For years one of the biggest concerns of the Canadian Ski Council has been the fact that new skiers and snowboarders are not taking up the sport as quickly as baby boomers are leaving it. Compounding the concern is the fact that a growing number of Canadians are born outside the country and have no tradition of skiing or snowboarding.
According to the most recent statistics compiled from the 2006 Census, more than one in four British Columbians was born outside Canada, as well as one in five Canadians.
However, the latest Canadian Skier and Snowboarder Facts and Stats report released by the Canadian Ski Council has some good news on both fronts.
Overall there were seven per cent fewer ski visits across Canada during the 2006-07 season than the previous season, which is mostly blamed on the late start to the season in Eastern Canada. Many resorts remained closed through Christmas, or operated with just a few runs open. Spring also came early.
In B.C. and Yukon, skier visits were down from more than 5.7 million in 2005-06 to 5.2 million last year. Whistler-Blackcomb bucked the trend with more than two million skier visits, helped by the second highest snowfall ever recorded for the resort.
But while skier visit numbers are down, the number of Canadians 12 and older participating in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing or snowboarding actually increased 7.8 per cent, from 4.1 million in 2005 to 4.4 million in 2006.
In other words, almost 15.5 per cent of Canadians participated last winter, up almost a full percentage point over 2005.
Overall we still have a long way to go to get back to 2001, when 4.7 million Canadians or 17.9 per cent of the population went skiing or snowboarding.
Within the different sports the past year saw a lot of notable changes.
In 2006 the number of people who ski exclusively increased by 12 per cent to 1.65 million from a record low of 1.4 million in 2004. The number of people who ski and either snowboard, cross-country ski, or do all three increased to 2.4 million from 2.1 million in 2004.
When it comes to age groups, more than 61 per cent of skiers are between the ages of 25 and 49 years old, while 23 per cent are 12 to 24, and 17 per cent are 50 and older.
Ethnically, the majority of skiers still tend to be white, but the percentage has dropped to 86 per cent from a high of 91 per cent in 2005.