How Skiing Is Changing Its Face

In Germany, around eight million people ski, which is approximately one out of ten. However, the sport, which is popular with many, is undergoing pressure from several sides. For example, it is now obvious that climate change would have already put an end to the snow pistes in many places without technical support. But there are also silver linings for the ski industry. Professor Sascha L. Schmidt, Chair of the Center for Sports and Management at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, together with his research assistants Daniel Beiderbeck, Nicolas Frevel and Harry Krüger, venture to predict what skiing will look like in 2025. For their Delphi study "The Future of Winter Sports", they spoke with 46 experts from eleven countries and worked out five central results from their hypotheses.

Forecasts for the future are naturally difficult, but this is the objective of Delphi studies. In order to obtain the most precise results possible, the authors spoke with experts from all sectors relevant to skiing, from sports equipment developers to athletes and resort managers. On the first point the experts were largely in agreement: winter sports will become more sustainable. So far, mass tourism and the preservation of ski slopes have often been difficult to reconcile. Countless snow cannons are supposed to compensate for the consequences of climate change and continue to fuel it with their hunger for energy - a vicious circle. But because tourists are increasingly developing an ecological conscience, the study shows that by 2025 there will be a much greater demand for ski resorts that significantly reduce their emissions.

The respondents to the study also consider it highly likely that the further development of technological solutions will make a significant contribution to increased safety and performance over the next five years. For example, virtual inspections of the ski slope can minimize the risk of injury in advance. More stable and "intelligent" clothing, such as inflatable airbags, for example, will ensure greater safety during the descent itself. Augmented reality with virtual information in helmets or ski goggles is expected to increase performance.

In contrast, skiing is lagging behind other sports in terms of digitization. According to experts, this situation will not change significantly until 2025. However, the aim is also to create simplifying instruments in ski resorts, such as comprehensive cashless payment and online ski passes.

One problem that affects society as a whole and does not stop at skiing is the gender pay gap. It is true that in competitions in which men and women compete, prize money of the same amount is now offered. But the problem is that there are ski races that are exclusively reserved for men. They are also the ones who continue to win the more lucrative endorsement deals. Experts in the various sectors assume that this problem can only be mitigated, but not eliminated in the years to come.

The final point of the study is the influence of eSports on skiing. Here too, the experts remain largely skeptical. While only few sports games make it onto the bestseller lists of the online games industry anyway, skiing does not play a significant role among them. A virtual downhill run cannot replace the real experience and also seems unsuitable as a means of introducing younger generations to the sport. The role of eSports will therefore remain negligible for winter sports in the future.

The Delphi study shows in the result that in areas such as sustainability and technological development, a comprehensive change in skiing should take place by 2025. Other aspects such as digitization and gender equality will lag behind according to the forecast.  How the probabilities, impacts and desirabilities of the developments turn out in detail can be read in the study by the Center for Sports and Management at WHU under the category "Research Reports".

Full study