The end of elite

That’s true. But when the rubber met the road, the old troll named elitism emerged and with it, questions that have been plaguing the industry for years: Who are we? And perhaps more importantly, who aren’t we?

In some ways, that sense of elitism is what drew many people to the outdoors in the first place.

I know it enticed me, back when I was a kid first learning my way in the world, in the mountains of southern Idaho. When I hiked the trails outside of Ketchum, I reveled in the fact that so few people seemed to know the trails existed. When I fished the Wood River with my dad or camped in the South Hills with a boyfriend, I celebrated the beauty we saw because we were bold enough to earn it.

I’ve spent the ensuing 30-plus years living and recreating in a community of like-minded folks, and the outdoors have been central to who I am. And it’s not just me. A quick survey I posted on Facebook asking when friends first realized that the outdoors and the outdoor community was their “place” turned up several stories like mine.

Ski attire optional at this meeting

Ski attire optional at this meeting

Diehard mountain biker and former cycling tour operator Kelly Grebe answered, “I started riding my freshman year of college and oh my, I was addicted. There’s this community created when you can look at a fellow rider and know that they know what others do not.” This “secret frequency of stoke” Grebe experienced keeps her in the outdoor community that values isolated places and outdoor adventure.

But how to maintain that feeling when the outdoor spaces are busier and busier? Over the past three years, according to Outdoor Industry Association[12] (OIA), participation in the outdoors has been on a slow but steady upswing. In 2017, 49 percent the U.S. population ages 6 and older participated in an outdoor activity at least once—and 13.6 million people tried outdoor activities for the first time or returned after a hiatus. Though 11.9 million people stopped participating last year, 1.7 million more people got out in 2017 than 2016 (the last year for which data are available).

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