Sales at chain stores were up 17% compared to last season, according to the SnowSports Industries America Retail Audit. In dollars, that translates to $347.1 million in sales compared to $298.0 million for the same period last season. Unit sales were up from last season 19%. Overall sales for the entire winter sport market, including specialty and chain stores, were up 13% in dollars to $1.5 billion for the August through December period of 2005, compared to $1.3 billion reported last year. Unit sales were up 14%.

“Chain stores got a holiday boost as the week leading up to Christmas turned in a strong performance with consumers taking full advantage of this year’s extended shopping season to purchase last-minute gifts. Apparel and accessories benefited the most with sales for each category showing dollar increases of 19% over last season,” said Christine Martinez, market research manager for SIA, the not-for-profit industry trade group that represents manufacturers and distributors of snow sports products. The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories. This is the third report of six that look at sales through March 31, 2006, the end of the winter season.

Chain store apparel sales continue the season on a positive note with a 19% dollar increase and season-to-date sales reaching $139.8 million. Apparel top sales spiked 24% in dollars this season over last.

Insulated parkas (up 28%), softshell parkas (up 109%), shell parkas (up 21%), fleece – includes vests (up 33%) and vests – no fleece (up 82%) all experienced dollar increases as compared to last season. Women’s insulated parkas shot up 39% in dollars and finished December with 5,000 more units sold than men’s insulated parkas — which also grew a solid 25% in dollars. Women’s shells, 33% of all shell units sold this season, jumped 33% in dollars.

Apparel suits and insulated waist pants (20% of all bottom dollars sold through December) are also drawing increased interest with dollar gains of 26% and 43%, respectively. Shell waist pants, the largest category with 29% of all bottom dollars sold, increased 15% in dollars.

As in the specialty stores, junior apparel is showing improvement in chain stores this season over last. Sales of junior insulated parkas, junior softshell parkas, junior shell parkas, junior suits and junior bottoms (as well as junior snowboard tops and bottoms mentioned below) all experienced dollar increases as compared to the August through December period last season.

Snowboard tops climbed 10% in dollars with sales totaling $12.6 million. As a percentage of units sold season-to-date, women’s snowboard tops accounted for 42%, men’s 40% and juniors 17%. Junior tops managed to gain 6% in dollars. Snowboard bottoms also showed some growth with a 2% incline as compared to last August through December. Women’s bottoms, with 49,000 units sold (even with men’s sales) jumped 26% in dollars.

The entire accessories category grew a considerable 19% this season over last. Apparel accessories brought in $74.0 million in sales thus far this season, a 23% increase over last season. Winter boots (up 32%), gloves (up 15%), mitts (up 16%), base layer (up 14%), headwear (up 17%) and neck gaiters (up 13%), specifically, saw category dollar inclines. Equipment accessories brought in $37.1 million in sales so far this season, a 13% increase over last season. Goggles (up 18%), sunglasses (up 18%), auto racks (up 13%), technical day packs (up 10%), luggage (up 12%), wax (up 23%) and snowboard accessories (up 10%)managed to have dollar boosts as well.

Through December, snowboard equipment (including snowboards, boots and bindings) sales totaled $51.5 million, an 18% increase over the same period in 2004 and $10 million more than alpine equipment sales this season-to-date.

Snowboard sales gained 16% over last season. All mountain boards grew 7% in dollars while freestyle boards (24% of all board dollars sold this season) jumped 33% in dollars. Freeride boards, the largest category with 36% of all units sold this season, managed a 26% gain in dollars this season over last.

Sales of snowboard boots grew 18% with sales reaching $16.7 million through the end of December. Snowboard bindings managed a 23% dollar increase and sales of $12.5 million. Carryover binding sales, up 15% in dollars, accounted for 20% of all binding units sold.

Retailers did not have a lot of snowboard equipment left over to sell this season as carryover snowboard and boot sales each declined 11% and 9%, respectively, in dollars. So far this season, carryover snowboards accounted for 26% of all snowboard units sold, down from 32% for the same period in 2004.

Overall equipment sales (alpine, snowboard, Nordic, Telemark and Randonee/AT) were up 10% in dollars as compared to last season with season-to-date sales totaling $96.2 million. Alpine equipment sales (including skis, systems, boots, bindings and poles) were up 7% in dollars as compared to last season ending December with $41.6 million in sales.

Integrated system sales continue to grow in the chain stores totaling $8.4 million through the end of December, anincrease of 20% in dollars when comparing this August to December period to the same period a year ago.

Add alpine skis to integrated systems and total ski sales increased 10% in dollars. Alpine skis, excluding integrated systems, also increased, up 2% in dollars, with a total of $10.4 million in sales. Fat skis (up 12%), twintip skis (up 134%) and carve skis (up 34%) each saw dollar increases as compared to the same period last season.

Through December, all carryover ski sales increased 35% in dollars and accounted for 41% of all ski units sold. Compare that to the same period in 2004 where all carryover skis accounted for 28% of all units sold.

From August – December of this season, alpine boots increased a slight 1% in dollars with a total of $15.8 million in sales. Sport performance boots (31% of all boot dollars sold) and junior boots are showing sales growth over last season, up 4% and 73%, respectively. In this August – December period, carryover boots accounted for 28% of all boot units sold, up from 18% at this time last season.

Stand-alone binding sales are also up 3% in dollars over last season, with season-to-date sales reaching $4.6 million. All binding categories, except for DIN 1-7 (down 55%) and juniors (down 31%) showed dollar increases this season over last — DIN 8-11 (up 9%), DIN 12-14 (up 1%) and carryover (up 25%).

As did the other alpine categories, alpine pole sales jumped 36% over the same period last season, reaching $2.5 million in season-to-date sales. Adult pole (up 47%) sales contributed to the category performance.

Nordic ski equipment sales (including skis, boots, bindings and poles) dropped considerably this season over last, down 46% in dollars and totaling $2.1 million in sales. Nordic skis (down 49%), boots (down 46%) bindings (down 48%) and poles (down 39%) all experienced losses in dollar sales over last season.

Telemark ski equipment (including skis, boots and bindings) dollars were up 1% ending December with $763,000 in sales. Telemark skis managed a 7% boost in dollar sales this season over last.