Mar 11, 2021 / TRAVEL / SKIING

Will Covid-19 have a positive impact on the ski industry?

Anniversaries are peculiar things. Twelve months ago, the pace of Covid-19 was gathering across ski resorts and a sinking realisation that the rumours were real was starting to bite. Twelve months on, whilst the crisis is not over, mass vaccination is bringing a conclusion closer and allowing us to see flurries of a hopeful future.

Part of this future will be built from reflection on what needs to change, and perhaps controversially, what positives can be drawn from the challenges brought by the pandemic. The changes brought into our day to day lives have increased our understanding of what we truly value. More and more people are looking for a better place to work and live, somewhere to create real happiness anchors. For many of us, the realisation is dawning that the place for this is the mountains.

More than just a ski property - a home in the mountains could be your primary residence

People want to buy ski properties

At SnowOnly, from mid 2019 we have seen a significant increase in interest - page views, enquiries and property alerts are all up. More crucially, through the peak of the pandemic there was a 300% increase in property sales. A quick glance over Summit Sotheby’s 2021 resort report shows an enormous increase in dollar value sold – up to 146% in Aspen, for example. Properties in the mountains are selling fast, especially in the US, and enquiries are growing by the day. To say this is unexpected is an understatement.

What is behind the increased interest in ski property?

Perhaps this spike of interest shouldn’t be a surprise. Countless news reports detail a renewed desire for a home with space and light, in an environment which feels safe, and with a strong sense of community. It’s as though once the charms of the big city – top restaurants, endless entertainment, swathes of shopping – have been stripped away, the reality of city life seems rather empty.

This is more than just a vague feeling. If we look at statistics in this Guardian article, we see that a major UK property portal had a 78% increase in enquiries from city dwellers, and a 126% increase in searches for village locations compared to the previous year. The rules of desirability have changed – where proximity to the best restaurants and slick transport links was once the priority, people want space, clean air, and an outdoors they can immerse themselves in. Where better to find this than a property in the mountains?

Ski villages offer a renewed sense of community

Will we see further a surge of interest next year?

Interest in skiing has been growing, with the 2018/19 season showing a global volume of 350 million skiers. The 20/21 season stopped in March last year and as safety measures continue to be needed, this growth has obviously slowed significantly.

Predictions, from sources such as Savills, suggest this will be temporary. The combination of renewed appreciation of all that the natural world can offer, alongside the enthusiasm of the established ski crowds means next year has potential to be a bumper one. There may well be a change in how people travel, with visitors seeking longer, less frequent stays rather than snappy short term breaks as well as an increase in people seeing a mountain home as a primary residence. In terms of interest in property, it seems more than likely that the growth seen in places like the US markets may well become global.

Ski property offers the space, light and freedom that post-pandemic buyers crave

Long term changes for the ski property industry

The relationship between the ski industry and the environment has been carefully considered over the last decade or so. Climate change is having an impact, and there is a creeping feeling that endless big box development threatens to destroy the very thing that brings it life. If that’s the case, how can more people seeking a home in the mountains improve things?

The key is that little word home. As attitudes to ski property shift, and people look for something that is a home, rather than a space for a high octane escape, then the offering from a resort will change. Party towns may morph into something less intense, and resorts where nature has been seen as part of the environment, rather than something to be conquered will grow in appeal. Here’s the view from an innkeeper in the Austrian Tyrol, talking about the remote village of Vent:

“More than three decades ago, its fewer than 200 inhabitants fought over whether to expand its ski area or maintain the two small lifts and the natural landscape around them. They opted for the latter. In hindsight, that was a blessing, unspoiled nature draws more tourists than the village could ever wish for - winter and summer.”

Source: National Geographic

Resorts are seeking ways to get the most from the mountains, without damaging them - investment in summer activities such as hiking, mountain biking and wellness practices need little more in the way of hard infrastructure, but can still appeal to visitors. Figures showing an 18% increase in summer visitor numbers to resorts such as Chamonix show that this diversification is paying off. 

This isn’t to say the era of the what has become the traditional ski resort is entirely over – but the type of growth has to alter, as seen in the resorts that are already seeking to diversify their offering in terms of activity and develop a truly dual season location. This, combined with an increase in people seeking a home in the mountains, and who want that home to be somewhere that embraces and respects the natural world may well be the saviour the regions need.

If you are hoping to make the move to the mountains choosing a property portal like SnowOnly means you have access to property from hundreds of agents and individual sellers across the globe. We’ve developed a property alert system to help you tailor your search and be sure of seeing the latest properties. Our site has a range of articles, including practical guides about choosing a property and spotlight features on individual resorts.