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The Scottish ski season is ready to return with a bang this month after two lost years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s the view of Snowsport Scotland CEO Trafford Wilson, who believes the first full season since the beginning of the pandemic, ongoing uncertainty around overseas travel, plus the impact of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, create the perfect conditions for a snow sports boom in Scotland as its five resorts prepare to fully open this month.
More than 750,000 tickets are sold at Scottish snow sports venues every year in an industry worth more than £30 million to the nation’s economy annually. The Scottish Ski Industry (SSI) also supports a workforce of more than 1,000 people, as well as almost 50 elite athletes involved in the Snowsport Scotland performance programme, which includes stars such as freestyle skier Kirsty Muir.
However, the pandemic has significantly restricted the last two winter seasons, meaning the upcoming 2021/22 ski season is pivotal to the recovery and future of the industry in Scotland.
The past two years have been challenging for the Scottish snow sports industry – with the stop-start disruption of the pandemic grinding ticket sales to a halt, resulting in snow sport facilities facing a £20m reduction in revenue.
Snowsport Scotland, the governing body overseeing Scottish snow sports activity at all levels, independently verified Snowsport facility losses from the pandemic over the past two winter seasons – even accounting for mitigation from furlough, redundancies, and deferred capital payments – are more than £12m.
However, despite the difficulties, Mr Wilson, who marks four years at the helm of Snowsport Scotland in May, believes Covid-19 provided opportunity by putting the industry under the magnifying glass and highlighting its importance to Scotland’s economy and tourism industry.
He said: ‘While Covid has been a massive headache to say the least, particularly the stop and start nature of it, it’s also provided the opportunity to gain heightened support from the Scottish Government and other agencies and promoted the national importance of the snow sports industry.
‘Snow sports matters in Scotland. As evidenced through independent research the snow sports industry injects £30m into the Scottish economy every year, supports a workforce of more than 1,000 professionals, plays an important role in tourism, and allows literally hundreds of thousands of people each year to enjoy the physical and mental benefits that snow sport activities offer.’
In response to the many financial setbacks spurred on by Covid-19, the Scottish Government provided a £7m ‘ski centre fund’ to safeguard Scotland’s commercially run snow sport centres – Nevis Mountain Range, Glencoe Mountain Resort, The Lecht Ski Centre, Glenshee Ski Centre, Bearden Snowsports Centre, Snow Factor – Glasgow, Newmilns Snowsports Centre and Glasgow Ski and Snowboard Centre.
However, for the centres and the communities around them to thrive, Mr Wilson believes more investment is needed, which will hopefully be achieved in part, by strong ticket sales in the coming winter season.
With thousands of people also facing uncertainty due to the ever-changing quarantine rules in European countries, Mr Wilson hopes more people may look to Scotland this winter season.
He said: ‘There’s a golden opportunity to get people thinking about coming to Scotland as concerns remain about travelling abroad. We hope that this opportunity allows more people than ever before to experience snow sports in the UK; and want to come back for more in the years to come.
‘It’s fundamentally important we have a good season. We want people to ski and snowboard in Scotland, enjoy it, and make it a habit going forward. This winter season presents a great opportunity for people to make the most of the varied terrain on offer, explore our backcountry playgrounds and to learn how to ski or snowboard on home soil.
‘We remain committed to working in partnership with snow sport centres, Scottish Government, sportscotland and other agencies to ensure that snow sports in Scotland goes from strength to strength and is well positioned to continue to deliver enjoyable participation experiences and support our most talented athletes to reach their potential.
‘With GB Snowsport looking to confirm 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic squads this coming January, Snowsport Scotland expects to see a strong base of Scottish athletes included. We are enormously proud of the number and quality of athletes preparing to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and look forward to seeing how their performances help inspire the next generation of snow sport participants in Scotland.’
Scotland’s five ski centres are scheduled to open this month. For more information on specific opening dates and prices, visit the centre’s websites. For more on Snowsport Scotland and its activities, visit www.snowsportscotland.org.