Mountains for all? To what extent have we assured the shrinking of our market by ignoring so many segments and demographics?

Mountains 4 All is the brainchild of Ski2Freedom founder Catherine Cosby, who for many years has been extolling the virtues of travel to the mountains as a source of well-being for both mental and physical health, and ensuring those benefits are accessible to as many different individuals as possible.

Underpinning this activity is a mission to ‘understand the needs of everyone’ a mission that has seen Catherine drive over 400km criss-crossing the Alps and building up a wealth of information on everything the mountains have to offer.

How many seasons can we sell?

Understanding these needs has led to the realisation that we are focused far too narrowly on what the mountains can offer, and whom might be inclined to visit. Consider firstly the fact most mountain resorts have two seasons winter and summer (arguably some only have winter). What of the virtues of Autumn in the mountains? A perfect time for mountain biking, less crowds (a big selling point right now) and offering the potential to extend the time in which to generate revenue for several more months.

Skiing ends, what’s next?

Consider also with the average age of skiers increasing that the end of a skier’s career doesn’t have to mean the end of their enjoyment of the mountains. Many skiers hang up their boots due to injury or concerns over injury, but still very much enjoy the experience of being in the mountains. Yet how often do we abandon these consumers once they are ‘no longer skiers’ ? What could we do to help transition them from visitors to the mountains for skiing to visitors to the mountains for a multitude of other attractions and benefits?

Are we simply selling to ourselves?

Skiing as a holiday activity began very much as a niche, for overseas markets such as the UK it was confined mostly to the wealthy, and it wasn’t until the 1980’s and the advent of packaged ski holidays utilising charter flights that this began to change with skiing holidays becoming an attractive option for the middle classes. Low cost airlines and more latterly Airbnb have widened the market further for the independent traveller.

However, look around any mountain resort and what do you see? Primarily white faces for a start. One organisation looking to change that is Mount Noire. Created by five women looking to bring ‘colour to the mountains’ Mount Noire arranges trips to the mountains and social meet ups in the UK for their community of like minded skiers.

Founders Wenona Barnieh, Tobi Adegboye and Blessing Ekairia told us the lack of black snowsports role models and the absence of black people working in the mountains was a huge missed opportunity to engage the wider market of black and other minority ethic groups. Wenona told us ‘when I first went skiing people commented on how they ‘didn’t see people like us’ in the mountains. There was no animosity or discrimination, just an observation of how unusual it was to see black people skiing!

Mount Noire highlighted the lack of marketing aimed at BAME demographics, they commented that when you don’t see anyone who looks like you in communications and advertising, it’s unlikely you will respond.

This is a crazy situation for an industry like ours with a slow growing and possibly declining market. Whilst not actively discriminatory, our industry has long been guilty of ‘marketing to ourselves’ and since those who work in the industry are primarily from a consistent white socio-economic background, that’s who we in turn engage with and attract.

So what can we do? How about actively looking to recruit a more diverse range of staff and employees in the mountains? Can we promote more widely at school and university level in terms of feeding the market with more diversity? Any company looking to become more distinctive and add to their differentiation could do much worse than find an up and coming skier or snowboarder from a BAME background and sponsor them to become a role model for others? Community partnerships, tour operators engaging with these groups and organisations to facilitate a ski ‘discovery’ trip.

This is not a case of jumping on the BAME bandwagon, but of fixing something that really should have been addressed before, widening the appeal of our industry and our sport rather than simply looking for more in our same mould to join us.

View the webinar from MOTEX: Routes to Recovery Feeding the Market with Phil Brown, Founder National Schools Snowsports Association Catherine Cosby, Director and Founder Mountains 4 All,  Wenona Barnieh, Tobi Adegboye and Blessing Ekairia, Founders Mount Noire