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Skiing is one of life's great experiences. Slipping, sliding, whizzing and whooshing down a mountain covered with snow, in the crisp, sparkly air is one of the best things you can do. (Full disclosure: I've skied since I was 10 or so — I learned in Scotland — and used to be a ski guide, for Thomson and Crystal.)
Skiing hooks people — because it scores maximum points in the 5-star Experience Rating system, which benchmarks any experience against 5 criteria: flow, mastery, awesomeness, relatedness, story. Think about it. When you ski:
So if skiing's so great already, what can ski resorts/ski companies do to stand out? In order to entice people to go to their resort/book with them, there are a few tried and true ideas.
Give people more opportunities to:
be in flow
get a sense of mastery
be touched by something awesome
spend quality time with friends
Lots of ski resorts/companies are doing their best to follow steps 1, 2, and 3 for winter season 2016/17.
What follows are some stand-out examples I've come across.
There are plenty of gimmicky, one-off experiences. We're not knocking them. (In my seasons in Courchevel and Alpe d'Huez, I loved parapenting, and night time skiing after too much cheese fondue and white wine.) But people are here, primarily, to ski. So we think the best thing is not to add bells and whistles, but to enhance what's already there. If we were talking about the cake, the icing is all well-and-good, but it's the cake that matters. (Pushing the analogy? Hope you get the point.)
"We completely agree — experiences make the difference!" says Sara Roloff, communications manager for UK & Ireland at Switzerland Tourism. "That's why we are working on an experience finder for our website and have launched the platform #inLOVEwithSWITZERLAND where we gather all the great experiences our guests have on their holiday."
The obvious way to do this is also expensive: newer, better lifts, especially ones that solve bottlenecks that leave people queuing for ages. For example:
New lifts are a good idea — but of course that hardware isn't cheap. And what you're doing is eliminating bad experience, rather than creating great experience. It should be a hygiene factor.
Another good idea that's making tracks (see what I did there!) is ski touring…
"Ski touring — with nights in refuge huts , sleeping under the stars always pretty magical — is seeing huge growth, as the ski market ‘matures’ and looks for new challenges and stays current with fitness trends," says Richard Lumb, director, Kaluma Travel.
There's some quantitative evidence of the rise in ski touring. See this article in Forbes from 2015: Skiing's Hottest Trend Is An Uphill Battle, which refers to a 2013 article in Colorado’s Post Independent which said “Touring equipment is the fastest growing category in the outdoor sports market.” Also, the SnowSports Industries America called alpine/AT (alpine touring) convertible boots “one of hottest items” in the marketplace with a one year sales leap of 27%.
"The equipment is telling it’s own tale," says Lumb. "Touring bindings used to be only sold at specialist mountaineering retailers, now it’s going fairly mainstream. So many more people have had off piste opened up to them due to ski design, so this is the next step to be able to guarantee/earn the privilege of fresh tracks now that everyone can access the easy to reach the powder. Norway specialists that we talk to seem to be fully booked every season.
Here are some great examples of touring:
New… for RED RUN skiers (note: this is back-country off-piste ski tour)… in the Dolomites, Italy… six-day tour… to explore 1,200km of piste with a fully qualified ski instructor…
"staying in traditional mountain refugios along the way. While the accommodation may not match some of the high-end chalets clients are used to, the experience itself will more than make up for that."
Norwegian exploration travel company Hurtigruten has created a (frankly compelling) new 3-day ski tour — "the chance to explore some of Norway’s secret slopes and thickest powder", and see the Northern Lights… "A guaranteed feast for the senses and a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"
Taking inspiration from the legendary Alpine Haute Routes, the new three-dayArctic Haute Route, travelling between Bodø and Tromsø, offers skiers and snow-boarders the chance to experience the remote secret slopes of northern Norway. From Lofoten to Vesteralen, MS Nordstjernen will host the ski adventurers along the majestic Norwegian coastline, exploring new destinations every day. Our experts will be on hand to guide guests to the summits of the most beautiful peaks. Not only will skiers take in the stunning surroundings, but they could also be lucky enough to witness the spectacular Northern Lights during their journey.
Anthony Daniels, Head of Sales, UK and Ireland said; “We are delighted to offer our guests the chance to ski above the Arctic Circle for the first time. We know our guests are seeking truly unique experiences and the new Arctic Haute Route not only satisfies this, but also gives customers ‘ultimate bragging rights’ amongst their friends when they return home. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that only the Hurtigruten Explorer programme can deliver.”
In addition to the ski tours, the Arctic Haute Route voyage also offers excursions such as sea eagle safari, deep-sea fishing or kayaking at an extra charge should guests wish for a change of scene from the slopes.
The thrill of off-piste, without the inherent commitment and danger. For when you've mastered on-piste, but you're not quite ready for the big, next step.
Serre Chevalier has Brut de Neige
"the excitement of off-piste, without the risks. The challenging ski runs andnatural ungroomedsnow give a unique downhill experience: rediscover authentic, old-school skiing! The big advantage of Brut de Neige : all runs are safety and avalanche checked to offer you the best skiing experience."
La Plagne has "no more grooming on the Glacier"
"Due to demand, the Glacier de la Chiaupe, at 3,250 metres, is getting a whole new look. It will no longer be groomed – instead, skiers will enjoy five natural runs that are safe but ungroomed, called ‘Pistes Natur’. This will mean a natural descent on powder snow that is more of a challenge than a groomed run for those with ski experience."
Avoriaz's Stash is safe off-piste for parents and kids
is a free-form ski area that is mix of off-piste and snowpark, aimed at "parents and children from intermediate to advanced level wishing to ride backcountry and freestyle together."
It's a "large expanse of un-groomed snow it is ideal for trying out wide turns in powder snow. These slopes wind in and out of the trees in the Lindarets forest and are punctuated with hidden wooden obstacles all around the circuits that skiers stumble across when hurtling down a ‘secret passage’. You have to ski or snowboard down the same slope many times to discover all the concealed modules"
The thrill of heli-skiing… at a more affordable price. A small tour company called Eleven, which believes that "Life is about the experience", offers a day's cat skiing in a place called Irwin, because "Irwin is only 10 miles from the town of Crested Butte, Colorado, it receives three times more snow than the town itself. At an average of 600 inches per year, Irwin is considered a powder mecca, often compared to Alta, Utah and the Canadian Rockies".
Answering the question: why come to our resort? The answer seems to be: you'll not only get great skiing, you'll get extras that appeal to you.
Note: we don't believe that it's ultimately the attraction that pulls people in, but the people that the attraction attracts.
This is the highest-altitude arts centre in Europe… The Telegraph has suggested that "Exceptional concerts, new artistic endeavours and inviting chalets could help Austria's Alberg 1800 become the cultural centre of the Alps"
Designed by the Austrian architect Jürgen Kitzmüller and built at a cost of €26 million, the gallery and concert-hall complex is an aesthetically ambitious concrete structure partially concealed within the mountain on which it stands, incorporating an acoustically outstanding auditorium, its undulating walls clad in carefully calibrated strips of reverberant pine and capable of accommodating 200 people. (“A milestone” in the design of venues for chamber music, Andreas Grossbauer, chief executive of the Vienna Philharmonic, calls it.)
It’s curated by section.a, the art agency that, for example, oversees the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the gallery will follow a similar policy of nurturing up-and-coming artists. An existing artist-in-residence programme will also be expanded, the result of which are forming an ever-evolving permanent collection of works and installations. It’s early days, but in cultural terms Arlberg 1800 has the potential to become the Aspen of the Austrian Alps.
Swing On Snow Winter Music Festival – 19 to 26 March 2017
The Swing on Snow 2017 music festival, now in its 12th year in a row, offers a mix of traditional folk music with jazz, soul, pop and classical music. The bands play on the numerous ski slopes on the Alpe di Siusi in the morning, in the mountain huts at lunchtime and then in the villages of Castelrotto, Siusi, Fiè and Tires in the evening.
near La Clusaz (since 2009) and in Tignes (since 2014)
With their very wide, under-inflated wheels to give great grip and control, Fatbikes are a big hit in La Plagne. This season sees the offering expanded with more bikes and longer opening hours ensuring there is a great choice of downhill or touring biking options after the slopes close.
La Plagne: Twice as steep as the average zip line (16% gradient), the ‘Supertyro’ stretches from Plagne Aime 2000 to Plagne Centre and offers a clear view of Mont Blanc, zigzagging through trees and the whole valley on the descent. Duration: 30/40 seconds approx. Drop: 140 m. Speed: 80/90 km/hr. Length 600 m.
Val Thorens: A glide over 1300 m, 1 minute 45 seconds, from the 3 Valleys peak at 3230m, at the top of the Bouchet chairlift in the Orelle resort over to the Val Thorens crest at 3000m, faster than 100 km.
In today's connected world, our lives are increasingly like the news: it there isn't footage, it didn't happen. (Which is a shame in many ways, but let's leave that for now.)
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If you work at a ski company, bear in the mind that the best place to look for ideas is NOT in the ski industry. Do that, and you could end up a copycat running a me-too brand. Better to look beyond your vertical market.