Although the Alpine region produces only 15 percent of all skiers, it attracts 43 percent of all skier visits worldwide. Photo: Oberstdorf- Kleinwalsertal

The global ski market

Facts & trends for 2019

Ski resorts are merging in the USA, ski centres are booming in China, and international guests are becoming increasingly important in the Alpine region.


130 million skiers, 26,000 lifts and 6,000 ski resorts in 67 countries: the current figures from the 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism sound impressive. In proportion to the global population, only two percent of people ski, but they maintain whole economic sectors and regions with their sport in the respective countries.


“The fastest growing ski destinations are eastern europe and China, although smaller market players are increasingly appearing, such as Cyprus, Greece, Iran and Israel,” study author Laurent Vanat reports. ski resorts are also increasingly appearing in Morocco, Lebanon, New Zealand, Pakistan, south Africa and Turkey.

Ski resorts & infrastructure

Despite the growing number of market players, the Alpine region still maintains its leading position. More than a third of all 2,113 fully fledged ski resorts are based in the central European mountains. These are followed by the American market (21%), Asia/Pacific (19%), as well as Western and eastern Europe (12 and 11%).


A similar picture emerges in the distribution of the 26,334 lift systems worldwide. The Alpine region accounts for 39 percent, Western Europe 17 percent and America 16 percent. The number of cable cars in operation in eastern Europe and the Asia/Pacific region is roughly equal (14 and 13%).


“The largest distortion can be found in the distribution of the 51 largest ski resorts: 80 percent of these are in the Alps, 14 percent in America and six percent in Western Europe,” Vanat says. other regions do not appear in these statistics.

Laurant Vanat

Study author of the “2018 international report on snow & mountain tourism”

“Whereas disruptive business models are being developed in europe, North America is undergoing market cleansing with the two major players Vail resort and Alterra Mountain. In Austria, large contiguous ski resorts have emerged, thanks to new cable cars. Last but not least, the ski market in China is booming: 57 new ski resorts were opened in 2017 alone!”

China is undisputedly one of the world’s booming ski markets. Photo: AXess

Development of skier visits

The majority of the ski industry is moreover concentrated in ski resorts with over 100,000 skier visits per year. Although these ski resorts constitute 20 percent of all destinations, they generate 80 percent of all 400 million skier visits.


This figure has been stable for 15 years, as the mature markets have diminished whilst the new markets have expanded. Only Japan has recorded a dramatic decline. “The Alps still remain the world’s largest ski destination. They record 43 percent of skier visits worldwide,” study author Vanat emphasises.


The second strongest region is America (esp. North America) on 21 percent. The non- Alpine european countries produce ele- ven percent of all skier visits, although these are divided between numerous small ski resorts. Asia and the Pacific previously had the same market share as America.


However, the growing ski market in China has not yet compensated for the continuing decline of the industry in Japan. “In the long term, countries such as India and Pakistan will contribute to the improvement of Asian significance on the global market,” Vanat predicts.

International skiers in the Alps

Worldwide, at present, there are 130 million people who ski. Thanks to Asia and eastern europe, this number seems to be growing. Furthermore, there are increasing numbers of skiers from countries that have no ski resorts of their own. one good example of this is the Netherlands, with around a million skiers, who pursue their sport abroad.


International guests are especially important for the Alpine region; although the region represents only 15 percent of all skiers, it attracts 43 percent of skier visits. No other region has such a high proportion of foreign skiers.

The market for ski centres, such as here in Germany, is growing. Photo: alpenpark-neuss.de

Trends in market shares

Eastern Europe and Asia/Pacific produce 35 percent of all skiers worldwide but record only 24 percent of skier visits.


“However, both markets have great growth po- tential, as few new ski resorts are emer- ging in the traditional markets and the number of new lift systems in eastern europe and Asia is increasing more strongly than in the Alps or North America,” Vanat says.


In 2020, eastern europe and Asia will probably achieve numbers that are similar to the other major markets.

China: land of ski centres

The market for ski centres is likewise growing, with around 90 in operation worldwide. especially in China, the number of indoor facilities has increased – 14 new ski centres were constructed there between 2015 and 2017.


“With 21 indoor ski centres, China is now the global market leader, followed by the Netherlands, Great britain, Germany, Japan and India,” Vanat reports. Thus, Asia/Pacific accounts for 52 percent of ski centres, and Western Europe for 34 percent.

Mergers in the USA and Austria

In the outdoor ski sector, it is worth no- ting the ski resort mergers, which have increased in recent years. Market concentration is being recorded particularly in the UsA and Austria.


Examples of this include the mergers of Park City, ski Arlberg, saalbach and snow space Salzburg. “Discounted ski passes for several ski resorts at once are an accompanying trend, for example such as the Magic Pass in switzerland,” Vanat concludes. ts

Downloadable study

The global ski market is characterised by many more facts, data and trends. The 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism is too extensive to represent it in full in this article. However, the study can be downloaded free of charge at: www. vanat.ch/internati- onal-report-on- snow-mountain- tourism