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As ski resorts roll out their reservations policies and concerns grow about another shut-down this winter, interest in backcountry skiing has seen a huge surge. Are we heading for a gear shortage similar to the one the bike industry saw this past summer?
Yes…and no. While most experts do think backcountry gear—especially boots—will likely sell out earlier this season than in seasons past, the scarcity most likely won’t reach the same levels the bike industry did. For one, hardgoods manufacturers have a better handle on pandemic-related supply chain issues due to a longer lead time to adjust, and demand for touring gear remains far smaller and more localized than that of bikes.
That said, if you want to invest in a touring setup this season, you should still buy soon. Online and in-person sales of skins and avalanche safety gear (including beacons, shovels, probes, and avalanche airbag packs) for the month of September at the evo retail chain are up three-fold compared to September of last year, said Laura Holman, evo’s assistant ski buyer. Alpine touring skis and bindings sales were double over the same time frame. “Sales are way up,” she said during a recent Zoom interview from her Seattle, Wash., home. “Year over year, it’s through the roof.”
To accommodate the spike, “We’ve increased our orders pretty substantially,” Holman said. And evo plans to put in additional orders from manufacturers in categories that look like they may sell out. However, whether or not the manufacturers themselves have more gear to sell will be the determining factor as to whether or not retailers will be able to restock. “Brands are trying their best to be nimble, and a lot of retailers have been needing to go back to the well,” Holman said. “Everyone’s trying to adapt to the roller coaster.”
Manufacturers’ responses to the pandemic have varied greatly, from some actually trimming production and others increasing it. According to Frank Shine, the North American director of marketing for Blizzard Tecnica, the brand has done its best to forecast accordingly and, despite some challenges with international shipping caused by the pandemic, they are “exploring opportunities to bring in extra product, and potentially fill the market demand with early release product when possible.” However, Shine also said, “A spike in interest and demand for this particular type of product may move our complete sell through to an earlier date.”
So what does all of this mean for you? “Buy gear now,” advised John Weir, marketing manager at Bentgate Mountaineering in Golden, Colo. “Especially if you need new touring boots. Even in a standard year we sell out of the better fitting and skiing boots by February. With bindings and skis there’s more variety and more leeway.”
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.