This week, the snowsports industry enjoyed one of the regular virtual networking events organised by James Gambrill of the Mountain Trade Network.

The format over three days allowed private one-to-one meetings between suppliers and buyers, destinations and journalists and also featured nine forum events, covering topics from sustainability to big data, the future of snowsports to the mountains in summer.

Almost 60% of people think the 2021/22 ski season will be ‘totally safe’

As always, MTN’s regular polling data threw up some interesting results. One of the most encouraging was that 59% of respondent believe next winter season will be ‘totally safe’.

This question has been asked on a regular basis in the MTN survey and has recovered from a low of 35% in February 2021.

Only 6% of people believed next winter season would be ‘Not Safe’

Although we have learned that circumstances can change at short notice, we anticipate this figure will increase as travel starts again and more countries are added to the ‘green list’ – an action in itself which will be influential in forming public opinion.

One in three believe that numbers on the mountain will be restricted

When asked what measures might become permanent in ski resorts, it was interesting to see that 36% think that we will see capacity limited on the mountain.

This is interesting to note as technically there have been no limits on numbers on the mountain in Europe in most cases. Evidently, most resorts were closed, but in Switzerland, limits were put in place on the numbers in lifts, but not on the hill.

When I interviewed Helena Hopital from Les 2 Alpes on The Ski Podcast, she suggested that there would be a limited number of lift tickets on sale for any single day one summer skiing on their glacier opened.

A huge majority (91%) think it’s likely there will be limited numbers in cable cars or gondolas next winter.

However, this summer, while French ski lifts (including in Les 2 Alpes, Tignes and Chamonix) will be allowed to open at first with just 50% capacity from May 19, this will increase to 100% by June 30.

We will be following this closely, but there are reasons for optimism that lifts will operate at full capacity normally in winter 2020/21.

It’s perhaps a quirk of the numbers, but while nine in ten think lifts will have limited capacity, only 60% think there will be social distancing in lift queues. Logically, it seems unlikely that you would not have to space out in a queue, but then go into a lift that wasn’t full.

The same anomaly applies to masks: only 61% of people think masks are likely to be compulsory.

Two-thirds of holidaymakers think testing and vaccine passports are likely

What will travel look like next winter? The MTN results make it clear that few respondents think we will be back to ‘normal’ by December.

68% believe that testing before travel will be likely or definite and over half expect vaccine passports to be in place.

Perhaps surprisingly, over one quarter believe that it will still be necessary to quarantine on return to the UK and 16% think quarantine on arrival is likely.

As with the numbers expecting travel to be ‘safe’, I anticipate these figures will change once travel opens up again and more countries are added to the ‘Green List’.

“It’s the size of the ski area, stupid!”

The good news for resorts associated with Covid outbreaks, such as Ischgl, is that ‘History of Coronavirus cases’ comes at the bottom of the list of factors influencing the choice of resort.

To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s successful Presidential strategy in 1992, “It’s the size of the ski area, stupid.”

This is followed closely as a factor by altitude, which no resort can change (unless the mountains shrink).

Ski areas can notionally get bigger by adding in connecting lifts that few people use, but technically increase the linked area (watch this space re the proposed Monterosa project).

Resorts’ sustainability policies are important

One very encouraging finding from the MTN survey was that 63% of respondents say that the environmental policies a destination has in place have a significant impact on their choice of resort.

This has gone up since the last MTN survey and may be influenced on how lockdown has affected people’s perceptions of outdoor activities.

The presentation by Dom Winter from the Protect Our Winters lobbying group found in their own survey that 67% of people report that the ‘outdoors matters even more’ to them following the restrictions put in place during lockdowns.

If you want to reduce your impact when you take your next ski holiday, the biggest single difference you can make is to Ski Flight Free. However, it’s also important to keep up to date with different resorts policies – Save Our Snow is an excellent resource for this.

Solar panels in Serre Chevalier