As I’ve said many times before, I didn’t exactly “grow up” skiing. My first day on the mountain came when I was 12. Instead, I played sports. A lot of sports. Basketball, football, soccer, tennis, you name it. There’s an interesting aspect to each of these sports that keeps coming to my mind: the visible difference between a pro and an amateur.
In basketball, I can go to a local gym and, for $10, play on the same size court as LeBron and hit most of the same types of shots as LeBron. Even basketball’s most dramatic, biggest stage can be semi-replicated by a whispered “3-2-1” countdown and a driving layup.
A beginner, on his/her first day, could probably make a few three pointers and shots from the exact same spots on the court as the pros. In other words, the gap between a LeBron and a Newb doesn’t feel all that wide to the participant. For minimal investment, you quickly get close to the pinnacle.
Mind the Gap
And then there’s skiing and snowboarding. Our culture craves drama even more than sport (just check out the headlines on ESPN’s homepage), and the biggest, most dramatic and well-known stage of ski sport is probably what just went down in Aspen: the X Games.
But there’s a difference. As a pretty good snowboarder, there isn’t a single feature on the slopestyle course I’d dare hit. Not one. The gap between what pros and amateurs do isn’t just big, it’s massive. There is a good chance I will never even touch the “court” of skiing’s most dramatic moments.
I think one of the reasons sliding rails and boxes has become so popular is because kids are doing something much closer to what their “heros” do. You can feel “pro” with much less skill and risk.
Making Average Sexy
To me, one of the biggest challenges of growing the sports is, as Joe Hession put it during a session about snowboarding’s future at NSAA West, “managing expectations”, even if that’s simply making it clear that riding the lift isn’t the cool part about your first day on snow.
If we draw skiers and snowboarders in with X Games sized expectations, they may spend $1,000 bucks on gear and passes, but the bounce rate is bound to be sky high.
However, if we can show how much fun being an average skier can be and shrink the gap between dreams and reality to make intermediate skiing (or even beginner skiing) sexy, I can’t help but think we’ll be better off in the long run.
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