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Predictions For Next Season From Stratton On Snow

Photo: Hubert Schriebl

Although snow has been scarce in the East, like elsewhere, the mood at the 2012 EWSRA/NEWSR On-Snow Demo held at Vermont's Stratton Mountain February 7-9 was upbeat thanks to sunshine and soft, groomed snow.

Testing conditions were ideal thanks to impeccable grooming every night by the Stratton crew. Although there wasn't any fresh powder or trees to explore, there were soft bumps, corduroy runs and some icy spots to demo new snowboards in a variety of terrain.

The show format combined the East's two rep groups, back together again after a two-year hiatus of doing the demo separately. "Stratton's been very accommodating and welcoming—the layout is wonderful," said Maureen Bliss, executive director of the New England Winter Sports Representatives, which held its show at New Hampshire's Loon Mountain the past two winters.

"We haven't had any complaints—weather's been cooperating and it's been super positive," said Stan Kosmider, Oakley's Vermont and New York rep. "It's been good—there are more people from all regions and more energy," added Charlie Kiesa, K2's mid-Atlantic territory manager. "And there's a lot more going on because of it."

While some retailers indicated that they would stick with tried brands and were adjusting buys because of a down-season, others said they were shopping around for new stuff and also said graphics would play a role.

With about 275 retailers and almost 1000 shop employees, attendance was down only slightly. However, there was no surprise about retailers indicating a cut in their buys for next season given the terrible winter in the East with minimal snowfalls and lack of business at resorts and shops.

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"We'll be a little safer obviously," said Jesse Westmacott, owner of Farias Surf and Sport, Long Beach Island, New Jersey. "We'll order what sells and be a little lighter on the kind of weird stuff."

Mike DeRosa, manager/buyer for Mount Everest, Westwood, New Jersey, agreed: "It'd be nice to have a bigger open-to-buy but you have to do what makes sense." The shop also does the huge annual November sale at the Meadowlands and DeRosa noted that its online application has been growing.

While some retailers indicated that they would stick with tried brands and were adjusting buys because of a down-season, others said they were shopping around for new stuff and also said graphics would play a role.

"Graphics play a big part—you have to have something that will catch people's eye on the wall," said Erik Barnes, director of Mount Snow's resort operations, who added that said his snowboard testers went through 65 boards. "As far as hard goods we're not tied into one vendor. We do a lot with Burton and Rome, but we're looking at new models like Arbor and Salomon."

"Manufacturers won't build a lot of extra stuff. If we don't the buy right out of the gate, we won't get to restock. We're taking a hard look." Erik Barnes, director of Mount Snow's resort operations

Barnes also liked Salomon's new flex cup binding with its soft high back to help with big and boot/binding interface. Vans' Jeff Grella, product development director, said the brand was enjoying a lot of interest in its new hybrid technology with Boa, especially the Revere Boa model. According to many retailers, new offerings of mixed camber boards were high on the list to try.

"The multiple camber boards are responding really well," said Steve Bellevue, of Village Skate and Snow in northern Vermont, who added that Gnu's Forest Bailey model was a lot of fun.

"The development of blending the two technologies has come a long way," said Jason Schlitzer, snowboard department manager of The Ski Bum, Newark, Delaware, who added that boards weren't as washy through turns.

Accessory booths were busy with helmets and goggles in plentiful supply for demoing. "People are excited for sure about accessories," said Kosmider, who added that they didn't feel the brunt of the bad weather. "It's not a high price-point and we're always doing something new and unique so people come to see what we have to offer."

Many company execs also attend this premier on-snow demo in the East, including Tim Petrick, president of Rossignol and SIA chairman. Grella, product development director for Vans and Protec, made his first visit to the show in about a decade. He said things will be down for sure. "It's kind of typical all over the country. A lot of people are struggling—we'll see reduced open-to-buy with excess inventory left on the shelves."

As some retailers hope manufacturers will overproduce for reorders next season, others are not counting on it. "Manufacturers won't build a lot of extra stuff," said Barnes. "If we don't buy right out of the gate, we won't get to restock. We're taking a hard look."

As one rep noted: "You can't make it snow," so people just have to adjust and deal with it.