SNOWELL has been renting ski equipment from their online portal to tens of thousands of customers from all over the world every winter season for more than 25 years. Their portfolio includes skis, ski boots, poles, helmets, snowboards, cross-country-skis, touring skis but also fun sport equipment like snowshoes, toboggans, short skis and snowbikes. SkiGala offers rental ski clothing – ski jackets, pants, gloves and goggles. Hence, we saw a great synergy to work together as partners to outfit skiers literally from head to toe. SkiGala sat down with Markus Juen, CEO of SNOWELL, to find out more about their history and vision for rental skis in the future.
I love snow. I grew up in the mountains in the Montafon so I have always loved winter sports and skiing. As a student, I worked at the local ski rental shops during the peak holiday season. In the mid-1990s, the ski rental business changed dramatically and started to focus more on quality and service. I really enjoyed the contact with guests from all over the world, and I am a passionate winter sports enthusiast, so it just seemed natural to me to continue working in the industry. I was offered a position to take over the management of a ski rental shop and after this first winter season I switched to the SNOWELL headquarters.
At that time, we did see ourselves as pioneers because most skiers were not really aware of the many advantages of renting skis. Of course, it was common for skiers from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, etc., to rent ski equipment for their ski holiday. However, the focus on quality ski rentals, and the expansion of rental equipment to include things like snowboards, was something new. In 1997, all the top brands introduced carving skis to the market and that brought a real momentum to skiing. It opened up a lot of opportunity for non-skiers, new skiers and occasional skiers. The material and technology continue to develop and that creates a great skiing experience for all levels of skiing. The convenience, the cost savings, and also the idea of the sharing economy all contribute toward the increasing popularity of the rental market.
There really isn't that much that can go wrong actually. Skiers can choose from different categories of equipment based on their own skill level and personal preferences and our partner rental shops are always available to guide and advise skiers on the best fit. We say that customers who are well-informed are satisfied customers. A beginner skier will not be happy with a race carver, for example, and an advanced skier will want to try out the newest and fastest material. It is our personal guarantee that SNOWELL customers get the rental equipment that is tailored to their individual needs and that guarantees that they’ll have fun on the slopes.
It’s the same as renting ski equipment. There is a ski boot for every individual need. When booking online, skiers will be asked a variety of questions concerning their shoe size and weight and their skill level, and even special requirements such as flex and fit, like wide feet or narrow feet or wide calves. The rental shop receives all of this information in advance and can therefore select an appropriate boot for the skier. At pick up, the skier will try on the boot to ensure the right fit. Even if they notice a day or two later that they are not happy with their ski boots, they can always visit the shop again and exchange the boots for a different model. We only succeed when our skiers are happy in their ski boots.
A lot has happened here. What we are seeing is that skiers are taking shorter winter holidays, but also taking more holidays. They spend shorter periods and also in different ski resorts throughout the winter. They are better informed about special offers and weather and even traffic, and therefore they are more spontaneous when attractive options pop up. It is also a result of the last 3 ‘pandemic ski seasons’. The love for winter sports is probably stronger than ever and it has also become more diverse. It’s not just alpine skiing anymore, it’s snowshoeing or cross-country skiing or ski touring. The main goal is to be outdoors in the snow.
This topic is playing an increasing role in consumer decision-making. Customers realize that renting ski equipment makes sense. Children outgrow their ski equipment every single year. Adults sometimes only use their gear once a season. Customers are increasingly traveling to their winter holidays by train or bus, so renting is very convenient and saves the hassle of lugging equipment between home and hotel. Even when skiers drive to the ski resort by car, they save a lot of space required for the equipment, they save fuel because there is less weight in the car or in the roof box. Renting is simply pragmatic.
Winter sports equipment is in a permanent state of development. Production methods and materials used to create gear is constantly improving. And customer preferences are also changing. Most equipment brands have a wide range of skis to suit different styles of skiing – on slope, racing skis, all-mountain skis, freeriders, touring and freestyle skis. The trend towards more sustainable materials in production is ever more prevalent as well as material optimization and product weight. There has been a lot of creative innovation towards the development of lighter skis that still provide stability, even at high speeds. Several brands are launching total allrounder skis in for this season. The skis deliver a high performance under different snow and terrain conditions and also perform beyond the groomed slopes. There is literally a ski for everyone.
It is SNOWELL's goal to be the premiere information portal for booking winter holidays in the mountains in Europe. We do our best to ensure that our customers have access to relevant and up-to-date travel information and that they can conveniently book their ski equipment in advance. They should look forward to the ski holiday and not be stressed about getting everything organised. SNOWELL provides a one-stop-shop for booking ski rentals, ski schools, hotels and accommodation, detailed information about the ski resorts including weather and snow reports and, new this season, we partnered with SkiGala, who rent ski clothing across Austria. We continually strive to offer our customers premiere service and convenience.
Just a good breakfast and a lift ticket. I always recommend taking it easy at the beginning of the holiday and just enjoying the snow. If you want to freshen up or develop your technique, it is always worth it to hire a guide or ski instructor or join a course in one of the ski schools, even if it's only for a few hours.
If we had a race down, who would win? Phew, that's a very difficult question. I have a few favorites at home in the Montafon. But when I think of other ski resorts all across the Alps, there are so many awesome descents. I just love being on skis, particularly in the early in the morning when the slopes are untouched and the snow is still firm and has great traction. I love the freshness of crisp mountain air in the winter, the ice blue skies and the stunning panoramas. What more do you need to be happy?! About the race, well, I love speed, but let’s leave the racing to the professionals.