Helen Coffey, The Daily Telegraph, May 14, 2014
La Plagne in the French Alps has been named the world's favourite ski resort by an annual industry report.
The resort, at 1,200m and part of the Paradiski ski area, has attracted by far the highest number of visitors over the last few seasons, on average more than 2.5 million.
The accolade comes from the 2014 International Report on Snow and Mountain Tourism, which compiles a huge amount of data from resorts each year and uses it to examine the industry and predict future trends.
Produced by Swiss business consultant Laurent Vanat, the report's list of the world's major ski resorts, ranked by number of annual ski visitors, makes for surprising reading.
While Avoriaz, France, makes the list – “major” in this context denoting resorts that have in excess of one million ski visitors each year – neighbouring Morzine doesn't cut it. While Courchevel and Val Thorens, part of the Trois Vallées ski area in the French Alps, come in seventh and eighth respectively, Méribel (also in the Trois Vallées) is way down at the bottom of the list, receiving at least 500,000 fewer ski visitors annually.
The Austrian resorts of Saalbach-Hinterglemm/Leogang came second with just under 2.5 million visitors. The top resort on the list outside Europe was Whistler, Canada, in sixth, with just under 2 million visitors.
The Alps continues to dominate as the biggest ski destination in the world, attracting 45 per cent of all skiers each year. In comparison, North America receives less than half this number, accounting for 21 per cent of worldwide annual skier and rider visits.
As for us Brits, our favourite country for a ski or snowboard trip is France, followed by Austria, then Italy.
The report also shows how the ski market is evolving: Japan's ski resorts are in decline, however there's a burgeoning market in China and South Korea; it's possible to ski in Greece, Uzbekistan and a whole heap of other countries you wouldn't expect, but summer skiing in Europe is fading fast, with just 12 resorts offering it today compared to 40 back in 1989.
After the industry recorded its first growth in four years last season, the report was cautious of the future. Vanat wrote: "Nearly everywhere, the industry is facing the challenge of generating long term growth. In many places, the market is more than mature. 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."
But he said ski areas were looking for solutions, including improving lifts and resort infrastructure, the quality of accommodation and customer service.