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SAM Magazine--McLean, Va., Mar. 8, 2005--Overall sales for the entire winter sport market (including specialty and chain stores) were up 2.8 percent in dollars to $1.76 billion for the August 2004 through January 2005 period, compared to $1.71 billion reported for the same period last year, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit. Unit sales, however, were down 7.3 percent.

Sales at both specialty and chain stores surged in January from year-earlier totals. Sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 2.6 percent compared to last season. Unit sales were down from last season 2.6 percent. For chains, the increase was 3.6 percent in dollars, but an 17.8 percent drop in units.

In specialty stores, apparel, spurred by late-month storms in the Midwest and Northeast, led the increase. Shell parkas and soft shells were up nearly 10 to 20 percent, and winter boots were up by 30 percent. Both vests and fleece sales remain strong. Other trends have continued as well: big increases in sales of twin-tip and carving skis along with integrated ski systems and performance boots. But season-long declines in kids gear and recreational boots suggest a trend to increased rental among newcomers for a longer intro period. Snowboarding continues to be off slightly from last year as well.

Telemark gear sales are up significantly, about 20 percent, on top of a much larger increase a year ago. But Nordic sales have declined, in response to low snowfall in the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Midwest.

Chain stores saw similar trends, although snowboard sales were up marginally and Telemark gear was down about 20 percent