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Is snowboarding going downhill in Canada? Depends on who you talk to

WATCH ABOVE: Stats show many people are sticking with skiing instead of boarding, but industry members deny the decline. Mark Carcasole reports.

TORONTO – It’s not hockey, but for many Canadian teens and adults, snowboarding is an integral part of winter.

The sport’s roots trace back to the 1960s and 70s, and it really hit its peak popularity in the mid- to late-90s.

Competitions like the X Games and athletes like Canadian Olympic gold medalist Ross Rebagliati captured imaginations and piqued interest. It became the snow-based sport for the “cool kids.”

But one body that oversees snow sports here says that popularity has hit a plateau at best.

In an interview this week with the CBC, the Canadian Ski Council cites a five per cent decline in the number of snowboarders on Canadian hills compared to its peak of 30 per cent in 2005.

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The Council cites a number of factors, including the more modern style of skis, which are better for pulling off tricks.

There’s been some suggestion those who snowboarded in its prime have grown out of it and haven’t passed the torch.

Some skiers Global News spoke to at Toronto’s Earl Bales Park on Friday suggested snowboarding’s painful learning curve as a deterrent. It’s a skill that takes a lot more falling down to master than skiing.

There’s also the suggestion that the non-mainstream counterculture snowboarding has built, could now be working against it.

“In the case of Generation Y, the 18 to 34-year-olds who would be interested in snowboarding, their preferences, and their tastes change rapidly in this expanding world of media options and activities,” said Vijay Setlur, sports marketing instructor at York University.

Setlur said the younger crowd attracted to the activity is also more fickle.

“It’s not surprising they would lose interest in snowboarding and go on to another activity,” he said.

Earl Bales Park is seen as a good training ground for snowboarding and skiing beginners, offering lessons for all ages at prices considered affordable.

“We’ve noticed a bit of a decline in snowboarding,” said community recreation programmer Alex Bovoletis.” But skiing is always popular here.”

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But there are those who suggest talk of a snowboarding slide is premature, if not blown out of proportion.

For instance, officials at Glen Eden in Milton say they still see several young snowboarders regularly with no slowdown.

And equipment shops like Boardsports on at 2010 Yonge St. are thriving.

“The last twelve months have been up significantly,” said company president Steve Martin of snowboarding equipment sales.

He says milder winters over the last decade could also play a part in the five per cent popularity decline, except in 2014.

“It was our third best year ever,” said Martin.

Martin says the industry and the sport are still strong and healthy, noting that he increasingly sees young kids and new Canadians hitting the slopes on snowboards, which he attributes to the lower price point for equipment.

 

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