The practice of winter sports generates one of the most important forms of mass tourist movement in Europe and in the whole world (Flagestad & Hope, 2001; Hudson, 2001). The offer for people practicing winter sports is, for many mountain locations, the main element of their tourist product. Poland is one of many European countries whose inhabitants show a great demand for practicing winter sports and there is a significant number of ski facilities around the country. Around 100 locations situated in the mountain massifs of southern Poland aim at attracting tourists keen on practicing winter sports by offering them continuously expanding ski facilities.
It is a cliche to say that knowledge of customers' needs and an ability to adjust the offer is one of the main conditions of success on this competitive market. A well-known problem is that customers' requirements are greatly diversified and it is impossible to meet the needs of all of them at the same time. The segmentation and the selection of target segments (in accordance with economic criteria) become essential.
The aim of this work is to provide an analysis and the segmentation of the wide and diversified market of people practicing winter sports in Polish ski resorts by considering many variables with different characteristics (descriptive and explanatory).
In the case of the voluminous and diversified market of travels connected with winter sports, a significant discrepancy of expectations of particular skiers' groups can be expected. The implications of these differences in the development of ski areas as well as social and cultural factors cause this market not to share the same characteristics of a global market--it is rather a continental or regional one. The recognition of the characteristics and needs of skiers visiting particular regions connected with winter sports become extremely important as their offer will depend on it. So far, sparse attempts at segmenting the ski market have been carried out for individual countries (Klenosky, Gengler, & Mulvey, 1993; Lewis, & Wild, 1995; Minos 1996 cited in Hudson, 2001; Dolnicar, & Leisch, 2003; Tsiotsou, 2008). Similar researches that have been conducted in various countries show a comparatively small adequacy of results obtained in one country in relation to the conditions of another one.
Research of the ski market in Poland, so far, has not considered the issue of the segmentation of skiers visiting Polish mountains. That is why the offer is controlled fundamentally by the intuition and experience of tenders rather than actual consumer preferences. There is a necessity to examine also the preferences of Polish skiers and their segmentation.
An additional argument underlying the need of researching this issue is the fact that Poland, despite its low-lying terrain, is simultaneously one of the most visited countries by tourists seeking winter sports related activities. Poland is placed at the top of the second half among the 20 countries that are visited most often for practicing winter sports, with a 0.5% share of the global market (Hudson 2000, p.28).
Moreover, the research conducted in the developed countries of Europe and North America with longer ski traditions than Poland is acutely inadequate for the realities of the Polish market because of:
* The relatively small degree of the Polish ski market internationalization (in comparison with other geographic markets) causing Poles not go skiing abroad too often, and that the number of foreigners on Polish ski slopes is insubstantial (Zemla, 2008).
* The surplus of demand over supply resulting from relatively small internationalizing and supply of the market (Zemla, 2004).
* Different (from other countries' markets) dynamics of the domestic demand--it is a rapidly developing market in Poland, while the majority of traditional destinations are fighting against the problem of years of stagnation (Flagestad, & Hope, 2001). …