Snowsports sector - economic, social and cultural impact: research - technical report

This technical annex contains methodological details of the research into the economic, cultural and social value of the Scottish snowsports sector.

2. Research Methodology

The study method comprised secondary and primary research as described below.

2.1 Secondary research

The study method involved the following secondary research.

First, a wide range of strategy and policy documents were accessed and reviewed to set the scene, and more specifically to help the study team consider how snowsports fits with, and contributes to, policy priorities. This included those with a focus on the economy, tourism, health and wellbeing, sport and physical activity, and those directly relating to snowsports. The study team's knowledge of the policy landscape was supplemented with an online search to identify any wider documents of relevance.

Second, we undertook a literature and evidence review to help illustrate the wider impact that sport and physical activity, including snowsports, has on people and places (i.e. economic, social and cultural impact). This involved an online search of published research and other reports, and included publications in Scotland, the rest of the UK and further afield. The study team's knowledge of the existing evidence based was supplemented with an online search to identify any additional documents of interest.

2.2 Primary research

The primary research was designed and agreed with the Scottish Government client group.

Stakeholders – consultations

A list of key stakeholders to be consulted was developed in partnership with the Scottish Government and Snowsport Scotland. This comprised three main stakeholder groups:

  • Snowsports operators – all mountain centre and artificial slope operators.
  • National Governing Bodies of sport and other snowsports related organisations – for example, sportscotland, Snowsport Scotland, Ski Scotland, Scottish Disability Sport, Mountaineering Scotland.
  • Other stakeholders – for example, Enterprise Agencies, Cairngorms National Park Authority, VisitScotland.
  • An email introduction was issued to consultees by the Scottish Government to broker introductions with the study team. The study team then sent a follow-up email to consultees to arrange a mutually convenient date/time.

A total of 37 remote consultations were undertaken between January and April 2022. Some consultees were engaged on a number of separate occasions.

Table 2.1: Stakeholders consulted
Number on consultee list Interviews completed
Snowsports operators 20 16
National Governing Bodies of sport and other snowsports related organisations 10 10
Other stakeholders 17 11
Total 47 37

A data request was developed and issued by EKOS to the five mountain centres (March 2022) and 14 artificial slope operators (April 2022) to help inform the sector review and economic impact assessment (EIA). A four-week timescale was provided for completion.

The data request sought to capture data:

  • On a range of metrics, including: income and expenditure, demand for snowsports activities and non-snowsport activities, skier days, employment, and capital investment.
  • Over a period of 12 years from 2010/11 to 2021/22 (where possible).

Few operators provided data, and where it was provided, this was often partially completed. The study team and Scottish Government issued follow-up emails to encourage a greater response rate. We received:

  • Five partial responses from the mountain centres
  • Four partial responses from the artificial slopes.

A lack of engagement, and therefore data, made comprehensive analysis of aspects such as finance, employment, and demand more difficult. Gaps in data resulted in challenges in providing a robust sector level assessment, including limiting the breadth and depth of analysis that could be undertaken.

Visitor survey

EKOS designed the visitor survey in partnership with our study partner IBP Strategy and Research (IBP) who undertook the visitor survey on our behalf. All aspects of the survey design and implementation were agreed by the Scottish Government client team.

A phased approach was undertaken to the visitor survey.

The early priority was to complete the target 1,000 interviews on-site across the five mountain centres during the winter season. The on-site interviews commenced in February 2022.

An initial target number of interviews per mountain centre was developed based on the average proportion of snowsports visitors between 2010/11 and 2014/15 at the mountain centres, Table 2.2.

A total of 342 interviews were initially completed at the mountain centres. To supplement the number of on-site interviews completed, hard copy self-completion questionnaires were made available within cafes at the mountain centres. This resulted in an additional 97 responses, bringing the total to 439 interviews. As can be seen in Table 2.2 the proportion of interviews initially completed did not full match the anticipated profile.

Table 2.2: Mountain centre visitor survey – initial survey frame
Average % snowsports visitor 2010/11 to 2014/15 Target interviews Actual interviews % Actual
Cairngorm Mountain 37% 374 203 46%
Glencoe 16% 156 74 17%
Glenshee 13% 134 79 18%
Lecht 2090 5% 53 1 0.2%
Nevis Range 29% 285 82 19%
On-site interviews - 1,000 439 100%

Source: Snowsports visitors taken from the Scottish Snowsports Sector Review (2016).

The following points are worthy of note:

  • Scottish Government guidance prevented research from being undertaken indoors where the number of interviews was more than 50. This meant that on-site interviews had to be undertaken outdoors.
  • The poor weather conditions (such as high winds, snow) presented challenges for both interviewers and interviewees. There were also times when the mountain centres were closed due to the weather conditions (for example, because of no sustainable snow).
  • These issues resulted in fewer in-person interviews on-site than envisaged at the outset.
  • To supplement the number of on-site interviews completed (in-person and self-completion hard-copy) we asked the mountain centres to distribute an online survey (a further 1,045 responses received).

The visitor survey at the artificial slopes took place between June and July 2022. A target of 400 interviews was set (i.e. circa 30 interviews at each facility). Not all artificial slope operators responded to communications from IBP regarding the visitor survey (three of the 14 artificial facilities responded or 21%). In-person interviews were undertaken at three of the facilities and two online survey responses related to another two artificial slopes. This resulted in 46 responses (well below target).

Table 2.3 shows a detailed breakdown of survey responses across each mountain centre and artificial slope facility.

Table 2.3: Visitor survey responses by mountain centre/artificial slope
Mountain centre/artificial slope Number Percentage
Glenshee 441 29%
Cairngorm Mountain 425 28%
Glencoe Mountain Resort 360 24%
Nevis Range 131 9%
Lecht 2090 127 8%
Firpark Ski Centre 21 0%
Newmilns Snow and Sports Complex 15 0%
Glasgow Ski & Snowboard Centre 8 0%
Polmonthill Snowsports Centre 1 0%
Snow Factor, Glasgow 1 0%

Source: IBP Visitor Survey.


Note: artificial slope facilities with no interviews/responses have not been included in the table.

A total of 1,530 responses were received against the target of 1,400.

Table 2.4: Visitor survey summary
Target interviews Actual responses % Achieved
Mountain Centres 1,000 1,484 148%
Artificial slopes 400 46 12%
Total 1,400 1,530 102%

Club survey

An introduction and online survey aimed at snowsports clubs was issued by Snowsport Scotland on our behalf. It was issued to 36 clubs and 10 responses were received. This represents a response rate of 28%.

Business survey

We engaged with several business facing organisations (e.g. Chamber of Commerce) who operate in the localities in and around the five mountain centres with a view to asking these organisations to promote and/or distribute an introduction and online survey link (provided by EKOS) to key business contacts/members.

We were interested to understand how the snowsports sector, and in particular the mountain centres, create wider benefit for other local businesses (e.g. tourism and hospitality) where the mountain centres are based. For example, bed and breakfasts and hotels might benefit from overnight stays from those taking part in snowsports and non-snowsport activities at the mountain centres nearby.

Due to an initial poor response to the business survey (12 responses), we adopted a targeted approach and asked business-facing organisations to help coordinate small group discussions with local businesses. One such remote discussion took place on 8 July 2022. This was arranged through the Cairngorms Business Partnership and involved 10 participants.

The issues outlined above meant that responses to the visitor and business surveys were collected using a mix of approaches, and the timescales for the primary research were extended accordingly. The data collated provides a snapshot of views and may not be representative of all snowsports visitors and businesses in Scotland.



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