The leading manufacturer of skis and snowboards is a case study in the resilience of the outdoor economy amid several unknowns, including climate change. CEO Vincent Wauters is committed to working with competitors for the greater good.
While so many industries have struggled to survive since the pandemic began, the outdoor recreation industry has seen one of the biggest windfalls by far.
With an estimate $887 billion
in annual consumer spending, anything outdoor-related took off as indoor entertainment closed and people sought space anywhere and everywhere they could find it.
Ask anyone who’s been to a mountain resort this season, and they’ll probably tell you things have been busier than ever. Vail Resortsfor example,
a 12.5% increase in visits through April 2022; and that’s not even taking into account an extended ski season due to late winter storms in the western half of North America.
The widespread increase in winter recreation makes this a particularly interesting time to speak with a leader at the helm of one of the sport’s most highly regarded brand groups: Rossignol Group CEO Vincent Wauters.
How inclusive language can lead to a more equitable world
Join us as Nadine Spencer, CEO/Chair of the BrandEq Group and the Black Business and Professional Association, explores the weight language can have in our everyday business communications and conversations. Come and unpack your intrinsic prejudices and leave with practical advice to evolve towards a more inclusive communication.
Wauters took over as CEO in early 2021 and finds himself in this leadership position at a crucial time for the winter sports industry. Skiing and snowboarding face significant price barriers to entry, as well as the unpredictability of the impact of climate change on long-term snow seasons.
“We can’t hide from reality,” Wauters said. Sustainable Brands™. “We know that global warming is urgent for all industries; but we are more connected to nature than others, so we can see it and feel it.
Situated at Isere, France near the Alps, the Rossignol Group has six brands in its portfolio — led by homonymous ski and snowboard manufacturer and supported by smaller and niche winter brands including Dynastar and See. A 2018
puts the group near the top of the ski gear market share (essentially everything outside of apparel and related accessories).
Building a better ski
One of the biggest and most persistent problems in outdoor recreation is what to do with all the hard gear once it reaches the end of its useful life or its owner has grown out of it, either by size, level of capacity or needs.
The band makes a big effort to promote its
Essential Skiing – launched this fall in France – which is made from 75% recycled materials and is intended to be returned to the factory to be reintegrated into new products at the end of its useful life. Wauters says they can reclaim 77% of the ski’s pure raw materials (a combination of mostly aluminum and wood) and then reuse that material for other uses.
Wauters says other ski brands were already experimenting with recyclable and plant-based materials; but Rossignol’s commitment to moving this business forward is a strong signal of the direction in which he wants to steer the company.
“The ability was already there in our DNA,” he says. “We plan to use [the
Essential ski] as a basis for creating a movement for business and a movement for industry; we feel that we are launching a movement to repair and extend the life of skis.
Change the company’s strategy to adopt a warmer climate
In March, Rossignol
its range of mountain bikes with several models suitable for a range of riders. Although the models are equipped and offered at competitive prices, the offer will ultimately remain a small part of the company’s business. Wauters says it’s difficult to scale bicycle production, as they depend on an outside frame maker and other component suppliers; but they are looking for ways to make products closer to the “Western world” in the same way Rossignol makes their winter gear.
Perhaps more important than the bikes themselves is incorporating eco-friendly packaging for shipping the bikes – a big step for a product that traditionally arrives covered in plastic, non-recyclable ties. The delivery box is 99% plastic-free, depending on the brand, and can be reused to ship the bike (something appealing to more advanced enthusiasts). Wauters says the upgraded shipping box has the potential to significantly reduce emissions because it reduces the bike’s overall shipping volume, but the Rossignol Group has yet to make formal estimates on the potential savings.
Asked about a potential pivot, Wauters says they’re looking not so much to warmer pursuits as a way to build a climate-resilient business, but rather to reach the same consumer in a different space.
An additional challenge is to meet the already rising cost of most winter sports, even before the most recent inflation spikes. Overall, skiing and snowboarding are incredibly expensive sports with built-in external costs and mobility needs – including the time and means to get to a mountain and typical lift ticket costs. /travel/accommodation.
“We also have a role to play in being more inclusive and reflecting the diversity of our societies,” says Wauters.
Speaking specifically about cost barriers, Wauters says the future is to use a mix of equipment made from recycled materials and keep that equipment around longer. Ideally, the combination would help increase access with cheaper used hardware on the market, allowing new entrants to enter the space. Considering that the average cost of skis is between $400 to $1,000this would certainly respond to a major inclusiveness challenge.
What will be interesting to see is how winter sports brands will step up their collaboration as the effects of climate change continue to become more apparent. The Rossignol Group is a leader in this field and can shake things up for others to follow, and Wauters is committed to working with its competitors for the greater good.
“The impact of climate change is bigger than just one grower, and we need to help each other,” he says. “We have an open source mindset and more and more companies are joining us.”