Is snowboarding losing its edge? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is snowboarding losing its edge?

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Melanie Brotz stands out on the bunny slope at Bolton Valley. She's older than the typical beginner.

"It's fun for me, it feels natural," Brotz said. "It's cute. I can get some tips from the people giving lessons up there."

On this day, she's also one of the few newbies trying snowboarding.

"We have seen declines in the past five years in the state and nationwide" said Sarah Neith of the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

Sarah Neith from Vermont Ski Areas Association, or Ski Vermont, says fewer people are riding. The association does not track numbers, but hears anecdotal trends.

"A few ways we know is an observation on the hill, numbers in rentals and sales, as well," Neith said.

And a new study backs that up. The National Ski Areas Association Journal, or NSAA, found snowboarding is losing some of its edge. The group surveyed 135,000 people at ski resorts in Vermont and across the country. In 1991, boarders made almost 8 percent of visits to resorts, that number soared to almost 33 percent by 2010, but it's now dropped to 30 percent.

Ski Vermont says one reason for the dip-- snowboarders are growing up and not hitting the slopes as much.

"We had a big boom in snowboarding and those people are moving into families. We see a lull when people have small children; it's harder to get out," Neith said.

"I think snowboarding is fine. I think it's just fine," Jesse Huffman said.

Huffman, a former professional snowboarder, is now a freelance writer published in major boarding magazines in addition to The New York Times and ESPN.com. He says with sports that catch fire-- like snowboarding and skateboarding-- there are upswings and downswings. But diehards remain and he does not think boarding is dying based on a slight dip in interest.

"If you look at it like a wave, the people in the middle are always still snowboarding. They're out there every day, season to season," Huffman said.

"We want to make sure that when they get to the mountain, they have every advantage to learn," said Jeff Boliba of Burton Snowboards.

Burton brought snowboarding to the masses and is working to attract and keep kids on the hill. They have learn-to-ride programs and a learn-to-ride line of gear. And beyond that, they are using new technology to transform the way kids learn to ride.

"What this does is allows me to get the kids moving and get the sensation of moving on their snowboard right away," Boliba said.

Boliba questions the survey results showing boarding on the decline. He says young skiers or riders often won't stop the fun to fill out a questionnaire. Also, kids under 7 were not part of the survey-- an age where Burton says it has recently seen major growth.

Reporter Gina Burton: Would you say snowboarding has plateaued?

Jeff Boliba: In general, skiing and snowboarding has declined. However, we see a lot of opportunity for growth in the future.

But another blow to boarding-- the study found over 14 years the average number of days riders hit the slopes in a season dropped by 1.5 to 6 days, while ski visits remained stable at 5.5 days a season.

According to other industry experts snowboarding is growing, with the sale of boards up 15 percent since 2004.

Click here for the complete NSAA report on the future of snowboarding.

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