Word On The Slopes: Trends & Turns At The Stratton On-Snow Demo

Photos and words: Iseult Devlin

Hailing from Virginia to Maine, retailers and reps gathered at Vermont’s Stratton Mountain for the 2013 EWSRA/NEWSR On-Snow demo held Feb. 5-7.  The event attracted around 200 shops, almost 900 testers, and over 100 brands, with snowboards representing over a third of the total.

“The numbers are about the same, but the energy is better than last year—it’s more positive,” said Maureen Bliss, executive director of the New England Winter Sports Representatives.

Sunny skies for most of the show produced lots of smiles and a relaxed mood. As one tester said between runs, “You get to ride on next year’s stuff on a fun mountain how can you go wrong?”

Great grooming on a hard surface also made it ideal to test boards, and retailers were especially digging camber or combo boards for the typical Eastern conditions.

“Hybrid rocker is the big thing right now—it’s working,” said Ian McElroy, of East Coast Alpine in Massachusetts.

However, all the different hybrids are not making it easy on shops or consumers, according to some. “Trying to figure out all the different cambers—all the crazy hybrid stuff,” said Pete Kocher of Brooklyn Skate and Snowboard, who added that it makes it more confusing for to buy a board.

Chris Francois, of High Country Sports in Livingston, N.J., is backing the bite of traditional camber: “I’m over the whole rocker thing—charging on an icy day doesn’t have the grip of a camber board.”

“Camber is coming back,” added Michael Martin of Ski Haus, in New York.

While the East has had its share of warm temps and major thaws so far this year, snow is more plentiful than last winter and cold snaps are saving the day for many shops.

“Business this year is definitely better than last. The nice kick of little clippers has done wonders for the snow biz,” said Aaron Wilson, of Funtastik Skate and Snow of  Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who averaged testing a respectable 20 boards a day.

“This is the first year we’re introducing Mervin products into the store—they’re a lot of fun,” he said, adding that he was also excited about changes in the Union bindings and was liking the Yes boards with Now bindings. He said he likes supporting small companies and appreciates what they do for the industry and his business.

Other retailers also praised Union and Gnu, Lib Tech and K2 were getting lots of thumbs up from testers. “As usual a lot of the Lib Techs are good,” said Francois.

“Rome is looking strong and Flow is up and coming,” said McElroy, who added that Rome’s ABT (alternative base technology) and quick rip sidecut were working well.

For many retailers, it was their first glimpse at next year’s products since traveling to SIA has become costly, especially because of last year’s  sparse snow season.

Northwave and Drake  didn’t get a booth at this year’s national show so they could spend money more locally. “We are using the extra money to spend on brand awareness programs and helping the dealers out with shipping and other stuff,” said Jim Wyker, North American sales manager, who added that they have been doing more private demos and regional shows.

“We are working with the dealers so we can all stay in business together,” added rep Brian Saylor, who said Northwave and Drake are offering more attractive margins. “It’s been very positive. It’s opening [retailers’] eyes and making things more appealing—they know they have some wiggle room,” he added.