In this article, we focus on winter sports preferences among respondents. The topic was approached through an online survey conducted on the questia.ro platform. The research study was active on January 15th, 2019 and covered 1000 respondents, with a +/- 3% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population.

 

Turning cold into gold

The skiing season is in its high-peak and ski adventurers can finally practice their favorite winter sport. There are currently 67 countries in the world that offer equipped outdoor ski areas covered with snow. Moreover, the ski industry is becoming more and more competitive as ski resorts services can include wellness facilities, shopping opportunities, microbreweries and even Michelin-star restaurants besides their slope (Courchevel 1850, St Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens, La Tania, Megeve).

Ice hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, speed skating, Alpine skiing, bobsledding and snowmobiling are some of the most popular winter sports. The main international winter sport event is the Winter Olympic Games that we approached last year in our Interest in the 2018 Winter Olympics article.

Only in US alone there were almost 15 million people skiing in 2017, aged six years and above. In Europe, Germany is  the country with the highest number of people who practice skiing (14.6 million), followed by France with 8.6 million (as of April 2018). The highest share of people who ski out of the total population is in Liechtenstein (37%), followed by Austria with 36%.

Germany is also the country with the most ski areas, with 498 ski centers. There are 349 ski locations located in Italy, 325 in France and 321 in Russia. Dolomiti Superski, the biggest ski resort considering the total length of slopes, has 1,200 km and is situated in Italy.

Top destinations for going skiing considering the latest 5-year average number of skier visits per season are The United States (with 54.9 million skiers, most of them US residents), France (with 54 million skiers) and Austria (with 51.7 million skiers, with more than half of them being foreigners).

In Romania, winter sports activities can be practiced between November and April. According to the 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, in Romania you can find ski resorts with decent infrastructure and comfortable hotels that offer special packages . Nevertheless, the only issue seems to be the poor access roads.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics offered a great opportunity for China to catch up with the international winter sports industry as the Chinese government unveiled a winter sports development plan to build a total of 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts by 2022, laying the foundation for 300 million people to get involved in winter sports to generate industry value of 1 trillion yuan by 2025. They also have an innovative plan to combine winter sports with entertainment and leisure because this way they can connect people to the industry and transform some of them into participants.

However, there is a concern regarding the challenges the ski industry has to face as it appears that the number of participants is levelling off. The factors seem to be the ageing participants (in UK alone, more than 66% of participants are aged between 43 to 65), business consolidation, technological, climate change and even Brexit.

Swiss researcher and publisher of the yearly International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism, Laurent Vanat, reports that "In many places, the market is more than mature, and the baby-boomers represent the majority of participants. This generation will progressively exit some of the mature markets without being adequately replaced by future generations with the same enthusiasm for skiing."

It is believed that unless quicker ways are found to teach younger people how to ski, the industry faces an uncertain future, as youngsters will get easily bored when having to learn to perform this activity in weeks instead of hours.

 

Sledding through Winter Sports Preferences

As of 2018, there were 654K national skiers in Romania and 1.2 million skiers who visited Romania’s ski resorts (5% of them being foreigners).

The most popular winter sport among respondents is sleighing, with almost half of respondents (40.9%) practicing it. The other half (43.6%) preferred not to answer, presumably because they don’t practice any winter sports. Ice skating and skiing are also in trend, with over 20% of respondents practicing each.

It’s clearly that Romania still doesn’t have a solid culture regarding practicing winter sports when comparing to Nordic European countries. According to Statistics Netherlands, alpine skiing accounted for 68%, and snowboarding for 14.4% in 2016 in Netherlands alone.  

The tendency is for people to come for shorter breaks and also looking to incorporate other activities into their mountain stays.

When asked how often they practice skiing, snowboarding or sleighing, over one quarter of respondents (29.4%) said they perform for a few days per season. Some (11.8%) spend one week per season while quite many (38.5%) don’t practice these sports at all.

When asked about how often they practice ice hockey or skating, the percentages for active participants decrease dramatically. More than half of the respondents (67%) mentioned they don’t practice such sports, while the percentage of people who perform for a few days per season is lower by 10% (19.4%) compared to those who practice ski, snowboard and sleigh.

The preferred destination for winter sports is Romania as a little over half of respondents (58%) said they prefer to go within the country for practicing.

More than a quarter of respondents own personal equipment they use when practicing winter sports while 22.3% rent the equipment they need from the specialized stores that can be found in the ski resorts.

According to the 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, Romania is considered an attractive destination for foreign visitors as prices are relatively low when compared to most of Europe, and some ski runs are lit for night skiing.

We wanted to know what our respondents think of the quality and costs of Romanian ski resorts. When considering the quality of the ski resorts, more than half of respondents (57.7%) think that Romania provides worse conditions than abroad ones, while 30.6% believe the quality of the services is kind of the same. Furthermore, 61.4% believe that Romanian services for practicing winter sports are more expensive than the ones from abroad, while over one quarter (26.1%) said the prices are similar. Only 12.5% of respondents believe Romania is more affordable when it comes to practicing winter sports.

Romania has 45 functional ski areas with 5 or more lifts. When asked about what mountain resorts they visit most often in order to practice winter sports, the most popular ones are situated on Valea Prahovei: Sinaia (the most visited one, with 22.6% visitors), Predeal (21.4%) and also Busteni (on fourth place, with 18.5%).

Sinaia, with a maximum altitude of 2000 metres above sea level, is located 125 kilometres from Bucharest. It is called the Pearl of the Carpathians because of its beautiful landscape. The mountain resort has 10 recently upgraded lifts, cross-country skiing and lots of restaurants, bars and discos. Predeal, situated 1000 metres above sea level and 145 kilometres from Bucharest, is one of the main ski resorts in the country and has 7 lifts.

Brasov takes the third place, with 21.3% visitors. The popular destination of Poiana Brasov is only 13 kilometres from the medieval city of Brasov. More restaurants, villas and hostels have been built there than anywhere else in the country. It has 11 ski lifts, a snowmaking system, cross-country skiing, ice rinks, swimming pools as well as several bars, restaurants and discos.

Some respondents prefer more quiet, relaxing places such as Vatra Dornei (9%) and Rânca (7.8%). Here you can find breathtaking sceneries, ski lifts and several restaurants. Such destinations are perfect for family trips as the accent is put on recreation and these mountain resorts are not as crowded as the previously mentioned ones.

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