France continues to be the most popular country with 37.1% share reflecting the enduring appeal of chalet and club hotel holidays. A difficult start to the season and a late Easter also encouraged skiers to go high, favouring France. Austria, generally perceived as low-lying, lost one percentage point, but Switzerland, which also benefits from high resorts, continued to edge up.

North America, surprisingly given a season of positive snow reports in sharp contrast to Europe's, only rose by 0.1%. This reflects capacity constraints in flights to North America and beds in popular resorts.

Bulgaria's growth has stalled, Italy's small shortfall was perhaps caused by an extended hangover from the Winter Olympics and Andorra suffered both from poor snow and its continuing attempt to reposition itself from a budget to a quality destination. The ‘others' sector rose by 1.2%, reflecting growth in Slovenia, Serbia and Finland.

Overall growth has slowed, which Crystal interpret as a blip largely attributable to last season's European snow records, rather than a fundamental change to the established growth pattern.

In 2006/7 the tour operator sector grew by 1.8%, but the top six operators saw their market share slip 3 points to 74%. The two largest operators, Crystal and Inghams were both flat season-on-season, despite having predicted growth at this point last year. Thomson and First Choice lost volume, suggesting preference for the specialist operators. Neilson continued to show steady growth.

Short-haul flight capacity rose by 6% season-on-season: the no frills carriers were up 18%; whilst the combination of vertically integrated and independent airlines fell by 2%.

The Report concludes that the challenges for the 2007/8 winter are the lack of confidence in snow conditions, high fuel costs and the possible impact of ongoing airport security concerns.

The upsides for 2007/08 are a strong pound, especially against the dollar, continued strength in the North America market, an early Easter and a solid start to the season's sales.

The ski and snowboard overview amalgamates information from tour operators' own statistics, AC Nielson's TravelTrack market research, CAA published statistics, tourist office figures and travel agency feedback.

The Guide is available to view online at: