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Ski Season 2018/19 Was the Best of the Millennium

That’s the verdict of the latest International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism.  The conclusion is based on the number of skiers and snowboarders visiting resorts worldwide.

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Government coronavirus advice

Government coronavirus advice

Each spring, the respected Swiss consultant, Laurent Vanat, publishes his detailed assessment of the global ski industry.

The last few reports have given some signs for optimism, as we reported here on PlanetSKI.

Now, the 12th edition is out and it offers some good news just as resorts and the whole snowsports world are dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2018-19 season was the best in 20 years.

“In today’s depressed environment further to the Covid-19 abrupt closure of the 2019-20 season in most of the northern hemisphere’s ski areas, this is heralding of a better tomorrow,” Laurent Vanat says in his introduction to the report.

“It demonstrates the strength of the ski industry notwithstanding the current situation and allows dreaming that the 2020-21 season will enable a return to a high level of attendance at ski resorts all over the world.”

Laurent Vanat

Laurent Vanat

One of the big winners in the 2018-19 season was the United States, which benefitted from excellent snow conditions and performed well above average.

The number of skier visits* was the 4th best in the past 41 years.

Vanat says it may also have been boosted by the spread of the mega season/multi-resort passes, such as  Alterra’s IKON Pass and Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass.

Silverado chair at Squaw Valley, California, March 2019

A lot of snow in the US – Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, California in March 2019

There’s also been signs of a recovery in some Alpine countries where visitor numbers had been relatively stagnant.

A few have now seen rises for several years in a row.

The report says the trend for discounted multi-resort seasonal passes, which has now reached Europe, appears to have been one of the reasons Switzerland has managed to attract more skiers.

It had 6.2% more skier visits in 2018-19 than the previous winter.

Laax, Switzerland, Jan 15 2019

Laax, Switzerland, January 2019

Italy also welcomed more skiers rising by 1%.

France, however,  could not capitalise on the previous season’s rise of 5.6%, with visitor numbers falling by 0.8% in 2018-19.

The report points out that while France had a lot of snow that season there were few sunny days and considerable disruption to resort operations.

Scandinavia and the southern hemisphere resorts also generally performed well.

One figure of note is that attendance has now gone up for four years in a row at Swedish ski areas.

China is continuing to show signs of expansion, even if its rapidly growing ski infrastructure isn’t being used to its full potential yet.

The report says China reached 20 million skier visits over winter 2018-19.

Wanlong, China

Wanlong, China

However, there’s bad news for skiing in Japan.

After stabilising for a couple of seasons at a level around half of what it was 20 years ago, the number of skiers visiting Japan fell again in 2018-19.

Scotland’s ski areas also had a very poor season as a result of bad weather and lack of snow.

In this article we’ve brought you the main headlines of the report but we’ll be studying it in full – all 226 pages of it – as soon as we can so check back on PlanetSKI for more news.

If you want to read the whole thing yourself, it’s available here.

And please consider helping Laurent Vanat’s crowdfunding campaign to ensure he can continue to update his report every year.

The season of 2019/20 will obviously be heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

See here for our look at its current impact and what may happen next season in 2020/21:

How has coronavirus hit skiing and snowboarding and what does the future hold?

*Skier Visits

Skier visits (or skier-days): One person visiting a ski area for all or any part of a day or night for the purpose of skiing, snowboarding, or other downhill sliding activity. Skier visits include full-day, half-day, night, complimentary, adult, child, season pass and any other type of ticket that gives a skier/snowboarder the use of an area’s facilities. A skier skiing for a whole week at a resort accounts for 7 skier visits (for example).

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