Friday, June 19, 2020

Calendar Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup 2020-2021

This is the calendar for the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup 2020-2021.

Sölden (AUT)
October 24th Giant Slalom / Ladies
October 25th Giant Slalom / Men

Lech Zurs (AUT)
November 13th Parallel / Ladies
November 14th Parallel / Men
November 15th Mixed Team Parallel 

Levi (FIN)
November 21st Slalom / Ladies
November 22nd Slalom / Men

Lake Louise (CAN)
November 28th Downhill / Men
December 29th Super-G / Men

Killington (USA)
November 28th Giant Slalom / Ladies
November 29th Slalom / Ladies

Lake Louise (CAN)
December 4th Downhill / Ladies
December 5th Downhill / Ladies
December 6th Super G / Ladies

Beaver Creek (USA)
December 4th Super G / Men
December 5th Downhill / Men
December 6th Giant Slalom / Men

St. Moritz (SUI)
December 12th Super G/ Ladies
December 13th Parallel / Ladies

Val d'Isere (FRA)
December 12th Giant Slalom / Men
December 13th Slalom / Men

Courchevel (FRA)
December 15th Giant Slalom / Ladies

December 18th Super G / Men
December 19th Downhill / Men

Val d'Isere (FRA)
December 19th Downhill / Ladies
December 20th Super G / Ladies
December 20th Alpine Combined / Ladies

Alta Badia (ITA)
December 20th Giant Slalom / Men
December 21st Parallel / Men

December 22nd Slalom / Men

Bormio (ITA)
December 28th Downhill / Men
December 29th Super-G / Men
December 29th Alpine Combined / Men

December 28th Giant Slalom / Ladies
December 29th Slalom / Ladies

Davos (SUI)
January 1st Parallel /Men
January 1st Parallel /Ladies

Zagreb / Sljeme (CRO)
January 3rd Slalom / Ladies

Zagreb / Sljeme (CRO)
January 6th Slalom / Men

St. Anton (AUT)
January 9th Downhill / Ladies
January 10th Super-G / Ladies
January 10th Alpine Combined / Ladies

Adelboden (SUI)
January 9th Giant Slalom / Men
January 10th Slalom / Men

Flachau (AUT)
January 12th Slalom / Ladies

Wengen (SUI)
January 15th Alpine Combined / Men
January 16th Downhill / Men
January 17th Slalom / Men

Maribor (SLO)
January 16th Giant Slalom / Ladies
January 17th  Slalom / Ladies

Kitzbuehel (AUT)
January 22nd Super G / Men
January 23rd Downhill / Men
January 24th Slalom / Men

Crans Montana (SUI)
January 23rd Downhill / Ladies
January 24th Alpine Combined / Ladies

Schladming (AUT)
January 26th Slalom / Men

Kronplatz (ITA)
January 26th Slalom / Ladies

Garmisch Partenkirchen  (GER)
January 30th Downhill / Ladies
January 31st Super-G / Ladies

Chamonix (FRA)
January 30th Downhill / Men
January 31st Parallel / Ladies

Garmisch Partenkirchen (GER)
February 5th  Downhill / Men
February 6th Giant Slalom / Men

Cortina d'Ampezzo (ITA)
7th - 21st February

Yanqing (CHN)
February 27th Downhill / Ladies
February 128th Super-G / Ladies

Bansko (BUL)
February 27th Alpine Combined / Ladies
February 27th Super G / Ladies
February 28th Giant Slalom / Ladies

March 6th Downhill / Men
March 7th Super G / Men

Jasna (SVK)
March 6th Giant Slalom / Ladies
March 7th Slalom / Ladies

Are (SWE)
March 12th Giant Slalom / Ladies
March 13th Slalom / Ladies

Kranjska Gora (SLO)
March 13th Giant Slalom / Men
March 14th Slalom / Men

March 17th Downhill / Ladies - Men
March 18th Super G / Ladies - Men
March 19th Team Event / Mixed
March 20th Giant Slalom / Ladies
March 20th Slalom / Men
March 21st Giant Slalom  / Men
March 21st Slalom / Ladies

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Anna Veith Retires. Thank You For All The Great Moments You Have Given Us

Last Saturday Olympic champion and overall World Cup winner Anna Veith announced her retirement from professional skiing. She has won everything there is to win in skiing.
The 30-year-old officially put an end to a career that included 15 World Cup wins, three world titles, and three Olympic medals, including women's Super-G gold at Sochi 2014. Some former Alpine Ski stars paid their own tribute to the Austrian skier.
"I have lived my childhood dream and now is the right time for me to take a step back (...) I am delighted to be able to end my career in a happy and successful place", said Anna Veith, who currently holds the title as Austria’s most successful ski racer.
"Until now I was able to call ski racing my job. I have never done anything else or loved anything as much. The smell of fresh snow. Early mornings spent on the glacier. The Team. These are all things I will miss dearly. I don’t know what’s next yet, but I look forward to finding out", she said.


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Relive Hirscher Outstanding Victory at 2015 Garmisch Giant Slalom

Marcel Hirscher’s runs were all anyone could talk about after the 2015 Giant Slalom race on the Kandahar. After dominating the first run and clocking a time 1.99 seconds faster than everyone else’s, Hirscher was far from done for the day. He entered the second run as if the massive gap didn’t exist, attacking every turn of the rutty course and won his 30th World Cup race with a massive 3.28 seconds advantage. The 3.28 seconds margin turned out to be the third biggest in World Cup history, the first two belong to the legendary Ingemar Stenmark. Marcel Hirscher won the race in front of Felix Neureuther and Benjamin Raich.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts (V). Lessons from Mad Men

In my marketing classes at university, my students really like it when I use videos from TV-shows (from South Park to Yes Minister) as teaching resources.
Now, during the COVID-19 lockdown, I am re-watching one of my favorites, Mad Men, looking for inspiration for my next article and I was really surprised by how relevant this series actually is for what I’m currently working on.
Mad Men is an American period drama television series created by Matthew Weiner. Mad Men is set in '60 America at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. The series' main character is advertising Creative Director Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm).

In the last episode of the first season, we find one of the greatest pitches ever shown on TV.
"In Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound (...) This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again", Don Draper: (Mad Men S1: E13).

Having our customers at the center of our destination marketing strategy requires an understanding of the main phases of the Tourist Life Cycle – from the beginning of the inspiration process until after the return.
The life cycle of the tourist trip consists of three phases.
  • Before the trip. This is the inspiration phase, but also the decision and purchase phase. Tourists look for information about the places they would like to go to. In this phase, destination marketing teams are the key to easing the start of the process keeping the consumer inspired to choose our destination.
  • During the trip. This is the experiential moment by nature. It runs from the moment the physical journey begins until the moment one returns to one’s usual place of residence. Tourists’ perception of a destination is made up of all the services consumed and each of the experiences. To a great extent, this is what determines the final degree of satisfaction related to the trip.
  • After the trip. This phase is becoming increasingly important. Communication with tourists must be maintained in order to get their opinion on the trip.
I wrote in my previous article that, under the current circumstances, we must focus our efforts on the inspiration phase of the customer journey. People are dreaming about their future trips to our ski resorts (#dreamnowtravellater) so we must keep them inspired with good memories. It is time to keep our guests emotionally linked to our destinations.
And in the 21st century, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram have entirely changed the way marketers reach their audiences. If you’re a social media marketing professional, you’re well aware that selecting a social media platform is all about understanding where your audience is and which one is the most impactful platform to achieve your destination goals.
Instagram is now an integral part of the social media landscape. It is the fastest growing platform in the history of social media.

"Instagram marketing is no longer something to consider — it’s just something to do. It comes with the job now. Those who understand this are no longer asking themselves WHY they should do it, but rather HOW they should do it correctly in order to get the results they want", Iconosquore. Instagram Marketing Trends & Benchmarks Report 2019.

Instagram is a visual platform where people come to share moments, find passions, and most importantly, get inspired.
Instagram is producing higher engagement rates for destinations compared to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
Instagram is the new "Carousel", a time machine taking our customers to a place where they want to go again and our prescriptors/influencers are the ones to help us play the show.
Nich-Influencers in the 10k-100k follower range offers the best combination of engagement and broad reach, that exceed influencers with higher followers. When choosing to collaborate with this influencer segment, you are looking also for the quality of interactions.

Why Nich-influencers?
  • Cost-efficient: Nich-influencers come at a much lower cost.
  • Better than word of mouth: Consumers have higher chances of listening to recommendations from this kind of influencers than an average person.
  • More authentic: They are seen as more credible sources in the eyes of followers, compared to other sources.
  • Higher engagement rate: Due to their niche focus, these influencers tend to have higher engagement rates on their posts.
So, gather your team of influencers, and keep your guests on the loop. Because the "show must go on"...

The Ski Racing Podcast: 2020 Season Review Part 1

Thursday, April 9, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts (IV). The Road to Recovery

The 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 has produced the longest shutdown of tourism on record (and we don't know how long it will last).
The Tourism sector, and ski resorts particularly, are severely affected by the current Corona crisis, and the global spread of the pandemic is going to impose a significant dampening effect on the rate of recovery.

Three elements will be decisive in the process of recovery of tourist demand in general and in ski resorts in particular:
  • Fear management and confidence-building
Risk and fear may alter tourists' travel plans, influence their choice of destinations and, in some cases, lead them to decide not to travel. How countries and destinations manage the crisis and get out of it will be a fundamental element in their recovery process.
The speed and strength of the recovery will depend on the perception of risk, and the guarantees that destinations can offer to visitors.
Mature markets may adopt a more cautious approach to travel, looking for safe destinations. Proximity and moving within a socio-culturally similar geographical space can be decisive elements in increasing the sense of security for these markets.
The worst-case scenario for recovery would be that COVID-19 was perceived by people like an open crisis with governments that do not control the outbreak.
Closed borders and restrictions to tourism will be still in place until is completely safe to travel again.

  • The Economy
Safety and security represent only a part of the bundle of issues producing weak travel demand. Coronavirus is a global economic catastrophe. Figures from countries around the world show we are seeing a massive surge in unemployment, unprecedented in historical terms.
Current uncertainty defies all efforts to forecast where the economy may go in the future.
High unemployment rates and people's fear of losing their jobs lead to lower consumption, starting a cycle that will lead to an economic depression. Concerns about the economy falling consumer confidence and consumer concerns about not having enough money to travel. Reticences to spend will slow recovery long after the direct crisis ends.
After more than three weeks of severe restrictions due to the Corona crisis, surveys are beginning to show a declining mood in society, with more people expecting a very negative or negative economic development in the future.
As a consequence, more people will limit their consumption after the crisis. This would particularly affect travel, shopping, restaurants and cafes, and the purchase of luxury goods. In addition to consumption, the possibility/desire to go on vacation this summer also decreases as uncertainty about the future increases. For people who still want to go on vacation, most of them will choose to travel within their own country.
But we can be optimistic. The good news for ski resorts is skiing tourism has shown in previous situations that it is more resilient to the crisis than other sectors in the tourism industry. Travel is related to income and the family income of skiers is higher on average than that of other tourism models.
  • Self-reward. The desire to travel
The coronavirus lockdown and mass quarantines are typified to be long periods of hardship and strict modification of normal behavior patterns. Evidence shows that a sharp period of restriction results in an increased desire to travel. Travel is considered a core necessity by a large share of the western population and a fundamental part of their way of life. Tourists are mainly motivated by the desire to escape, to "get away from it all". One of the key characteristics of the XXI century tourists is their need to escape from everyday routines and issues in a bid to achieve some form of fulfillment. The current trend of tourist experiences include some degree of escapism, and many people would express the need to travel away as the main reason for taking a holiday.
Skiing Tourism provides an opportunity for the population who are seeking self-fulfillment and excitement through participating in physically and mentally stimulating activities while traveling to breathtaking mountainous areas. For passionate skiers travel to ski resorts to ski is the ultimate form of self-reward or self-indulgence.

Walking the road to recovery will require a complex roadbook full of recommendations.

  • Focus in local and regional markets
Restrictions to travel will be in place for a long time. So, local and regional markets (drive distance source markets) will rebound faster once the crisis ends. The rate of recovery will be in direct proportion to the extent and magnitude of privation that has been felt by the population.
Long haul markets will not recover for at least a year, and there is great uncertainty in how airlines are going to face this crisis and how it is going to affect our way of traveling.
Based on current developments, and notwithstanding the high level of ongoing uncertainty regarding the pandemic, IATA estimates that industry-wide RPKs (Revenue Passenger Kilometers) will contract by almost 40% in 2020, with the decline broad-based across all regions. The rebound in air travel after COVID-19 is expected to take longer than the recovery seen in previous crises due to the unprecedented travel restrictions around the world and the global recession which has been triggered as businesses and borders are closed.

  • Inspire
We must focus our efforts on the inspiration phase of the customer journey. People are dreaming (#dreamnowtravellater) so keep them inspired with good memories. It is time to keep our clients emotionally linked to our destinations. With people isolated and plenty of time to surf the internet, social media offers a tremendous opportunity to attract and keep on the loop a significant share of this pent-up demand. Markets are not yet receptive to promotional campaigns but that will change immediately once the outbreak passes. Ski Resorts must be prepared with inspiring promotional campaigns ready to be launched in short notice.
  • B2C
The answer to the crisis is Personalization. Guests demand a customer journey more personalized, emotional, on a one-to-one level. Restrictions to travel encourage individual travel. Transactions will be more impulsive and instantaneous, and for these times Business-to-consumer marketing will be key. B2C marketing refers to the tactics and strategies in which a destination promotes its products and services to individual customers. B2C marketing efforts will tend to focus on building trust and inspiring desire, and rely strongly on the power of emotion and shared values. The biggest challenge for ski resorts B2C marketers is reaching and engaging their customers and understand how to break through all the noise to reach them. And also establishing an emotional connection with your customers means more work and a bigger investment in personal terms. The easier the planning and booking process for the customer is, the better. It must require lower levels of investment for them in terms of time and money. And we must add to the equation flexibility, to pay and cancel.

I am writing this from Tirol. Tourism is very important for Austria, and ski resorts a fundamental part of Tirol's economy. Businesses are suffering and friends have already lost their jobs. It is no wonder there is despair in local businesses and companies especially taking into account that more than 80 percent of the Tourism business in Tirol are family businesses.
But there is room for hope. On Tuesday the most extreme measures of the quarantine were lowered: a breath of freedom on the way back to normality in Tirol. You can go for a walk in the fresh air and leave the limits of your municipality of residence. The city of Innsbruck reopened its parks and gardens. Definitely a first step on the long road to recovery.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Top 10 Crashes on the Freeride World Tour 2020

Watch the top 10 Crashes of the Freeride World Tour 2019 starring by Yan Rausis, Tim Durtschi, Aymar Navarro, Elisabeth Gerritzen, Emma Patterson, Jack Nichols, Leo Slemett, Evelina Nilsson, Logan Pehota, and Wadeck Gorak.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Vail Resorts Announces Two Month Furloughs

On April 1, Vail Resorts announced the company would be making a large reduction in expenses over the next few months.
In a public letter, CEO Rob Katz explained they were forced to adopt difficult business decisions as a result of the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, including some that unfortunately affect the Company's U.S. employees.
Vail Resorts will furlough most hourly employees, and all salaried employees in the U.S. will receive a reduction in pay.
The company will also pause payments to Katz and its board of directors, and dividend payouts to shareholders will not take place in July and October for the first time since the inception of Vail Resorts’ common stock dividend in 2011.

We continue to find ourselves living through an unprecedented time as the situation with COVID-19 grows more challenging, with everyone across our planet now dealing with very real and significant health risks and impacts. This crisis has hit the travel industry particularly hard. Currently, all of our mountains, lodging, retail, and transportation businesses are shut down and it is becoming less clear when things will start to reopen again. We reported two weeks ago that the early closure of our North American operations will cost the Company at least $180 million to $200 million in lost profitability in our third quarter ending April.  
I am very hopeful that both the economy and travel will return to normal by the time our North American winter season opens eight months from now. However, we also need to remember that we have substantial business operations set to open over the next few months - our Australian winter season, Grand Teton Lodge Company, as well as our lodging, retail, and summer mountain operations at our North American resorts, which collectively represent more than 20% of our total revenue. With the very real possibility that the global stay-at-home orders could be extended, and travel reduced regardless, our business in May through October is at risk. We will work hard to reopen as soon as practical, but much of this is now outside of our control.  
Because of these realities and to ensure that we can navigate the financial challenges ahead, we are taking certain measures, including some that will, unfortunately, affect each of our U.S. employees: 

  • We are furloughing nearly all of our U.S year-round hourly employees as of April 4, 2020, for at least the next one to two months, without pay, but with full healthcare coverage for any impacted employee currently enrolled (the Company will pay all premiums). 
  • We are implementing a six-month salary reduction for all U.S. salaried employees that starts at 5% for those up to Grade 27, 7.5% for Grades 28/29, 10% for Grades 30/31, and then rises up to a 25% reduction for our most senior executives. 
  • I am giving up 100% of my salary during the next six months. 
  • We are eliminating 100% of the cash compensation for members of our Board of Directors for six months.   
  • We are suspending the Company’s 401(k) match for the next six months. 
  • We are reducing our capital expenditures by $80-$85 million, with the intention to defer all new chair lifts, terrain expansions, and other mountain improvements, while protecting the vast majority of our maintenance capital spending. 
  • We are eliminating our June and September dividends to shareholders, saving the Company more than $140 million. 
I recognize this is very disappointing news to be receiving and I had hoped we would not have to take this action. But with each passing week, the financial consequences have become more apparent. To our year-round hourly employees, I am so disappointed that the vast majority of you have not been able to work these past three weeks and I assure you we will end the furlough as soon as possible once we have clarity on our business reopening. To our year-round salaried employees, who are working from home, in many cases harder than ever, I truly am sorry to have to ask you to give even more by accepting a salary reduction - we are asking everyone to accept some sacrifice so that we weather this storm together and are ready to come back strong for next winter. For those of you with questions, your leader will be reaching out to discuss the situation with you over the coming days.  
I am sure many of you are wondering if these actions will be enough. Will there be more changes coming? Once again, if I am honest with myself, I have to give the toughest answer for any CEO - I really don’t know. It’s possible that things could quickly improve. But it’s also possible these challenges may force us to materially delay or cancel our upcoming summer season. In that case, more measures might be needed.  
I have made decisions over the last few weeks that I never could have anticipated in my nearly 30 years working in the ski business. I recognize the impact of today’s decisions on you, and I do not take them lightly. I am humbled and grateful for your passion and dedication to each other, our communities and our industry – it's what makes our sport and this Company so special. Please know, I am fully committed to help steward our Company and our entire industry forward so we can all continue to thrive in the mountains for years to come. During this challenging time, please continue to prioritize your health, safety, and wellbeing. 

Vail Resorts is the leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries operate 37 world-class mountain resorts and urban ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada; Perisher, Falls Creek and Hotham in Australia; Stowe, Mount Snow, Okemo in Vermont; Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire; Stevens Pass in Washington; Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River in Ohio; Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri; Wilmot in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; and Paoli Peaks in Indiana.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts (III). Riding Uncharted Mountains

"A crisis can bring out the best - and worst - in a person, a country, or an organization", Terry O'Reilly

COVID-19 is the most significant crisis of our lifetime. We are on the way to the hardest social and economic crisis we have ever experienced after World War II, a case only then comparable to that of the post-war period.
Taking into account the introduction of travel restrictions across the world due to the COVID-19, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expects that international tourist arrivals will be down by 20% to 30% in 2020 when compared with 2019 figures. The decline in international tourism receipts (exports) is expected to be in the range of US$300-450 billion, almost one-third of the US$ 1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Putting this into context, UNWTO notes that in 2009, on the back of the global economic crisis, international tourist arrivals declined by 4%.
Gregg Blanchard of surveyed resort marketers to measure the state of marketing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 70 respondents shared where they were in terms of financial impact, season pass sales, marketing budget, and more. Overall 93% of respondents were “somewhat”, “very”, or “extremely concerned” given the current situation. 
Asked about the overall marketing strategy and outreach at the moment, none of the ski resorts is pushing out a lot of promotional messages and 27% aren’t pushing out any marketing at all, putting everything in hold. 
Asked about their Season Pass strategy, 56% of the ski resorts surveyed had pushed pause on all season pass marketing but 60% are still selling them. Gregg Blanchard thinks it is a perfect anecdote about our current dilemma as ski resort marketers: "our products are still for sale, but we feel uncomfortable promoting them to our audiences right now". We should understand ski resorts are becoming more dependant on advance sales for cash flow.

During these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to connect with your current and future customers.

Tourism has proven to be among the most resilient industries and is called to lead the future recovery. After a long period of isolation, the desire to travel will be greater than ever. Although mountain destinations, and all those that offer direct contact with the natural environment- and a greater sense of freedom-, will be one of the most favored, behavior patterns can vary dramatically compared to pre-crisis times. And convincing people to book again is going to be challenging despite customers want to go back to our mountain destinations when they will have the opportunity.

"COVID-19 will go away. At that point in time, it will be imperative that your resort marketing team evaluate the landscape and ensure that you are re-entering the market in a way that will bring business levels back up to normal while remaining sensitive to any changes that may have occurred to the ski vacation landscape", ORIGIN

Skiers are more likely to stay local. This will create an opportunity for local destinations to increase its share market. Regional drive and short-haul destinations will likely get a relative boost over International long-haul destinations. Travelers will initially be very cautious and long-haul travel will take longer to recover.

Destinations that rely heavily on large-scale operators, groups, and MICE are most at risk (rely on the events to drive demand was a good thing in the past but under the current circumstances and possible restrictions is not). Everyone’s on shock right now, and no-one has the answer as to when this crisis will be over or knows the route book to sail in these unchartered waters. Ski Resorts' recovery will require a strategic, research-based, creative and innovative approach.

I think under the current circumstances we must combine a tactical mindset in the short term with a more strategic approach in the midterm.

One more thing. During the lockdown, people are more active on social media than ever so it is a great opportunity to keep in touch with your customers.
It's not right to keep posting as if everything is normal but going quiet on social media is also not a good plan.
You should maintain your Brand presence on social media.
Activate a positive approach (sharing, for instance, inspiring photos and videos of the season) to your digital content to remain top of mind with your guests, and niche markets.
But we will talk about that in a more extended way in our next article. 

To be continued...

Monday, March 30, 2020

Verbier Xtreme 2004

2004 was the first year skiers were invited to compete in the Verbier Xtreme. Until that year the competition had been exclusively an event for snowboarders.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Verbier Xtreme 1996

As a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first-ever Verbier Xtreme, Freeride World Tour Team presents us the original film from the 1996 inaugural competition on the Bec! 

Since its inception in 1996, the Xtreme has been considered the most prestigious event in the Freeride world. Every year, the elite of Freeride tackle the mythical North Face of the Bec des Rosses, a daunting steep and frighteningly jagged 500m rock-face in the grand finale of the Freeride World Tour. In places, the Bec des Rosses presents 55 degrees of slope. In an upright position, one can almost lean on the face with one's elbow. With steep and narrow couloirs, high rock cliffs, changing snow and terrain, it demands technical skill, great physical conditioning and a connection with the mountain that only experience can bring. Around 5000 spectators will join the riders at one of the most beautiful natural arenas of the Alps, the Col des Gentianes in Verbier.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

My Winter in Tirol. An Unexpected End of the Season

A friend suggested that I should write an article about my thoughts and personal experience of how I am living this moment of self-isolation. But before I start, I wanted to document the process that ended with the closure of the ski resorts in Tirol.

The COVID-19 outbreak is and undesired effect of our time. Globalization offers many benefits and opportunities but also presents new risks. Globalization has made our world a smaller place allowing people and goods to move more freely and more frequently around the globe.
Human migration has been the main factor for infectious disease transmission throughout recorded history. But, as the world becomes more interconnected, the volume, speed, and reach of travel increase exponentially the opportunities for rapid and effective disease spread growth.
And this is the case of the COVID-19 outbreak. travel and mobility play a critical role in the rapid dissemination of disease.
International tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totaling 1.4 billion according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Tourism is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development but as an undesired effect, we also saw tourists, students, and professionals spreading the COVID-19 around Europe and the world.

On Monday, February 24th a 24-year-old Italian living in Innsbruck and her boyfriend of the same age reported to Coronavirus symptoms after a stay in Lombardy at the Tirol control center. On Tuesday, a second test confirmed the suspicion and the couple was immediately isolated in the Innsbruck Hospital.
On February 25th Coronavirus officially reached Tirol.
It turned out that the sick student works as a receptionist in the Hotel Europa at Innsbruck Central Station. All employees and guests, 62 persons, who dealt with the Italian woman were examined and tested. Due to the close contact with her, nine of these 62 people tested were quarantined. Also in quarantine were three other people who belong to her close social environment.

On March 5th a 22-year-old Norwegian student who had been in Milan and Bologna at the end of February tested positive in Landeck district. Also, 14 people from Iceland who were already leaving at the weekend spent their skiing holiday in the Tirolean Oberland when they returned to Iceland tested positive for the coronavirus.
After a stay in Verona, which is located in one of the risk regions in northern Italy, a 22-year-old woman from Kitzbühel showed flu-like, mild symptoms. Swab samples were taken immediately. The test results from the Virological Institute in Innsbruck confirmed coronavirus disease.

On March 6th three other people have contracted the coronavirus in Tirol. All three people were Norwegian citizens, friends and all between 23 and 24 years old. They said they had had close contact with other Norwegians in the past few days who tested positive for Corona in Norway.

On March 7th a 36-year-old german citizen was tested positive in the Landeck city of Ischgl. He worked as a bartender in the Kitzloch, one of the après-ski bars in Ischgl. The Tirolean State Medical Directorate asked all bar visitors, from February 15to March 7 showing flu-like symptoms, to contact the 1450 telephone health advice service and would then be examined by a doctor. The health authority surveys had also shown that 22 people were currently close contacts of the man. They were isolated and quarantined for 14 days.
On March 7th six people in Tirol were confirmed of coronavirus.

On March 9th the health authorities announced a new case that tested positive for the coronavirus. It was a 48-year-old neighbor of Innsbruck.
After it was announced on Saturday evening that a bartender in the Landeck district had tested positive for a coronavirus disease, 16 more people tested positive on Monday. Fourteen of these sick people were tested in Ischgl, and one in the neighboring community of Kappl. In all these 15 cases, there is a direct connection to the 36-year-old bartender who worked in the Kitzloch district of Ischgl. Fourteen of these 15 people come from the immediate work environment of the 36-year-old man, and one is a close contact person from the social environment of a now sick employee of the Ischgler Bar.
On the same day, after several coronavirus diseases were confirmed, the Ischgl bar "Kitzloch" was officially closed in agreement with the operator.
A night skiing event in Ischgl scheduled was also canceled.

In Innsbruck, two further coronavirus disease persons were confirmed in the late afternoon or evening including a 21-year-old Spanish student who was tested positive. Another positive was the result of an examination of a man who attended an Erasmus student celebration. This took place on Monday, March 2nd, in the "Claudiana" in Innsbruck's old town. The Norwegian, whose coronavirus disease became known on Friday, also attended the celebration. The woman student from Norway also attended courses at the University of Innsbruck the week before. In coordination with the State Medical Directorate and the university, the respective course directors and students of the courses concerned were immediately informed. As a precaution, they were required to isolate themselves for safety for 14 days and to monitor their state of health closely. The implementation of the affected courses on-site was canceled.

On March 10th afternoon, five other positive coronavirus cases in Tirol were confirmed. Two men in Ischgl: one person stayed in the "Kitzloch" and a close contact person to a person suffering from coronavirus. Also in the "Kitzloch" was a 21-year-old from Pfunds who tested positive. Besides, a 44-year-old woman from See, who was also in Ischgl and had contact with a guest of the "Kitzloch", also fell ill.
Also, another case became known as a result of the Erasmus student celebration in Innsbruck on March 2nd. A 30-year-old woman from Innsbruck who attended the event was also tested positive.
On Tuesday 10th with 30 confirmed coronavirus cases in Tirol, four of which were related to Ischgl, the Landeck and the health authorities agreed that all après -Ski bars in Ischgl should close immediately. The regional Government decreed from Wednesday, March 11th all open-air events with over 500 participants and all indoor events with over 100 people will be canceled until early April. Sports events should take place without spectators.
In the evening a 43-year-old man from St. Anton am Arlberg tested positive for the coronavirus.
In order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, lectures at the University of Innsbruck were canceled from Tuesday, March 10th. An Innsbruck student dormitory was partially under quarantine.

On Wednesday, March 11th nine other coronavirus diseases became known in Tirol.
Four people were related to Ischgl and at least one visited the "Kitzloch" bar.
A total of nine people, between the ages of 18 and 27, were affected in Kappl, most of them come from outside Tirol and worked as ski and snowboard instructors. A 29-year-old man from Völs also fell ill after visiting the "Kitzloch" bar.
There was also a connection with the Erasmus student celebration: a 26-year-old man from Innsbruck was infected with the coronavirus there.
A 25-year-old man who attended a lecture at the University also fell ill.
Three people coming from the Innsbruck-Land, Schwaz and Imst districts tested positive after staying in Lombardy or Bolzano.
There was also a positive case in the Reutte district, a Slovak woman who works in Berwang and stayed in Ischgl for several days at the beginning of March.
At the end of the day, Tirol saw the sharpest increase in confirmed coronavirus disease since the first two positive cases two weeks earlier. The Tirolean state government announced that from Monday, March 16, students from the ninth grade will stay at home and restrictions for Compulsory school pupils and kindergarten children. Parents who can take care of their children at home were called to do so.
The Tirolean regional government decrees the closure of the Ischgl ski resort from Saturday, March 14 until further notice.March 11th ended with a total of 73 people in Tirol suffering from the coronavirus.

On the morning of March 12th, six people were tested positive in Innsbruck. At least three of them were students. A connection to the student infection chain that can be traced back to an Erasmus student party was established. Later, ten more cases were detected. Three of them were tested positive in Innsbruck and were connected to Ischgl. Five were confirmed in the Innsbruck-Land district and were related to Italy, St. Anton or Ischgl.
During the afternoon, 18 further cases became known in Tirol. A total of 15 positive test results were related to Ischgl.
A person from Galtür who attended a lecture at the University of Innsbruck, in which a person with a positive test also took part, also was confirmed positive for coronavirus.

At the end of the day, on Tuesday, March 12th, with 107 cases in Tirol, after a meeting with representatives of Tirolean tourism, the regional government of Tirol decided that the cable cars should close on Sunday, March 15, 2020, based on the Epidemic Act. Likewise, all accommodation facilities should close officially as of Monday, March 16th.
In Tirol, the Ski season had unexpectedly ended for me!!!

To be continued...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts II

"Everyone’s got a plan until they get hit", Joe Louis.

Tourism is a key sector for people living in mountain regions and destinations. For most of them, tourism is the most important industry and the principal revenue generator. 
The COVID-10 outbreak has lead to an exceptional situation across the world that has not been seen before.
The COVID-19 crisis has presented a horizon of uncertainty. However, after the storm comes the calm and the disease will pass, and life will go on. And you must be ready when the time comes. Mountain destinations should be ready to provide their guests with the best place to be after following a long period of isolation in their houses: the Mountain outdoors.

But...what happens when an unexpected event occurs beyond your company’s control that impacts how you relate and communicate with your customers? 
When companies are hit with a crisis of these proportions, it can be a defining moment. And their ability to weather the storm can dictate what their future holds.
In the world of marketing, it's an all-hands-on team situation. Because communication is one of the most important keys to handle a disaster. 
Marketers talk frequently about how important it is to be agile and flexible. But in reality, most are working to a well-defined marketing plan driven by a budget and strategy that was locked down months ago. 
But it is not enough. You must add creativity and innovation to the mix. This is the time to excel as a marketer.

5 Things to consider doing after the COVID 19 hit our Ski Resorts


One of the first things on the crisis checklist is to suspend all advertising. 
Lay off the pushy stuff. Online ads, AdWords campaigns, and your marketing automation must be pulled until you recover full control over the situation. 
You should also take advantage of this time to reassess your approach for the next season.


In times of crisis, it's easy to suspend all advertising, but you can't suspend social media. 
The growth of social media has transformed crisis communication management because it allows more interactivity and a quicker and more straight response.
Listen to your stakeholders. Listening intently will help you to build your message and find the right tone to talk with them.


Marketing in a crisis can be a watershed moment for most companies. The concern for its customers and employees is revealed. It's the ultimate test of what lengths it is willing to go to resolve the crisis - regardless of the costs. 
Remember Customer service is also marketing. And memorable customer service means going above and beyond the call. Exceeding customer expectations can't just be a marketing tactic, it has to be the company philosophy.
Destinations can't afford to find new customers every day. That means they have to rely on repeat customers. And the best way to ensure repeat customers is by exceeding customer expectations. You are not in the business of creating clients you are out to build lifelong relationships. 
Customer service doesn't cost money, it makes money. because it fuels the most powerful form of advertising: Word of mouth. 
Make meaningful recurrent messages like We have implemented our crisis response plan, which places the highest priority on the health and safety of our guests and staff because without guests there is no business to take care of.
In the World of the Internet, mistakes are amplified like never before.


We have to think about business continuity and next season. 
Take a look at what your competitors are doing. But don't stop there. Look beyond your industry. It's research time. You should look at previous crises and learn from them. But it's not an automatic process. You must rethink it and adapt it to the current times. 
You can find your way from the best practice and cases in how marketing can help bounce back from disaster. 
In 1982 Johnson & Johnson's CEO, James Burke wrote the book on crisis management when it comes to handling a crisis with the Tylenol tampering case. 
Take a look at how destinations like New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, London, Paris, Toronto or Madrid bounced back from a tragedy. 
These cities found a way to come back and despite every disaster is different and there is no playbook, and we can learn all a lot from their experiences.


In the world of marketing timing is everything. There are big penalties to be paid in the world of marketing when you are behind the times but also for being too far ahead of your time.
But when you're timing is right, when you seize the moment as the moment presents itself, success will smile back to you.
In marketing, getting the right message in front of the right customer and getting that message to the customer at exactly the right time is a fine art.
Find the perfect timing for your message is the result of the analysis and a talent for recognizing opportunities.

Ski Resorts marketers will have opportunities to start marketing sooner than later. 
For instance "Give customers something that's not date-specific and doesn't lose value, to remove the uncertainty around the COVID-19 timeline", said Gregg Blanchard, from Slopefillers in SAM Magazine. 
Under the current situation, I think the best marketing tip is simply to be much more thoughtful about your strategy and tactic movements.
In an Interview for SAM Magazine, Gregg Blanchard remembers the suggestion of Adam Buchanan, a digital marketing consultant. He said that each resort must start from scratch and ask what needs to be said. Not what could be said or might be said, but what really should be said. 
We are open to your comments and to discuss thoughts and strategies to promote a rapid recovery within the mountain destinations.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19 and Ski Resorts I

The outbreak of COVID-19 (short for “coronavirus disease 2019”) presents the tourism sector with a major and evolving challenge. The tourism sector and the Ski Industry are currently one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19.
Something that "started as a wave of reassurances by ski areas that necessary precautions were being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among guests, then quickly swelled into a tsunami of resort closures", (SAM Magazine). 
After the concentration of cases in the Veneto province and the travel restrictions imposed by an increasing number of nations, on March 6th, following the recommendations of the FIS Council, the Italian Winter Sports Federation and the Cortina 2020 Organising Committee were forced to cancel the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Finals scheduled for 16th-22nd March 2020. On March 8th the Regional Council agreed with the Aosta Valley ski lifts to close the ski areas.
Due to an ordinance issued by the National Civil Protection authority on March 9th, all ski areas in Italy have closed on March 10th.
On March, 11th the Audi FIS Women's World Cup races in Are (SWE) have been canceled after new recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden. A day after the Men's World Cup races in Kranjska Gora (SLO) were canceled.
On March 12th, the regional governments of Tirol, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, Oberösterreich, and Niederösterreich decreed new preventative measures aimed at combating and limiting the spread of the Coronavirus. One day later the ski resorts of Kärnten also announced the end of the season. With the Carinthian state government decree on March 14th, all cable cars and other ski lifts in Austria officially closed at the end of Sunday, 15 March.
In the following hours and days, the rest of the countries joined the closing decision. On March 13th, Ski Andorra on behalf of the Andorran ski resorts communicated that the ski resorts will close on Saturday, March 14th.
On March 13th also, the 36 stations attached to the Tourist Association of Ski and Mountain Stations (ATUDEM) in Spain made the decision to close their facilities and end the 2019-2020 ski season.
On March 13th, as a result of the Federal Council's media conference on Friday, Switzerland announced the closure of all ski areas.
In accordance with the directives announced on Saturday, March 14 by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the French Ski Resorts were the last ones in Europe to announced the closing of its ski areas.
On March 15th, the majority of the Ski Resorts, in Europe and North America, have been closed.
The last ones to ceased mountain operations were a few ones in Canada. For them, today, Wednesday, March 18th will be the last day of the season.
I think practically all Ski Resorts in the Northern Hemisphere have had to end the winter season much earlier than expected due to COVID-19. The situation, being dramatic, is not the main concern, the worst is the uncertainty generated and how it will affect the future of our ski resorts.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Freeride World Tour 2020 Champions

After the cancellation of the Verbier Xtreme, the Grande Finale of the Freeride World Tour the winners of the FWT 2020 are:

Ski Men

Isaac Freeland (USA - 1st place) comes out on top thanks to his talent and his thirst as a newcomer on the tour. For the first time in his career, he is Freeride World Champion. Also, undeniably winning the of "Rookie of The Year 2020" award. The 2018 World Champion, Kristofer Turdell (SWE - 2nd Place), came close to reclaiming his title and finished second overall. The American Andrew Pollard (USA - 3rd Place) took third place in the overall ranking. The "Rookie" of the year 2019 improves his performance and remains near the top of the overall rankings.

Ski Women

Arianna Tricomi (ITA - 1st Place) wins the World Champion title for the third time in her career! The Italian, who was injured following Kicking Horse Golden BC, did not give up the race for the world title. Unstoppable, she put her skis back on for the two European stages and went on to win the Triple World Champion Title. She was closely followed by Hedvig Wessel (NOR - 2nd Place), who consistently showed her freestyle talents throughout the season. On the Tour since 2013, Jaclyn Paaso (USA - 3rd Place) was not to be easily silenced. The American has been quietly racking up points all season and climbed to third place in the overall 2020 ranking. The "Rookie of The Year" award goes to skier Jessica Hotter (NZL - 4th Place) who proves time and again her high level of commitment and performance throughout the season.

Snowboard Women

Triple World Champion, Marion Haerty (FRA - 1st Place) seems untouchable. Thanks to her first-place finished at the first two stops of the Tour and in Fieberbrunn, the Frenchwoman had clinched her title before Verbier. Her direct rival, Australian Michaela Davis-Meehan (AUS - 2nd Place) showed her talents in Ordino Arcalís which earned her second place in the overall rankings. They are closely followed by the determined Erika Vikander (USA - 3rd Place) in third place on the podium.

Snowboard Men

Wildcard for 2020 season, Nils Mindnich (USA - 1st Place) leaves the world of Freeride in awe. With the Ordino Arcalís staged for snowboarders in Fieberbrunn, Austria, Nils completed two runs on the "Wildseeloder" face coming out on top in both. With a podium finish already under his belt in Hakuba, Japan, Mindnich held the lead in the race for the world title and lifted the World Champion trophy for the first time in his career. He was closely followed by two snowboarding prodigies. The 2019 World Champion, Victor De Le Rue (FRA - 2nd Place) and Sammy Luebke (USA - 3rd Place), triple World Champion and Tour legend for the past six years.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Wrap of the 2019-2020 Alpine World Cup Season: Aleksander Aamodt Kilde Grabs the Overall Globe

Aleksander Amodt Kilde is the winner of the 2019-2020 Overall World Cup and can celebrate his very first big globe, after winning the Super-G title back in 2016.
After switching back to Atomic last summer, Kilde had a very consistent season, winning "only" one race, the Super-G in Saalbach-Hinterglemm. The attacking Viking finished 6 further times on the podium throughout the season and made the difference by upping his game in Giant Slalom. While never achieving a podium in this discipline, the Norwegian always finished Top 6 in the last five Giant Slalom of the season, earning important points.
Kilde now becomes the fourth Norwegian after Kjetil André Aamodt, Lasse Kjus (2), and Aksel Lund Svindal (2) to win the Overall World Cup.


FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Starts: 12
Olympic Winter Games Starts: 7

FIS World Cup Starts: 152
FIS World Cup Podiums: 18
FIS World Cup Victories: (2 Downhill, 2 Super-G)

Alexis Pinturault was Kilde's main rival until the end and finished second in the overall standings. The French man won six races during the season (3 GS, 2 AC, 1 SL) but it was not enough to secure his first Overall World Cup Title. Pinturault has a small consolation prize and can celebrate winning the 2019-2020 Alpine Combined title for the fourth time in his career.

Henrik Kristoffersen fails to achieve his goal for the 2019-2020 season of winning the big globe and finished third in the overall standings. Nevertheless, it's still a positive season for the Norwegian tech skier, who clinched both the Giant Slalom and the Slalom Globes.
It was a very tight finish in both disciplines, considering that Kristoffersen finished only 2 points ahead of Clement Noel (FRA) in Slalom and 6 points ahead of Alexis Pinturault (FRA) in Giant Slalom.
It's the second Slalom World Cup Title for Kristoffersen - after winning it in 2016 - and the first one ever in Giant Slalom.

Beat Feuz finished on the podium seven times, including two victories, in the 9 Downhill races this season. The Swiss speed machine celebrates the third consecutive Downhill globe of his career, as he finished first in the Downhill standings, more than 200 points ahead of Thomas Dressen (second) and Matthias Mayer (third).

Men's Globe Winners of the 2019-2020 Season
  • Overall World Cup Winner: Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)
  • Slalom World Cup Winner: Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)
  • Giant Slalom World Cup Winner: Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)
  • Super G World Cup Winner: Mauro Caviezel (SUI)
  • Downhill World Cup Winner: Beat Feuz (SUI)
  • Alpine Combined World Cup Winner: Alexis Pinturault (FRA)
  • Parallel World Cup Winner: Loic Meillard (SUI)
  • Longines Rising Ski Star: Clement Noel (FRA)
  • Overall Nations Cup Winner: Switzerland
  • Best Ski Manufacturer Award: Rossignol