Overall visitor numbers to ski resorts ticked marginally upwards in 2018, but global warming, changing demographics, political uncertainty and an ever-growing list of competing leisure activities all remain a threat. Here are four emerging trends that will help attract visitors, followed by a few examples of how ski resorts are pioneering summer events
1. A stronger emphasis on summer tourism
It should be an easy win. If winter-only destinations widen their appeal to attract tourists year round, visitor numbers could more than double. The summer season offers an opportunity for the ski industry to increase revenue and acts as an insurance policy when winters become shorter as a result of climate change.
But the struggle is convincing people that ski towns and villages are about more than snow. The Alpine terrain is well suited to hiking and biking (above), and many resorts put on summer events to broaden their appeal. These are wide ranging and include golf tournaments, music festivals, horse shows, classic-car events, zip-line tours, marathons and endurance competitions. New events are added to this list every year, such as the Morzine-Montriond Triathlon, which took place for the first time in September 2018. Ski resorts will need to continue to be imaginative to reinvent themselves as year-round destinations.
2. Targeting millennials
Baby boomers represent the majority of visitors to the more established ski markets, and the younger generation don’t have the same enthusiasm for winter sports. This is a concern for the ski industry: as the older generation isn’t able to participate, visitor numbers are falling or at least stagnating.
Increasing the appeal for millennials and beyond can be done in a number of ways. They are a more tech-savvy generation, so free WiFi is being rolled out in hotels, lifts and even on the slopes. Ski resorts are embracing social media as a marketing channel, and logistics and communication are being improved with apps. Winter music festivals are well established, such as Verbier’s Festival of classical music and the Unlimited Festival in Chamonix in 2018.
Still more can be done and one area in need of innovation is snowboard and ski lessons. Teaching techniques and how enjoyable the experience is needs to be improved if the industry is going to build a client base.
3. Incorporating wellness
One trend, driven by millennials but embraced by all age groups, is wellness. Worldwide, people are placing a higher value on health.
As consumers seek healthier travel experiences, the ski industry is taking note. As well as the established luxury hotels with large spas, new private residences are incorporating five-star wellness facilities. These include the Lefay Wellness Residences (above), an eco-resort in the Dolomites, and Dixence Resort and thermal spa in Les Collons, Four Valleys.
There is a rise in the number of chalets and hotels specialising in retreats that combine skiing, yoga and luxury wellbeing. Yoga-ski holidays are seen as an up-and-coming trend in the winter-sports market.
Demand for healthy travel goes beyond activities, too: food and drink play an important role. Visitors expect a range of cuisines beyond the traditional, cheese-heavy, Savoie-style dishes. More hotels and ski companies are offering ‘clean’ or vegan menus, embracing the wider global trend.
4. Improving infrastructure
Demand is increasing for weekend skiing trips, rather than the standard week-long holidays. While resorts can’t relocate, and those closer to transport links are more popular for shorter trips, investment is being made into improving infrastructure to shorten transfer times. This includes a new train station in Le Chable that directly connects Verbier to Geneva. Additionally, more flexibility with arrival days, length of stay and lift passes will add to a resort’s appeal.
The best summer events at year-round resorts
Alpe d’Huez and Val d’Isere
Both these resorts are frequently included on a leg of the Tour de France (above), bringing a festival-like atmosphere to the towns as the cyclists pass through.
Verbier hosted its 25th annual Festival of classical music in 2018. The festival attracts 15,000 attendees over a three-week period and draws on internationally renowned musicians.
Crans Montana has a PGA Championship golf course and has hosted the Omega European Masters since 1939. Winners of the competition over the years have included Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, South Africa’s Ernie Els and Britain’s Lee Westwood.
In 2018 Morzine hosted the inaugural Morzine-Montriond triathlon. Every other year the resort hosts the Morzine Harley Days, when thousands of people descend on the resort for a long weekend of music and partying.
For the past 16 years the resort has hosted the annual summer Aspen Arts Festival in July, attracting thousands of visitors to view life-size sculptures, paintings, photography and more.
The Savills Ski Report is an in-depth look at the global ski property market. Find out how resorts are evolving into year-round destinations, take a look at the Savills Resilience Index, compare prices across different resorts and read more market trends and analysis.