Images talks to Crystal Ski Holidays to discover what ski tour operators look for when choosing branded ski garments for their reps

More then one million Britons travel abroad for snowsports each year, according to the 2015 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, with two-thirds opting for the package holiday option. The current popularity of snowsports is reflected by the plethora of snowsports tour operators, all of which employ reps at the resorts. These reps are issued with branded jackets and other outerwear, which represents a high altitude opportunity for decorators to boost their winter order book.

Crystal Ski Holidays is a UK-based ski tour operator that has been in business since 1981. It claims to be the UK’s number one ski tour operator, offering a bigger selection of accommodation and resorts than anyone else in the industry.

Mathew Prior, the managing director of Specialist Holidays Group, the company behind Crystal Ski Holidays, reports that Crystal’s employees are kitted out with jackets, salopettes, softshells, gilets and bobble hats. “As a ski specialist, it is important that our expertise is reflected in the quality, look and feel of our uniforms,” explains Mathew. “Over recent years we have really focused on ensuring that our uniform is ‘on trend’ and not just a functional piece of kit.”

Brand and visual image

Function is still important though, with new requirements now including the ability to carry iPads in jacket pockets. The main factors influencing the choice of garments are production quality, durability, design and technical quality, which combine to convey the brand proposition of ski experts. “Branding has become more important since our brand relaunch two years ago,” Mathew comments. The rebrand aimed to create “a holistic brand world,” which is reinforced at every customer touchpoint. Branded garments are an important part of this approach: “It’s about reinforcing what we stand for and who we are: We love the mountain, we are experts in ski, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we are approachable. What our staff wears in resort has to demonstrate that, and leave behind a memory of the brand in people’s minds. Obviously their actions are key to that too – but the visual image is also very important, along with our other branding in resort.”

Commenting on the choice of bespoke designed and branded garments, Mathew says: “From a brand point of view it’s about quality and brand image – we wouldn’t go for a cheap sports supplier as that would convey the wrong message.” To illustrate this point, Mathew gives, as an example, Helly Hansen being chosen as the exclusive supplier for the famous ski school Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) – it’s a partnership that emphasises the quality of each company.

Crystal carries out a tendering process for suppliers every three years, with bidding suppliers being examined for expertise in providing uniforms, turn-around times, ability to store or carry out top-up orders, the quality of the kit, the price and the brand fit.

For those looking to approach ski tour operators, Mathew offers this advice: “Be flexible in what you can offer in terms of bespoke or exclusive colourways and/or design. Think about co-branding: sometimes the supplier’s brand is just as important as a statement of ski expertise as the customer’s brand.”

Mathew Prior, managing director of Specialist Holidays Group