Winter sports/01/25/2021

Corona Winter 2021: The Gentle Rebellion of Piste Touring

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The Corona winter of 2021 is characterized by alpine standstill and ski touring highs. But how sustainable is the ski touring boom? And what does it mean for the ski resorts? The winter sports industry takes stock of the situation.

Piste tours are becoming increasingly popular among winter sports enthusiasts.
Piste tours are becoming increasingly popular among winter sports enthusiasts.

Lockdown, quarantine on re-entry, closed ski resorts and many other hurdles - the Corona measures of politics hit winter sports hard.

But despite, or perhaps because of, the pandemic and the lack of other sporting opportunities, ski touring, especially piste touring, is experiencing a boom. But is this really sustainable or will it subside again as soon as the ski lifts open again?

Ropeway Operators Not Surprised by the Boom

Manufacturers, including Movement, Völkl and Dynafit, see the trend sport of touring not just as a flash in the pan, sparked by the lack of alternatives in Corona times, but as a boom with long-term potential that began long before Corona and is only experiencing explosive growth with the crisis - especially in the still young discipline of piste touring.

The upswing in touring also came as no surprise to cable car and lift operators. Matthias Stauch, President of the Verband Deutscher Seilbahnen und Schlepplifte e.V. (Association of German Cable Cars and Lifts) and Chairman of the Board of Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG Garmisch-Partenkirchen, has been following this development for some time: "The situation itself is not new. The trend towards touring or piste touring has been developing for years, and activities such as snowshoeing and tobogganing are also gaining in importance."

Piste Tours as an Entry Sport Like Bouldering

The advantages for winter sports enthusiasts are obvious: piste tours represent a low-threshold entry, free of the associated hurdles such as alpine experience, avalanche knowledge and deep-snow suitability. Parallels can be drawn here with the bouldering boom, which was the introduction to climbing for many recreational athletes.

For many die-hard ski tourers, piste tours have long since become a gym substitute: a quick, effective training session for the big touring goals in the open country. For a few years now, more and more athletes have discovered a discipline of their own in piste touring.

The new touring community is fully satisfied with their sport on the edge of the piste. Corona and the resulting lockdown situation with the closed lifts act as a catalyst here.

Emergence of a Hybrid Market

While Stauch welcomes the development, he also warns of the consequences. "We support and welcome this diversity and provide targeted services in many areas. However, we demand that the users of these services also contribute to the costs of them. What is new this season is that the controlling function of the cable cars is missing. With all the negative consequences - which otherwise prevents an organized environment," he warns.

Benedikt Böhm, managing director of Dynafit, hopes for corresponding ideas in an interview with "Ski touring on pistes and marked routes is here to stay and will increase. That's why good and contemporary concepts are needed, and in my view, imposing bans is not forward-looking." Böhm sees the emergence of a hybrid market between alpine skiing and ski touring.

New Guest Potential When Tourism Picks up Again

The task now is to learn from the situations of this year's winter and to develop new business models, consciously with the help of the lift companies and the regions. Because: Tourism is one of the world's largest industries - what trends are set here is law.

Skiing is one of the largest tourism sectors in Bavaria and the largest in Tyrol - it now depends on the decisions of tourism developers and lift operators what the future of winter sports may look like.

The possibilities are manifold: from marked ascent routes to the inclusion of the discipline in the season pass. Many experts are therefore calling for classic winter sports regions to sustainably secure guest potential and emancipate themselves more strongly from the one-dimensional Alpine skiing model in terms of products.

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