In Boulder, people usually don’t buy skis until it snows, said Gary Neptune, owner of Neptune Mountaineering.
“We’re like farmers,” he said. “The snow is our crop, and when it comes in is critical to our market.”
But even before the harvest, sales of snowsports goods were up nationally from August through November, according to a report from the Snowsports Industries of America, a trade association for snowsports retailers and resorts.
For some snowsports businesses in Boulder County, that national trend held true locally.
Sales have rebounded dramatically this year, said Dan Fox, director of Front Range operations for Christy Sports, which has stores in Boulder and Broomfield.
Fox said at the 11 stores he oversees, between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, ski sales specifically were up this fall compared to last year.
“They’re doubling ski sales from the past couple of years,” Fox said. “It’s between 25 and 100 percent up, so it’s significant.”
The Boulder and Broomfield stores are on the high end of that, he added.
Neptune’s store, which sells climbing and mountaineering gear in addition to skis, had a slow start to the ski season but finished well, he said.
“If we get a good cold, snowy October, we get good sales, and this year, we didn’t get that,” he said. “Once the snow hit and the cold hit, we did very well, and unusually, it was so good, it made up for lost time.”
Boulder Ski Deals is happy with its early-season sales this winter, said Joan Christensen, spokeswoman for Specialty Sports Venture, which owns the store. SSV is unable to release specifics on the store, she said, but sales are up this year for the entire group as of Jan. 6.
Rob Linde, spokesman for Eldora Mountain Resort, said the resort’s season pass sales and kids program sales are both up significantly this year, but he also couldn’t report specific numbers.
In the past few years, season pass and kids program numbers were soft, he said.
“Last year, people were buying day tickets, four packs,” Linde said. “I think the consumer was just more confident coming into this season.”
Fox said from the retail perspective, new ski technology — rockered skis, which have a reverse camber — is helping the rebound. Any time there’s a big innovation in the industry like this, he said, sales go up because people are excited about getting their hands on it.
“Generally the first thing to recover is the fun stuff, which generally, for men is skis, and for women is clothes,” Fox said. “We’re seeing growth in all departments. But the quickest rebound, for both men and women, is in skis, because of that new technology to come up.”
(Neptune: “They call them rocker tips, but 200-year-old skis had that. It’s not new, it’s very old!”)
Dennis Meeker, manager of Christy Sports in Boulder, said people are coming in his store asking about rockered skis.
“That technology is bringing more people into the sport, because it’s something new, it’s something challenging, and it’s something that allows them to go to that next level in their skiing.”
“Ski sales are better for the better snow, and because there’s something new to look at,” Neptune said, referring to rocker skis.
There’s always a correlation between skier visitation and snow, said Linde, but Eldora’s early season was fairly average — the resort opened with only slightly more terrain than usual, Linde said. However, Fox thinks good snow around the state helped early-season sales at Christy Sports stores.
“We are in the middle of an incredible ski season with snow,” Fox said. “Look at what happened in the last 24 hours in Summit County. It started in November.”
Fox thinks skiers and snowboarders who took a few years off from purchasing hard goods are coming back for new gear, rockered or not.
“We had a recession and mediocre snow the last two years,” Fox said. “But we are toy addicts, we’re gear junkies. And suppressing it for a few years? You can only suppress that for so long.”