Friday, December 6, 2013

Ed loans cripple skiing

    Grousing about annual increases in lift-ticket prices begins every year around October and crescendos into December. Day ticket prices of $100 and more are typical at mountain destination resorts. Season-pass prices, all over the map, depend entirely on a resort’s business plan.
    The grousing hasn’t changed since ski resorts began to compete for visitors and has intensified with decades-long declines in skiing. Now, snowboarding is also showing declines in participation.
    The most popular claims about what’s driving the declines are these: Aging Baby Boomers are dropping out and the high price of a lift ticket is driving others away and stopping new entrants. There’s one problem: The same argument exists for participation declines in everything from hockey to hunting.
    Unless it’s a sport like sandlot baseball, all sports need expensive venues, equipment and travel. Thus, it’s likely the declines reflect something more complex.
    For example, the numbers of college graduates carrying education loans is high and increasing. After reviewing federal data, the Institute for College Access and Success in Oakland, Calif., reported this week that 71 percent of 2012 grads emerged with college debt. The average is $29,400. Both numbers were up from 2008 when they were 68 percent and $23,450.
    At the same time, Idaho is stubbornly refusing to endorse taxation of products sold on the Internet at the same rate it taxes them in stores. If federal hurdles were cleared, Internet sales taxes could generate an estimated $65 million a year for the state, money that could bring down the cost of higher education.
    Communities, companies and participants engaged with sports need to connect the dots, join forces to equalize taxes, bring down the cost of higher education and quit blaming declines in outdoor sports on the cost of entry.

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