BOSTON -- As the
boom in family travel continues to grow -- one in five domestic
vacations last year included children under age 18, according to a
Travel Industry Association survey -- it comes as no surprise that
the ski industry has tapped into the family-travel market.
ever-evolving roster of new winter sports, terrain enhancements
targeted at young visitors and a host of family-friendly packages,
the tactics seem to be paying off.
According to the
2004 National Demographic Study summary report, compiled by the
National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) in conjunction with RRC
Associates of Boulder, Colo., there has been a slow but steady
increase in ski and snowboard visits by children, first-timers and
show that in 2003, 57% of visitors to ski areas were families with
children under age 18, compared with 46% in 1992. Snowboarders make
up a significant portion of young visitors, as 80% of snowboarders
in 2003 were under the age of 24.
Some resorts that
previously restricted the terrain to skiers, like Aspen Mountain,
now welcome snowboarders with open arms. Half-pipes and terrain
parks are commonplace at nearly every ski resort in the U.S., with
such nontraditional and easy-to-learn activities as snow-tubing and
snow-biking also on the rise.
To address the
influx of young enthusiasts, Beaver Creek in Colorado created a
Parkology program that teaches kids safety and etiquette when using
the parks, according to Jim Kercher, director of Beaver Creeks ski
and snowboard school.
Mike Kaplan, vice
president of operations at Aspen Skiing Co., said, More and more
decisions on winter travel are being dictated by youth.
You have to give the kids what they are looking
for, and right now thats terrain parks and halfpipes.
The Winter X Games,
televised on ESPN, have been a huge draw for youth, Kaplan
snowboarding has exploded in the last decade, freeskiing is also
going mainstream at many ski areas, as young skiers are performing
aerial maneuvers previously witnessed only at extreme ski
To further entice
young visitors to snow sports, the NSAA has partnered with
WinterKids, a nonprofit organization that encourages winter
recreation among children through partnerships with local
ski-and-stay vacations targeting families are another draw,
typically combining accommodations and lift tickets for significant
savings, especially during off-peak periods.
recognize families as an important market, if not the most
important market, said Ashley Boyden, media relations coordinator
for Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade organization. They offer
programs such as Kids Stay Free, Learn-to-ski, family lessons and
family ski passes.
The advantage for
travel agents is that packages often comprise multiple
commissionable components and are easy to book.
Dee Byrne, director
of the Vail Ski & Snowboard School said, In general, we are
doing more packaging, including all the service amenities the
resort has to offer, to streamline the booking process and make it
easier for folks to engage in the mountain experience.
reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].