Wintersteiger intends to drag the ski rental industry into the 21st century through the introduction of an automated 3D scanning service. Instead of getting customers to go through the laborious process of trying on boots and then, when finally finding a pair that fits, taking them off again to have the bindings fixed, the new Wintersteiger system automates the process.

Showcased at this year's Ispo Munich fair, its SizeFit system is based on the company's Bootdoc scanner, Vandra, which had won the 2017 Ispo Award for “Product of the Year” in the ski segment. The system was designed to revolutionize boot purchasing by measuring the instep height to ankle circumference, foot length and width to determine the perfect custom fit for a ski boot.

In the SizeFit system, after the scan, a recommendation is made based on the best boot available. Once the boots have been tried and fitted, the customer can keep them on while the bindings are adjusted on the skis to match the boots, using a template sole.

Wintersteiger estimates that the system will save 30-40 percent of the time typically needed to fit a customer. With some ski rental stores fitting up to 1,000 people a day, the efficiency gains could be significant, greatly reducing the waiting time for customers. The system will be trialed in selected stores in 2018 and is scheduled for a rollout in 2019.

Although the figures for 2017 will not be released until March, the Austrian manufacturer of ski maintenance and service machinery and storing solutions seems confident that they will exceed the high levels reached in 2016, when the revenues in its sport sector division grew by 5 percent to €60 million.

As recently reported, Wintersteiger has sent three racing service machines to support athletes from the Austrian Ski Federation (ÖSV) in their quest for gold at the Winter Olympics. However, while Wintersteiger is monitoring Asia, it does not yet have the “China fever” displayed by many sport vendors.

At this stage, the company sees China and South Korea as suitable markets for investments in infrastructure such as ski lifts and snow machines. However, they are not yet developed to the point where skiers understand the need for ski sharpening, waxing and other such services.

In the other major Asian market, Japan, the business has remained stable, but the long-term demographic trend of Japan's population is clear. The skiing and snowboarding population in Japan peaked at 18 million participants in 1998, but fell by 40 percent to 7.4 million in 2015. With the population aging, many people give up skiing as they become older, while fewer young people are skiing and snowboarding due to the diversification of leisure activities.

While the country imported up to 1.8 million pairs of skis annually in the 1990s, the figure has fallen to about 200,000 pairs. In October 2017, the Japanese government and tourism industry launched a campaign to attract more people, including foreign tourists, to Japanese ski resorts in the Hokkaido, Nagani and Niigata prefectures. The results have yet to be gauged.