It is International Mountain Day today and ski season has come to the UK with temperatures set to drop to -12 degrees Celsius across some parts of the country.
While it doesn’t look like there will be enough snow to transform the UK into a premier skiing destination, Britain exports more skis and snowboards to countries outside the EU than any other member of the bloc excluding Austria, according to data from Eurostat.
Austria exported 2.5m pairs of skis and snowboards last year — 34 per cent of all EU countries’ exports, while the UK exported just over 1m.
The majority of the UK’s exports are of cross-country skis, which it sold more than 940,000 of last year to countries outside the EU.
Unlike normal skiing, cross-country skiing takes place on flat ground.
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Last year, over 7.3m pairs of skis and individual snowboards were exported by EU member states to other countries, particularly the US.
Within the EU, 4.3m skis and snowboards were traded.
Is the ski industry in decline?
Partly due to poor snow conditions across a number of popular European ski resorts in recent years, the industry has experienced a slowdown in the last decade.
Exports of ski equipment has dropped by 3.3m since 2006.
Swiss researcher Laurent Vanat, who publishes an annual International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism said:
Nearly everywhere, the industry is facing the challenge of generating long term growth. In many places, the market is more than mature and the baby-boomers represent the majority of participants. This generation will progressively exit some of the mature markets without being adequately replaced by future generations with the same enthusiasm for skiing.
Charles Owen, managing director of European Pubs Ltd, which operates bars and restaurants in French resorts echoed Vanat’s concerns:
Like golf, skiing is not a cheap sport, and there is a bubble of wealth that is getting older. I see a situation in the future ski market, where if we are not careful we are not going to get enough young people into skiing and skiing regularly.
The Brexit effect
Since the UK voted to leave the EU last year, the value of sterling has dropped, making it more expensive for holidaymakers to travel in Europe.
There is no guarantee Britons will continue to come over in such numbers. In France they are concerned if UK firms stop selling the holidays, there will need to be a restructuring of the market.
At French ski resorts like Val-d’Isere and Meribel, there are already significantly less Britons than there once were, he added.