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Is Snowboarding Still Popular? (The Numbers)

Snowboarding is still really in its infancy when compared with many other winter sports that have been around for far longer. You may be wondering how snowboarding compares to other winter sports and whether snowboarding is still as popular as it once was.

Snowboarding is still popular, but not as much as it used to be. In 2017, there were 7.56 million snowboarders hitting the slopes. The numbers were lower than in the 2010-2011 season by nearly a million. That was the peak of snowboarding popularity and participation hasn’t been as high since.

In order to know if snowboarding is decreasing in popularity, we must take a close look at the statistics. Comparing numbers from before and after the 2010-2011 season will show a more vivid picture of the popularity of the sport, and we do this below.

When Did Snowboarding Become Popular?

Snowboarding first became popular in the 1980s. The first widely recognized snowboard prototype was invented in 1965 by Sherman Poppen. By the 1980s there were three people who popularized the sport: Jake Burton, Tom Sims, and Mike Olson. Each of them founded companies that focused on snowboarding.

Less than two decades after the sport came on the scene, these guys put together the first national competition. It was called the National Snow Surfing Championship of 1982. Though it had national recognition, the sport was only embraced by a few groups, like surfers and skateboarders. By the 1990s, the sport was popular enough to be included in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan.

The International Olympic Committee recognized snowboarding as a sport in 1992, but it wasn’t immediately included in the Winter Olympics. It took several years for the IOC to officially include the winter sport. The snowboarding half pipe event of 1998 was televised during the middle of the night in the United States, but not many people watched it.

The 2002 Winter Olympics took place in Salt Lake City and this time, the half pipe competition was a nationally televised event. The 2010 Winter Olympics had 1.8 billion viewers. The 2010-2011 was the year snowboarding participation was at its highest in the United States. The Winter Olympics that year had more viewers than in any other previous year.

Is Snowboarding Decreasing In Popularity?

Snowboarding does seem to be decreasing in popularity. In 2010 there were 8.2 million snowboarders. However, the numbers drastically dropped to 6.4 million by 2012, a decrease of nearly two million. But after a low point in 2013, numbers recovered to 7.56 million snowboarders in 2017.

It’s hard to find up to date data, but we can take a look at the data up until 2017 to understand snowboarding’s popularity. From 2003 to 2013, popularity decreased by 28%. When looking at the entire decade, it should be noted that the major 25% drop happened in the 2012-2013 seasons. In 2014, the numbers went back up to seven million. This followed the trend of the years prior to 2010.

The reality is that numbers steadily decreased even after 2014. If you look at participation, you will notice how the numbers slightly change. In 2014 there were 7.68 million snowboarders. In the following year, there were 7.64 million. After that, we see a decrease to 7.6 million in 2016, and in 2017 the numbers dropped to 7.56 million.

Another major hit for the sport happened when Covid-19 took over the nation. Since people were afraid of the virus, ski resorts shut down along with most other public areas. Therefore, the last three years do not indicate a popularity decline, but rather a decline in all winter sports and activities people enjoyed before the pandemic. Numbers will likely tick back upwards again.

Why Is Snowboarding Becoming Less Popular?

Experts in the industry say snowboarding is becoming less popular because it’s going through a maturation phase. When the sport first launched, it was met with resistance. Ski resorts did not allow snowboarders on the lifts or the slopes. It was seen as a bit of a rebellious sport. It wasn’t until insurance companies covered snowboarding that resorts began to be more welcoming.

The snowboarding participants tended to be younger in age. The idea of going against the grain was attractive to this generation of snowboarders. They were known to resemble the skating and surfing community. The grunge scene was also associated with snowboarding in the 90s and early 2000s.

In France, snowboarding was more widely accepted by the ski resorts, but the skiers were not happy to share the slopes. They thought they were better than those who chose to carve the snow with a plank. Skiers even thought snowboarders dressed inappropriately. Overall, snowboarders were the odd balls back then.

Maturation

As the years passed though, snowboarding became more popular and widely accepted. The rebellious appeal faded and the divide shrunk. Today, there are people who will exchange their board for skis and vice-versa. It’s all part of the maturation process.

Another reason for a dip in snowboarding participation could be due to companies such as Nike bowing out of the sport. This meant they also stopped sponsoring the pros at competitions, such as at the X Games. Since snowboard sales have gone down, struggling companies do not want to support the sport.

Is Skiing More Popular Than Snowboarding?

Skiing is more popular than snowboarding. There are around 14.92 million skiers in the US. Meanwhile, there are only around half the number of snowboarders, coming in at 7.56 million participants. In 2014 resorts had 3% fewer snowboarding visitors, while skiing numbers went up 1% that season.

Skiing has been around for thousands of years prior to snowboarding. Naturally, a sport that has been around longer will be more popular throughout the world. Snowboarding, on the other hand, has only been around for a few decades.

Once snowboarding began in the United States, it quickly gained popularity, but it has not surpassed skiing partly because it simply hasn’t been around long enough. It’s thought that skiing began in Scandinavia over 5,000 years ago. Skiing is a sport that has been recognized around the world since the 1800s.

The age range for skiers is wider compared to snowboarding. That factors in participation numbers when considering the two sports.

Is Snowboarding Dead?

While snowboarding may be declining in popularity, it’s not dead. The problem is that it’s an expensive and time-consuming activity. Taking transport, lift tickets, and time into consideration, snowboarding is a particularly expensive sport in terms of both time and money.

Final Thoughts

Snowboarding has seen a decrease in popularity. There have been dips and peaks in the sport’s participation throughout the years. The number of snowboarders skyrocketed in 2010-2011 but declined drastically in 2012. Later, numbers went back up to 7 million, but have stabilized since.