Industry Talks Backcountry Skiing Trend

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Backcountry skiing is taking hold from East Coast to West Coast and SnowSports Industries America is acknowledging it.

The snowsports organization, along with nearly 30 industry representatives from ski and snowboard companies, apparel brands, avalanche centers and backcountry gear brands met in Denver to discuss the future of backcountry skiing and riding, and how to capitalize on the growing trend.

“The more that we can have manufacturers, resorts, guide services and education providers all working together with common language and standard practice; it’s going to benefit the consumer,” says Charlie Lozner, Outdoor Research marketing director, who attended the Oct. 24 meeting.

Chad Perrin, Jones Snowboards; Cory Smith, Mtn Approach; Lisa Branner, Venture Snowboards; David Ingemie, SIA; Dave Wray, SIA

Chad Perrin, Jones Snowboards; Cory Smith, Mtn Approach; Lisa Branner, Venture Snowboards; David Ingemie, SIA; Dave Wray, SIA (left to right)

While the original intent was to discuss how the industry can take advantage of the increasing numbers of backcountry travelers—whether skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers or any other adventurer—David Ingemie, SIA president, says much more came out of it.

Some of Ingemie’s key takeaways:

— Put together an expanded backcountry database to help disseminate sales and usage information.
— Establish a backcountry-oriented glossary that can be used by everyone in the snowsports industry to ensure common language.
— Organize a smaller committee comprised of various backcountry-oriented brands, avalanche centers, retailers, resort representatives, lawyers and insurance agents to discuss commonalities and how each can work together.

Many attendees could summarize their lesson learned with one word: education.

Vince Sanders, who does product development for Never Summer Industries, says educating retailers on how to take advantage of missed backcountry sales is key—and many snowboard shops don’t fully understand the growing trend.

Sanders already plans to take a group of key dealers on a backcountry adventure to help teach them what to put in a pack for a day trip, how to use a beacon, probe and shovel, and what it’s like to skin up a mountain.

“I already have a couple shops in mind,” he says. “They’re supporting the category with (split)boards, but that’s about it.”

But it’s not just educating the retailer. Brands want to see backcountry-oriented sales figures—especially snowboard-related numbers that aren’t compiled—and consumers need to know how serious, albeit fun, the backcountry can be.

Nearly every attendee could tell a story of skiers or snowboarders going through backcountry gates unprepared—sans avalanche gear, with skins on incorrectly, with splitboards not setup right, etc. And retailers and brands need to take responsibility for educating consumers before skiers and riders buy equipment and during the process.

Some of that starts with industry-accepted terms:

— Should sidecountry be used or is anything out-of-bounds considered backcountry?
— Where does the term slackcountry fall in?
— Is it backcountry safety gear or backcountry rescue gear?

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” Sanders says. Brands will likely have a hard time walking the line between hyping product and being responsible.

And Marcus Peterson, Ortovox product specialist, agrees that it’ll be difficult but necessary.

“How we translate that into an ad or a theme or something going forward that brands the brand? That’s another story,” he says.

But the conversations have started, which is a long way from where SIA was years ago, many in the room said.

“I would call it a good start,” Peterson says. “This is a big step for (SIA).”

Some of the discussions evolved around the SIA Snow Show and how the organization can better the Backcountry Experience area to help address the needs of the industry—and Ingemie says some of the suggestions will be implemented for this season’s show.

Categories: Features

8 Responses to “Industry Talks Backcountry Skiing Trend”

  1. Mountain Love says:

    Studying ski guiding at CMC, the course-load focused on many back-country oriented points with excellent interviews in the industry & experience out with the class on the slopes. Learning core skills as well as hospitality based & business perspectives were pivotal to my 20+ yrs skiing (since age 2). Even Z-drags (for unsticking cats or snowmobiles) were wicked to make coming from an intensive river-running background with some rescue skills. The point is, while the lingo matters, the fact that education in all the pertinent arenas is being promoted I find quite inspiring and would love to become more involved with SIA.

    • Dave Wray says:

      Come join us at SIA 2013 in Denver and we can chat more about how to get involved. right now it's a and industry brand focused group, but we will need to expand and explore to get feedback from other community members like you.

  2. Ken Cramer says:


    • Will Richmond says:

      Better than having the same individual enter the backcountry powder hunger with no potentially life saving gear and become a fatality statistic. Yes education is very relevant, but the supplies matter as well, and plenty of people ride the backcountry with neither.

  3. Tyler says:

    Where can I find market stats (e.g. annual sales) about avalanche safety gear specifically?

    • Dave Wray says:

      We've got it. Are you with or part of an brand in the business?

    • Patrick says:

      I would also like to see this information. Doing a business report on the expanding market for back-country gear and these stats would be extremely helpful!

  4. Ted says:

    Stumbled onto this article while preparing to teach ski area backed Level 1 Avalanche Fundamentals Course… Interesting stats and comments… What is most encouraging is the dialog and serious consideration as to improving avalanche safety for customers… Please consider working with your local avalanche centers on sponsoring avalanche-related education and or becoming involved/ sponsoring local avalanche safety workshops… Thanks again.

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