Introduction to Travel Patterns and Destinations
The majority of tourists are people that take an annual vacation in the summer months. However, since the 1960s tourists have also taken holidays in the winter at snow resorts. A snow resort is a resort developed for snow sports. Today, a number of snow sports are popular; however, it was skiing that led to the popularisation of snow resorts.
In the 1890s, downhill skiing gained popularity in the Swiss Alps, having been introduced from Norway. In the 1930s, the ski lift was invented and provided skiers with easy access to the top of slopes. In the 1960s, the alpine ski boot was invented. These boots attached to newly developed skis via spring loaded binding. These technological developments meant that skiing became safer than ever before. This led to a sharp rise in the popularity of snow resorts.
In the 1960s and 1970s, ski resorts were seen as being reserved for the wealthy travellers known as the “jet set”. By the early 1980s, a rise in the number of resorts coupled with a fall in the price of air travel made winter resorts more affordable. Today, some tourists still take a sun vacation in the summer and visit a snow resort in the winter. Others will make a snow resort the destination of their annual holiday.
To be successful, downhill ski resorts require good snow cover, hilly or mountainous terrain, tolerable temperatures and relatively long hours of daylight. It is also extremely important that they be accessible. The success or failure of major snow resorts is dependent upon the presence of all of these factors.
For example, Norway has the snowy mountains needed for skiing. However, the intolerably cold temperatures combined with the short daylight hours limits its popularity in winter. The Southern Alps has slopes that are perfect for downhill skiing but do not offer year round snow coverage. The Northern Alps are perfect for skiing as they are continually covered by snow, have a significant amount of daylight hours and have an acceptable temperature. The Pyrenees also provided good conditions for skiing. In Eastern Europe the best overall conditions are in the Carpathians. In North America, the Laurentians (outside Quebec) appeal to American tourists from the East and Midwest. Most tourists from the American south and midwest visit resorts in the Rocky Mountains.
In addition to natural characteristics, successful ski resorts must invest in the correct facilities. On the ski slopes, ski lifts are needed to transport tourists up the mountain and “snow grooming” machines are needed to keep the slopes smooth. Tourists also need hotels with modern amenities including bars, restaurants and leisure facilities. Luxury resorts should also include health spas. Also, it is very important that resorts purchase snow ploughs to keep road access clear.
Recently, a number of snow resorts have opened with apartments rather than hotel accommodation. Each apartment is owned by an individual. The common areas such as the walkways and reception areas are owned jointly by the apartment owners. Most complexes charge a maintenance fee the general upkeep of the resort. Often bars, restaurants, shops and other businesses open in these resorts to cater for tourists. Owners commonly rent out their apartments to other tourists.
The vast majority of snow resorts are focused on downhill skiing. However, cross-country skiing is quite popular and is the focus of a number of resorts. Cross-country skiing has been popular in Scandinavia since the 19th century. It did not grow in popularity in the United States and Alpine Europe until the 1970s. It is much cheaper than downhill skiing, is good exercise and is suitable for flat terrain.
While skiing is the main focus of all snow resorts, modern resorts also cater for other snow sports. Such sports include snowboarding and snowmobiling. Recreational activities are also offered such as ice fishing and ice swimming.
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