Winter sports is more than going up and down a mountain 

5 Trends That Are Shaping The Ski- And Winter Sport Industry In 2020

 

From the mega trends sustainability und customization to smart clothing: further development in the winter sports sector is no longer limited to changing the shape of skis or heated insoles.

For the Future Hub at the Prowinter Exhibition 2020 in Bolzano, we have selected the 300 most promising start-ups out of more than 1,400 active in this sector and looked at them more closely. During this analysis, we were able to identify 5 trends which we expect to have a particularly strong impact on the winter sports market in the upcoming years.

In this trend report, we share our view on the latest trends and show selected best practice examples from startups driving these trends. The 5 major trends we identified in this edition are mainly driven by consumer demand and/or digital technologies:

  • Platforms & Apps
  • Sustainability
  • Customized and handmade Ski Equipment
  • Smart Clothing
  • Innovative Sports Equipment

By far the most developments were made in the digitization sector, where platforms, apps and wearables are booming and make up almost the half of the considered startups. 19%, so almost one one third of the founders realized their innovative ideas to give fun on the slopes a new perspective. Truly profound technological innovations can be found in 14% of startups that reinvent textiles. About 20% of the startups who brought up new solutions in the wintersport sector come from Italy, so it is also worth to have a look, which trends are mostly supported by young Italian companies. Also here we see a strong focus on platforms (33%) and innovative sports equipment (41%).

Most developments in Platforms and Apps (%)

  • Platforms & Apps
  • Smart Clothing
  • Sustainability
  • Innovative Sports Equipment
  • Customized and handmade Ski Equipment

Italy as driver in bringing up startups in the winter sport sector (%)

  • Others
  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Austria
  • The Netherlands
  • United States of America

Trends driven by Italian startups (%)

  • Platforms & Apps
  • Smart Clothing
  • Innovative Sports Equipment
  • Customized and handmade Ski Equipment

Where does these developments take us?

Manufacturers and suppliers develop further the entire value chain of the winter sports business, using innovative methods and materials, and thinking out of the box.  At the same time, they are becoming more and more aware of their responsibility for the environment on which their business lives and are reacting to it – these developments must become even more pronounced in the next few years. On top, all the players must keep a strong focus on the customers demand and as well a constant eye on how the trends evolve in the market. A huge challenge will be to decide, whether a trend is worth to follow up on it or if the investment would be a failure. This means, a continuous review, challenging and testing of existing and new products will be the most important job to be done by the industry.

1. Platform & Apps

We organize our lives via various apps: schedule meetings, booking trains, or managing our passwords. We use online services to compare ourselves with our friends when it comes to gaming and sport; and tracking apps to know exactly where our loved ones are right now. These categories are also clearly visible in the ongoing digitalization of winter sports. You think, digitalization in winter sport makes no sense? Let’s have a look at the facts:

It all starts at the beginning of the skiing holiday: We first book our hotel online, then we reserve an hour with our favorite ski instructor because it worked out so well last year with him or her. We book the rental ski equipment comfortably sitting on our couch, and we also buy our lift ticket online in advance. This way we avoid any waiting time and can look forward to the skiing day without any restrictions. On arrival at the ski resort we exactly know the arrival time of the ski bus, because we follow it on our mobile phone and have the ticket already on my device. On the slope, after the skiing lesson, we want to improve our skiing style further, of course. For this we use gadgets that measure us and whisper helpful tips into our ears. When we want to show our successes on the slopes to our friends, we compare ourselves via the appropriate platform, which records our training results. Then we search for our friends in the tracking app so that we can head for the nearest hut together.

You see, we have the possibility to completely digitalize our own skiing world – just skiing and eating Kaiserschmarrn, we still have to do by ourselves. But that’s what it’s all about.

 

We’ve got some examples for you:

Awayco (USA)

Awayco is a platform which aims to revolutionize the rental business for winter sports but also for bikes and surf equipment, to reduce waste and over-consumption. Customers can choose between more than 20.000 high-quality brand products at specialist retailers in over 150 locations. The equipment can be booked and paid in advance via the app, while the shops will benefit from the integration of branch websites, platform marketing, local marketing support and easy-to-use in-store booking software.

Slopestars (Austria)

Slopestars offers software solutions for online ticketing to ski resorts. Queues at the lift cash desks can be conveniently avoided, keycards can be recharged online and both ski resorts and winter sports enthusiasts benefit from exclusive online promotions.

Onesporter (Italy)

Onesporter is a digital training tool recording and reporting data that are collected via wearable devices and IoT technologies. Beside showing and analyzing data, Onesporter also connects athletes and coaches and helps training planning, in order to maximize results.

2. Sustainability

One trend which is overarching all industries is sustainability: acting in a sustainable manner and driving businesses forward with environmental consciousness. Especially the players in ski- and wintersports are aware that they can only be successful in the long term vision when taking care of the environment, where their business takes place: the mountains and the snow. As a consequence, manufacturers on the one hand increasingly rely on natural, environmentally friendly and recyclable materials. Artificial snow-making and the travel activities of winter tourists also have a major impact on environmental pollution. The market for artificial snow is increasingly seeing the solutions to reduce this driver. Moreover, winter tourists are increasingly recommended to visit local ski resorts or at least to use environmentally friendly means of transport.

We’ve got some examples for you:

Glidenano (Belgium)

Glidenano produces a 100% biodegradable Ski wax, which substitutes the commercially available but toxic ski wax. This nano-tech wax keeps the groundwater clean in the long term, is non-toxic, has low friction and therefore lasts longer than conventional waxes

Nairoby Snowboards (Argentina)

Nairoby  engineered a thermoplastic composite, using micro and nanoparticles that make the board 100% recyclable. The material can be reprocessed and reused for new equipment. A special manufacturing process allows moreover to fully customize the boards.

Alpina Sports – Prolan vest (Germany)

Although Alpina is not a startup, their new back protector (Prolan Vest) made of sustainably produced sheep’s wool is really worth to be mentioned. It not only meets the TÜV standard in terms of security, but also adapts to the back in a natural way, regulates the body temperature and should remain odourless, even after prolonged use.

3. Customized and handmade ski equipment

Who wants to have exactly the same car as the neighbor does? Probably nobody. Customers love the trend of individualization and to adapt products according to their wishes. Obviously it is also spilling over into the ski- and wintersports industry. What has been known for a while now are individually adapted ski boots, which increase comfort and performance on the slopes. This technique is now also available for children. In addition, there are more and more possibilities on the market to have your skis and snowboards manufactured in shape and design on request, and in some cases, you can even configure them online by yourself. Manufacturers have understood another customer demand and go one step further in their production: handmade ski and snowboards are increasingly popular!

We’ve got some examples for you:

BBoard (Swiss)

The idea to manufacture individual snowboards, was created because the limited offer of boards did not cover the needs of the two founders. Tailored to size, weight, riding style and with the own design of the customer, BBoard are made by hand in Switzerland. The configuration is done online but the users can also select an already designed snowboard out of high-quality raw material on the online shop. The startup offers also “build your own snowboard” sessions, where real enthusiasts manufacture the snowboard by themselves.

XQZT (Austria)

XQZT seems hard to pronounce until you know what is behind: “Exquisite skis” are promised by the founders! No matter which material the riders wants to use for his skis, which style of skiing he has, which design and colours he likes best, whether for hard slopes or off-piste: XQZT produces the right unique item for every wish – with the aim of remaining climate-neutral. This means for the startup, that the €-equivalent burden of production is invested into environmental protection funds.

Ünique Skis (Austria)

Two other Austrian founders started the ski label Üniques-Skis with a similar idea. The ski pairs, perfectly adapted to the skier’s style, ability and size, are always true one-offs with a wooden core, carbon coating and individual wood veneer. However, they tend to appeal to the high-priced segment and thus find their market. Made-to-measure skis are produced in winter, series production starts in summer, while high-quality accessories are available all year round.

4. Smart Clothing

To stay warm and cozy also if you go skiing in bad weather can be tricky when not having the right equipment. But now you don’t have to experiment any more with different layers, materials, combinations of both etc. Clothing manufacturers have elaborated technologies (with special materials like graphen, intelligent fibres or also with sensors) for regulating temperature in clothing easily and in an intelligent way. Mostly those systems are accompanied by the possibility to regulate the heating manually via smart devices. These developments show that smart clothing can be much more than a pedometer in a shoe or a fitness tracker. In addition to temperature regulation, the monitoring and optimization of training performance is the most important function for the use of intelligent clothing in sports. Thanks to the use of electrodes integrated into the clothing, this is now also possible wirelessly and no longer restricts sporting activity.

We’ve got some examples for you:

Clim 8 (France)

Clim8 will automatically start heating when the user is cold and stop as the activity increases. Even if the system is completely intelligent and autonomous to regulate the user’s skin temperature and comfort, clim8 enables a manual control via an easy to use app on the customers devices.

DiPulse (Swiss/Sweden)

The Swedish-Swiss company diPulse is revolutionizing the muscle stimulation training: The company’s functional clothing is equipped with electrodes, that are based on carbon nanotubes, wafer-thin and hardly apply at all. The greatest advantage is the completely cable-free training possibility that doesn’t hinder free movements and is independent of any location.

Spryng (USA)

Spryng is a portable and completely wireless muscle recovery tool which is wrapped around the lower legs. The affordable gadget works with pneumatic compression that prevents leg swelling, improves circulation, flushes lactic acid and makes the athlete get back on his feet very fast.

5. Innovative Sports Equipment

You can find them everywhere, the creative minds who think beyond the existing and develop exciting things the world has never seen before. So, there are also enthusiasts in the winter sports sector who are fed up with snowboards that have both legs fixed, heavy and bulky snowshoes and skis that are difficult to transport. They have turned their ideas into reality and the modern winter sports enthusiast can now practice one-legged snowboarding or inflate his snowshoes when he needs them. If not, he simply stows them away in his backpack. These and other innovations bring equipment development in the winter sports sector an exciting step forward year after year.

We’ve got some examples for you:

Smallfoot (Bulgaria)

Smallfoot has developed inflatable snowshoes, designed to give you the freedom of traditional snowshoes, without the extra load. Driven by the belief that safety is a must, the Smallfoot snowshoe is created to overcome the deepest of snow.

Splitski (Poland)

SPLIT SKIS is an innovative solution to foldable skis. The folding SPLIT SKIS will perform during ski touring and expeditions, mountaineering or climbing.

Onefoot (Norway)

Onefoot developed the snowbob, which is a sled you actively and intuitively control by shifting your weight form side to side. Snowbob offers you to dive into the turns, making your body an integrated part of the sledding experience. The second innovation of Onefoot is the Miniski, where you strap one foot only and left the second one free. This provides new possibilities of tricks and for sure is an eyecatcher on each slope.

About

The Future Hub is yearly organized by Fiera Bolzano during for the Prowinter exhibition, a specialized trade show for the expanding rental sector of winter and summer sports equipment. In this area startups from the branch get the chance to show their solutions to a broad audience and to pitch it for winnig the Prowinter Startup Award. WhatAVenture, a team of innovation experts and hands-on entrepreneurs, supports Fiera Bolzano together with Blum, a communication agency. During the scouting process for the startup selection, we have immersed ourselves deeply into the startup world and innovations of the winter and ski industry – an experience we want to share.

 

Authors:

Eva Zingerle, Senior Innovator, WhatAVenture

Stefan Peintner, Partner, WhatAVenture