How fast does indoor climbing grow in the US? How many climbers are in the US?

We unfortunately can’t tell you that. Climbing gyms do not publish business information on how many people visit the gym; climbing gear manufacturers do not publish direct numbers about sold climbing equipment. The only reliable criteria is perhaps the number of new climbing gyms. Let us see what could be found on Internet.

The following post has tons of interesting information about what happened in 2014 in area of indoor climbing gyms, with numbers and trend analysis.

The rate of new climbing gyms entering the US market took a modest dip compared to last year, ending with a 9% annual growth rate, versus 10% in 2013.

2014 we have confirmed 29 new gyms, plus 3 gyms that moved to new facilities, for a total of 353 commercial climbing facilities in the US.

For some reason IBISWorld’s Indoor Climbing Walls market research does not show 10% of revenue growth in this business, it shows only 1.6% annual growth for 09-14:

Not only number of gyms and people visiting them grows, but also number of climbing competitions and youth climbing teams, again data by CBJ:

With numbers taken from the USAC website, CBJ found that ABS youth participation at the Regional Championships grew by 22% and SCS youth participation grew by 15% year-over-year. That far outstrips the growth rate of climbing gyms, which shows that more teams are being formed and those teams are getting bigger.

So, how many (indoor) climbers are in the US? Following post estimates this number as 500,000:

The number of climbers in America that participated at least once during 2012 in sport climbing, indoor climbing, and bouldering, according to a comprehensive survey and study by The Outdoor Foundation, is 4,592,000 people or 1.6% of the population. What percentage of that number, however, are active climbers who regularly participate is not known and is undoubtedly considerably lower, probably somewhere around 500,000.

Is 500,000 reasonable estimate? Probably yes, two considerations come to our mind that indirectly confirm this number:

  • According to the Louder Than Eleven this season nearly 500,000 people streamed ABS coverage.
  • 350+ climbing facilities in the US, some big and some small, if we estimate average gym clientele number as 1000-1500 then it gives as around 500,000 “indoor” climbers.