Snowsports sector 2022 - economic, social, and cultural impact: research

This report presents the findings of research into the economic, cultural and social value of the Scottish snowsports sector.

2. Strategic and policy context

Key findings

A review of the relevant policy and strategic context identified a range of key messages and themes that are relevant to the snowsports sector and where the sector can contribute.

As the climate emergency grows, and levels of snowfall both decline and become less predictable, pressure will increase on the snowsports sector in Scotland to adapt and reduce dependency on activities that are reliant on snow. The sector will also need assistance to make the transition to net zero over the coming years.

Access to high quality facilities and service provision is critical to encourage individuals and families to become more active and participate in sport and physical activity, including snowsports.

Although the snowsports sector is doing some good work at engaging some of those that are under-represented in sport and physical activity, more needs to be done to reduce barriers to participation and to strengthen the sector's approach to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Creating a wellbeing economy is a policy priority, and is essential for building a more prosperous, resilient, equal and sustainable economy. This will be an important consideration for the future development of the snowsports sector.

2.1 Introduction

The value of the snowsports sector in Scotland must be viewed in the context of current policy direction and priorities. There is a wide range of strategy and policy documents which help us consider how snowsports fit with, and contribute to, policy priorities. This chapter considers the main policy drivers and their implications for the ongoing recovery, development, growth, and sustainability of the sector in Scotland. Specifically, these are: inclusive growth; active and healthy lifestyles; equality, diversity, and inclusion; and COVID-19 recovery.

The documents reviewed to provide insights are listed below.

2.2 Inclusive growth

The tourism sector is particularly important to rural Scotland. It protects and creates jobs, and provides opportunities for businesses to grow, particularly micro and small enterprises.

The tourism sector in Scotland is distinctive and diverse. It helps to support the economic viability of communities, and local services and amenities (for example, shops, pubs, restaurants, accommodation, transport) are all supported and sustained by visitors to rural areas.

As such, the snowsports sector can contribute to economic growth at a national and local level by:

  • Supporting jobs in rural (and urban) communities.
  • Supporting employment across the sector's supply chain.
  • Attracting people to the areas where the network of mountain centres and artificial slopes are located.
  • Encouraging visitor dwell time and spend in local areas.

The focus is on continuing to build on areas of competitive advantage and unique strengths across all of Scotland's tourism assets, including natural assets. This is something that the snowsports sector, in partnership with other agencies, can help to build on.

2.3 Active and healthy lifestyles

People derive a wide range of benefits from having an active life, including better physical and mental health, healthy weight, skills development. The Active Scotland Outcomes Framework and sportscotland's Sport for Life Strategy set out the importance and benefits of being physically active and emphasise the importance of providing opportunities for people of all ages to take part in sport and physical activity. The Draft Snowsports Strategy 2022/26 also sets out a vision, "Snowsports for Life", which recognises the distinct "life stages" of participation in snowsports.

The provision of high-quality sports and leisure is also crucial to encouraging more people to participate in sport and physical activity. Such facilities can help encourage and enable greater activity. The Active Scotland Outcomes Framework, Sport for Life, and Snowsport Scotland's 2022/26 Draft Strategic Plan and 2030 National Facilities Strategy all point to the need for a strong network of high-quality and fit-for-purpose facilities which are accessible to communities across Scotland.

Investment in improving existing infrastructure and facilities and developing new facilities ensures that sport and leisure provision: meets modern day standards; is more energy efficient; is safeguarded over the longer-term; and can meet the changing needs and expectations of the domestic and visitor market alike.

2.4 Equality, diversity, and inclusion

Equality, diversity, and inclusion appear strongly in policy documents, often as a cross-cutting issue or underpinning value or principle that guides the work organisations do. Accessibility and inclusivity are important considerations - there are links between the accessibility of sports facilities and the amount of physical activity a person participates in. From a facility design perspective, this means being accessible for all abilities (such as adaptive snowsports) and being welcoming to all.

Inequality in participation is a long-standing and deep-seated issue and is reflective of broader cultural and societal differences. The Equality and Sport Research report shows that under-represented groups in sport and physical activity in Scotland include women and teenage girls, older people, disabled people, ethnic minority people, and people living in deprived areas. The report also shows that there are a range of barriers (real or perceived) which make it difficult for under-represented groups to participate in physical activity and sport, and that action continues to be required to remove barriers to engagement and to support inclusion.

For snowsports, barriers to entry include cost/expense, access to suitable equipment, transport (including geographical locations of the mountain centres), weather conditions, and perceptions of an elitist sport that is not for everyone.

In response to the challenges of encouraging participation, the Draft Snowsports Strategy 2022/26 identifies "Participation and Performance Pathways", defined as "Accessible and inclusive pathways that promote Snowsports for Life and support progression and performance", as one of four priorities for the sector. Building and sustaining effective pathways to entry is essential to encourage participation, retention, and progression.

2.5 COVID-19 recovery

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been widespread, and the sport and leisure sector (indoors and outdoors) has been severely affected, as has its wider supply chain. This includes: loss of income; loss of markets; postponement/cancellation of events and infrastructure developments; and a negative impact on participation and clubs.

Opportunities to take part in physical activity and sport will have a central role to play in Scotland's recovery from the pandemic (such as improving physical and mental health, social cohesion). The Scottish Government made a commitment, in its COVID Recovery Strategy (2021) to double investment in sport and active living to £100 million a year by the end of the current Parliament. Snowsports could make a small contribution here, in terms of supporting people with their physical and mental health and wellbeing, resilience, and connecting with nature.

2.6 Partnerships and collaboration

The importance of partnership working and collaborative approaches within the sports sector and beyond is identified as critical to encouraging healthier and more active lifestyles. Greater emphasis is now placed on helping people get the most out of Scotland's existing sporting system. This includes building and strengthening connections with other sports sector providers and facilitating connections between sport and the public and third sectors (for example, health, education, transport, and environment).

2.7 Conclusions

The above provides the strategic context for the potential development of the snowsports sector in Scotland. The sector has a limited role to play in helping to achieve the key aims and objectives of a range of national and regional strategies. Therefore, the snowsports sector in Scotland has potential to aid with:

  • Providing employment and supporting jobs in rural (and urban) communities, particularly in the winter period.
  • Supporting employment across the sector's supply chain.
  • Being a part of the attraction of local areas, attracting more people to areas where mountain centres and artificial slopes are located.
  • Providing the facilities that allows people to be physically active (particularly during the winter period).
  • Playing a role in achieving physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits.
  • Helping rural communities and economies recover from the effects of COVID-19.

However, these impacts must be viewed in the context of decreasing predictability of weather patterns and the current cost of living crisis. As such, the real impact that the snowsports sector has on encouraging physical health, or helping to recover from the pandemic, is likely to be very limited. The following chapters test these possible impacts, assessing the potential for the snowsports industry to contribute to Scotland's economy, culture and social structure.



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