Indoor Climbing Demographics

Participated at least once in a year
35% Under 11 years old
30% 12 - 17 years old
11% 18 - 24 years old
9% 25 - 34 y/o
4% 35 - 44 y/o
11% 45 + y/o

Compared to the general population, the age demographic for indoor climbers is predominately under 35 years old. This demographic does not match the demographic for outdoor climbers. The biggest difference between the demographic for indoor and outdoor climbers is there are more pre-teens and families participating in gym climbing. More men participate in climbing for both indoor and outdoor by about a 60/40 ratio. Many indoor climbers engage in their sport as a form of exercise, while outdoor climbers do not state that as a reason they climb. Even so, all climbers are fitness conscious and enjoy other outdoor activities like camping, hiking and backpacking, kayaking, and skiing. Most engage in at least one other physically exerting activity such as running, swimming or cycling.(2)

Note: This graph shows the percent of population who participated in indoor climbing at least once in a year. The high percent of participants under 11 is due to parties, camps and other one-time events. Older age groups tend to participate in the sport with more frequency. The average age of a gym climber is 20 y/o.

Managers can utilize these finding to better understand their participant population. A manager of a climbing facility would want to be aware of the following findings. First, the largest population of visitors to a facility will be infrequent climbing participants; these climbers want a helpful staff and for there to be easy to understand information available. Infrequent climbers also want other amenities such as bathrooms and paved roads at the site. Second, frequent indoor climbers want to be able to receive recognition for their climbing abilities. This may be facilitated with tournaments, a wall of fame, or having bells at the top of select routes to attract attention when a route has been completed. Third, frequent outdoor climbers own the most climbing paraphernalia, including climbing ropes, shoes, and books. Finally, managers should also be aware of the wide demographic potential of climbers. While the climbing population is commonly perceived as being young males, the actual population is much broader. To take advantage of these potential clients, a facility should design programs specifically for both older and female participants, as well as creating programs for groups such as youth and families.

Several factors motivate climbers. The desire for challenge/risk, control, recognition, purging of the emotions and tensions, and creativity, escape, physical setting for outdoor climbers. Also, climbers are easily able to match their level of skill with a new and challenging level due to the wide variety of difficulty levels available on both indoor and outdoor climbing routes.

Purchasing by men and women

Men tend to browse, buying if they find something for themselves and otherwise browse. This applies to online browsing as well as in store browsing. The primary purchasers are women, buying either for themselves, for friends/gifts, or for their children.

Growth of indoor climbing as a sport

Indoor climbing as an activity is growing at about 18% per year. This study looked at growth of the indoor climbing industry over a 9 year period. In 1998 about twice as many people climbed at least once a year on artificial climbing walls as they did outdoors. By 2007 the number of indoor climbing participants had increased at a faster rate relative to outdoor climbing by 3.7 times, and almost quadrupling in overall volume increase. Other indicators to consider is the activity and volume of related websites. This site receives about 60 new climbing gyms a month from the world-wide list. As of March 2018 there are 2,700 indoor climbing gyms world-wide. Based on the world-wide gym listing's growth, indoor climbing facilities have increased in number at a rate of about 8% per year since 1998.(3)

  1. Demographics info sources:
    a) b) c)
    d) The New AmericansDefining Ourselves Through Sports and Fitness Participation by Harvey Lauer, ISBN-13: 9780977907908

  2. Growth of indoor climbing participation:
    a) American Sports Data Study, Inc - Superstudy of Sports Participation Volume III

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