The Week in Snowsports Business — Oct. 12-16

The Week in Snowsports Business lead image

By Eric Smith

Welcome to another installment of The Week in Snowsports Business, where you’ll find recent highlights of Snowsports Business Report’s coverage from the last week, the latest industry buzz, news items of interest to the winter outdoor industry, additional nuggets from my snowsports notebook, and some of the topics and trends we’re keeping an eye on.

Without further ado…

The week’s biggest snowsports business stories in SBR

In case you missed it, here are a few notable stories we covered in the Snowsports Business Report this week. Our most-read story was about Outdoor Retailer’s annual snowsports trade show pivoting to digital in light of the coronavirus continuing to scrap large-scale, in-person gatherings. We also had an avalanche of news from The North Face, plus some business updates from a myriad brands in the hardgoods, softgoods and accessories categories.

  • Another Outdoor Retailer trade show is going virtual. OR, which is owned by publicly traded Emerald Holding Inc., announced Wednesday that its January snowsports trade show will be held online instead of in-person as the nation continues to cope with the coronavirus crisis. June’s OR Summer Market suffered a similar fate. In the place of Outdoor + Snow Show, as it was most recently called (it was formerly known as just Snow Show), Outdoor Retailer will launch Outdoor Retailer Winter Online, a “digital marketplace and enhanced online experience to support this winter season.” We’ll have much more on this over the coming months, including reaction from brands, retailers and Outdoor Retailer leadership.
  • The North Face was all over the news this week. First the good: The brand named a new global brand president in Steve Murray and launched an impressive new initiative designed to increase equity in the outdoors, which includes a commitment of $7 million. Now the bad: The North Face parent company VF Corp. reported a less-than-stellar fiscal second quarter for the brand, which saw sales dip 25 percent in the period due to softer fall orders and slower brick-and-mortar activity. But the second half of the year looks more promising for The North Face, according to VF’s top exec, Steve Rendle, who said the company is bullish on pandemic-driven outdoor trends bringing more people to the brand’s offerings. We’ll continue to track its progress and also have updates on VF’s other brands that make apparel for snowsports enthusiasts — Icebreaker and Smartwool.
  • We also posted business news from well-known brands in the snowsports world. We have the deets you need on:
    • the new sales hire at Faction Skis,
    • new Midwest sales representation at Outdoor Research,
    • new Western sales representation at Norrona, and
    • the return to ski racing helmets and goggles plus two new big-time partnerships at Smith.

Other snowsports stories that caught our eye

  • Snowsports Industries America is doing a damn good job of keeping members informed about the changes happening across the industry — as it should since it’s the trade association for all manner of winter outdoor businesses. One of the highlights of their communication strategy is “Nick’s Notes,” the regular email from SIA President Nick Sargent. In this latest installment, Nick outlines the four areas that “every business must address for the long-term success of the winter outdoor community.” They are 1) Invest in New Technologies; 2) Take Action on Climate; 3) Be Inclusive; and 4) Know Your Consumers. To see more on these tips, sign up for SIA’s email correspondence. And be sure to visit SIA’s Industry Business Resources page by clicking here.
  • Indy Pass “sales are up 645 percent on last year,” Doug Fish told Powder Magazine in a look at the little pass that could. The Indy Pass, in fact, “could be the fastest-growing ski pass in North America doesn’t include a single resort in Colorado or Lake Tahoe,” writes author Devon O’Neil. This is a great look at the rare pass product that isn’t Epic or Ikon.
  • Check out the latest “Channel Mastery + SIA Bi-Weekly Consumer Behavior Pulse,” which tracks consumer behavior and helps retailers master their sales channels. Great stuff, as always, from Kristin Carpenter and her team at Verde Brand Communications.
  • Snow Industry News reported this week that “a substantial portion of the assets of Mountain News Corporation have been acquired from Vail Resorts by an investment group led by Chad Dyer and Jon Brelig, two ski industry digital pioneers. The 52-year-old international company provides snow reports, news and information of interest to skiers and snowboarders through its OnTheSnow (North America) and Skiinfo (European) website portals.”

Emptying the notebook

The aforementioned Snow Show news is a crazy reminder of the early days of the coronavirus, a good six weeks before lockdowns, social distancing and the looming economic devastation. During the 2020 show last January in Denver, snowsports industry leaders began fretting over what might be coming even though the virus was mostly limited to Wuhan in China.

Their fears were warranted. As I wrote for SGB Media in my Snow Show recap following the event, “The epidemic has led to numerous trips to China being canceled and could wreak havoc on supply chains in the coming weeks and months.” No one knew how severe that havoc would get, but some suspected the worst was definitely yet to come.

Among those was Jon Frederick, U.S. country manager for the British brand Rab, who told me at the show: “It’s brutal, to put it lightly.” That brutality would worsen, of course. COVID-19 eventually shut down the ski season in mid-March and decimated snow specialty retailers who were in the midst of their spring sales. What will this season bring? Who knows? But we’ll be tracking every turn and trying to keep everyone upright and on track.

What we’re keeping an eye on

Speaking of which, there’s been a lot of talk in trade and consumer press about what skiing will look like this winter. Here in Colorado, the state government welcomed comments from the public about what resorts can do to make them feel safe when they visit for a day on the slopes. The Denver Post had some good introductory info on this process and we’ll be sure to post the results of the state’s comprehensive survey.

A few European ski resorts have opened, and U.S. areas aren’t far behind, with many of them already making snow. Time to make those annual sacrifices to Ullr.

In the meantime, look for more snowsports business coverage throughout the week on our website, and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And don’t forget we’re posting a ton of product news on the press releases section of the site. 

Cheers, everyone. Think snow.

The Week in Snowsports Business is compiled each week by Snowsports Business Report founder Eric Smith. Have a suggestion for the next edition? Drop me a note at eric@snowsportsbiz.com.

About Eric Smith 44 Articles
Longtime business writer Eric Smith is the founder of Snowsports Business Report. Reach him at eric@snowsportsbiz.com or 901-573-9156.