Top Five Fridays - May 10, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: A European Competitor to the Epic and Ikon Passes Emerges: Introducing the Snowpass:
First up in ski news this week is an exciting development for both European skiers and ski business nerds in general. As you well know, Epic and Ikon are the commonly accepted giants in the world of multi passes, with several smaller options occupying a slightly lower tier of prominence. That was, until this week when we caught wind of the Snowpass, the first direct competitor to the Ikon and Epic passes in Europe. Actually, that may be an understatement. As it turns out, upon launching, the Snowpass immediately became the largest multi-pass in the world, offering access to over 100 resorts in 9 different European countries. For comparison’s sake, the Ikon pass offers access in varying degrees to 39 resorts, while the Epic pass includes 69 resorts. To make the deal even sweeter, the Snowpass is currently on sale for the ridiculously low price of just $440 for the first 50,000 passes sold. The one, slight, difference between the Snowpass and its North American counterparts, is that it limits skiers to 10 days at each resort rather than offering unlimited access. Still, it seems like a pretty good deal considering it ultimately offers the equivalent of over 1,000 lift tickets.
For European skiers, this is undoubtedly welcome news as a multi-pass like this has the chance of being an incredibly convenient way to ski at many of Europe’s finest ski areas. For those of us in North America who have been following the rise of the Epic and Ikon passes, it also creates a new challenge for the two industry giants as they’re now forced to navigate their geo-diversification strategies with a large competitor located in Europe. As that situation continues to develop, we’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the latest. For now, we’ll defer you to the official Snowpass website to learn more.
#2: Skiing Continues to Grow in Popularity in China:
Next up: an update regarding the ski scene in China. If you’ve been following Top 5 Fridays for a while now, you’ll already know that the sport’s been growing in popularity over the last few years, and now we’re starting to see it emerge from its infancy and enter toddlerhood. Let’s start by backtracking: way back in August of 2015, we shared the news that Beijing had won the contract to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Along with that news, we briefly mentioned that the country had already begun promoting winter sports participation in its airports. Since then, things have changed dramatically. In the years between then and now, we’ve reported headlines such as the introduction of mandatory winter sports participation at the nation’s schools, and the opening of new ski resorts, both of which are part of an effort being orchestrated by the Chinese government.
We mention all of this because this week we learned that participation in skiing amongst Chinese citizens continued to grow in 2018, reaching 13.2 million skiers. Last year’s results make for at least the fifth consecutive year in which the sport grew in popularity, having risen from 8.05 million skiers in 2014 to 13.2 million last year. To host the growth in popularity of the sport, there has also been an 81% increase in the number of ski resorts over the past five years, with a total of 742 currently open for business. There is, however, a plot twist. As you may recall, about a year ago we shared an article that revealed the fact that, as Chinese skiers become more experienced, they’re already looking to travel beyond their borders for an even better ski experience. This week’s article doubles down on that assertion as it dives a bit deeper into the increase of Chinese ski tourism in areas such as St. Anton in Austria.
To be fair, we could spend a considerable amount of time delving into the details and drawing connections between the rise of the Chinese ski population and its effects on the global ski economy. But, Top 5 Friday features are supposed to be a brief overview of the latest in the ski world, so we’ll turn you over to this week’s article from China Daily, where you can learn more and start to form your own opinions!
#3: PistenBully Announces World’s First All Electric Groomer:
Moving right along, we’re very excited to share this next piece of news with you. Earlier this week, PistenBully announced the PistenBully 100 E, a brand new, all electric groomer. This is pretty exceptional news for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s a start towards addressing climate change from a mountain ops standpoint. As you may already know, Vail has recently made an Epic Promise, in which they hope all of their resort operations will be energy and waste neutral by 2030. For Vail, and other resorts hoping to reduce their carbon footprint, the introduction of emissions free, electric groomers is huge news as mountain operations in general tend to leave a large carbon footprint. The second reason why this is great news, is because it’s a groomer we’re talking about. While the PistenBully 100 is amongst the brand’s smaller snow-pushers, the fact of the matter is that moving snow around is no easy feat. With that in mind, the introduction of the world’s first all electric groomer is significant for the fact that its proof that an electric vehicle is capable of significant power output. As such, we suspect it’s only a matter of time before PistenBully is able to begin offering all electric versions of their larger groomers as well. For more information regarding this new and exciting update, check out the official PistenBully website.
#4: Rollerblade Launches New “Skate to Ski” App, Just in Time for Summer:
Finally, we’ll leave you with a fun update from our friends over at Rollerblade. It’s no secret that rollerblading is likely the closest replacement you can find for skiing when there isn’t snow on the ground. The question for many though, is just how similar is it? Well, as the folks over at Rollerblade hope to show you, the two sports have enough in common that rollerblading can be the perfect way to cross train. This week, we caught wind of a new app they’ve just released called “Skate to Ski.” The goal of the app is simple: to help skiers who are looking to utilize rollerblading as a technique to maintain their skiing form and conditioning throughout the summer.
What’s particularly nice about this app, is that it doesn’t matter what your ability level is in terms of rollerblading. If you’re an excellent skier but have never strapped on a pair of blades, the app allows you to start at square one, learning the basics of rollerblading such as how to make wedge turns (the equivalent of a “snow plow”) and braking on hills. From there, you can progress at your own pace, using the familiar green circle - black diamond scale associated with each phase. Of course there will likely be those who ask, “what does this have to do with skiing? Isn’t it just rollerblading?” To them, we’d point to Rollerblade’s specific comparisons to ski techniques within the app. By showing how moves such as the “Power Carve” are done on both skis and rollerblades, skaters of all levels will be able to recognize how the techniques they’re perfecting on rollerblades translate to the ski slope. All in all, it’s a pretty cool idea, and certainly an innovative way to introduce the sport of rollerblading to more skiers. For more information, check out the official Rollerblader Skate to Ski Website!