Back in the country skiing – and equipment – see an increase in interest as ski resorts limit congestion

America’s backcountry, aka road traditionally traveled less in the winter sports world, reaching new heights during the epidemic – along with a boom in equipment and ancillary sales.

While the industry has shown more interest over the past decade due to innovations in equipment and technology, that interest has recently been fueled by skiers and snowboarders who want to get out of the house, avoid crowds at ski resorts And be prepared for any possible lockdown. May again cut their season.

“There’s a big community out there saying ‘I’m going to take this into my hands. I’m moving away from all these people and going into the backcountry.'” Nick Sargeant, president of Snowsports Industries America, a nonprofit There is a definite mystery about the trade association that represents winter sports suppliers and retailers.

Since many backcountry paths, known as lines, do not begin at the top of resort mountains, it can be difficult to track the number of fans of the game. But there is a need for a surge in gear sales.

“When Kovid-19 hit and all resorts closed [at the beginning of the pandemic]There was a crazy rush to load up on backcountry gear, ”the sergeant told NBC News. “Since we had another eight weeks of snow, people wanted to get out, and they had a lot of time on their hands. So, when you have time, and you have snow to get out into the backcountry, what better activity?

According to market research company The NPD Group, in partnership with SIA, total US backcountry-related equipment sales through October through August this year are 76 percent higher than in 2019.

On the ski side, equipment sales – including bindings, shoes and skis – are up to 51 percent. Secondary sales – avalanche shovels, beacons, probes and climbing skins – make up 74 percent.

According to the same NPD figures, Snowboard, Snowboard’s backcountry sister, saw a 151 percent increase in sales from last year.

Snowboard manufacturing giant Burton is selling its splitboards faster than the regular board this year, with 39 percent sold last year versus 39 percent, said Chris Cunningham, Burton’s senior vice president of global products.

Cunningham compared the upsurge in bike sales seen during the summer, as many Americans wanted to get some fresh air, just as they are now.

“The closest thing to it in our industry is division, because you’re not limited by the resort. It’s the only way with bike riding, you can ride wherever you go so you’re not in total lockdown, “He told NBC News.” By the end of the summer, you couldn’t find a bike if you wanted one. The way the snow starts blowing, it’s a couple of weeks ago, it looks like you’re a Are going to be lucky to find division. “

Unfortunately, this optimism has not spread to the Atlantic Ocean.

“We’re doing what I wouldn’t call a wonderful North American direct-to-consumer sales year and in Europe,” Cunningham told NBC News. “Those restrictions are definitely hurting sales there.”

Europe is currently in the midst of its second wave of Kovid-19, forcing countries such as Germany, Italy and France to close their ski seats. According to BBC News, French Prime Minister Jean Castex is imposing border checks to prevent residents from traveling to border countries such as Switzerland.

On a smaller scale, Outdoor Gear Exchange, a sports shop located in Burlington, Vermont, is also seeing a boom in US sales this year. According to co-owner Mike Donohue, the shop experienced a traditional level of traditional merchandise about two months earlier than normal this year.

Mike Donohue at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, VT.Mike donohue

“For backcountry equipment, we typically have a big sale around Indigenous Day / Columbus Day,” he told NBC News. “This is usually when we hit winter.”

This year, however, “we were seeing that level of business in the first week of September,” Donohue said, “This is a record year, possibly not to be matched in the next several years.”

He said that more than 80 percent of what Outdoor Gear Exchange sold during the first week of September was backcount-able.

According to NBC News, Ana Hulsey, an employee and lifelong skier at the Outdoor Gear Exchange, said, “If that’s enough, I intend to do the backcountry … just because I get more leeway and enjoyment in it.”

However, the growing popularity of a sport caused by avalanches in uncontrollable and desolate environments has many members of the industry concerned.

“It is a long, slow process. This is something you learn with mentorship. This is something you learn with experience, ”said Cody Townsend, a professional skier and athlete for French sports equipment manufacturer Salomon. “It takes a lot of time to learn to ski back safely and just to go out and get gear and hope to get to the top of the biggest peak in your local range and ski it down, I think That’s really dangerous. “

Cody Townsend in the French Alps.For Jeremy Bernard / Salomon

Avalanche education can be obtained through local subsidiaries like the National Avalanche Center and Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

“We encourage people to use public land, but also make sure they understand the ethics, where to get information, how to use those public lands responsibly and how to do it safely , “Colorado Avalanche Information Center Director Ethan Green told NBC News.

Green said CAIC is collaborating with other state and federal government groups and expanding outreach on social media to raise avalanche awareness amid increased interest.

In addition to learning about the mountain and navigating it, many people trekking in the backcountry this year will learn from it.

“You learn how small you are and how big nature is,” said Sophia Schwartz, a former member of the US ski team and professional big mountain skier based in Wyoming. “I think it’s the same fit as Kovid. Finally. Day, it’s crazy that a virus is so small that you can’t even see it completely change our entire world for a year.” Have given. “

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