For the last eight years, Laurent Vanat, an independent consultant based in Europe, has collected and tabulated data about the worldwide snowsports industry. His most recent effort, the 2016 International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism came out in April.
While I’m going to share some of the data I found most interesting, you can access the entire report for free at www.vanat.ch.
- With the addition of Belgium, Denmark, Kosovo, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Portugal and Tajikistan, the report now covers 68 countries, which represent 100% of the total inbound market (that is skiers skiing domestically, not traveling to other destinations).
- Skier visits at major destinations (the U.S., Canada, France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy) have been declining since the winter of 2012-13. Although France, Austria and Italy saw growth between 2004-2005 (the year of the Vanat’s first report) and 2012-2013, each of these countries has seen a drop off. Switzerland has seen the sharpest decline, while skier visits in the U.S. and Canada are largely flat.
- The overall skier population is growing worldwide, thanks to a growing ski culture and new resorts in countries like China. However, skiers and snowboarders in developing countries ski fewer days than skiers in traditional markets. Thus, overall skier visits worldwide are stagnant.
- There are 66 countries offering organized outdoor skiing and as many as 2,000 ski resorts. Two countries that are included in the report (Algeria and Afghanistan) no longer offer organized skiing. Check out the map from Vanat’s report.
- An additional 15 countries (Bhutan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, Venezuela) receive snowfall or have glaciers which are skiable, although there are no organized ski areas. Fifteen more countries have either indoor or outdoor dry slopes.
- Regionally, 35% of ski areas are in the Alps, followed by 21% in the Americas. Nineteen-percent are in Asia and the Pacific, while 13% are in Eastern Europe and 12% are in Western Europe.
- Looking just at “major” resorts (that is resorts with more than 1 million skier visit annually), 85% are in the Alps, 14% are in the Americas and 2% are in Western Europe.
- Over the past few years, La Plagne, France has had the most skier visits in the world (approximately 2.5 million annually). The top North American resort in terms of skier visits is Whistler-Blackcomb (number 6 on the list, with just around 2 million annual visits). Vail and Breckenridge are numbers 9 and 11 on the list, while Mammoth, the next North American resort listed is 30th.
- The inbound skier market counts skiers who ski in their home country. The outbound skier market counts those who travel out of country to ski. The largest outbound markets are in Germany and the U.K., both of which have strong ski cultures.
- The countries producing the largest number of new skiers are in Asia and Eastern Europe. These regions are also building infrastructure at a higher rate than traditional skiing regions.
- Finally, while France, Austria and the U.S. have the most ski lifts (at about 3,000 each), the United States has, by far, the most ski resorts (counted as ski areas with more than 4 lifts) at over 350. Japan is second with around 280.
This is just a quick sampling of the mountains of data contained in this report.
In addition to comparing skier data worldwide, Vanat also digs into the particulars of each region and country, as well as indoor skiing and summer skiing. All told the report runs to 200 pages.
About the Author
Laurent Vanat is an independent consultant, with a Master’s degree in commercial & industrial sciences from the University of Geneva. Mr. Vanat has more than 30 years of professional experience as both a business consultant and a senior executive in upper management.
Heavily involved in the tourism, hospitality & leisure industry, Mr. Vanat has closely followed the ski area industry for many years, tracking skier visits and collecting statistical data. Noting the difficulty in consolidating this information for the Swiss market, he found a way to contribute to the industry by taking the initiative to start a systematic collection of visitor data and publishing an end of season report.
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