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Despite drought, sales of ski gear and clothes rose 7% last winter

Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys for the California Department of Water Resources, left, leads his group out to measure snow levels near Echo Summit, Calif., in January.
(Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

While California suffered through the driest winter on record, ski gear and winter clothing sales rose nationwide last season thanks to frigid temperatures in other parts of the country, according to an industry trade report.

Businesses that sell snow gear and winter apparel reported $3.6 billion in sales in the 2013-14 ski season, up 7% over the previous season, according to an annual report by the SnowSports Industries America.

Although the snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada fell to less than 15% of the season average, snowfall and frigid temperatures elsewhere, particularly in the South, helped boost sales of winter clothes, gloves and hats, the report said.

“Everyone in Mississippi needed a puffy,” said Kelly Davis, director of research for the trade group, referring to heavy winter coats. “It was a strange season.”

The number of skiers and snowboarders visiting the slopes last winter dropped to 56.2 million from 56.6 million the previous season, according to the report.

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But the sale of ski equipment rose 2% last winter, while the sale of winter clothes jumped 4% and accessories like hats and gloves shot up 14%, the report said.

The so-called polar vortex last winter was blamed for arctic temperatures as far south as Louisiana. But in California, snow levels fell so far that ski resort operators were forced to offer discount deals, $1 beers and free snow tubing for annual pass holders to entice skiers to the mountains.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.


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