The Alps are home to 35% of the world’s ski resorts and attract 44% of global ski visitors annually. The largest and most mature of all global winter sport markets, they are host to 82% of the world’s largest ski resorts, that attract more than a million visitors each season.
Over recent years, France and Austria have seen growth in attendance, whilst Swiss resorts have experienced a steady decline, due to an ageing domestic population, and a trend for foreign skiers (who account for half the Swiss market) to opt for cheaper euro denominated resorts. The un-pegging of the Swiss franc from the euro earlier this year (see The Impact of Currency) may put further downward pressure on Swiss attendance figures.
In spite of this, Switzerland boasts more prestigious ski resorts, and attracts more wealthy skiers from across the globe than any other country. The top tier Swiss resorts, together with a few French and Austrian locations, are frequented by celebrities, European Royalty and business magnates. They are well established destinations for the global super rich, both to ski and to buy property. There remain fiscal advantages to property ownership and or residency in Switzerland.
The United States is the world’s largest ski market (Figure 1), with 56.9 million ski visits in 2014, closely followed by France, with 55.6 million. The Swiss market is half the size of the French and Austrian markets (25.5m visits), but is significant in that it is focused at the premium end.