The 2015 SIA Snow Show gave us a look at many new directions for the Snow Sports Industry, with women’s influences leading the way. More women are stepping up to leadership roles every year, and that resonates throughout the industry. Every year, women are driving trends as we see more manufacturers making women-specific products, more retailers selling them, and we see an increase of women-owned companies on the Show floor.
Women’s leadership roles were important at SIA for 2015, as we welcomed Kathy McGuire, executive VP global operations for K2 Sports, to the board of directors. McGuire joins the current group of women on the SIA board, Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboads, Wendy Carey of Seirus Innovation, Patty Duke of point6 LLC, Julie Garry of AFRC-Outdoor Gear, Inc., Annelise Loevlie of Icelantic Skis , and Rhonda Swenson of Krimson Klover.
“We are continually working to have our board reflect the snow sports industry as a whole, and the ratio of women to men on our board helps us have a full understanding of the consumer, 43% of whom are women.” said SIA president David Ingemie.
“I am thrilled to be part of the SIA board, joining an impressive group of individuals and key leaders in the industry, both men and women.” McGuire said. “Diversity ensures the health of our industry, and women in all roles are critical to the success and profitability of snow sports companies. It is essential that we continue to grow women in leadership and I trust that my efforts in this area will continue to make a difference.”
Another place women could be seen leading the way at the Show was at the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) awards ceremony. The OWIC, with support from the NPD Group and SIA, celebrated the impact of women in snow sports at a reception honoring 2015 Pioneering Women Award winner Linda Rodney, sales manager North America with Giro, and 2015 First Ascent Award winner Lesley Betts, Product Manager for snowboards at Burton.
“More companies are now putting women in high level jobs, and that’s exciting to see,” said Rodney. “As more women get involved, I’ve seen a big improvement in the quality of women’s products. But there’s still room for plenty of passionate women in our industry.”
SIA Research Director Kelly Davis says the data shows women influencing many trends in snow sports. “There are plenty of trends we’re seeing driven by women in snow sports right now. Some good examples include junior girls snowboarding equipment, which is up 6% in dollars sold through January this season. In fact, the total number of female snowboard participants was up 12% last season. Another huge one was women’s AT skis. And while AT skis are a small segment overall, the increase is incredible – the number of women’s specific AT skis sold jumped more than 300% during the August – January time period this season, from 513 skis last season to 2,250 pairs sold. I’d definitely say the upward trends in sales of women-specific gear is a true example of how much women affect the snow sports market.”
Davis said that overall, a third of all snow sports dollars last year were spent on gear specifically designed for females, more than $1 billion. “This reflects a change from the old days of ‘shrink it and pink it,’” said Jeannie Thoren, owner of Jeannie Thoren’s Women’s Ski Center in Vail, CO, and a crusader in the development of women-specific product since the 1970’s. “Manufacturers are focused more and more on providing true women’s-specific product, proving once again that if you build it, she will buy it.”
Thoren and her husband Tom Haas are retiring this year, passing the reins to Kim Walker of Outdoor Divas in Boulder, CO, and securing the legacy of their women-only shop. “We’ve seen a 20% increase each year that we’ve been in business, so it’s clear that women are looking for product that fits their specific needs and for a shop experience that treats them with knowledge and respect. It’s so important to me that Outdoor Divas will be continuing this legacy, and offering women the products that will help them enjoy snow sports to the fullest,” Thoren said.
Walker says she’s looking forward to continuing Thoren’s mission of providing women-specific equipment in Vail, and agrees that as more manufacturers provide the gear, the marketplace will continue to reflect that in women’s purchasing trends. This year, Walker said she’s seen a huge trend in women’s interest in AT, and a she’s seen a response from manufacturers to provide more women-specific AT equipment.
“The biggest trend we are seeing right now is the increase in demand for AT gear. A large number of our customers are switching from tele to AT,” Walker said. “We are also seeing a lot of people purchasing additional equipment to use for their backcountry experience. Since there is more equipment to choose from, the barrier to entry for a lot of our customers is shrinking. We’re able to fit more women comfortably in AT boots than in years past.”
Deno Dudunake, New England sales rep for Rossignol, said the trend in women’s Nordic gear is a big one he’s seeing. “I think a lot of fitness-oriented people are discovering that Nordic skiing is a great winter workout. They’re finding that it’s really easy to go out on your local trails and get a half hour or two hour burn in. And I know that most of these people are women, mainly because the number one reorder we get is for women’s boots!”
Snowboard brands continue to offer a larger array of women-specific equipment as well. At the On-Snow Demo, Nikita Snowboards brand manager Vicki Vasil said, “We’re so proud to be one of the only women-specific snowboard companies here at the demo, helping people understand that Nikita boards are great women’s technology. We have so many new shapes and an array of boards for all women of every ability. I think more and more companies are seeing that this segment of the market is an important one, and are increasing their offerings.”
2015 was also an incredible year for welcoming women-owned softgoods businesses to the Show. ‘By women for women’ was a common theme heard on the Show floor, highlighted by new exhibitors like Kari Traa and GOGO Sweaters. And a common theme expressed by many of these companies was an emphasis on high-performance technical fabrics with fashion-inspired design.
“We’re a women’s-only brand, and that sets us apart from our competitors in the marketplace,” said Andrew Krosse, sales manager for Kari Traa and Bjorn Dahlie. “Kari Traa is a Norwegian freestyle skier, a 3-time Olympic medalist, and she started the company designing ski wear and beanies for herself and her friends. The thing about us is that we have 100 merino wool, we’re known for our technical fabrics, but what sets us apart is the color story that we use and the design language across the collection. More than ever, women want technical apparel, but they also want to express themselves, and they can do that with our products.”
Down the aisle, at new exhibitor GOGO Sweaters, South Godfrey was displaying her collection of wool sweaters that walked the line between fashion and function. “These are my mother’s original sweater designs from the 70’s,” she said. “We really try to follow fashion trends with colors, and we want to bring runway trends into the snow sports industry. It’s much more fashion based; we’re going to fashion shows in New York as well. Our look is fresh and new; to have those technical features with 100% wool, but to have the fashion look, it’s definitely a trend, and I think we’ve stuck a chord here.”
Second-year exhibitor Skida has seen great success at the Show. The women-owned brand sells well because of its tremendous appeal to women and men alike as a purveyor of the fun and energy of snow sports. Owner Corinne Prevot said, “As women, we constantly express ourselves in various ways. Our killer combo of super-fun styles and high-function products came together over high-school ski racing and the brand grew organically. I’d say this speaks to the authenticity of the trend, having been rooted in a culture of outdoor activity, community, and having a great time doing it!”
Diana Mathias, a Vail ski instructor for over 20 years and a loyal customer at Jeannie Thoren’s shop, summed up the consumer’s point of view, and some of the driving forces behind the recent women’s trends: “So many of my clients have become lifelong skiers because I show them the difference that women-specific gear can make. It’s a huge aspect of customer retention, to be sure the gear is working for them and isn’t making them miserable. Also, a bit of fur and a touch of glitz doesn’t hurt. We women don’t want to feel like men out there!”
As women’s offerings expand and new trends emerge, you can always be sure to stay on top of what’s happening by checking out our research and data.Get a detailed picture of women’s trends and data at Snowsports.org/research and on the women’s curated pages at SIAsnowshow.com/women. Also find women’s consumer information ranging from women’s gear reviews, family travel tips, moms’ blogs and more at Snowlink.com’s Women on The Snow page.