Ski holidays are going downhill.
Not necessarily in quality, but definitely in popularity. Especially with the younger generations.
Recent studies suggest that fewer and fewer millennials (18-34 years old) are choosing to go on skiing holidays.
But why aren’t people flocking to the slopes like the used to? And what will happen when the older generation has had one too many hip and knee replacements and can’t get on the slopes anymore?
The Money Issue
The biggest reason for the change in holiday preferences is also the most obvious; money.
Young people just can’t afford it.
The millennial generation is the first generation in over 100 years which is financially worse off than their parents.
The result is that the younger generations are looking to spend less on luxuries like holidays.
And as almost everyone knows, ski holidays are not cheap.
There are of course costs which can’t be avoided like the cost of travel, accommodation, food and drink.
But ski holidays also come with their own special set of costs.
A ski pass can be several hundred pounds for a week. By the time you add in gear rental, you’re looking at a pretty pricey holiday.
And that’s assuming that everyone has their own coat, salopettes and gloves.
When you’ve got £60,000 of debt by the age of 23, you’re not looking to buy a pair of salopettes to wear for just one week.
When you add up the cost of a ski holiday versus the cost of a summer holiday, it’s a no brainer. But it’s not just the cost that matters to young people. Its value for money.
Social media sites like Instagram make it easy to compare other’s holiday snaps to your own.
The exotic locations which are now widely available mean that skiing holidays just don’t cut the mustard any more.
Young people would rather save up and travel to Dubai, or India or the Caribbean than splash their hard-earned cash in the Italian Alps or French Pyrenees.
But it isn’t just young people to blame.
The industry has to shoulder part of the responsibility as well.
Ski holidays have started to fall into very distinct categories. Which is fine, except there is no longer a standard option.
Hotels, and even entire resorts, advertise themselves based on who they want to attract.
There are family-friendly resorts which have limited nightlife while others are almost exclusively nightlife and cater to uni students.
Some resorts are so luxurious that even if you do find cheap accommodation, you’ll never be able to afford to eat in a restaurant unless you are part of the older, more affluent generation.
So if you are out of your cheap uni days where the only thing that mattered was beer and music, you don’t have a family, and you aren’t loaded, where do you go?
The answer for most is simple; you go on a summer holiday.
Speaking of Summer
Okay, not exactly summer but definitely warm temperatures. Climate change is, of course, having an impact on skiing.
As temperatures rise around the world, snow is becoming more and more unpredictable.
Of course, if you head to deepest darkest Canada or Northern Finland then you are guaranteed snow.
But it’s expensive and these areas just haven’t had the development.
But now, even the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps and across America are using man-made snow more frequently.
So why would a generation already strapped for cash shell out to go on a holiday when even the snow is fake and there is a perfectly good indoor slope down the road.
Those who do pay good money and are met with green grass rather than a white wonderland are unlikely to do the same a second time.
The EVEN Younger Generation
But it isn’t just the middle generation that is not skiing as much.
It’s also the youngest generation of them all; school children.
School trips are becoming few and far between. And if you think the budget committee is going to sign off on an expensive week away, you’ve got another think coming.
That’s not even mentioning the health and safety procedures. Imagine how much paperwork is needed to take a class of over-excited 14-year-olds away to a dangerous environment and let them slide down a hill.
For most schools, it’s just not worth it.
So it’s up to parents to introduce their children to skiing.
But as resorts and package holiday companies increase prices over school holidays and parents are published for taking kids out in term time, its almost impossible to take kids skiing now.
So, as the youngest among us don’t get the chance to dip their toes into the snow, they are less likely to pursue it as they get older.
We currently have a generation who wants to ski but can’t afford it and they are raising a generation of children who don’t have the desire to ski at all.
Don’t Forget the Older Generation
The over 45’s currently account for two-thirds of skiers.
That’s a lot.
It’s not really a surprise as they can not only afford it, but are generally a more active generation.
After all, they did go to school when PE was mandatory and they had to walk 10-miles to school every day.
At least, that’s what my dad is always telling me.
But as they age, their active childhood is coming back to haunt them in the form of knee replacement surgery and back pain.
The result is that they can’t do things like skiing as often as they used to.
A week in a ski resort used to mean first-lift last-lift every day. But now the older generation is taking days off to go to a spa, a local attraction or go shopping.
As a result, the divide in resorts is growing. Resorts which invest in and can cater to a more luxury client attract the older generation and grow wealthier.
Those which can’t, have to attract families or uni students. But as we’ve said, there are less of both demographics heading to slopes now.
Not ALL Doom and Gloom
But despite the decline in numbers, it doesn’t mean it’s the end for ski resorts.
As people demand more for their money, resorts are investing in opening up ski areas and connecting small areas with larger ones.
You can now buy passes which let you ski huge sections of mountain ranges for a fairly reasonable price.
The investment in lift structures, snow cannons and new pitses means that those who do go to the mountains will find it easier, faster and slicker than ever.
Huge ranges have opened up as well as jump parks and backcountry routes.
Skiing is becoming cult again.
Freestyle skiing is more mainstream than ever with tricks and flips being taught at ski school.
Heliskiing is getting cheaper and cheaper and more exotic locations are opening up.
Commercial ski holidays are now available in places like Japan, Australia and within the arctic circle.
Clearly it’s not just the number of people of skiing that is changing.
It’s the type of skiing as well. Downhill is less popular while off-piste and freestyle are on the rise.
Social media is full of people upside-down against a blue sky or knee-deep in powder.
Gone are the days of languid downhill runs with skis practically on top of each other.
People want adrenaline-filled, insta-worthy ski holidays.
We may be witnessing the slow decline of the popular ski holiday as the older generation ages.
But we are also witnessing the rise of its cooler younger sibling in which skiing is no longer a hobby for the rich to indulge in once a year.
Skiing is a true passion for many people of all ages. People now spend entire seasons in a resort or chase the snow across continents.
As flights get cheaper, the world of skiing opens up.
Skiers can now travel the globe looking for the coolest, steepest, longest runs.
Previously Europeans stayed in Europe and Americans stayed in America.
Now, it’s a free-for-all.
Different styles are mixing together and new social media stars are influencing how and when we ski.
Although fewer people are heading to the slopes, resorts are still being filled with enthusiasts from all over the globe.
In a time of rising debt and snow shortages, it seems there will always be those who cannot ignore the call of the mountains!