Last week, we attended the annual LISTEX & SASTEX online event, organised by the Mountain Trade Network.

The two-day event started with a presentation by James Gambrill, General Manager at the Ski Club of Great Britain.

He revealed the results of the end-of-season consumer report. We take a look here at some of the main takeaways from the report.

UK Market estimated at 1.2 million adults

The survey suggests that 8% of UK adults have been on a snowsports holiday at some point and that 3% of all UK adults took a snowsports holiday in 2022/23.

That suggests the total number of (adult) skiers in the UK is about 3.2 million and the total number of active (adult) skiers is 1.2 million.

Evidently, this overall figure does not include children travelling with their own families or own school trips.

Skiers were more likely to take multiple ski holidays

Compared with the previous season, the research showed that while the proportion of skiers taking single trips was down YoY, higher percentages chose to take two or more trips.

“It’s the economy, stupid”

When asked why non-skiers had not taken a trip, 42% put that decision down to cost, proving that some maxims (such as the one that helped Bill Clinton win the 1992 presidential election) never change.

Only one-quarter of holidays are ‘late bookings’

Almost three-quarters of skiers booked their trip at least three months in advance, leaving only around a quarter of the market to win over in the fight for ‘late bookings’ (which can make or break a tour operator’s winter).

Fewer skiers crossing the Atlantic; more crossing the North Sea

France, Austria and Italy remain the most popular destinations for British skiers. However, while the numbers are very small, the report suggests that ski trips to the USA and Canada have suffered, while Norway has seen significant growth.

Note that these percentages add up to more than 100% as some skiers travelled to more than one country during the season.

January was more popular in 2024

The report suggests that a significantly higher proportion of skiers took their holiday during January than in 2023, increasing from 46% of all trips to 58% of all trips.

With this graph, it’s worth noting that the percentages add up to more than 100% (as some skiers travel in more than one month).

Note that some columns represent complete months, while others only show single weeks. Aggregating the totals, it’s interesting to see how each month compares:

December – 32%
January – 58%
February – 35%
March – 44%
April – 13%

Many tour operators tend to automatically close down their operations after Easter. However, given the excellent snow record in April in recent years, there must be an opportunity to extend the season and bank incremental revenues.

The catered chalet holiday is not dead (but it’s much smaller than it used to be)

Compared to the five-year average pre-Covid, the percentage of skiers booking chalets has tumbled from 38% to just 13%.

That change is all about supply, not demand. The data should really be labelled ‘Pre Brexit’, as the end of freedom of movement was a huge factor in companies deciding it was too expensive to staff chalets.

To that you can add the shortened 19/20, 20/21 and 21/22 seasons that put many chalet companies out of business.

We should note that the chalet companies that have continued, such as Le Ski and Skiworld, have continued to do well, picking up a higher market share.

Disappointing: only 2% of skiers travel by train

Given the existential threat that climate change poses to the snowsports industry, it remains disappointing to see how few skiers are prepared to switch away from flying.

As a reminder, if you fly to your ski holiday, that represents 60-75% of the carbon cost of your trip. You can reduce the impact by 90% if you choose to travel by train, but the resport suggests that only 2% of skiers chose to do this last winter.

You can find out more about how to Ski Flight Free here.

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

As we saw above, price is the main reason ‘not’ to take a ski holiday, but if you are taking a trip then the biggest influence on the choice of destination is the size of the ski area, closely followed by the resort’s altitude.

In simple terms, British skiers don’t want to risk being bored on the same few runs (whether that’s due to the number of runs overall, or the number of runs open if the snow conditions are poor).

This preference for ‘big resorts’ is another reason why every ski area is always exploring how to make their official ‘kilometres of pistes’ figure higher, by introducing new lifts or bus links.

Cold is good; Cold is bad

Finally, we found these word clouds fascinating.

They group together the words most commonly cited in the answers of those who had ‘Previously been’ skiing, those who had ‘Never tried, but would like to’ and those who are adamant they will never go skiing.

Is cold good or bad? Discuss.

What’s next for LISTEX?

The next MTN event is LISTEX Luxury on 12 June