I can't really prove it but:
There seem to be as many young kids going into skiing as snowboarding.
The bromide about where snow sports are headed has the oldsters running out their string on two skis while the kids and their boards are taking over. Just a matter of time, goes the thinking.
What I do for, uh, work finds me talking to many people of all ages on the slopes, on chairlifts, around ski shops, and even at ski academies. I have been surprised by how many youngsters, from preteens to collegians, say they would rather ski than board these days. If anecdotal information is worth anything, it seems about evenly divided.
Many years ago I interviewed one of the cutting-edge designers of terrain parks in this part of the country, a top rider who helped Ski Market launch its Underground Snowboard division. Because he's pushing middle age and probably would not like to be reminded of his youthful anti-ski sentiment, we skip his name, but not his quote:
''Once bankers and regular type people start [boarding], I don't know. I guess I'll have to find something else."
Notwithstanding the irony that this fellow was embarking on a career that would hardly succeed without developing a mainstream following, boarding in those early days did create a bizarre marriage between purist attitudes and displays of antisocial grunge lifestyle meant to offend mainstream folks such as skiers.
Remember, this was a time when the best boarder in the world, Norwegian Terje Haakenson, passed up a place in the Olympics because his beloved sport had been subjugated by the FIS, that ancient ski establishment bastion.
But anyone with an eye to the slopes in the last few years has seen the cultural divide melting away. Skier styles have moved toward the classic rider look, twin tips put skiers in terrain parks, and it has finally dawned on everyone concerned that skiing and boarding are about the same thing no matter what people have at the end of their feet.
Skiing is less expensive than it has been any time in the recent past. Over the last quarter-century ski areas stole market share from each other by improving the product. As Les Otten took Sunday River from a local backwater area in rural Maine to the second-busiest winter resort in New England, largely because of the quality of snow the area was able to produce, the competitive game was all about hardware. Who had the most and best snowguns and groomers? Who was getting the most high-speed lifts -- triples, quads, and six-packs?
But the hardware race is pretty much over, largely because all the big players have pretty much all they need to drain every stream and pond for snowmaking, and to ride every skier instantaneously to the top of the mountain (just remember that old Stowe single chair). Terrain wars created glades, woods runs, terrain parks galore, and skiing and riding has never been better in the Northeast.
So what's left to compete with?
Bingo, the consumer wins again.
It's easy to get stuck on a skills plateau, and I'm not sure most of us want to improve that drastically to get off. The reason two-thirds of ski acreage is devoted to groomed intermediate terrain is that most skiers and riders want to slide downhill on that stuff. Call it ego snow, but there's something alluring about going downhill with the closest sensation to flying like Superman you can have.
As a younger skier I made a point of taking lessons regularly, and was blessed to have enough friends who were such good skiers they could always show me a few tips. The best powder lesson I got came from my son, who put in his obligatory time ski bumming in the Rockies and was eager to pass on what he had learned on the Western powder.
There was a time I worked at getting some rhythm going in linking down the big soft bumps off Gentleman's Ridge on Aspen or wherever I happened to have some time to ski. It was certainly a good workout. And I suppose I improved. And I recall a Saddleback instructor, Dan Dacey, taking me out on some ice stretches so large it was like skiing on a skating pond. Of course this helped me overcome one of the banes of Eastern skiing, that firm stuff we know and scratch on so well.
But there comes a time in every skier's life when we must question improvement for improvement's sake. When we have come to terms with the fact that, for the sake of our knees, we probably will not ski many more bumps, when skiing crud is something we may not seek out unless descending glades, which is much more fun in fresh powder.
Blame the new skis with their huge sweet spots, more comfortable boots, groomed-to-perfection slopes, but these days most people can learn to enjoy skiing in a remarkably short time. Where the skills necessary to leave the beginner plateau once took several seasons, according to US Ski Hall of Famer and instructor Herbert Schneider, one season on shaped skis and smooth snow makes one feel like Ingemar Stenmark.
It's probably a good idea to try to improve your ski form now and then, correct some bad habits and such. But let's not get too obsessive about it just because those ski snobs still on their straight 213s heading for Mad River call you an unaccomplished snow wimp.
If you're stuck on a plateau and loving the sport, well, relax and stay on that plateau for a while. Hey, it took some effort to get there. Plateaus can be nice. Why not enjoy them?