Skiing is a pastime with a curiously exclusive reputation. Most Alpine skiers have been schussing down the slopes since before they can remember, having been coaxed into the sport by their parents, who are also lifelong enthusiasts. Some children decide to take it up on their own, but this usually happens only if they live near a ski resort. This conundrum is what’s causing the decline of the industry as we know it.
The turn of the century saw an upswing in ski resort attendance, due largely to the advent of snowboarding. Since then, however, the pendulum has swept downward once again; since the recorded industry high in the 2010-11 season, attendance has declined as sharply as 20 percent. This isn’t good news for either the resort owners or the clientele, who will take the brunt of the lower revenues in the form of closed trails, shuttered restaurants, and fewer overall amenities. So what’s being done to help raise those numbers?
Intriguingly, entrepreneur Schone Malliet has decided to shift the focus away from the declining market, and onto the ones who could help to revive it: America’s youth. In 2014, the Bronx-born Malliet—one of the rare skiing enthusiasts who took up the sport in young adulthood—took over the former Hidden Valley ski resort in New Jersey. Instead of reopening under the current banner, he changed the name to the National Winter Activity Center (NWAC), and turned the area into a nonprofit whose aim is to introduce winter sports to children who would not typically be exposed to them—like Malliet himself. The NWAC also strives to emphasize the importance of a healthy diet and outdoor activity during the winter months, in an effort to combat childhood obesity and type II diabetes.
While the NWAC has its roots in the New York metropolitan area, its outreach is actually far broader than that. The Center is actually a satellite of Malliet’s National Winter Sports Education Foundation (NWSEF). In addition to the NWAC, the Foundation has conducted pilot programs in Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, all with the focus of getting the area youth outside and moving.
By introducing these kids to the skiing atmosphere early on and at low cost, Malliet hopes to raise a new generation of adults who can’t imagine a life lived off the slopes.