SAN ANTONIO - Last November was a mirror image of November 2002 at Southern California's Mountain High ski area. The same amount of terrain was open for the same number of days - and under nearly identical weather.
But in November 2002, the 80 percent snowboarder-filled Mountain High swarmed with almost 80,000 visits. Last November, the 290-acre ski area saw barely 42,000 visits.
"We just don't see the fanaticism anymore, with people coming out every day, all day," said Mountain High president Karl Kapuscinski. "It's a maturing sport. It's nothing we've done. The parks and terrain are better than they've ever been. But we just can't expect to keep that level of fanaticism going forever."
Those young, on-fire fellows who swelled snowboarding's ranks in the 1990s and surfed the resort industry through its darkest decade are not visiting their ski areas as often. And now, two consecutive seasons of declining snowboarder visits and a host of other statistical warning signs are worrying resort leaders who have long leaned on passionate 'boarders.
"We got used to snowboarding becoming this giant engine of visitation, and they were our saviors. They are not anymore, and we ignore that at our peril," said Nate Fristoe, director of operations at Boulder's RRC Associates, who last week in San Antonio presented members of the National Ski Areas Association with research showing snowboarding not just leveling but falling.
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