10 Trends For Ski Holidays and Ski Resorts
As the slopes are once again packed with skiers and snowboarders as if the pandemic never happened, 10 trends are emerging for ski resorts, a result of lifestyle reassessment, travel reboots and climate changes. Report by Louise Hudson
Main image: Skiing in South Korea with Ski Safari
1) THE GREAT LIFE REFRESH
The pandemic triggered consumers to make The Great Life Refresh, according to Euromonitor International, resulting in drastic personal changes and a collective reboot of values, lifestyles and goals. With many people quitting jobs (8m Americans in July/August 2021 according to their stats), migrating to bucket list destinations is now trending like never before.
Add to these lifestyle migrants all the Digital Nomads created by jobs going virtual during the pandemic. Among these groups are thousands of wintersports enthusiasts who, relieved of the burden of desk-bound jobs either by retirement or going remote, have been relocating to, or buying second homes at, ski areas.
This is creating a growing group of 'amenity migrants' who are demanding different experiences, products and opportunities than longtime residents, visiting tourists, and seasonal workers.
'Businesses should innovate goods, services and experiences that respond to this once-in-a-generation moment, coupled with marketing that acknowledges and embraces the upheaval,' counsels Euromonitor.
Alongside this trend comes 'the work-life balance', 'personal growth' and 'self-care'. The ability to work while travelling is a primary aspect of this and is increasingly reflected in the amenities provided by ski resorts. Big White, BC, has been researching the needs of this contemporary cohort, teaming up with the regional Chamber of Commerce. A recent co-working event investigated the potential for a high altitude co-working centre which would benefit residents of the ski resort as well as regular visitors who might tack on extra days to winter and summer trips if there were work facilities.
Co-working hubs already exist in many resort towns - for example, near Heavenly Resort Tahoe, Breckenridge, Golden near Kicking Horse, Fernie, and Revelstoke
2) CHANGES OF SCENE
Born from recent necessity, there is now a trend to be adaptable to a change of plan in case of cancellation, restrictions, or travel disruptions.
Skiers who usually choose France, for instance, have had not only pandemic problems and Brexit issues to upset their normal travel arrangements, but also the weather to contend with as ski resorts in the Alps faced such poor snow conditions for most of winter 2022/23.
So why not try somewhere different? Somewhere almost guaranteed to have snow? This is what holiday skiers are asking themselves to get the most from their annual ski experiences, leading to a shift from their traditional holiday destinations.
Staunch Alpine advocates for decades, Bill and Deb Wright made their plan to go to Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia, Canada instead of their usual French resorts. "We decided to try Canada as we were fed up with the uncertainty of the snow quality in Europe, and are always looking to explore new destinations," says Bill Wright. Having discovered that Sun Peaks qualified as what he calls millionaires' skiing due to low density participation and light fluffy snow, the Wrights were hooked.
It seems that the frustrations of lockdown and closed airports have created a travel tsunami with passengers flooding onto planes. For skiers, long haul is not a problem with Asian resorts seeing a rise in visitors - and, in the case of South Korea, growing popularity among UK pensioners retiring aboard who are still on the hill rather than over the hill.
Data from the European Sporting Goods Industry shows further major growth to ski destinations in these key countries: China (+48%), US (+37%), Sweden (+37%), Norway (+36%) and Canada (+11%).
3) INVESTING INTERESTS
Pent up post-pandemic demand and higher overheads are leading to higher resort costs and soaring air and ground transportation fares. But determined skiers will either pay a premium to get their trip or find other ways to cut costs. As the Euromonitor study says: 'Backup Planners are getting ahead of the crowd, taking control and using technology to move to the front of the queue'.
The European marketing strategy to attract wealthier tourists - specifically the Spanish who are looking for upmarket visitors instead of the sun-seeking budget Brit brigade - hardly applies to ski resorts where high costs generally, such as gear and passes, are a natural filter.
But cheaper mid-week flights and shorter stays through booking apps are among cut price factors that are attracting more skiers who can now customise their holidays, rather than be bound by Saturday to Saturday holiday packages from ski operators. There is, also, more DIY catering since the half-board chalets providing breakfast and dinner, a speciality of UK ski holiday companies, have been victims of Brexit and the consequent reduction in British seasonaires.
And the pandemic property boom means that many more people have invested in ski resort retreats, with the post-pandemic possibility of recession driving many to look at ways of gaining passive income out of their second homes or use them as exchange collateral to help tick off their own bucket list travel wish list.
Not everyone welcomes second home owners, though, who push up property prices, rentals for locals and general living costs. Not everyone welcomes a ski resort in their backyard, either, certainly not John Dutton of Yellowstone Ranch,
4) SENIOR MOMENT
Yes, seniors can now operate tablets, phones, laptops and even TV remote controls, particularly since Covid kept them indoors for so long, reliant on technology for everything from communication to entertainment to shopping - not to mention virtual skiing.
Euromonitor states: 'The global population aged 60+ will grow 65 percent from 2021 to 2040, reaching over two billion people. This relatively wealthy cohort is gaining more experience and confidence using online services and choosing to adopt more tech solutions that assist with their daily lives."
Going from resistance to reliance, over 82 percent of this age group in the USA own a smartphone. With all the overheads of ski holidays increasing in cost, ski resorts are wise to target these digital seniors who are the predominant group in the top income band (USD250,000).
They'll be skiing until their knees give way - and, then, with the increasing success of replacements, they'll just have new ones fitted and carry on skiing.
5) TICK TECH
Tech is opening up in every field especially for skiers. For instance, most ski passes can now be bought online with better deals if they are pre-ordered and ski rentals can be booked in advance. Meanwhile, high tech just gets higher every winter with increasingly sophisticated gadgets for route-planning, communication, filming, keeping warm and safety at the press of a button (or voice control).
Spearheading in-resort tech, Vail Resorts, which own and operates mountain resorts around the world, have announced the launch of new My Epic App, this autumn, ahead of the 2023/2024 season. The app will contain guests' Mobile Pass and Mobile Lift Ticket as well as a host of other tech features including:
- Interactive trail maps with GPS location tracking
- Real-time and predictive lift line wait times
- Personalised stats, including vertical feet, number of lift rides and other data
- My Account and pass information, including resort access and any restricted dates associated with your pass
- Mountain and resort alerts, including operational information like grooming updates, terrain status, snow reports and base conditions
- Direct access to ski patrol for emergency situations
- Weather updates and snow cams
- Resort Charge to pay for in-resort purchases, and apply eligible Epic Mountain Rewards discounts, by scanning a barcode
In support of the company’s Commitment to Zero sustainability commitment, this change over time will also reduce the waste created by plastic cards and RFID chips.
Meanwhile, UK tech company, Carv is one product that is cashing in on the trend for downhill digital dexterity. The Carv digital ski coach, fitted into ski boots, analyses technique and gives coaching tips via live audio through Bluetooth headphones or Airpods. It's designed to coach everyone from beginners up to experienced skiers.
6) NOT JUST 'SKI' RESORTS
Most ski resorts have been figuring out how to stop being perceived as just 'ski' resorts. Filling up in the summer - and even between seasons - by increasing attractions such as mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and zip-wires has been the goal to make resorts year-round destinations.
But there are, also, alternatives to skiing and snowboarding to spread the appeal of ski resorts even in the winter months. Figures from the European Sporting Goods Industry show that the biggest increase, last year, was recorded in the Nordic cross-country ski category, with over 33 percent more sales than the previous season. According to industry experts, the step-up in demand for such equipment could be explained by the effects of COVID when skiers found an alternative to piste skiing and avoiding crowded lifts in ski resorts.
Consequently more ski resorts are paying attention to their cross-country trails although, as they are mostly in the valley, the season is potentially shorter now - and in the future - because of lack of snow cover.
Similarly there has been a boom in ski touring gear including avy safety equipment with more skiers heading out into the backcountry. Many ski resorts have now created ski tour trails for those wanting to stay within the relative safety of the resort's patrol.
With daily ski passes in the US now at around $200 a day, this is also a way that skiers can reduce their wintersports activity costs at the same time cutting down on their carbon footprint through use of mechanical lifts.
7) AIMING FOR NET ZERO
Carbon neutrality and commitment to net zero emissions are the buzzwords which are leading to low-carbon product innovation and the development and launch of climate-friendly products.
Ski resorts ahead of the game are Wolf Creek in Colorado, which is 100 percent operated by solar power. Vail Resorts' Epic Promise programme includes a goal for zero net emissions by 2030.
Palisades Tahoe was recognised for its Climate Advocacy Achievement by the National Ski Areas Association in 2020. This award is given to ski areas that support climate policy and innovative solutions that further the transition to a clean energy economy. Adopting the Protect Our Winters 'POW' Carpool Parking and introducing the app-based Mountaineer shuttle also contributed to Palisades Tahoe being awarded the 2020 NSAA Climate Action Achievement.
Most ski resorts now recognise the need for sustainability and to be transparent about the measures they are putting in place to counteract climate change.
8) GREENER GEAR
increasingly, skiwear and ski gear manufacturers are vaunting the more sustainable aspects of their ranges - in fact, sustainability is the biggest trend in ski and snowboard clothing this year and going forward.
ZAG Skis from Chamonix are catering to this market with their ZAGREEN Program, which continues to innovate new ways to reduce the environmental impacts in the ski building process.
According to Alan LeMasson, ZAG Digital Marketing Manager. "Ninety five percent of ZAG's raw material sourcing comes from within Europe, using our brand new recycled base material, bio resins, recycled edges, bio topsheets, and our industry first certified organic reusable GOTS cotton bags for shipping, we continue to make big strides in leading the industry towards a sustainable future."
And, as the website counsels: "Take care of our environment today so we can keep skiing tomorrow!"
Meanwhile the mantra gaining strength in the ski industry and in resorts is: recycle, renovate, re-invent, rent and resell.
"Business models are evolving to include buy-back programmes, reusable packaging initiatives, refurbished product offerings and peer-to-peer marketplaces," says Euromonitor.
An example of this is Rossignol's One-For-One ski programme launched this winter. As well as exemplifying the pre-loved trend, Rossignol is adding a cause-related aspect.
"For every pair of skis sold on our websites globally - NorAm, EMEA, APAC - we will refurbish and donate a pair to communities around the world," says Gabriel Authier, Chief Marketing Officer for Rossignol. "The One-for-One programme aims to not only extend the product lifecycle of used Rossignol alpine skis, but to also support charitable organisations and sports federations around the world. We want to help those dedicated to providing underserved communities with the resources and access to experience and develop wintersports."
9) WORK PERKS
With staff shortages affecting ski areas the world over, resorts are having to be creative to attract and retain their workforce. Euromonitor reports that 44 percent of US professionals believe their companies will invest in employee health and welfare in the future.
'Companies need to offer policies and products that provide value and support personal growth to drive loyalty,' Euromonitor advises. 'Employees are looking for careers that accommodate their life outside of the office.'
Vail Resorts has a Perks and Benefits section up front and central on its job site. A job with them is persuasively dubbed an 'experience of a lifetime'. Perks include free ski passes for employees and dependents, free ski/snowboard lessons for employees, discounts for family and friends, retail discounts of 40 percent, and other deals on food, lodging, transportation, mountain activities.
'Mind', 'Body' and 'Wallet' are all addressed on this site. 'Mind' is a Mental Health Program which includes free therapy for the employee, roommates and dependents. 'Body' encompasses medical, dental and vision insurance. 'Wallet' refers to the 401(k) Retirement Plan that eligible employees can participate in from the first month of their hire date.
There's also a 'Time Off' policy advertised, with attractive options for 'paid time away from work for rest and relaxation' as well as paid parental leave for full-time employees. Instead of traditional job training, team members at Vail Resorts are given 'the opportunity to learn and grow' through Epic Service, a 'frontline leadership development experience' with a personalized approach.
10) FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Euromonitor found that 28 percent of US consumers tried to purchase locally sourced products and services. In ski resorts across North America, restaurants that serve farm-to-table food have burgeoned over the past decade to keep pace with this demand.
Examples include The Red Antler and Black Pine in SilverStar, which both source ingredients from the local Okanagan area where possible. In Park City, UT, Open Table details nine organic restaurants where most ingredients are locally and sustainably grown and produced in the Wasatch mountains.
And, with today's health awareness, mountain food no longer equates to a mountain of food. Even in France where carnivore-focused burger and processed charcuteries are top of the menu, there's a slow move to offer vegetarian options, affirmed by the fact that there are now over 300 vegan-friendly restaurants in the French Alps on Trip Advisor.