Covid-19 set to accelerate technology innovation in winter sports
Brought to you by Mastercard
The Covid-19 pandemic hit the winter sports industry hard. Like most sectors of tourism, the rapid spread of the virus, with some resorts being completely shut down in March 2020, meant the skiing industry began to shrink. But could the pandemic have accelerated the winter sports industry? The stats would suggest so.
In the time afforded by the virus to re-evaluate how the industry might survive without thousands of people heading to the slopes every winter, huge technological advancements have been made in winter sport, with Esports set to lead the industry into a new age.
Virtual gaming is not something one might normally associate with winter sports, as the majority of skiers take part to get a 'close to nature' experience. But after a booming year in the world of Esports due to the pandemic, the ski industry is set to expand into this area and engage with people it previously wouldn't have been able to.
Skiing has not always been the most accessible sport, for geographical and economical reasons, but a new independent Delphi study commissioned by Mastercard states that 37% of experts predict that by 2025, Esports will have opened up virtual slopes for people across the globe, including where skiing isn’t naturally possible.
The advancements made during the pandemic are also expected to make it more accessible to those who aren't able-bodied, with 43% of experts predicting simulations will provide more access to people who have a disability, as they will be able to experience the sport virtually, potentially even racing against their sporting heroes.
Graham Bell, Five Time Winter Olympian Ski Racer and Hahnenkamm competitor said: "Skiing has always been a pure and wild sport that allows you to disconnect from the world, so technology hasn’t always had the biggest impact. It’s exciting to see what other sports did during the pandemic to keep their fans watching and taking part.
"The idea of a virtual ski world championship or fans racing against their idols is amazing and will give the sport a massive boost. I hope the outlook for the industry comes true and enables winter sports to bounce back and open up to more people from all around the world."
Climate change is another factor the winter sport industry is having to grapple with. The pandemic only compounded the threat already posed by decreasing amounts of snow.
The experts consulted in the Delphi study agree that "technologies will enable climate-friendly maintenance of good skiing conditions and that ski sport ecosystems will offer seamless experiences for recreational visitors through digital technologies."
But the biggest advancements are set to come in the area of fan experience, with 73% of experts predicting a major shift by 2025 with fans being able to see detailed performances on athletes as they race thanks to new technological advancements.
The strides made in this area have turned a short term downfall into long-term sustainability for the ski industry, and the best is yet to come.