The snow sports market contracted for the first time this season as recession-conscious holiday shoppers spent fewer dollars.

“According to the Census Bureau, the rest of retail trade is down 11%, so considering that, the snow sports market is weathering this economic downturn fairly well,” said Kelly Davis SIA's Director of Research.


Overall, the snow sports market declined 1.5% in total dollars compared to August through December 2007 to $1.875 billion. Hardest hit was the alpine equipment category where current model ski sales were down 17% over last season. One bright spot in the alpine equipment category was the continuation of strong sales of twin tip and fat skis (80-95mm waist width).


The snowboard category declined 5% in boards, boots and bindings. Overall apparel was down 3% but snowboard apparel, shell parkas and fleece sales remained strong and another surprising increase of more than 20% in adult one-piece suits shored up the market. Accessories continued to sell well and sales were up 4%, particularly hats, gloves, and wax that many skiers and riders purchased at resort shops.

The equipment category declined 4% in dollars overall with the deepest loss in alpine ski and equipment sold in chain stores. Alpine ski sales, particularly current year models, declined 17% over last season even while twin tips and fat skis were selling well. The biggest loser in the alpine ski category was the mid-fat ski (70-79mm waist width) category; flat mid-fat skis were down 45% and mid-fat systems were down 14%. Alpine boots and bindings sales were about even with last season sales and current year models are selling well. Snowboards, snowboard boots, and snowboard bindings sales declined 5% season over season but reverse camber boards continue to sell extremely well. Nordic equipment sales declined 2% in dollars and 7% in units even though Alpine Touring Equipment sales soured 23% to $4.6 million.

Apparel sales accounted for more than 40% of all dollars spent overall in the snow sports market. Fleece continues to be the big seller in the apparel market with $170 million in sales, which was flat compared to Aug-Dec sales last season. Adult shell parkas sales increased 5% season and snowboard apparel continued to sell well but increased just 1% compared to last season.

The hottest apparel trend is the surprisingly strong sales of apparel suits, for both adults and kids. More than 70,000 adult suits have been sold so far this season for a 20% increase in dollars sold, and sales of juniors suits are up 21% in dollars sold.


Overall, expect to see about 125,000 new one-piece suits on the slopes. Accessories sales were excellent as skiers and snowboarders picked up the necessities before hitting the slopes. Strong sales of new hats, gloves, goggles and wax helped the accessories market increase by 4% over this time last season. Change in Change in Dollars Aug- Units Aug-Dec Dec 2007 to 2007 to Aug- Total Dollars Aug-Dec 2008 Dec 2008 Sold Total Market -1.26% 2.25% $1,875,578,347 Specialty Shops -4.89% -3.63% $1,108,214,294 Chain Stores -1.59% 4.03% $391,287,421 Internet/Catalog 11.67% 22.90% $376,076,632.

The Internet channel enjoyed strong growth in December, gaining 12% in dollars and 23% in units compared to August to December 2007. Overall, consumers spent $376 million on snow sports equipment, apparel, and accessories online. Internet sales comprised 20% of all the dollars consumers spent on snow sports products in the U.S. between August 1 and Dec. 31, 2008.

The specialty channel was hit hardest by declining sales in December. The specialty market declined 5% in dollars. Specialty shops were responsible for $1.1 million of the 1.9 million in total sales (includes specialty shops, chain stores, and online sales) for the snow sports marketplace August through December 2008. Consumers still prefer to buy their equipment in specialty shops. In fact, 76% of alpine equipment, 73% of Nordic gear, and 63% of all snowboard equipment was sold in specialty shops so far this season.

Chain stores' equipment sales continue to tank with total decreases of 16% in dollars and 14% in units. Alpine ski sales are down 20% and snowboard equipment sales decreased 18%. Chain stores equipment sales accounted for just 16% of all equipment sales in the U.S. snow sports marketplace from August to December. Apparel sales made up almost half of all chain store snow sports sales August through December 2008.

The market data presented in this report comes from the SIA Retail Audit conducted by the Leisure Trends Group. Each season, Leisure Trends gathers data between August 1 and March 31 from a representative panel of more than 1,200 snow sports retailers who provide sales data directly from their Point of Sale systems. The panel and the method for extrapolating the results out to the entire industry is based on a triennial census of snow sports retailers designed to accurately define the size and structure of the snow sports retail marketplace.