“We really have to look at activities like sledding and snowshoeing as excellent gateways,” said Sargent, who admitted there’s much work needed to build a more diverse and inclusive snowsports industry. Many of the gaps mentioned in the report are not closing, and the pandemic—among many other issues, including climate change—aren’t helping.  

We need to continue the push for inclusive messaging,” said Sargent.

SIA members can read the report here.