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Is it downhill for the ski industry?

Posted on 05 December 2017

The 2017/2018 ski season is upon us and the Winter Olympics are a mere nine weeks away. So how is the ski industry performing as we enter the beginning of a busy few months for the sport?

Despite shedding its reputation for being the preserve of the rich and famous, skiing remains someway off being a sport for the masses. Aside from the elite athletes who will hurtle down the slopes of Pyeongchang in February in search of gold, skiing has another side that singles it out from most other sports. Its glamorous leisure industry has spawned a multi-billion pound tourism industry. But hitting the slopes can be an expensive pastime, leaving some people unable to participate – forking out on flights, accommodation, ski pass, lessons, equipment and spending money soon adds up.

Courchevel is looking to attract skiers from emerging markets to its slopes (nikolpetr / Shutterstock.com)

This has created a mature market, in which participants tend to be in their early 40s up to their mid-60s. According to Charles Owen, managing director of European Pubs Ltd, which operates bars and restaurants in French resorts: “skiing is not a cheap sport, and there is a bubble of wealth that is getting older” he says “I see a situation in the future ski market, where if we are not careful we are not going to get enough young people into skiing and skiing regularly.”

The challenge is to generate sustained participation growth among younger generations, to replace this ageing population of skiers who will eventually exit the market. So how have resorts been attempting to increase their appeal?

Diversification

Resorts are offering a diverse range of activities away from skiing, from outdoor pursuits like horseback treks, rollercoasters and paragliding, to a more sophisticated culinary experience.

Attracting new markets

Rather than relying on the loyal army of British skiers who head to the French Alps each year, resorts like Val-d’Isere and Courchevel are aiming to capitalise on growing interest among Russian and Chinese markets.

Size is everything

In recent years resorts having been working together to reduce the cost but increase the quality of skiing for visitors, by creating interconnected alpine playgrounds. The titanic Three Valleys is the world’s biggest ski area with 600 kilometres of runs spread between the three main resorts of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens.

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