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Ski Tech Revolution Ramps Up

A study involving more than 50 winter sports experts has concluded that digital technology is set for a bigger role in the ski industry, thanks to Covid-19.  But many don’t expect a return to pre-pandemic levels of skiing until 2023.

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The new independent study was commissioned by Mastercard, sponsors of the famous Hahnenkamm races, and is published to coincide with the racing which is due to take place in Kitzbühel this weekend.

The Impact of Technology on the Future of Winter Sports, in times of COVID says the pandemic is set to accelerate the winter sports industry into a technological revolution by 2025.

A total of 53 experts from 15 countries across Europe took part in the study.

Almost half of them (49%) said that pre-Covid levels of general consumer skiing and live attendance would not return until 2023.

It was a similar picture for spectators at winter sports events.

The study looked at the challenges created by Covid-19 and the opportunities for long-term change to improve the winter sports experience.

Key points

*73% of experts – compared to 62% last year – predict contactless experiences throughout resorts by 2025, including for food orders, ski hire and hotel check-ins

*37% of experts predict eSports will have opened up the virtual slopes for people across the globe by 2025, including where skiing isn’t naturally possible

*73% of experts believe the biggest advancement to fan experiences will be digital streaming of events like the Hahnenkamm downhill, with detailed display of performances while athletes race

*43% of experts predict simulations can provide more access to people who have a disability, as they will be able to experience the sport virtually

*By 2025 advanced materials are predicted to be one of the biggest changes to equipment on the slopes, including smart protection with GPS trackers and measuring skiers’ biometric data to insulation materials for warmer but lighter clothing

“The past year has been so strange for everyone with businesses and sport being disrupted across the world,” says Chemmy Alcott, the BBC Ski Sunday presenter and former GB ski racer.

“In a harsh reality, the pandemic has affected everyone in the snow sports industry, not just the skiers or the resort owners.

“Ski resorts are communities in their own right with local businesses and people depending solely on the resorts to live. I fully expect the way resorts and the slopes are run will fundamentally change due to COVID-19 and that’s a good thing, especially if we can build the popularity of skiing through virtual sports and create new exciting events everyone can be a part of.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the slopes and I’m sure the rest of the industry is too. Whether it’s real life or virtually!”

Graham Bell, who represented GB at five Winter Olympics and has raced the Hahnenkamm, says he hopes winter sports are able to bounce back and open up to more people around the world.

Hahnenkamm, Kitz

Hahnenkamm racecourse

“Skiing has always been a pure and wild sport that allows you to disconnect from the world, so technology hasn’t always had the biggest impact,” he says.

“It’s exciting to see what other sports did during the pandemic to keep their fans watching and taking part.

“The idea of a virtual ski world championship or fans racing against their idols is amazing and will give the sport a massive boost.”

The Impact of Technology on The Future of Winter Sports, in times of COVID was led by Professor Dr Sascha L Schmidt from WHU Centre For Sports and Management.

The Hahnenkamm Races take place from January 22nd until 24th 2021. With no spectators allowed, he event will primarily be viewed digitally through dedicated TV channels.

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