Mid-Atlantic and New England ski and snowboard related businesses are having an epic winter — but certainly not epic in a positive way.
Last year we enjoyed early and prolonged cold, ample natural snow, and no major thaws which all came together and blessed us with an extended ski season. This year is the exact opposite. A strong El Niño has fueled this dramatic change in weather all across North America. The west coast and the Rockies are having a banner year while the northeast has been nearly barren of snow and has been setting new high average temperature records.
December seemed like someone forgot to flip the switch and shut off fall. For ski shops, the usual wave of excited holiday shoppers never showed up. Most local resorts were only partially open during their financially critical holiday period and skier visits were “off substantially”. January brought the cold temperatures needed for snowmaking but then a series of near tropical surges nearly wiped out what base had been established and left a layer of bulletproof ice on the trails when temperatures dropped. February and March have not been much better. From Pennsylvania’s ski resorts, words like “challenging” and “worst” and “horrible” crop up in casual discussions and hint at the common thread of concerns about our nearly snowless and warm winter and its impact on a $750 million dollar a year industry in the Commonwealth.
With over 45 years in that industry, we have seen this type of extreme before (most recently in the winter of 2006). Annual fluctuations are a part of the business. We have learned to be conservative in our pre-season buying commitments and we always strive keep our operating expenses low. Salter’s typical customer is passionate about the sport and looks to us for our expert services (like boot fitting), buffering us from the vagaries of impulse and bargain-driven buying.
Later this month, we will be putting this season behind us and will start planning for our October re-opening. We’re bringing on some great new equipment and clothing lines that we hope to share with you. As always, the anticipation will start building during the dog days of August for the first run of the new season and the thrill and camaraderie that our chosen sport brings. Thank you, as always, for your loyalty and support.
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