Solid gains in snowboard equipment, a surge in short ski sales, and growth in junior shell parkas were bright spots in an otherwise somber snowsports industry, according to the fourth Snowsports Industries America Topline Retail Audit: August 1998 to January 1999.

Despite weather problems, snowboard equipment sales sustained solid gains in both chain stores and specialty shops. Sales grew fourteen percent in dollars and thirteen percent in units in chain stores and eighteen percent in dollars and seven percent in units at specialty shops.

The greater increase in dollars than units marks the first sign that the margin erosion plaguing snowboarding for the past few seasons may be disappearing.

In individual categories, snowboards were up 31 percent in dollars and 22 percent in units in specialty stores; average selling price of a board was 284 dollars. At chain stores, snowboards experienced an increase of 26 percent in dollars and 23 percent in units; average selling price was 163 dollars.

Snowboard apparel sales slowed down with a drop of 23 percent in dollars in specialty shops and a decrease of eighteen percent in dollars in chain stores. In units, snowboard apparel sales were down 24 percent in specialty shops and down 42 percent at the chains.

Sales of snowboard tops were up three percent in chain stores and down ten percent at specialty shops. In units sold, snowboard tops decreased 21 percent at chain stores and eleven percent in specialty shops. Bottoms fell 30 percent in dollars and 34 percent in units at specialty shops, and dropped 36 percent in dollars and 54 percent in units in chain stores.

Snowboard boots increased nine percent in dollars and eight percent in units at specialty stores. At chain stores, boots rose ten percent in dollars and twelve percent in units.

Snowboard bindings fell slightly in specialty shops, down four percent in dollars and seven percent in units. At chain stores, sales were flat but units were up two percent.

“The energy of snowboarding is still going strong,” says Greta Brumbach, research manager for Ride Snowboards. “The sport seems to be getting a second wind. The new life is due to snowboarding thinking outside of the box with respect to attracting new participation while still maintaining the lifestyle of the sport,” she added.

However, overall dollars spent in the snowsports industry this season slipped 3.3 percent by the end of January 1999. Total retail dollars spent in the industry during the period August 1, 1998, through January 31, 1999, reached 1.6-billion dollars. Total sales at snowsports specialty stores were 1.2-billion dollars (down two percent from last season) and chain store sales fell eight percent to slightly less the 394-million dollars.

“We’re about the same as last season,” said March Loebe, owner of snowboard shop the Boardroom of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “In general, my colleagues who also own shops are having a good season this year.” A trend that Loebe pointed out is that “we are seeing more dads and moms involved in the sport of snowboarding, which bodes really well for the future.”

In chain stores, goggles, auto racks, and sunglasses increased in dollars by nine percent, ten percent, and fifteen percent respectively; units sold were up eight percent, up three percent, and down eight percent respectively. At specialty shops, goggles and auto racks fell in dollars by six percent and twelve percent; sunglasses were up two percent in dollars. Units sold for goggles, auto racks, and sunglasses were down 22 percent, up three percent, and down one percent respectively.