MEDIA ANALYSIS: Ski sector adapts for a wider reach

With the winter half-term holiday being the peak of the skiing season and with an estimated 1.1 million people taking to the slopes last year, Tom Williams reports on the specialist skiing and snowboarding titles

The approach of the school half-term in February has traditionally been a bumper time for the world's ski resorts. And skiing is a growing industry, with an estimated 1.1 million Britons booking holidays or accommodation with winter-break tour operators offering snow sport breaks in the 2002/2003 season.

The Ski Club of Great Britain estimates bookings are up 2.5 per cent on the previous season, representing an extra 29,000 people making the dash for the slopes - and all of them needing ski equipment.

If the trend continues this year there are likely to be even more novices seeking advice on what skis or snowboards to buy. Along with the more experienced skiers, these newcomers can turn to a highly specialised ski press to tell them what's hot on the piste and what's not.

Targeting niche audiences

Ski distributors have a tight-knit community of specialist publications to target when trying to get coverage for their products. The two magazines that top the list of those most often mentioned are the Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard magazine and the Ski Club of Great Britain's own Ski and Board magazine. But other publications also have a significant share of the market, including Fall Line Skiing, Skier, Snowboarder Magazine, Snow, Snowboard UK and Whitelines.

While ski publications have their niche audience, the tactics required to attract the attention of editors seem less sophisticated.

Alister Watson, founder of Ski Warehouse, which sells and markets among other products the Blizzard brand of ski equipment, says that his approach to editors is typically to provide them with product samples and send over information by fax or email.

It is a method the ski magazine editors seem to favour, although Watson and others admit that celebrity endorsement in a tight-knit sport whose main sportspeople are often idolised can be a bonus.

It seems that while skiing's demographic may have changed, there is little time in skiing publications for anyone who is not serious about the sport.

Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard

Publisher: DMG World Media

Circulation: 13,728 (ABC)

Frequency: Six issues per year

Editor: Henry Druce

What sort of content makes it in?

'We focus on things like ideas on where to go and what equipment to have.

Our photo gallery section has shots of different skiing destinations and people skiing.' What kind of things do you cover in news analysis pieces?

'We might, for example, look at the explosion in instructor training and ask whether we need more instructors. That would be our leader.'

How often do you feature ski equipment in the magazine?

'The team will test a particular piece of equipment each month and write a special feature. PROs should email me about such launches if they want to get in touch.' Would you profile someone that endorsed a particular piece of ski equipment?

'It would have to be someone really big like Alain Baxter (the first Britain to win an Olympic medal for Alpine skiing).'

Ski and Board

Publisher: The Ski Club of Great Britain

Circulation: 21,320 (ABC)

Frequency: Four issues per year

Editor: Arnie Wilson

How has the profile of your readership changed over the years?

'Ski and Board is for the members of the Ski Club of Great Britain, which used to be dominated by the RAF and the Army and was the main body to organise races until 1963. This has meant that we cannot get too modern or too hip and have to balance keeping up to date without alienating our older readers.' How much of the magazine do you dedicate to reviewing equipment?

'We would have about 16 pages on equipment in two or three issues in the year. We have thought about a fifth issue devoted to equipment, but haven't done anything on that yet.' What is the best way for a PRO to approach you?

'My deputy editor, Nick Hutchins, has more interest in equipment. We try to support the advertising side of the magazine, so I am not one of those editors who will say that editorial couldn't possibly get involved in pushing advertising along.'

Skier Publisher Mountain Marketing Co

Circulation: 50,000 (free; not ABC audited)

Frequency: Four issues per year

Editor/publisher: Frank Baldwin

What has been the biggest change in the sport over the past 20 years?

'Skiing used to be seen as an elitist sport. But there has been great growth in the number of people who now take part and earn less than £20,000 a year.' What is the difference between your magazine and all the other skiing publications?

'We are the only magazine that covers all the races. We also look at health and safety issues and write hard news on things like cable car crashes.'

What is your experience of PROs?

'I prefer a paper-based press release that we will respond to if we want to use it. I spend too much time fielding follow-up calls. We are interested in anything that would interest a skier.'

Are there particular pieces of equipment that the publication would focus on?

'Something that might help a skier, a medical kit for example'.

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