Image credit:
Max Draeger
Image credit:
Max Draeger
Winter sports/03/20/2024

Between powder and principles: How brands strengthen their ski touring community

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The rush to the summit continues: ski tours are still very popular. To appeal to customers, brands have various routes to choose from. One of them combines innovative thinking with topics such as safety and sustainability. The whole thing is presented at ski touring events, for example - a win-win-win for brands, tourism and athletes.

Next chapter of the ski touring boom

The ski touring boom from pandemic times has stayed with us, the range of winter sports on offer has diversified and many people are no longer planning their winter vacation solely on the slopes. In addition to high prices for lift tickets and probably also sustainability concerns the number of German-speaking people who go ski touring on their winter vacation increased between 2022 and 2023, according to a study by the Bavarian Center for Tourism increased from 22 to 28 percent.

However, the new ski touring audience wants to be picked up and included. This is why experiences with like-minded people away from the crowds and events with a strong community are very popular. This results in an interesting field in which brands can become active and score points: On the one hand, there are the new ski tourers who are venturing off-piste for the first time; on the other hand, there are sustainability issues that make this environment more unpredictable, but also encourage "imperfect advocacy" and discussions.

Introduction to safety and technology in mountain sports

Newcomers can quickly feel out of place or stupid when it comes to the basics or refreshing their knowledge. Video or FAQ formats are ideal for them, which are now not only offered by outdoor media, but also by brands such as Dynafit or Ortovox are now offered. This allows novices to consume informative content online in a self-determined manner and as required, and to find an individual introduction to ski touring.

From the necessary equipment and the basics of avalanche awareness, tour planning and prevention to risk management and avalanche search - it's easy to refresh your knowledge online. Testimonials from mountain guides and other experts provide the most important information in short, accessible videos.

Sustainability and management of ski tours

People who go ski touring often want to take responsibility for their own behavior and be environmentally conscious. That's why Ortovox offers the Protact Lab Ortovox also offers well-structured knowledge and information on sustainability in outdoor sports.

Of course, groomed slopes are often used for the ascent, and mobility is still the big sticking point. Arrival and departure are and remain the biggest CO2 drivers - even when freeriding or ski touring. To ensure that the more sustainable image of ski touring does not become a fallacy, it is also important to educate and raise awareness among active people.

This also applies to the protection of wild animals: tourism associations such as Kleinwalsertal put up protection signs, rangers designate protected areas at weekends and thus bundle the ascent routes. And as part of ski touring days, such as in the Tyrolean Lechtal or at the Powderfest in Montafon, panel discussions are held at which various stakeholders such as brands, tourism regions and athletes explain their views on the topic.

In Kleinwalsertal, signs and nature park rangers point out ski touring routes beyond the protection zones.
Image credit:
Frank Drechsel

"Imperfect advocacy" - every step counts

There is a trend among freeride athletes in particular to deal with the topic more sensitively and take on more responsibility in their projects and videos - for example, by covering more vertical meters "human-powered" or focusing on regional, local projects. "You used to see in films how the professionals flew themselves everywhere by helicopter. That has changed," explains Powderfest organizer, ski guide and athlete Simon Wohlgenannt. On his freeride tour to the rather unknown Fanggekarspitze, for example, he set off from his front door by bike.

As a member of the Guide Alliance of the climate NGO "Protect Our Winters", Simon Wohlgenannt is also committed to climate protection. "I now have two children and am naturally committed to ensuring that they can ski for as long as possible. They should do the sport that is the greatest thing for me and where I have the best time." At the Powderfest in Simon's home region of Montafon, there are therefore also some points of contact for saving resources: Brand partner Ortovox is not only offering free repairs, but also Repair and Care Workshops in which guests learn how to properly mend their favorite merino shirt or fix the cut in their down jacket.

Protect Our Winters (POW) will also be at the start as an exhibitor to raise awareness of the fact that winter sports enthusiasts don't have to be perfect before they can make a commitment to the climate. "Our credo is: progress instead of perfection. We also speak of 'imperfect advocacy' in order to protect what we love and to be able to continue practicing our sport," explains Chiara Pizzignacco from POW Austria.

Simon Wohlgenannt leads a group during the Powderfest in Montafon.
Image credit:
Max Draeger

Avalanches: Knowledge, prevention and measures in an emergency

For anyone who ventures off-piste, there is one topic that is worth every training course: avalanches. Because in an emergency, seconds can make the difference between life and death. With a Safety Academy Ortovox as a brand offers one of the world's largest training initiatives for avalanche prevention. There is a comprehensive range of courses for the mountain sports community throughout the Alps at various levels and in cooperation with local mountain schools and regional partners.

In workshops lasting one or two and a half days with a focus on freeriding or ski touring, participants can deepen their knowledge both practically and theoretically. The courses ensure an extremely positive perception of the brand among the public and create the basis for loyal customer retention. Ski tourers can test devices and equipment free of charge on site - in the case of Ortovox, the company's own innovations and ISPO Award winners of recent years, such as the Diract Voice avalanche transceiver with voice control or the LiTRIC airbag system.

Alpine safety, tour planning to avoid accidents and the use of avalanche transceiver equipment play an important role in a carefree mountain experience. Mountain guide Julian Resch knows: "You can learn an incredible amount in two days in small groups that are tailored to your own ability. I don't understand people who don't want to spend the time and money on this. After all, it's precisely this knowledge that could be crucial if friends or your partner get caught in an avalanche."

Safety first: Searching and shoveling on trial to be prepared in an emergency.
Image credit:
Max Draeger

Community building helps everyone

Last but not least, workshops create a sense of community that benefits brands, organizers and athletes alike. This is where lasting rope and friendships develop between like-minded people. This also benefits the brand, as brand segments are promoted for the future if people stick around. In the spirit of Seth Godin's marketing classic "Tribes", a community of like-minded people and the feeling of belonging and pursuing the same mindset also forms the connection to the brand or offer that these platforms provide.

Different groups are available for implementation, depending on the level of knowledge and target group. Whether freeriding, ski touring or splitboarding - it makes sense to differentiate between beginners, advanced and experts. This way, everyone can learn specifically where the limits of their own technique or knowledge are pushed. At the recent Powderfest in Montafon, the hype in the advanced and expert groups was just as great as among the beginners. Some practised dropping cliffs or abseiling into a gully under supervision, while others took their first steps towards avalanche safety with search exercises in untouched snow. At the latest after the joint powder descent, it was clear that this community had not conquered the last summit on a ski tour.