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SAM Magazine--McLean, Va., March 17, 2004--Overall sales for the winter sport market (including specialty and chain stores) increased 1.8 percent in dollars to $1.72 billion for August 2003 through January 2004, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit. Unit sales were ahead 5.8 percent. Growing interest in Nordic and telemark skiing as well as healthy gains in the junior, apparel and snowboard equipment led the way.

Total Nordic and tele sales reached $41.5 million for the year to date (compared to approximately $260 million for Alpine). At specialty stores, Nordic ski equipment sales jumped 46 percent to $29.5 million through January 2004. Average retail prices of Nordic skis increased $13, to $135. Similarly, sales increased 36 percent at chain stores.

Telemark gear performed even better, culminating in a 61 percent increase over last season, reaching $4.8 million through January 2004. Telemark boot and binding sales leapt 86 percent and 99 percent, respectively. Chain-store sales were equally dramatic.

In a similar vein, specialty-store sales of snowshoes jumped a healthy 30 percent over last season, up to $14.2 million through January 2004.

Integrated ski systems doubled their sales in chains to $8.4 million, up 105 percent. The average retail price was $461 in January 2004, up from $451 in January 2003. The story for specialty stores was much the same, though prices averaged about $530.

Junior sales continue strong. Specialty-store junior ski sales shot up 21 percent in units, as average prices declined $20 to $107. Chains saw similar trends.

Substantial drops occurred in specialty-store sales of snowdecks/skates and helmets, down 52 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Chain store declines were 39 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

For the month of January, cold weather in the East helped boost specialty apparel sales (including tops, bottoms and snowboard) 19 percent in dollars to $78.1 million. Compared to 2003, insulated parka sales were up 23 percent to $91.4 million. Soft shell parkas have nearly doubled their sales over last season. Snowboard apparel sales were up 16 percent in dollars, to $77.8 million through January.

Women's apparel showed strong gains in chain stores. Women's insulated parkas (up 11 percent to $11.6 million), women's shell parkas (up 33 percent to $6.3 million) and women's soft shell parkas (up 32.6 percent to $432,000) helped to stabilize the apparel category over last season. Women's apparel also helped drive snowboard apparel sales up 10 percent over last season, to $29.2 million. \