Even when many other travel-related industries are seeing sharp downturns, European skiing seems to be holding its own in the world market. Although not all countries have weathered the poor economy and a few warm winters well, some are still just as popular as ever with the skiing crowd.
France has been the most popular European ski destination for as long as nearly anyone can remember. It features not only the perfect weather for skiing, but breathtaking scenery as well. Whether you are in the Alps, the Massif Central or the Jura, there are hundreds of miles of ski slopes to be found.
As it has for decades, France remained the number one ski destination in Europe last year. While surrounding countries lost a portion of their market share of the ski industry, France managed to make small gains.
Austria falls just after France in the roundup of popular European ski destinations. Austria is the preferred destination for celebrities and royalty, with its luxurious resorts and picturesque scenery.
But there is more to Austria's ski industry than meets the eye. Not too long ago, it was feared that the entire industry was doomed. Rumors of global warming, coupled with unseasonably warm weather over one or two ski seasons, threatened to drive down the booming business of Austrian ski resorts.
In the 2007-2008 ski season, however, things once again began to look up for Austria. There was plenty of snow, and the tourists came in strong numbers. According to industry reports, Austria's ski bookings were up 2.8 percent from the previous year. The country's resorts held a 21.8 percent share of the ski vacation market in Europe.
Not that Austria ever broke a sweat over the previous year's temperatures. The Austrian ski resort Klosters has been a favorite Spring destination for Prince Charles and his sons, Princes Harry and William, for many years. In fact, it was during a ski trip at Klosters that the world was introduced to Lady Diana Spencer as Charles' future wife.
This year, the royal family again took to the slopes for a little springtime recreation. They were joined for the first time by Kate Middleton, an accomplished skier who happens to be Prince William's girlfriend.
In addition to the British royal family, Austria's ski resorts hosted the King and Queen of Sweden among many other famous faces. Why Austria above other famous ski destinations?
It could have something to do with the history of the region. Hannes Scheider developed the modern ski technique in Austria at St. Anton's Arlberg Ski School. His instruction allowed generations of skiers to turn and stop on their skis: two essential pieces of technique. St. Anton remains one of the top destinations for skiers, partly for its beautiful slopes and partly because it is, for all intents and purposes, the birthplace of skiing as we now know it.
Perhaps Austria's popularity as a ski destination has more to do with the internationally known Austrian hospitality. When you book a stay in an Austrian hotel or ski resort, you know that you will be welcomed as a part of the family. The locals are more than happy to share their knowledge of the area as well as inside knowledge of the best slopes and restaurants.
Whatever their personal reasons are for continuing to ski in Austria, devotees wouldn't think of taking a ski trip anywhere else. Austrian resorts may not share the same widespread popularity of some French resorts, but patrons wouldn't have it any other way. When they arrive, they are not overwhelmed by wave after wave of skiers. At most resorts, the slopes are quiet and serene, with just the perfect amount of natural snow.
Austria boasts unparalleled natural beauty and a guest list including royalty and celebrities. But even if the royals stayed home, Austrian ski resorts would continue to bring in a healthy amount of business. This is what Austria is about, and the ski industry there will not soon lose ground.
A guide for the 2008/9 ski season for both France and Andorra is available through yourandorra.com