It’s almost comical to think that just a short time ago, outdoor adventure sports were lesser known fringe activities that were done by outcasts, nonconformists and people living on the fringe. Fast forward to today, and see if you can find a parking lot of a trailhead not completely overfilled and packed in tight on a weekend morning. So what is it that has made the outdoors become so mainstream in such a short time?
When taking a survey of the populations found in the outdoor scene, you have historically found somewhat similar groups of people. There’s the stereotypical climber who lives out of his car traveling from crag to crag, living off of discounted canned meals, and planning one grand ascent after the other. There’s the ever loved ski bum; washing dishes or waiting tables by night, and shredding the first chair in the mornings. And nobody can forget the unmistakable raft guide sporting her finest chaco tan, pearly snapped button up shirt, and bragging about their most recent epic carnage. And while not every enthusiasts has not always fit the build, these characteristics have been revered in the industry for some time.
Now days, these historically colorful characters have become lost in the crowd of latte toatin’ hipsters, gearcentric athletes and selfie-driven trail photographers. It seems as if this transition happened overnight and without warning. Which makes one wonder; where did all of these people come from, and why are they coming out here now? Could it be that factors such as technology, generational norms, and change in sports hierarchy be the driving force behind the growth in the outdoor community? Welcome to the age of the millennials.
The generational change in the country is undeniable. With the millennial generations shedding weight and sedentary habits that has haunted our generation since birth, it’s easy to see why more and more people are turning to the outdoors as a venue to become more active. With scenic views, fresh smells and an array of colors, one can’t argue that the outdoor environment is much better than the confines of a gym or athletic club.
With a society becoming more active, more and more folks look to find outlets and activities to test and push their body and skill. With the outdoors presenting more options than the traditional team sports such as baseball and football, it’s easy to see why sports like climbing, skiing, and paddling becoming more and more mainstream. These sports also aren’t typically filled with the same meat head jocks, screaming tyrannical coaches and dramatic off the field norms that have drove away many athletes that chose those activities in the past.
And let’s not forget about the age of technology. With the technological advances of gear, maps, clothing, electronics, and information; it’s easy to see why so many outdoor sports and trips are growing. The age of the unknown is quickly becoming obsolete and more and more outdoor enthusiasts feel more confident reaching into what used to be the unknown with the less doubt due to technology. It also helps when the norms of social media influence folks to pack go pros, selfie sticks and cameras to document their trips in and share their information with the world.
It’s undeniable to see that the landscape of the outdoors is quite literally and figuratively changing. But is this change bad, or will it bring the attention and support that many of our outdoor venues need? Like it or not, we need to prepare ourselves to usher in the new label of dirtbag, climbing bum, or vagabond.