AP News

Weak snow dampening sales of snow sports gear


DENVER (AP) — A second straight winter of weak snow has dampened early-season sales of snow sports goods, a trade group said, though there are some bright spots.

Sales of twin tip skis that are popular among freestyle skiers and gear for attacking backcountry slopes away from ski lifts are still selling well. And a "look at me" trend of people posting online evidence of their mountain adventures is fueling sales of tiny cameras that can capture action shots for sharing on sites like YouTube or Facebook, researchers with the industry group SnowSports Industries America said.

Overall this winter, consumers spent about $2.1 billion on snow sports items through Dec. 31, industry officials said. Last season, the group reported $2.2 billion in sales for the comparable period.

Retailers sold about 101,500 pairs of twin tip skis through Dec. 31, which is up 4 percent from the same period last season, said SnowSports research director Kelly Davis. She expects the debut of freestyle skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics to boost sales even more.

"It's a very sexy sport. The risks associated with what the athletes are doing scare the heck out of me and their mothers, but it's sexy enough that it's going to end up on prime time," Davis said at a snow show that continues through the weekend.

Sales of specialized alpine boots and "skins" that go on skis and snowboards to help enthusiasts trek uphill to powder in the backcountry also are up, along with sales of split boards, which ride like snowboards but can also split apart to be worn like skis to go uphill.

The urge to explore the backcountry could drive sales of avalanche beacons, probes and shovels, as retailers educate customers of the risks of venturing beyond ski areas, Davis said.

Touchscreen gloves that don't have to be taken off for people to use their smartphones are popular, as are cameras that strap on to helmets, bodies or gear. Both products have been gaining as skiers and snowboarders share images on social media of themselves riding.

"It's what people now need to prove what they did," said market research associate Emily O'Hara.

Davis said that since the economic downturn in 2008, people have started bragging about their experiences instead of using their wealth as a status symbol.


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