After a two-season Covid break, ISPO Munich opened its doors again at the end of November 2022. The first panel on the main stage was "New Perspectives on Winter Sports" - co-organised by the Snowsports Academy from Vienna.
(Copyrights: Tanja Zach)
The world's best-known sports trade fair is back and enjoyed very lively interest. The first panel discussion of ISPO Munich was also extremely well attended, as a hot topic was taken up: What are the new perspectives for winter sports? At the panel, five international representatives from various industries exchanged ideas about possible solutions - from the current state to possible scenarios in ten years.
At the beginning, Martin Dolezal from Snowsports Academy, who had played a major role in putting together the experts, described why skiing and co are currently struggling with an image crisis. "The discussion in winter sports is too emotional and focuses too much on the energy crisis. But this does not correspond to the facts. The entire winter sports sector in Austria, for example, consumes just 0.3 per cent of the total energy demand. Yet it is an important economic factor that includes tourism, cable cars, industry and numerous regional service providers."
Another continent, other perspectives
Bernhard Ratschiller knows that there is a much more positive attitude towards winter sports in other parts of the world. The Austrian has been active in the Asian region for more than five years and works, among others, with Snow 51, China's largest provider of one-stop shops for skiing. Under the motto "City Life - Mountain Love!", revolving slopes, ski lessons and equipment are offered in one place in urban regions. "To raise the image of skiing, we have to act and bring the slopes to the people - so they don't have to travel such long distances. This way, people can already learn certain skills. But the ultimate goal is always to increase the enjoyment and experience of the mountains," says Ratschiller.
John Ha Jun Yang, an expert in the clothing industry, is even more optimistic. The South Korean has lived in China for more than ten years and is co-founder of ALI and chairman of 2Y International. "The winter sports market in China is growing enormously: on the one hand, it has been promoted by the government in view of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. On the other hand, there are more people who can afford the sport. 300 million people in China have already had at least one winter sports experience." A big advantage, Yang says: "There are many indoor winter sports resorts in China, so the season now starts in May. This was also noticeable in the e-commerce business this year, where sales usually only started in October."
From sustainability to digitalisation
Reto Aeschbacher from Switzerland, CMO at Scott Sports, sees the following important trends: "Winter sports have had a culture in the Alps for over 100 years - the experience in the mountains, the fresh air. Meanwhile, we are becoming more and more multi-sport people: Trail running, mountain biking, hiking, skiing. Some regions have already developed into year-round destinations. But winter sports - like other industries - must find more sustainable ways: whether recyclable materials or more ecological production. This is not just about compromise, but real innovation." This could then also better motivate the young audience again.
Gerald Stöllnberger is convinced that digital possibilities must also be used to reach more people, especially young people. With his Viennese company 360° Perspectives, he offers, among other things, virtual and augmented reality for tourism. "Especially in the pre-trip phase, i.e. before you book a trip, digital offers are becoming more and more important: you can look at the hotel and the region with VR glasses and ski down the slopes virtually. And you can practise your first skiing exercises at home in your living room." For the experience on the mountain, there are then other VR offers. For example, information on the surroundings: "What is that peak?" Or when it's foggy on the piste: "Where does the blue piste continue and where the black?"
The future of snow sports
Where the journey will go in ten years, according to Stöllnberger: "The glasses will have a supercomputer installed that transforms information into experiences. What we do now on the smartphone and with headsets will happen later on with VR glasses, goggles, watches or other further developments. The Magic Mirror when shopping for clothes will also be standard - so you'll be able to see yourself while you're shopping."
For Bernhard Ratschiller, the focus is on the broad masses: "We have to offer accessibility for as many people as possible and not just for the elite. Why should only people who live near mountains have access to winter sports? Kids and young people in the cities should be able to say, 'Hey, this is cool, I want to try this'."
Martin Dolezal from Snowsports Academy also struck a chord with his closing statement: "In order to lift snow sports and its image, we want to bring snow to people under the motto 'Snow Connecting People': with revolving slopes, indoor ski slopes and digital possibilities such as VR glasses. In this way, we also want to transport the adventure, the emotions, the experiences - and thus awaken the passion for sporting activity in the mountains."
ISPO as a winter sports platform
One drop of bitterness for the ISPO Munich organisation team was that despite 1,700 exhibitors, the major ski brands, for example, were not represented, as Lena Haushofer, Exhibition Director of ISPO Munich, explains. "We are really, really pleased with the way the trade fair went and that industry and trade came together again. But we are aware that a large part of the winter sports hardware was not represented for legitimate reasons. This is a very emotional topic, because ISPO Munich needs - in the sense of a roundtable - all stakeholders to raise the image of winter sports to a level that makes everyone happy: the mountain railways, tourism, ski instructors and also the ski industry with its brands."