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Are We on the Verge of a Small Ski Area Renaissance in Our Industry?

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Americans struggle mightily with this little thing called moderation. Here’s a simple example.

In 1950, the average new single-family home was 983 square feet. By 1970, that number rose to about 1,500 sq. ft. In 1990, 2,080. And then ten years ago, in 2004, the figure was around 2,349 and only increased since then. In two generations, home sizes have nearly tripled.

Finally snapping out of our square footage trance, Americans have started to realize they don’t need 6 bedrooms for 2 kids. But what happens? The Tiny House movement.

Instead of going from 2,600 square feet to 2,000 or 1,500, we go from 2,600 square feet…to 260. Or less.

The Shift
Once you notice this pattern, you start to see it show up in a lot of areas.

We’re a culture of extremes.

And, yes, I think we may be starting to see this same pattern show up right here in the ski industry.

Over the last few years, some really interesting things have happened.

Mountain Rider’s Alliance was started and saw a huge wave of interest as the message of “ski smaller” resonated with something tucked secretly away in the deep corners of skier desire.

The Story of Small Ski Areas doubled their funding goal, uncovering a broad swell of interest in the nostalgia and simplicity that comes along with skiing at a hill with little vert and lots of soul.

Powder Magazine ran a cover story naming not Vail, not Whistler, not Jackson, but Abenaki, a tiny ski hill near the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, as “the most important ski area in America.”

Pros started gushing about how much they loved places like Hyland and Trollhaugen in videos that became Vimeo Staff Picks.

Bomb Snow’s “In Search of Skiing” series started, where else, but at Mont Ripley, Michigan’s 440′ of vertical drop.

See where I’m going with this?

One More Thing
Something that usually sparks people to action is the chance of losing something.

Interestingly enough, industry lifer, legend, and fount of snowsport wisdom, Bill Jensen, recently shared his prediction (with plenty of reasoning and figures behind it) that 150 ski areas in the United States would close in the near future.

As the pendulum swings toward bigger and better and bigger and better, as skiers show more than a little interest in the nostalgia and simplicity of small ski areas, as this idea starts to hit mainstream ski media, and as the chance of losing that piece of our industry kicks us into “Save Our _____” mode…

…I again ask the same question I started with, “are we on the verge of a small ski area renaissance?”

I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised, or sad, if we were.

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