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 K2Sports, 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 theOutdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC)awards ceremony. TheOWIC, with support from theNPD 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.”