Employees at Idaho’s outdoor gear stores have never seen anything like it. Despite a mostly snow-free Treasure Valley winter, some of their winter recreation gear is flying off the shelves, with manufacturers struggling to keep up and sell on the day it arrives.
Snowshoes and cross-country ski equipment are in high demand across the country as the pandemic-fueled outdoor recreation boom continues.
“These are two very easy sports for people who don’t go outdoors often,” said Chuck Cremer, owner of McU Sports in Boise. “They are safe, easy to make and inexpensive. “
Boise area stores struggle to keep snowshoes in stock
Like many other sporting goods stores in the Boise area, McU has struggled to keep snowshoes and skis on the shelves this year. Its sales of snowshoes alone are up about 400% from last year, Cremer said.
“It has been a constant frustration all season,” he said. “Some of our manufacturers haven’t shipped at all this season.”
Cremer also said that when shipments arrive, they sometimes only contain a fraction of the products McU orders.
Boise Gear Collective, a downtown consignment store specializing in outdoor gear, saw the same thing.
“We literally sold our last pair probably 20 minutes ago,” sales rep Sebastian Glenn told the Statesman in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “The next person who came in was looking for snowshoes. Everyone throughout the state of Idaho is looking for snowshoes.
Retailers understand the appeal. Colby Selekof, action sports retail sales manager at the Boise REI store on Emerald Street, said not only are snowshoeing and cross-country skiing easier to learn, but they avoid the ski lifts and offer more seclusion than traditional skiing or snowboarding at a ski resort.
“It’s social distancing, being able to go out, experience the stress reduction nature offers us and also being able to do it in a safe way,” Selekof said in a phone interview.
Like McU, Selekof said REI is struggling with manufacturing shortages. While manufacturers appear to be picking up the pace, she said, REI is now seeing shipping delays affecting deliveries as well.
“(The products stay) a month in containers just trying to get on a truck and get shipped here,” she said.
REI, Boise Gear Collective, and McU are among several local stores that offer rental snowshoes and skis. (Idaho Mountain Touring and Greenwood’s Ski Haus also rent equipment.) Selekof said REI has not maximized its rental capacity this winter, although there is more demand for equipment on holiday weekends.
“Even though we’re full, we can still help people get out,” she said.
Cremer said renting is a great way to try out different types or brands of snowshoes before you buy. And you’ll want to buy when you get the chance, Selekof said.
“The big takeaway (from the shortage) is if you find something that works for you, buy it,” she said.
This also extends to warm weather clothing. Stores said they saw an increase in the number of bicycles and boats like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards last summer, and they expect this year to be similar.
Increased traffic on local snowshoe and ski trails
In addition to gear, Cremer said McU is seeing an increase in sales of its Idaho Parks and Recreation Park N ‘Ski packages, which help fund grooming of ski and snowshoe trails across the state. Parks and Rec maintains over 180 miles of groomed trails accessible from 17Park N ‘Ski locations, including four in the Idaho City area.
Parks and Rec spokesperson Craig Quintana said Park N ‘Ski package sales this season already represent 133% of last season’s sales.
“And we still have a lot of winter left in 2021,” he added by email.
By the middle of last week, the agency had sold more than 3,300 passes (1,086 temporary 3-day passes and 2,279 annual passes). In 2019, he sold 2,500 passes in total.
Quintana also told the Statesman that trail staff are reporting a “significant” increase in snowshoe and ski trail use.
Bogus Basin, another popular place for snowshoeing in the Boise area, has seen a big increased traffic. Equipment rentals and day passes in its Nordic Center have increased by 30-35%, spokeswoman Susan Saad said in an email.
Saad said the Nordic trails are also seeing an influx of ‘overflow’ patrons who may not have been able to secure lift tickets because the recreation area has limited capacity due to
the coronavirus pandemic.
At the Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, snowshoe rentals are up nearly 30% from last year, while at Brundage Mountain in McCall, interest has been “fairly stable” despite the resort no. “There are no dedicated snowshoe trails,” spokeswoman April Whitney said. .
If you are going to
Want to try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing? The good news is that there isn’t much of a learning curve for either activity.
“The beauty of the snowshoe is that if you can walk, the snowshoe is accessible to you,” Cremer said.
▪ Start by finding a place to go. The Nordic trails at Bogus Basin are popular and close to Boise. Also, Cremer points out, they are safe because there are other people nearby if you get lost or injured.
Other good options include Park N ‘Ski locations or snowy mountain trails.
If you are a real beginner, groomed trails will be easier to navigate than virgin snow. If you plan on snowshoeing outside of a marked trail, make sure you know where you are going (and tell a friend or family member who can watch you) and that you have permission to be there.
▪ Know your equipment. Do you know the ins and outs of putting on and taking off your snowshoes or skis? Is your equipment suitable for the terrain you will be on? Some snowshoes are designed to be used primarily on groomed trails, while others work best in the backcountry and on steep terrain.
If you are renting, local store employees are great resources to check the fit and answer questions. They might also have some great recommendations on where to go.
▪ Be ready. While snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are easier activities to learn, there is an inherent risk in recreation in cold weather and in remote locations. Wear appropriate clothing (layers are ideal – you can get quite warm on the trail), keep supplies like food and water on you and in your vehicle, and let someone know where you are going and when. waiting for you at home.
North of Idaho City, pay special attention to avalanche hazards (the section of Idaho 21 between Grandjean and Banner Summit is known as Avalanche Alley). Check avalanche reports through the Sawtooth Avalanche Center (208-622-0095 or sawtoothavalanche.com) and check the weather forecast.