My colleague looked to me, “we’re planning a weekend ski trip, would you like to join? It’ll be fun!”
“But I don’t know how to sky though, don’t have any equipment”
“Oh don’t worry about it, we have ski equipment that we can lend to you. We’ve also introduced B to ski-ing a few weeks ago. She picked it up within a few hours, you’ll pick it up easily.”
I did some quick math, the cost looked expensive for a weekend, but I should at least try it once since I’m in the real wintry part of the world and the rush of getting down from a hill just looks like amazing fun (I’m not going to be that good but it sure does look fun).
After turning back to my desk, I paused, “wait, isn’t B Swedish, shouldn’t she know how to ski?”
“Well, she’s from Malmo,” my colleague guffawed.
I had thought that everyone from Scandanavia was born knowing how to ski, seeing as winter lasts for 6 months in a year 😉 Well I kid, but you get the point, somehow it didn’t occur to me that even in Scandanavia, winter sports is not something everyone does.
That misconception was perhaps compounded by the fact that the most bemedaled Winter Olympic nation is tiny Norway (with 5.7 million people), 2) collectively the Scandanavian countries smash the medal table in terms of golds and total medals, leaving all other countries far in their wake and 3) even after account for all of the Nordics (Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway) they comprise just over 26 million people, no where near the large competitor nations.
So came the weekend and the drive to the winter sports resort.
The first thing that surprised me was the number of people at the resort, “it will get worse next week, its the sports weekend next and even more kids are going to come.” Said another Swede to me while I was skiing.
She was from Stockholm and this was her first time learning how to ski. We were both learning how to ski on the baby slopes and we got talking. I’m going to be honest and say that she was really pretty, which is always a good motivation for a guy.
I failed at being any level of impressive though, she was picking up the basics faster than I was, that doesn’t make me look too good now huh Certainly not a good start to segue into asking someone to fika. Heck the young children at the baby slopes were doing an even better job than I was of learning how to walking with skis.
Humorous aside though, the adrenaline of going down a slope and sense of accomplishment learning something new was great and I certainly did learn something new.
Even though not all Swedes do it, as I came to realise considering that both my colleague and the cute stranger I met picked up the skill within a few hours, I’m going on a limb to say, Swedes have talent in winter sports.* Still, if it wasn’t so expensive, I might go back to ski more often too. Which brings me to the question. Why are winter sports so expensive though? What makes winter sports so essentially a middle class sport?
First, winter sports resorts tend not to be located near cities, and are usually out of the way because of the need for a good alpine or mountain for people to glide down from. That means that you do need to find a way to get there. It is sometimes possible to do a day trip from a nearby city, but in most cases, when targeting the more intense mountains you will need to spend a weekend there. So travelling is already more expensive then kicking a ball in the park. Don’t forget that if you travel somewhere far, you will have to stay somewhere for the duration, and that doesn’t come free.
Second, whereas some sports like football just require a ball, and an open space, when it comes to winter sports and other nature based sports, you need equipment, like skis, ski poles, snowboards, shoes, and winter sports clothing. All these add extra costs whether they are bought or rented.
Third, there’s the fact that winter sports can only be done in winter, at least without creating artificial rinks, so parks and resorts are only opened for a few months every year. The opening of these places means that staff, supplies, logistics all need to be brought in during this period, and the companies have barely 4 months (even though winter may practically last sometimes 6 months in Northern Europe, it is usually not cold enough in the first and last months that are colloquially considered cold) to make a profit. Note, not just cover cost, but actually make money.
I reckon all in, these collectively raise the cost of winter sports such that it does price many people out of the market. Even though not everyone is being priced out. Winter sports is facing real problems from climate change and an aging demographic as well as a population less excited with winter sports, all this may serve to further raise the price of winter sports in the future.
Having said there, this seems to be a trend that can be reversed especially with the new found wealth in Asia and countries like South Korea, Japan and China taking elite winter sports more seriously. Will winter sports be revitalised with participation from East Asia?
*Its a joke, don’t take it too seriously. Don’t take any of these posts too seriously.
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