News and media


New report recommends actions to support Scottish snowsports

04 October 2011

New report recommends actions to support Scottish snowsports

Issued jointly by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise:
Tuesday 4 October 2011

Actions to help ensure that skiing and other snowsports continue to play a significant role in Scotland's rural economy are outlined in a new report published today [Tuesday 4 October].

An independent Scottish Snowsports Sector Review was commissioned by development agencies Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise.

Researchers were instructed to analyse the present state of the industry in Scotland and recommend actions to put it on a more sustainable footing.

The report concludes that snowsports constitute an important sector for Scotland's rural economy, generating an average £30m a year and supporting 634 jobs directly.

The industry remains fragile, however. Although more UK residents overall are taking part in snowsports, fewer are choosing Scotland.

Over the past 25 years, the number of 'skier-days' (ie individual visits) across Scotland is calculated at an average 325,700 per year. Shorten the timescale to the past decade, though, and this figure falls by more than a third to 199,100 skier days.

The rate of decline has slowed in recent years, but the Scottish sector remains vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns and high quality international competition.

Four of Scotland's five snowsports centres are in the Highlands and Islands - Cairngorm, Glencoe, The Lecht and Nevis Range - and one, Glenshee, in Aberdeenshire.

Each has diversified into non-skiing activities in recent years, including sightseeing, mountain biking, climbing and assault courses. These measures have succeeded in attracting more than 300,000 extra visitors every year.

The report highlights a series of challenges facing the sector, including:

  • Growing customer expectations, driven by overseas skiing experiences
  • Higher UK tax levels (VAT) than overseas competitors
  • Unreliable snow conditions at present altitudes (around 2,000 feet)Difficulties in attracting new investment
    • Ageing equipment

In response, the report recommends greater collaborative working among the Scottish centres to develop the sector as a whole, along with further development of non-snowsports activities.

High priority recommendations include:

  • Collective working on strategic issues through the established snowsports sector working group, including all five centres, HIE and Scottish Enterprise
  • Improve marketing and promotion to generate additional revenue from existing customers and attract more passing trade
  • Campaign as a sector to address high UK taxation, in comparison with other countries
  • Identify further opportunities for diversification which complements existing ski facilities

Enterprise and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

"Scotland's natural resources, breathtaking scenery and quality tourism infrastructure have cemented its reputation as a first class destination for global snowsports enthusiasts.

"The snowsport sector is a key part of Scottish tourism, making a substantial contribution to our economy, generating around £30 million annually and supporting hundreds of jobs.

"This report illustrates the significant opportunities and challenges ahead for the industry and encourages this Government, our enterprise and tourism agencies to work closely with our community partners to capitalise on our competitive advantages to strengthen and grow the industry.

"I will be meeting with Scotland's snow centres in the coming weeks to see how we can work together to address the points raised through this report."

Head of Tourism with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Chris Taylor, said the report paints a realistic picture of a sector facing threats as well as opportunities.

"Snowsports is a global industry, and it's vital that the sector in Scotland understands and responds to a range of challenges, including climate change and strong international competition" said Mr Taylor.

"The past two winters have provided excellent conditions over several months, with the 2009-10 season in particular boasting the best snow conditions in more than 20 years.

"We know we can't rely on favourable weather though, which is why it's vital that the public and private sector partners work together to address the issues highlighted in this report."

Julian Pace, Rural Director at Scottish Enterprise, said:

"While the report shows that the current outlook for this sector is fairly fragile, the fact remains that this is an important contributor to Scotland's rural economy, generating on average £30m annually and supporting 634 jobs directly.

"The good news is that we know that more UK residents overall are taking part in snowsports, so the opportunity is there to grow this industry in Scotland.

"We will continue to work with our public and private sector partners to support the ongoing development of this industry to ensure that we can realise the full potential of snowsports in Scotland."

Marian Austin, Chief Executive of Nevis Range, is a spokesperson for the Association of Scottish Ski Areas. She said:

"The Scottish snowsport centres are pleased that the report recognises the economic value of snowsports to the Scottish economy, especially to remote areas outwith the traditional tourist season.

"We also welcome the recognition that the perception of climate change is only one factor in a very complex picture, and that changing holiday habits and competition from abroad are much more relevant now than they were 15 years ago.

"As a small industry we often struggle to get the news out that it does snow in the mountains in Scotland every winter, and all five snowsports centres are delighted to have other organisations working alongside them to combat some of the challenges faced by the industry."

Leave a comment

Back to top