For large parts of Europe, winter 2020/21 will forever be remembered as the winter that was – but wasn’t. Splitboarding’s had its upward trajectory turbocharged with lift access a no-go for most. But the snow came, and boy, did it come! Those lucky enough to be in regions where ski lifts remained open, lucky you. For those who had to mine lines, it’ll be a winter to remember.
German, French, British and Italian snowsports tourists have been deprived of their annual pilgrimage to the Alps, but it’s also been the toughest winter season in memory for the snowboard retailers who usually pay bills with their Euros. Many shops employed innovative click and collect features through Whatsapp, websites and Instagram, but the bottom line is without regular tourism, it’s been a brutal winter.
Consequently, retailers are currently sitting on large amounts of 20/21 stock, unable to sell to their regular footfall, leaving the industry wondering, ‘to carry over, or not to carry over’…that has been the question on everyone’s lips. Having been through all the 21/22 product categories, I can report that, well… the answer is most certainly not unanimous. In short, brands who have something to shout about, will shout. Those who are trying to prolong the life cycle of their products are continuing to do so. But I don’t think we are going to see a seismic shift in the product life cycle across the industry – at least not yet. There are brands for whom carryover just suits better, but there are brands who are built around snowboarding’s art, culture and technological progression and telling these stories to stoke out their customers each year is in their company’s DNA.
Being completely honest about the true effect Covid has had on the snowboard industry in Europe; just as the disease has preyed upon the frail and the weak, it’s done the same to companies within our industry. Those who lived on small cash reserves or had been facing a declining business environment pre-Covid, have had their demise fast-tracked. This hasn’t been a case of businesses run poorly, more just the straw that broke the camel’s back for companies (brands and retailers) suffering from snowboarding’s decline in participation figures over the past decade. As is with everything in life, it’s the lessons we learn from life that makes us stronger in future.
For any of my regular readers, you’ll know positivity is my editorial’s usual shtick. But for those in the European snowboard industry, you’ll know that’s really pretty hard to come by right now. But just this week we witnessed the birth of a new live snowboard competition format in Travis Rice’s Natural Selection Tour. It breathed life into our industry at a difficult time and all viewers were stoked throughout its entirety. Combining this with the solid efforts many brands are finally ploughing into the kids category and I am fully stoked for the future of snowboarding.
The European snowboard industry has been well and truly kicked in the nuts the past two winters, but as we saw with last summer’s boom in surf, skate and the outdoors in general, when resorts are allowed to open, the consumer’s thirst for the outdoors and riding on snow will be ravenous.
As we head into spring I hope our skate and surf brethren have learnt their lessons from last
summer and as long as their supply chains can keep up, summer 2021 could turn out to be the
best in recent memory.
Harry Mitchell Thompson