The news hasn’t been great in recent years at winter sports facilities, particularly when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. According to data collected by the Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) organization, from 2011 to 2012, ski participation was down 11 percent, snowboard participation was down 7.5 percent and resort visits had slid by 16 percent. The numbers for snowboarding are sobering, particularly since that sport once represented a great hope for snow sports resorts struggling with declining participation in downhill skiing.
As a result, winter sporting interests may be on the lookout for any new trend. Some resorts may have thought they had found it 10 years ago with the potential for “slegooning,” a somewhat alarming-looking sport that has been described as “full-contact sledding.” A Slegoon, a cage-like single occupant racing sledge that can continue to speed down the mountain even when it has rolled over, was the winning entry in the UK IOM3 Design Innovation in Plastics Competition in 2003, sponsored by Bayer AG. It was considered at the next big thing in “extreme winter sports.” British designer Spike Reid describes his craft thusly:
“Slegooning is a new winter sport in which participants travel down a snow-covered slope in single person sledge-type crafts, called Slegoons, in full-contact races. They can continue even when overturned,” he noted.
The design for the Slegoon, produced in prototype, featured a convex low-friction surface underneath, a macho-looking seat in the middle, and a stiff rollcage over the top of the sled. An operator would use a hand tiller to steer the craft and keep it moving downhill. High speed would have been a guarantee, and the “full contact racing” idea likely would have come from high-speed collisions.
Not everyone was a fan of the idea. Jack Loftus, writing for the Web site Gizmodo, advised enthusiasts to make sure they really like the Slegoon they purchase, since it might be their last purchase.
“When you go to pick out your Slegoon for that next killer run down the mountain, be sure to pick a color you like, because you could be living in it for a while. Underground. Like, because, you'll be dead and it's your coffin! Get it?!”
Fortunately for the safety experts (and pretty much everyone else), the idea of the Slegoon never made it past the concept stage. For winter sports resorts such as ski mountains, the key to propping up flat winter seasons is in building out their summer sporting experiences and operating nearly year round (with time out for transitions between winter and summer during the late spring and fall). For many resorts, non-winter activities like zip lines, golf, water parks and ropes courses help fill in the balance sheet when winter falls flat, either because of slow attendance or a lack of snow.