The CIA has thousands of operatives out in the field gathering data. But for every one of these spooks there are probably a half-a-dozen brainiacs sitting in some air-conditioned cubicle analyzing the data and crunching the numbers.
Getting the data is easy, making sense of it is hard.
So it is with United States import numbers for snowboards (see chart). This tracks the number of snowboards imported into the United States from their country of origin. Which means that even if our pal in Canada bought 50,000 closeout boards and warehoused them in the Great White North before sending them south, the import data would still list these boards under the country in which they were built.
The info is all there, but making sense of it requires some deductive leaps of logic. Some are easy. For example, Nidecker helped establish a factory in Tunisia, ergo we probably know who sent those 2,898 boards to the United States. But what about the other Swiss boards? At least some of them are Nidecker, but who else is building boards in Switzerland?
Spain is another slam dunk. Rossignol is the only factory currently producing in the land of bullfights. However, countries like France, Austria, and Germany are more problematic. Salomon, Rossi, and Original Sin have factories in France, as do Hot/A Snowboards, Freesurf, and the swallowtail specialist Swell Panik (which usually builds only a few hundred boards a year).
In Austria, the Elan factory is cranking out decks from Forum, Sims, Nitro, and Elan; Oxygen boards are made up the road in Altenmarkt. Duotone and F2 share facilities, and Pale was making boards for Ride's Liquid and Mercury brands, Vision, and others. Burton also utilized three Austrian factories on an exclusive basis.
Another Elan factory is located in Slovenia, but this one's traditionally made skis. So, what are we to make of the more than 3,000 boards coming into the United States from there? A mid-season production shift? A special production run?
Then we have the real wild cards: nearly 18,000 boards from China with an average custom value of 33 dollars? Almost 50,000 "snowboards" from Taiwan with an average custom value of less than a tenner? What gives?! Are these toys or boards?
Which brings us back the fact that analysis can only be as good as the data. In this instance, we don't really know if those Taiwanese boards are on the shelf of Toys R Us or if they're actually boards you'll see on the hill.
We may not be able to discern hard facts, but the guessing sure is interesting.