The snow and mountain tourism industry is facing the challenge of generating long-term growth. According to the 2019 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, compiled by Laurent Vanat and released earlier this month, baby-boomers and mature enthusiasts represent the majority of participants, and due to their age, these participants will progressively be exiting the market, without being replaced with the same enthusiasm by younger generations. The challenge everywhere, explains the report, is therefore to attract a younger generation that quickly moves from one interest to another, and tends to have different consumption patterns anyway.

Despite these trends, the winter season 2017/18 showed a global upward trend for the second year in a row, after three years of decline. The 2017/18 winter ranked as the 4th best ski season of the new millennium. The growth was led by China, which is now the third-largest nation in the world in terms of the number of national skiers. The growth was not limited to the Asia-Pacific region, as all other regions except the Americas experienced higher usage of ski resorts.

Of the 2,084 ski resorts worldwide, more than one third (37%) are located in the Alps, followed in terms of geographical distribution by the Americas at 21 percent, and the Asia-Pacific region at 19 percent. The Alps are also the most intensely equipped region of the industry, with more than 10,000 ski-lifts. The countries with the largest numbers of ski resorts in the world are the U.S., Japan, France and Italy, all with more than 200 each. They are more than 350 in the U.S.

In terms of skier visits, the Alps were the biggest ski destination in the world during the 2017/18 season, attracting 44 percent of skier visits. The second biggest destination was the Americas, mostly North America, capturing 21 percent of skier visits worldwide. Austria and France were the only countries with more than ten resorts that generate over one million skier visits per season. In terms of foreign tourists, France, the U.S. and Spain are the countries that attract the largest numbers. The top three world resorts, based on their average annual skier visits, are La Plagne in France at the top spot, followed by SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental in Austria and Les Arcs in France.

The Alpine countries, although geographically part of western Europe, are treated as a separate group in Vanat's annual report, due to their importance in terms of market share. This group of countries includes Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Slovenia.