Aspen ski shops report solid season despite warm, dry winter
Ski shops across the country started slow with sales this season but Aspen operators said Tuesday they bucked the trend and logged a solid winter.
Snowsports Industries America, a nonprofit trade association for equipment and apparel manufacturers, reported a mixed bag of sales during the first half of the season, August through Dec. 31. Sales of alpine skiing equipment totaled $334 million, down 4 percent in dollars and 6 percent in units sold compared with the same period the prior year, according to Snowsports Industries America’s Mid-Season Intelligence Report.
Snowboard equipment sales were $165 million, down 3 percent in dollar and 5 percent in units sold from the same period in 2013.
Nordic gear, which makes up a smaller part of the market, was down 6 percent in dollars while alpine touring equipment was up 4 percent — reflecting the uphill travel craze. Still, alpine touring equipment saw sales of only $11 million compared with $334 million for alpine gear.
Apparel sales were up from August through December compared with the prior winter. Sales of coats, shells and fleeces totaled $604 million, up 2 percent in dollars.
Sales of pants for skiers and snowboarders totaled $173 million, also up 2 percent in sales.
Snowsports Industries America Director of Research Kelly Davis said weather is responsible for as much as three-fourths of the annual variance in sales of equipment and apparel. The wildly different weather by region is reflected in the sales of equipment and clothing this winter, she said.
The Pacific Northwest had a warm winter so sales were slow. California suffered through a second severe winter of drought, creating concerns that stretch well beyond the ski industry. Utah and Colorado had warm temperatures with below average snow but pockets of typical winter weather. The Northeast got hammered with snow and cold. “Resorts were complaining there was too much snow,” Davis said.
Bob Wade, owner of Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, said winter sales were solid despite some up-and-down periods. The season started well and snow at Christmas also fueled business, he said.
Then after the holidays there was a 37-day gap with no storms of four inches or more of snow.
“During that period our sales lagged a little bit behind last year,” he said. The biggest effect was on local customers. “When it’s not snowing, people aren’t buying skis,” Wade said.
Visitors were less prone to be affected by the weather, according to Wade. Not as many visitors yearn for powder so they were less fazed by the warm spell.
Alpine touring gear sales were strong, reflecting the national trend. Many Aspen-area residents are replacing older gear as the popularity of uphill travel surges, Wade said.
Gorsuch Limited Aspen Manager David Stapleton said the store felt no effect of below average snow this season. “We had a phenomenal winter,” he said.
Aspen’s bread-and-butter customer is the destination skier — someone who takes an overnight trip. The destination traveler numbers were strong despite what many local residents considered a disappointing winter, weather-wise.
“We’ve had better conditions than most of the West,” Stapleton noted.
Gorsuch’s strong sales were across the board — equipment, apparel and accessories, according to Stapleton. He said apparel sales aren’t dependent on skiers and snowboarders. People who aren’t into snow sports still seek the clothing, he said.
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