Although industry sources agree that snowboard imports and exports are growing by leaps and bounds, no one really knows how many snowboards are actually being shipped in and out of the country. As strange as it may seem, the government does not keep specific track of snowboards shipped into or out of the country.
Most goods that enter or leave the U.S., including skis, have their own numbered category that the U.S. Department of Commerce uses to follow vital statistics like quantity and value. Snowboards, however, are classified as “miscellaneous ski equipment” and get lumped in with items such as ski poles. Snowboard accessories such as boots are grouped with their ski equivalent. This makes it impossible to tell just exactly how big the import and export markets really are.
According to Joe Pendergast, president of the America Ski Federation, the government originally listed snowboards as “sports equipment,” and snowboard boots as “all-purpose, all-weather boots.” Both categories have tariff rates around 30 percent. The import tariff rate for skis is 4.6 percent (with the exception of cross-country skis, which is 2.8 percent) and for 4.8 percent for boots. Since foreign governments usually hit U.S. imports with the same tariff their competing goods meet, it has been important to get lower tariffs.
“We worked with the government to get snowboards and equipment reclassified,” says Pendergast. “When you’re dealing with a very large category, like all-purpose boots or sports equipment, there are lots of people who have a vested interest in keeping the tariff high to keep out the foreign competition. When you get to more specialized categories, though, there’s less concern.”
Since the Department of Commerce generally uses the same categories to keep track of exports and imports, this has effectively hidden the true size of both the export and import markets. Gill Whitson, chief of publications for the committee for statistical annotation of tariff schedules at the U.S. International Trade Commission says that a separate statistical category would likely be created if someone were to demonstrate a need for it. Anyone interested in getting the ball rolling can write to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade Division Classifications, Attn.: Jack Burna, Washington, DC 20233.