By  on February 7, 2002

NEW YORK -- This winter's tepid temperatures have some snow sport companies reexamining their core business and trying to energize their brands with different categories.

In terms of frequent participation, the five most popular activities among women are: ice hockey, figure skating, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

But snow sport companies don't care how much customers get out on the mountain, as long as they buy. Just as activewear companies have realized that nonathletic types can ring up the registers, snow sport brands also are looking toward those less active folks. At the same time, they're not abandoning their customer base and will also introduce new technical products.

Barbara Owen, director of sales and marketing at Sport Obermeyer, said now that more resorts have terrain parks with jumps, half pipes and rails, the likes of free riders, alpine skiers, snowboarders and telemarketers are getting an eyeful of each other's styles and adopting pointers. An influx of color is the most obvious sign of their unofficial time share, said Owen, noting that hot pink and tangerine are two new shades for next year.

Snowboarders, for example, are giving up their signature khaki-colored pants in favor of red, charcoal or black, and they're trying out slimmer styles instead of tried-and-true baggy looks.

This infusion of newness comes at a good time considering stores in the Northeast and the Midwest are weathering a somewhat rocky winter, due to unseasonably warm and dry conditions, Owen said.

"In the snow sport industry, this is the time to go big and have better things to offer," Owen said. "We don't want the stores to look exactly the same. This is the time to step out."

Buyers at last month's Ski Industries of America trade show in Las Vegas turned out in force, she noted. Instead of dwelling on this year's rough patches, they recalled business of previous seasons to try to get a median approach for next winter. They also didn't blink at show organizers' decision to schedule the event for late January instead of March, as a way "to kick off the season sooner," Owen said.

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