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The lifts are still running at Mammoth and our local mountains, but SnowSports Industries America (SIA) reports the retail side of the industry got hammered in February, continuing a steady decline that began last November, at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

"Snow sports market sales declined 16 percent overall in February 2009 over February 2008," states an audit by the McLean, VA-based, not-for-profit trade association. "Snow Sports equipment sales were particularly hard hit in February, as consumers, riddled with fear over lost wealth and lost jobs, hesitated to purchase big ticket items like skis and snowboards in relatively average snow conditions."

This was no surprise to industry insiders. 

"Frankly, I have been wondering when the SIA audit data would catch up to the reality of the market," commented Tim Petrick, vice president of Global Sales with K2 Sports. "The winter sports market has been difficult all season."

The apparel and accessories categories have fared better than alpine ski and snowboard equipment, with sales down 4.7 percent in dollars but up 2.3 percent in units in August-February 2008/09 compared to August-February 2007/08. Accessories sales were down 1 percent during the same time period.

"Skiers tell us they will keep skiing but are unwilling to pay top dollar," said Jim Spring, president of Leisure Trends Group, which conducted the retail audit. "This lesson should have been learned this past season." 

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