Ski resorts: No Country For Old Men
It begins with humiliation – being mummy-wrapped by the ski patrol and loaded onto a sled in front of a gawking throng. Then the painful drive home – worse, a painful, embarrassing flight – encased in plaster, followed by months of rehab, hoping your boss/clients will put up with lost productivity long enough for you to keep your job.
And you know they’re shaking their heads, muttering “some people just never grow up.”
So, is anyone really amazed that almost two-thirds (63%) of snow sports participants are under age 35 – Gen Z and Millennials (HT SnowSports Industries America)?
Mostly, the Z kids come with their Gen X parents. So the Millennials are the real sweet spot for ski resorts, accounting for around 40% of total visitors and almost half (47%) of snowboarders.
Age brings not only an AARP invitation, but wisdom; just 9% of snow sports participants are 50-plus. For the more
suicidal daring styles, snowboarding and freeskiing – performing tricks while upside down in midair – the Boomer share drops below 5%.
Boomer advice to Millennials: enjoy it while you can – it’s all downhill from here.
Soon you’ll be parents, squeezing runs between your kids’ visits to the bathroom and their endless capacity for snacks. Then, one day, you’re the mummy on the ski patrol sled.
Fortunately, Millennials can learn to age gracefully. Like the Boomers. Though, in hippie-friendly Colorado, graceful is relative.
Home to six of America’s ten most frequently visited ski resorts, the state also hosts the nation’s premier geezer-themed winter event, Frozen Dead Guy Days. It’s a three day celebration of the most famous grandpa in the Rockies. Well, at least the most famous frozen, dead grandpa in the tiny mountain town of Nederland, Colorado.
Boomers on ice
Frozen Dead Guy Days honors Norwegian expat Bredo Morstøl; encased in dry ice and housed in a climate change defying garden shed. It’s not exactly Valhalla, but it’s home.
Bredo was shipped from the old country back in the nineties by his grandson to be re-activated when science reaches X-Files technology levels. His devoted descendant was eventually deported by ICE – staying with frozen metaphors, folks – but the locals rallied round Grandpa Bredo and entombed him in Colorado folklore.
Perennial favorites include coffin races, a hearse parade, brain freeze contests, frozen turkey bowling, the Ice Queen & Grandpa Costume Contest and, perhaps in homage to Boomer nostalgia, The NewlyDead Game. Hopefully, Bredo is cool with all this.
When it comes to cryogenics, Herr Morstøl is not alone: Boomers and older Gen Xers have also been shoved into cold storage, hidden away in Madison Avenue’s backyard shed.
In our case it’s due to Ice Age marketing theories: first, that after age fifty consumer buying decisions are, like the FDG, frozen in time; second, that using oldsters in advertising wreaks more damage than icicles in a Florida orange grove.
Reality check. We’re talking about half of America’s adult population and the world’s third largest economy after China and the U.S. itself.
These 50+ consumers account for over half of all retail sales and new car purchases, own two-thirds of the homes and 80% of the nation’s personal assets. And, years ago, they were proven to be “no more brand loyal to most product categories than are younger adults” (Focalyst_Quirks, 2006).
So, putting it kindly, it’s dumb that only 10% of ad dollars are allocated to targeting them.
Disruptive brains are thawing
Creativity – real ice-jam breaking, risk-taking creativity – is hard.
Ironically, it’s especially hard in ad agency creative departments – average age 28 – where Boomers are even more rare than on the ski slopes. That’s because stepping outside the conformity box can be career-chilling for those with their eye on the corner office.
They’ve learned Boomer adaptability is a lifelong trait, one smart brands can leverage while laggards slumber, like Bredo, in glacial status quo.
They also realize it’s not just Boomers who are left out on the cold. Each year four million Gen Xers pass over from the 18-49 demo to join the Boomer-Plus Generation™, the socio-cultural generation founded by Baby Boomers and their siblings born 1940-1945. Linked by common life and cultural experiences, at 99 million, they are the world’s 3rd largest economy, larger and more prosperous than any European nation or Canada and Australia combined.
And there’s one more thing breakaway brands know: America’s hottest consumers aren’t on the ski slopes. They grew up and moved on – we can tell you where they’re headed.