SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN)—As the vice president of business development for Whistler Blackcomb, Rob McSkimming has been involved in the ski and bike industries for a long time.
The two industries share many similarities, he said. The missing link in the bike industry is resorts, which have driven growth in the ski industry. “The power driver is ski resorts that invest in the experience,” McSkimming said as he kicked off the Bicycle Leadership Conference Friday night.
In 2000 the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) looked at the number of annual skier visits, and found it was flat. And there were problems on the horizon. The industry was predominantly old white guys, who wouldn’t be around forever. Plus, the industry was attracting but not keeping new participants.
“We looked at if nothing changes, what happens in 15 years? We were presented with steeply sloping days to the right—that’s a disaster for the industry. We started to pay attention,” McSkimming said.
The NSAA came up with a strategy to help its 326 member resorts increase skier days through trial, conversion and retention. Seven years later, the ski industry has seen a little pop in skier days from 52 million visits to 58.9 million visits in 2006.
McSkimming said resorts are now spending hundreds of millions on mountain improvements and to market the skiing experience. In contrast, mountain biking is happening on trails built largely by volunteers.
“This industry is way bigger than ski industry, which is incredible when you consider how the experience has never been managed along the way,” McSkimming said.
McSkimming said the bike industry has a great opportunity to enlist the ski industry and partner with ski associations to develop mountain bike parks.
He said while ski resorts are not yet sold on the concept, Whistler mountain bike park is a proven financial model. The park did 100,000 rider days last year and generates more summer revenue than golf.