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  1. #1
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    How many of us are there???

    My buddy and I were driving back to New York from New Hampshire yesterday after climbing, and we got to talking about how many Alpinists there were in the United States. That of course led to how many climbers there were, and how many just did rock, and how mnay did ice as well. It started basically because we were discussing the expensiveness of ice and mountain gear, which I hypothesized is partly to due to the relatively small amount of people buying the products, therefore the price gets jacked up.

    So we staretd throwing numbers out, based on nothing but our own opinions. First of all, we had to define what a "climber" was. To me, a climber is someone who climbs consistently, but not necessarily all the time. Someone who feels that sense of adventure, that want to be in the vertical. Someone who has invested some amount of money on gear, and someone for whom climbing occupies a large percentage of their free time. The reason for this lengthy description is to eliminate the people who only climb in a gym (sorry folks, I don't see that as counting), or people who might go out with a friend once or twice in their lives, or someone who hired a guide once or twice to take them climbing. If you're reading this, you probably know exactly what I mean when I use the word "climber". I estimate there are less than 250,000 "climbers" in the U.S.

    Next up was figuring out how many ice climbers there are. Same basic description applies to ice. Not someone who may have been out once or twice with their buddy, or who has hired a guide. I think there are less than 10,000 dedicated ice climbers in the U.S.

    Next we had to define what it means to be an Alpinist versus a Mountaineer. I do think there is difference. I think Alpinism has to have some degree of technical climbing (what degree is up for debate), and it has to have a style component to it (again up for debate). Mountaineering is, I think, a more broad, all encompassing term, including anyone who likes to climb mountains. That would include hikers who hike up mountains, as well as skiers and snowboarders who venture into the backcountry in the mountains.

    So, how many Alpinists do you think there are in the U.S.? People who climb with the ultimate goal of doing technical routes in the big ranges of the world in good style. Methinks there are less than 2,000.

    Let the flaming and general disagreement begin!

  2. #2
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    Completely off-topic, but what did you guys do in NH? My dad and I just got back from NH today. Climbed Pinnacle it was really good

  3. #3
    Foliage
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    ....Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #4
    Member Jacon's Avatar
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    Ha nice link. This is going to be funny

  5. #5
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    Court, is that you, Al, Doug, Ted, and Mikeg :-P

  6. #6
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    I don't know, back in the late '90s the Atlanta newspaper claimed there were 167,000 ice climbers in Georgia. Since I was pretty sure I knew or knew of damn near all the ice climbers in GA, I was somewhat surprised. (An aside, we all know that pretty much anything about climbing in the general media is rubbish, often laughably so, like the above. We know that because we know climbing, but then we will uncritically accept whatever they say on subjects where we are not so well versed. Think about it.)
    Nevertheless, 10,000 ice climbers does seem low. That market would just be too small for the amount of R&D and manufacturing capability that is required to service it. Let's say every one of them uses $600 boots, and they replace these every 5 years (I screw up these numbers--I've used the same Kastingers since '83). That's only a $1.2M annual market, but once you've taken out the retail markup it becomes only a $800k market for the manufacturer. (Actually, even less, since the guvmint still levies a tariff on almost all imported footwear--to protect a domestic shoe manufacturing market that hasn't existed for many decades. You gotta love the guvmint.) I might be willing to pony up for a $100k mold (just an example) to service a $800k account, but this market then gets divided among several different players and even more different models. I start to become totally disinterested at this point, and when you look at the different materials and manufacturing operations required to make a modern ice boot you can tell the capital investment in tooling, automation, etc. is substantial. Granted, they will sell these boots globally, but we are still the most affluent, and therefore probably the largest, market. So how many ice climbers are there? I think I've seen 10,000 just at Chapel Pond/Roaring Brook, I'm pretty sure there are more. But I'm sure someone from Black Diamond, for example, could make an educated guess.
    One small quibble: Prices aren't 'jacked up' because a market is small, especially one that has so many players. If anything the Scarpas of the world are probably realizing a lower margin than they should. yes, prices seem high because fixed costs are spread across fewer units, but they are not 'jacked up.' That's an unnecessarily perjorative term.

  7. #7
    Poser
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcooke View Post
    Court, is that you, Al, Doug, Ted, and Mikeg :-P
    Nope, not me anyway. Those humans are roped and both sides of that are too steep for me.
    I'm on the lamb, but I ain't no sheep

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Alfonzo View Post
    Nope, not me anyway. Those humans are roped and both sides of that are too steep for me.
    lol...

    You have a way with words. Maybe it just comes back to that perspective thing and you have a perspective i can relate to?

    Either way it gave me a good chuckle.

  9. #9
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    Climbing boots at least are not any more pricy than ski boots.

  10. #10
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    What a fun read! I'll let all my buddies who only climb in the gym know they're not climbers.

    I say a climber is someone who comfortably climbs 5.10 trad. An ice climber is one who leads grade 5 comfortably. I mean since this is all opinions and what not.

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