Hot Sheet: Near-record skiers, record retail & safer racing summit - SNEWS

Hot Sheet: Near-record skiers, record retail & safer racing summit

It was a record season for snowsports retailers, and a near-record season for U.S. ski areas. SNEWS breaks down the numbers, and also checks in with some new safety initiatives sweeping across North America.

U.S. ski areas tallied 60.1 million skier visits during the 2010/11 season, according to the preliminary results of the Kottke End of Season Survey, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced May 6. It marks the second time that the ski industry has broken the 60-million-visit threshold, and represents a 0.5-percent increase from last season’s 59.8 million visits, and is just shy of the 60.5 million visit record set in 2007/08.

Nationally, snowfall at resorts was up 27 percent this season, and was the highest recorded in 20 years of Kottke research. As a result, the average season operating length increased, and some resorts opened early and/or remained open beyond normal closing dates. Most regions experienced increased snowfall, with particularly large increases in the Pacific Southwest (up 43 percent), Northeast (up 37 percent), Rocky Mountains (up 31 percent), and Midwest (up 26 percent), and to a lesser extent the Pacific Northwest (up 9 percent). The Southeast was the only region with a decline in snowfall (down 42 percent).

Gains in visits occurred in most regions, including the Northeast (up 4 percent from last season), Rockies (up 1.7 percent), Midwest (up 1 percent), and Pacific Northwest (up 0.3 percent). Decreased visits were experienced by both the Pacific Southwest ( down 5 percent) and Southeast (down 3.6 percent). In a further indication of widespread solid performance, the industry as a whole exceeded its 10-season average by 4.1 percent, a pattern echoed by all regions, including the Northeast (up 5.3 percent from its 10-season average), Southeast (up 4.8 percent), Midwest (up 2.2 percent), Rocky Mountains (up 4 percent), Pacific Southwest (up 2 percent), and Pacific Northwest

Highlights from a record season at retail

SIA announced the week of May 2, that the snowsports market brought in a record $3.3 billion over the full 2010/2011 season, easily breaking the 2007/2008 season’s $3 billion dollar mark. Overall, snowsports sales were up 8 percent in units sold, and up 12 percent in dollars sold. Leaner inventories kept prices strong throughout the season; equipment inventories finished the season 19 percent leaner and equipment prices were 10 percent higher than they were at the close of last season. In fact, retail margins finished the season up 10 percent for equipment, up 10 percent for accessories, and up 4 percent for apparel goods sold. Here are a few highlights from a record season at retail:

* Alpine skis (flat skis sold without bindings) in the 80mm-110mm waist width category were up 74 percent in dollars sold on more than 74,000 units compared to 47,000 units sold last season.

* Women’s ski sales increased 20 percent in units sold and 26 percent in dollars sold this season. 149,000 out of a total of 419,000 alpine skis sold were women’s models this season.

* AT/Randonee equipment sales finished the season up 90 percent overall in dollars sold, and up 87 percent in units sold. Most notably, AT/Randonee boots sales finished up 126 percent in units and up 124 percent in dollars sold.

* Reverse/Mixed camber ski sales finished the season up 134 percent in units and 129 percent in dollars. Approximately 54,000 pairs of reverse camber/mixed camber skis were sold this season.

* Insulated parka sales finished the season up 24 percent in units sold and up 24 percent in dollars sold to $394 million in total sales.

* Helmet sales were very strong with 1.2 million sold, up 3 percent in units sold and up 12 percent in dollars sold.

Canadian racers crack down on safety issues

Canadian news services report that a two-day summit in Calgary, hosted by the governing body for alpine ski racing, has resulted in changes designed to make the sport safer. Officials with Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA) decided May 4, to make downhill courses slower, change equipment standards, have skiers wear less aerodynamic outfits and raise the minimum age of ski racers from 15 to 18. ACA organized the event at Canada Olympic Park in the wake of a rash of serious injuries on the national team in the last two years.

In a corresponding story, Canadian skier Erik Guay is looking to partner with helmet manufacturers to create a safer helmet for ski racers. “I’ve been in contact with a couple of different companies that manufacture helmets on different levels,” Guay told British Columbia’s Victoria Times Colonist. “One of them is an NFL supplier. They make helmets for the NFL. The other one is a Formula One helmet designer.” Guay said he will help finance the production of a helmet that will help keep his head safer should he crash while ski racing at speeds of up to 100 mph.

Washington governor signs closed area law

A bill making it a misdemeanor to ski in clearly marked closed areas at ski areas was signed into law May 5, by Gov. Chris Gregoire, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Rope duckers now face a criminal trespassing charge and a potential $1,000 fine for skiing in-bounds closures at the state’s ski areas.

--Peter Kray

Send your WinterSports news to Peter Kray at Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at to learn about posting your own news releases, getting your WinterSports headlines, or with any other questions or comments.



CO Season Roundup: Skier visits, record Vail, lodging and more

With only one Arapahoe Basin still running the chairs, Colorado is calling it a season, reporting more than 12 million skier visits from Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), and a record season at Vail. CSCUSA, which reports Colorado visits separately from Vail Resorts’ Vail, more


Hot Sheet: Adapt to survive, new helmet legislation & more Lindsey

At the opening session of the 36th Annual Mountain Travel Symposium (MTS) in Beaver Creek, Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and current chairman of Kayak, emphasized innovation as the key to weathering the current economic recession. Capturing the Forum’s theme of adapting to more


Hot Sheet: Head, drunk skiers, Hall of Fame, Burton and more

Low snow in Europe last winter resulted in a significant sales drop for Head NV, as the company reported that mid-January sales reorders were reduced considerably, driving sales down in the wintersports division by nearly 7 percent for the first quarter. But second quarter sales more


WinterSports Hot Sheet: New skis, retail intros, avy accidents & more

After a couple of relatively quiet seasons spent weathering the recession, ski makers appear to be unleashing their pent-up design energy for 2011-2012. Representatives from a half-dozen alpine ski brands converged on Vail, Dec. 1-3, 2010, to give gear editors, includingSNEWS more


Vermont and New Hampshire combine for nearly 7 million skier visits

Vermont and New Hampshire both reported their skier visits for the 2010-2011 ski season on June 15, 2011, with the two states combining for nearly 7 million skier days this past winter. The Vermont Ski Areas Association announced at its annual meeting at Sugarbush Resort that more


Hot Sheet: more retail, Ashland expansion, + ski team and people news

After the record year at snowsports retail officially closed with $3.3 billion in sales, the outdoor market continues to see momentum at the cash register. Leisure Trends Preliminary Outdoor RetailTRAK data reports April was another positive selling month for outdoor retailers more


Hot Sheet: Acquisitions, partnerships, closures and snow

OnTheSnow is acquiring, North America’s second largest (behind OnTheSnow) snow reporting website, and the number one mobile snow app. OnTheSnow is operated by Mountain News Corp., which is owned by Vail Resorts. According to the company's press release, some 860,000 more


Hot Sheet: More Vermont, Ski Team, LSSM and more industry news

New information continues to emerge from the disaster zones in Vermont. Bonnie MacPherson of Okemo Mountain Resort sent over a note on Sept. 9, 2011, updating the statues of the Vermont ski area and saying that, “Communities have rallied in support of those in need and the newly more


Hot Sheet: Stowe steps up, inflation, record snow & toilet thieves

Stowe Mountain Resort will replace the FourRunner chairlift on Mount Mansfield with a new high-speed quad. Originally installed in the ‘80s, the FourRunner has been Stowe's most popular lift, uploading more skiers and riders than any other lift in the resort's history. “The more