SnowSports Industries America (SIA) has published its final results for the 2009-10 snow sports season. The market finished up 4% over last season in total sales. Snow sport retailers sold $2.94 billion this season compared to $2.82 billion a year ago, but while sales were up in dollars, fewer units were sold this season.

The 2009-10 season began with limited cash flow and tighter credit caused by the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Before the season even started pre-season orders were down 10% to 40% and inventories, which were already smaller due to heavy carryover sales last season, stayed small.  In fact, inventories started out this season 9% leaner than they were at the beginning of the 2008-09 season. Small inventories meant that snow sports products were scarcer than normal and retailers sold fewer items at deep discounts. This season, fewer units were sold but were sold at higher prices, resulting in higher margins, an increase in dollars sold, leaner inventories at the end of the season, and a generally healthier year for snow sports retailers.

“Business really picked up in February and March when the snow started falling again and we finished the season with a smaller inventory and stronger sales,” said Randy Morgan, the owner of Outpost SunSport in Fort Collins, Colorado. In general, sales fell 3% in units at specialty stores ($1.8 billion) and by 4% at chain stores ($563 million). Sales over the Internet grew 1% to $597 million.

Total sales through all channels this season did not top the record-breaking 2007-08 season, but ranked as the second highest in its history. Apparel led sales this season with $1.1 billion, with accessories sales totals close behind at $1 billion. Equipment has been outsold by both apparel and accessories categories since the 2006-07 season; this year, alpine, Nordic, and AT/Randonee equipment sales were up, while telemark and snowboard equipment sales slipped.

The trends:

Fat Skis – Skis with wider midsections moved faster than skinny skis this season. Fat ski sales increased more than 30% in units and in dollars sold.

Snowboards – Although rocker snowboards had a good run again this season, all snowboard sales were down in units and in dollars sold this season.

Backcountry – AT/Randonee ski sales were up 57% in units and up 57% in dollars sold.

Helmets – Record sales. More than 1.1 million helmets were sold through February this season.