After three years of stagnation or decline, the number of skier visits went up by 4 percent worldwide during the 2017/18 winter season, according to the 10th edition of the International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism issued by Laurent Vanat, which now covers 2,113 ski resorts in 67 countries including Bhutan, Congo, Ecuador and Indonesia.
Asked to predict what will happen during the current winter season, Vanat said this week that it is still too early to make a guess. The ski season started out well in the U.S. Hotel reservations at French ski resorts showed an increase as compared to a year ago, but there was sufficient snow to ski only at high altitudes during the holiday season. On the other hand, there was too much snow in Austria to ski properly.
During the 2017/18 season, relatively big increases in skier visits were recorded in the alpine regions, which contain 36 percent of the resorts and welcome 43 percent of the estimated 130 million skiers from all over the world, according to Vanat's annual report. A small contribution came also from China, where 57 new ski resorts opened in the course of 2017.
France became the world's N° 2 ski destination during the 2017/18 season, after Austria, with a 5.3 percent increase to 53.8 million the total number of skier days spent in the country's mountains, as compared to the previous season. France's 250 ski resorts generated €1.4 million in sales last season. The top French resorts, which employ some 120,000 people, invested €318 million in their facilities last year.
The U.S. fell from second to third place with 53.3 million skier days in the past season. Austria remained the world's top destination with 54.5 million skier days. Higher increases of 9.5 percent and 7.5 percent were registered in the number of skiers that visited the ski resorts in Italy and Spain, respectively.
The number of ski visits went up by 7.4 percent in Switzerland last winter, and interestingly, a further 17.0 percent increase was recorded in the number of tourists in the Swiss mountain resorts between May and October, as compared to the previous year, thanks to the exceptionally warm weather and investments made in recent years.
Over the last 14 years, the number of skier days has remained more or less stable overall in Austria and France, while declining only slightly in Switzerland, perhaps in part because of the appreciation of the Swiss franc. On a compound average rate, it has risen by 0.51 percent annually since the 2004/05 season in Austria. It has fallen by 0.01 percent in France and by 1.40 percent in Switzerland. Of course, there have been variations from one year to the next, generally because of the weather. In France and Austria, the lowest figures were recorded in 2006/07. Switzerland touched bottom in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
As usual, skiers came from different countries during the winter season. According to Statista, of all the European countries, the largest number of skiers as of last April came from Germany, with a total of 14.6 million people. It was followed by France with 8.6 million skiers, the U.K. with 6.3 million skiers, Poland with 5.0 million skiers, Italy with 4.9 million skiers, Russia with 4.2 million skiers, Austria with 2.9 million skiers, Switzerland with 2.9 million skiers and Spain with 2.3 million skiers.
As a share of the national population, Switzerland topped the rankings with 37 percent, followed by Austria with 36 percent, Norway with 25 percent and Finland with 24 percent. Statista also says there were 9.2 million active skiers in the U.S. last year, including 2.2 million snowboarders.