Boulder, CO, Dec. 13--Reports in from the various retailers that threw pre-season ski sales this fall say that business is up and better than usual. Not only are skiers raring to go after last winter's so-so season, but early cold snaps and discount lift tickets across the country are psyching people up as well. In addition, shaped skis and more comfortable boots are enticing skiers to step up and finally buy new gear this year. "The reduced lift ticket prices out West have spurned a few people," said Fred Bailey, store manager for Peter Glenn's Fort Lauderdale, FL shop, part of a 23-store chain across the country. Bailey said that business was up over last year at their pre-season sales and that people aren't shying away from the high prices on shaped skis; noting that Salomon's X-Scream Series and Volant's Ti-Power were hot sellers.
In Denver, at the giant Gart Sports Sniagrab sale, there were record crowds. "Shaped skis sold really well because the price point on them has come down considerably from previous years," reported Fran Wills, vice-president of marketing for the chain, who added that this was the first year they were able to sell shaped skis for under $100 at $99.99. She declined to comment on actual sales figures until the company releases third-quarter earnings sometime in November. Elsewhere in Colorado, pre-season sales for the Christy Sports andSport Stalker chain of stores were about 15-20 percent ahead of last year. Keith Liefer, chief operating officer for Christy Sports and Sport Stalker attributes the excitement to "pent-up demand" because of the poor snow conditions last winter. "The majority of sales are in performance-oriented stuff," Liefer said, adding, "people are seeing the value of buying good equipment on sale at great prices." At the Ski Market, a chain of specialty shops in the Northeast, skis have been selling well. "We've been surprisingly strong in high-end hard goods," said Jim Isinberg, Ski Market's marketing director. Some retailers noted that more customers have been demoing gear, rather than buying it, which made for slower sales last season. "Our hard goods sales have not been increasing in the past two or three years," continued Liefer, who added that rentals and demos have bucked that trend.
Bailey of Peter Glenn said, "More people are demoing skis out West, but they want their own boots." He attributes increased boot sales to the fact that "boots have become much more comfortable. Foams are getting better and people are enjoying them a lot more." Helmets have also been selling well this fall. "We saw a lot of adults picking up helmets this year because of the focus on safety. Due to some of the accidents that have happened over the past couple of years, more and more people are conscious of safety," said Wills of Gart's.
The emergence of season pass deals and low-ticket prices are ensuring that people are going to ski more. As a result, skiers are buying equipment with the money they save. Also, skiers figure that if they are going to "pay off" their passes by skiing a specific number of days, they might as well do it with the right new equipment. Fortunately, the giant ski sales are giving them a chance to buy new equipment at affordable prices.