Industry news is green, at least for etailers. In an interesting article at Telemarktips.com (defunct link removed 2015), Mitch Weber turns his ever vibrating industry antennae toward the Snowsports Industries America (SIA) and their seemingly endless spew of weird statistics.
Last season, SIA reported that sales of telemark gear have been flat or falling (though before that they reported an increase in ‘telemark’ ), while folks like Mitch were enjoying an easily tracked surge in telemark popularity, and randonnee websites such as WildSnow were experiencing bigger numbers as well. One had to wonder, were telemarkers just flocking to Mitch’s website and ramping up his numbers as some sort of zero sum game, or was the sport truly expanding, only with equipment provided by used gear trades and such? As it turns out, in their analysis SIA was ignoring a big part of the market, that of online sales. Yep, beyond weird. How could a purported industry trade association ignore a whole segment of the retail scene? If I’d been giving these guys money, I’d be livid.
In his article Weber writes based on the SIA numbers that “the combined category of telemark, randonee, and cross country equipment accounted for 15% of all online equipment dollars sold, compared to just 4% of all equipment sales in specialty stores.” Related to that, he writes “the equipment buying habits of telemark and backcountry skiers have shifted dramatically, and all while SIA was ignoring the internet sales category, freeheel skiers have been shopping for gear online at a relatively furious pace.”
I’d agree with Mitch about the obvious surge in the backcountry business, and add that along with the surge in telemark is an equal or even more pronounced surge in shopping for AT gear. That’s according to both etailers and retailers I’ve spoken with over the last year, as well as magazine sales numbers I’ve learned of from insider sources.
What’s this mean to you and I? As many have pointed out, growth of backcountry sports isn’t always something to crow about. Some places are crowded, and growth only increases those throngs. Conversely, growth might help lower costs of the sport, as well as providing other benefits like more partners and more skin tracks, and more gear innovation.
Whatever your point of view, interesting to track. And if you’ve ever wondered why your favorite brick-and-mortar gear shop has turned into a clothing boutique, now you know. More and more people are buying their skis,boots,bindings on the web. Comments on.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.