Latino Participation in Winter Sports
Why the ski industry needs more Hispanics skiers and riders.
In looking at the importance of key multicultural populations on winter sports and the impact they have on the ski industry, one group stands out as being poised to deliver. While the ski industry does need to do more to draw Hispanic families to the resorts, there are already some key factors that make that easier than with other multicultural groups.
In looking at the African American market one thing that gets mentioned in articles is that there are not many African American skiers on the hill, and that lack of diversity presents challenges in making this segment feel welcome. In contrast, at least in the West, not only is there a notable increase in Hispanic families living and visiting the mountains, but there is also an added benefit of workers from Latin America.
In California & Colorado (and many others), when you go to the resort, many of the workers are seasonal and visiting from other countries. Every season on a chairlift or even in the parking lot I meet someone who is here for the season from Chile or Argentina and have the opportunity to speak Spanish.
International Student Visas such as Vail’s program bring diversity to resort operations that can translate to a more welcoming experience for latinos.
While not all Hispanic households are Spanish dominant in the U.S., just imagine how it feels for someone who may be more comfortable speaking in Spanish, or even just seeing more people from similar backgrounds may make you feel. Skiing is expensive and for most people not from a cold climate, is not necessarily something that you grew up doing. This is where the industry can and needs to help.
Tourism boards from Arizona to Washington are actively pursuing multicultural communities to boost tourism. Visit Denver has a site in multiple languages and actively markets to Hispanic and other communities. Yet, there are few examples of ski resorts actively marketing to Hispanic, Asian, or African American communities. At the very least increasing the diversity on the ski hill, will make others from those communities feel more welcome.
So, for affluent communities with the means, the push is to introduce them to the mountains and the benefits of winter recreation. Creating a great experience similar to that of all skiers and riders will pay great dividends. More challenging for the industry (especially in the West) is how to involve the local communities, much of which are lower income Hispanic and in many cases undocumented. Per a great article in Outside Magazine that discusses the issue as well as the work of the Doug Coombs foundation who offer opportunities to more challenged, local, latino populations in Wyoming. Many times these are the workers in the community, but reap few of the benefits of living in beautiful mountain communities, this organization helps to bring them onto the hill and further increase participation in the sport.
While this group, may not generate as much interest to resorts trying to sell luxury condos, the fact is that having people from diverse backgrounds enjoying the mountains creates a richer experience for all.
- Will Multicultural Skiers Save the Ski Industry
- NSAA report – Future Demographics
- Alcance Media Group – Multicultural Tourism Marketing