Skiing - no longer a sport for the rich

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An estimated 800,000 Britons will go skiing this year, and those in the industry say skiing is growing after shedding its image as a rich man's sport, writes Colin Brown.

An estimated 800,000 Britons will go skiing this year, and those in the industry say skiing is growing after shedding its image as a rich man's sport, writes Colin Brown.

Most British skiers go on package holidays, but there is a growing market for independent travellers, of which there were about 200,000 last year. A further 120,000 children and adults went on school ski trips.

Most skiers go to European resorts, mainly to France and Austria, with Italy and North America beating Switzerland and Bulgaria in terms of numbers. About 50,000 skiers will head for American resorts.

Group packages are already sold out for many resorts at peak times for next season, according to tourist agencies.

The growth of snowboarding - more akin to skateboarding than skiing - has attracted many young people from the inner cities to the ski slopes. New "easy carving" skis have also contributed to a revival of skiing in Britain.

"Snowboarding and the cross-over to easy-ride equipment has increased the numbers going skiing. It's become a lot more fun again," said Martin Rowe, the head of Optimum Ski, a chalet ski firm based near Les Arcs in France.

Skiing went through a steep decline during the recession in the early 1990s. Resorts most popular with the British - such as Val d'Isere and Meribel - were left to the die-hard "Sloane Rangers".

But cheaper flights and easier equipment have attracted a new generation to the Alps. Dry ski slopes in the UK have been joined by indoor snow slopes to cope with the demand.

Those who ski are going to the slopes earlier than before. Lifts at Argentiere, in Chamonix, France, one of the highest resorts in Europe, are due to open in early December and will not close until May.

Those who cannot wait for the main ski resorts to open go to areas where glaciers offer limited skiing through the summer. Many expert British skiiers go to resorts such as Kaprun to train before the winter racing schedule.

Comments