Navigation

A Season of Change in Snow Sports – a SIA | Research Update

SIA’s Director of Research Kelly Davis is beginning to dig deep into the upcoming winter season. As the excitement builds, Davis taps into her decades of expertise in the industry to help divine what we have to look forward to.

Impacts from remarkable changes across the snow sports industry over the past six months will begin to show as the 2017/2018 season gets underway. Consolidation on both the resort and supplier sides, increasing direct-to-consumer sales, and of course, consolidation of the national winter buying shows top the list.

First on this list are major changes in ski and snowboard brand ownership, including K2, Volkl, Marker, Ride and Line skis.

The brands Newell sold to the Kohlberg company, a private equity firm, represented more than a third of all skis sold at retail over the past decade. All of those brands are delivering into retail this season but orders were down on the heels of uncertainty. Will retailers’ dial back more on these brands and diversify their offerings? If they do, we might see some smaller brands step forward and the shift could bring more opportunities for icons like Atomic, Salomon and Rossignol to gain market share.

The massive consolidation of resorts under Vail Resorts or Aspen Ski Company (Skico) and KSL Capital Partners did not result in a season pass war…yet. We’ll see what Skico and KSL offer for the 2018/2019 season. For the 2017/18 season, skiers and snowboarders can choose from several multi-mountain passes. Skico started the Mountain Collective pass in 2012, and this season consumers can buy one for $469 and get two days of skiing at each of 16 destinations including Aspen Snowmass, Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and several other independents like Telluride, Alta, Snowbird and Revelstoke. The MAX pass offers skiers and snowboarders 5 days at each of 44 mountains for $679. Max Pass mountains include several of Skico and KSL Capital’s resorts including Snowshoe, Blue Mountain, Stratton and Winter Park. This season, Vail is offering the Epic pass good for unlimited skiing/snowboarding at all Vail resorts for $859 if you purchase by September 4. We’ll see what the 2018/2019 season pass battle brings; it’s likely to be the subject du jour for many skiers and snowboarders this season.

There are plenty of changes in store in the snow sports product market this season. More brands will amp up direct to consumer sales. Snow sports retailers who are not proximal to resorts and do not sell online may suffer most from this development. Consumers looking for information, the best prices, and the best selection are increasingly gravitating to the Internet where they have become accustomed to clicking to buy.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for snow sports retailers. Services like binding mounting, tuning and waxing, boot fitting and rental/lease programs keep customers coming to brick and mortar. It’s clear that specialty shops that offer the best services, convenience, and merchandising will survive this difficult new environment where customers increasingly look online for information, the best deals, and specific products. Shops that offer “experiential” retail solutions that tailor special experiences that connect customers emotionally to their products, hands on activities, product demos, and unique moments like meeting an athlete or an artist are thriving (See Evo Sports).

Finally, Emerald Expositions acquired the SIA Snow Show for $16.7M this May. Emerald who produces Winter and Summer Outdoor Retailer (and many other trade shows) will merge Winter Outdoor Retailer with the Snow Show. The resulting Winter Snow Show will take place in Denver next January.

We’re looking forward to seeing where all of these changes take the snow sports industry. SIA will continue to focus on promoting the growth and development of snow sports and will continue to bring members and media valuable and actionable insights into the snow sports market.

Todd Walton

Todd Walton is the director of communications and marketing at SIA.