Outdoor Recreation Participation 2012
The Outdoor Foundation recently released their 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report touting the highest levels of participation in the last five years. So with such good numbers would thing that the participation in climbing should be up also. But, according to the report Climbing (Sport/Indoor/Boulder) is down 13.5% and Climbing (Traditional/Ice/Mountaineering) is down 29.7% percent.
It could be hypothesized that as discretionary income has decreased expensive activities such as climbing has decreased but this idea seem to rejected by the fact that that activities such as Telemarking (downhill) +46%, Skiing (Freestyle) +34%, Kayaking (recreational) +32% and Kayaking (white water)+24% which have considerable cost associated with them have grown in popularity.
If we were to argue that activities with higher cost of participation require higher high levels of commitment and engagement to overcome the objection of cost then would it make sense that a activities that had a higher level of commitment and engagement would see a decrease? If you purchased expensive climbing gear would you all of a sudden stop using it? Once the expense of purchasing technical gear has been met the participation rate should at least remain stable. If anything the declining average of discretionary income should limit growth and market capitalization of the Climbing segment especially in the Traditional/Ice/Mountaineering category.
One of the things I would look at in trying to explain the results in the report would be the sampling method used as the climbing results seem contrary to other existing data. Even this Topline Report shows an increase in overall participation of the last five years but yet shows a decline in climbing. Others have reported an increase in climbing sales overall. Have we seen major decline in the crags? Dow we really believe that one out of four climbers have significantly reduced their climbing or quit all together in the last three years? And, there hasn’t been any external growth in our sport?
A statistical sample will allow every item in the population to having a calculable chance of being included in the sample. Thus the sample needs to be representational of the populations. It is possible that what may have happen here is a case of selection bias based on the convenience sampling. Sampling based on accessibility or ease of selection, such as online interviews, do not always lead to a statistical sound sample set. Do the people who are online all the time, share the same values, ideals, education, income, interest in outdoor activities etc. as those the entire population including those who actually get outside? If not, the data may be biased.
Getting a good sample data can be difficult and your results are only as good as your data. However there is still much that can be gleaned from these results. I am not saying that the results are bad but that when they don’t seem to make the sense we need to take these results with a grain of salt before applying them to future forecasting.