As a wardrobe fanatic, I have always been a little disappointed in the options available in snow gear. Growing up in Colorado as a young girl I was excited to go hit the slopes, but often was troubled when it was time to hit the mountain. I can recall putting on layers underneath my beloved tracksuit because I just couldn’t fathom wearing the awful color blocking options available at the time. Over the years, as snowboarding took a larger role in the industry, the apparel also became more palatable. The longer coats and younger more colorful prints on apparel was a big turn in the industry. All of a sudden, the tight all black ski gear, one piece snow suits, neon colors and standard issued “bibs” were no longer the necessary evil.
There are 16 million people who ski and snowboard. That number continues to grow every year. The largest age bucket of outdoor snow enthusiasts (skiing, snowboarders, snowshoers, alpine skiers, etc.) is 25-34 and that shopper is looking to look good, feel good and make a statement all at the same time. This bucket of beloved millennials is taking over the buying power and is noted as a more conscious consumer. What brands in the snow industry offer over the next decade will either align with the minds of millennials or will simply be the reason they will go out of business.
I was recently given the opportunity to browse 1,000 brands and even demo some gear on the slopes from companies who were debuting the latest trends and innovations in winter sports gear and technology. Overall, the biggest trend was companies selling the consumer on the “innovation” behind their product. From “no scratch” goggles to bindings that almost latch themselves, there wasn’t a shortage of information relative to how products are “better than ever” and therefore successfully differentiating themselves. I mean really…I get it. How many times can you improve a boot? Actually, you would be surprised!
After eating, breathing and sleeping snow gear, snow gear innovations and snow apparel options for a week…I found myself alongside 18,000 snow enthusiasts comprised of retailers, sales reps, brands, athletes and industry professionals all walking away with the same conclusion. No matter how you slice or dice it, the outlook of the snow industry is strong! Snow sales are hovering at $4.5B and steadily growing. What can you expect to see in the coming year relative to trends in your snow gear?
- Lots of Metallics: I have always felt that snow sport fashion trends (esthetically) are a few years behind what mainstream fashion is seeing and doing. As a result, it wasn’t a huge surprise for me to see metallic apparel and shoes on the showroom floor. In my honest and professional opinion, it is already dated but somehow considered “new and fun” in this niche. Should you buy it? Hell…why not. Live a little. I wouldn’t go for an entire head to toe ensemble, but those metallic hiking books with the red laces are pretty dope.
- More Base Layer Options: One of the best-selling categories is base layers and as a result, you will see more options available to wear under your outer shell. These aren’t your daddy’s layers either. These base layers are carefully engineered with self-wicking fabrics to keep heat in and absorb sweat. Trust me, anyone who can attest to being cold on the ski lift and hot on the slopes were likely not wearing the right base layers. It’s an investment worth making.
- Digital Cameras: With the explosion of social media and people wanting to share their experiences with their audience, you will see digital camera options continue to grow. As the technology continues to get better, big brands will continue to dance with putting cameras directly in helmets, goggles and outerwear. From what I have seen and experienced, no one has quite perfected it yet and Go Pro continues to be the “go to” for this technology.
- Back to the Future Laces: Quick lace-up boots have been a thing in the snow gear world for years. Consider this technology perfected. This year I got to experience this genius of an invention first hand and boy am I a super fan. Thinking to those days of lacing up in uber cold mornings and having to take your gloves off to put on your boots is literally a thing of the past. These self-lacing boots are the bomb-diggity (and don’t require you to take off your gloves). You just put your foot in, hit the button and turn the wheel to tighten. MAGIC!!! Get it, got it…good.
In a nutshell, the brainpower and innovation working through the summer months to bring snow enthusiasts the best snow gear possible is exciting. At first glance, I thought to myself, “really, how different can snowboards be?”. I read about it all the time, I have tried to understand the technology, I get caught up in the graphics…but to demo the gear makes all the world of difference. I can honestly say that dang, I am a much better snowboarder than I thought I was! Being able to strap on three different snowboards in one day in like conditions is truly an “apples to apples” experience. At the end of the day, as I sat with my cold beer I pondered this simple truth…not all snow gear is created equal.
LAST RANDOM THOUGHT…
Looking at my empty beer glass, I couldn’t help but reminisce and chuckle on my original thoughts as a young girl getting ready to hit the slopes. Yes, snow industry gurus…you still have quite a way to go on the fashion trend side. We want 10 patches on our jackets. We want fancy shredded-looking snow pants. We want embroidered snakes and big embroidered tiger heads on the back of our jackets. We want a shiny and chic all black option with oversized zippers and gold embellishments. Bring on the studded helmets and goggles. Don’t stop at the technology…you want to differentiate yourselves? Don’t stop at the features and benefits of the technology…we want esthetically pleasing and trendy gear and we want it now!
Source: Data produced by the NPD Group – 2014-15
Written By: Jessica Montour
Owner Fashion Forward
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