With snowmaking well underway at major ski resorts and snow falling in certain regions, two companies are looking to suit up more of those mountain-goers on and off the slopes.
Farm Rio is delving into the category for the first time, and Alps & Meters is looking to fortify its U.S. business as well as distribution in other countries. Both brands’ expansion efforts coincide with the ski industry’s efforts to woo more visitors.
While national parks, wintery retreats and outdoor spaces proved to be pandemic-friendly pursuits, the ski industry in particular is poised to bounce back post-shutdown. The Denver-based National Ski Areas Association reported that skier visits fell nearly 14 percent in the 2019-20 season compared with the previous ski season, 2018-19. But in 2021, the 358 ski resorts in the U.S. generated $4.3 billion in annual sales, roughly a 3.8 percent annual bump compared to the previous year. Looking further ahead, the domestic ski jacket market is expected to reach $2.26 billion in annual sales by 2031, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 3.2 percent.
Farm Rio, a 25-year-old Brazilian lifestyle company, is looking to be part of that growth, and launches skiwear at the end of November. Chief executive officer Fabio Barreto, who is heading up the label’s expansion in the U.S. and Europe, said collaborations with Adidas, Anthropologie and other brands in the past few years proved Farm Rio’s prints and bold colors were well-received in other markets, prompting further expansion.
The company has annual sales of $215 million in Brazil and $85.4 million in other countries, according to Barreto. With the debut of a nine-piece ski collection, Farm Rio is trying to encourage shoppers to dress happily by favoring bold colors and prints, just as Brazilian consumers do. The different seasonality in the U.S. and Europe versus in Brazil presents a new opportunity to wear summery-spirited designs all year-round, Barreto said.
Ski pants will retail for $345, jackets will run $465 and ski suits are $615. Shoppers will find the skiwear in Farm Rio boutiques, online and through some strategic partnerships. The CEO believes the ski season is Farm Rio-like in that it encourages having fun and spending time with family and friends, and the assortment debuts Wednesday. The brand’s slogan is “Dress in Happiness.” And snowy mountains seemed to be a prime backdrop for the label’s vibrant prints, so founder Katia Barros designed the skiwear with that in mind, Barreto said.
The company is counting on the skiwear to be “its top story” for the holiday season, partially due the unexpectedness, Barreto said.
“We believe that you can dress yourself in happiness at any time of the year. It’s just a matter of what you want to experience in your lifestyle,” Barreto said.
Alps & Meters is also trying to get a larger piece of the skiwear market. The brand, founded by former Kerin executive Louis Joseph in 2017, is currently sold through 75 to 100 wholesale accounts, including ones in skiing and snowboarding destinations like Vail, Aspen and Whistler. The aim is to reach $6 million in sales for the fiscal year ending June 2023, according to Joseph, who serves as creative director and chief executive officer. That would mean doubling sales — a goal the company hopes to reach by greater distribution in such markets like Japan, France and Switzerland, Joseph said.
A collaboration with Loro Piana will soon debut, and Alps & Meters has hired industry veterans Brooke Turner Webster to head the North American sales team, and JC Clenet to lead international sales.
The company has partnered with Gravity Haus, giving members of the hospitality specialists 15 percent discounts for Alps & Meters purchases. Touted as “a social club for the modern adventurer,” Gravity Haus offers modern hotel accommodations, premium gear access, mountainside coworking space, fitness programs, and wellness and outdoor experiences. The plan is to open concept shops in wintery locales, starting with Gravity Haus’ outposts at Breckenridge Resort and Vail. Steamboat is also in the works, Joseph said. Alps & Meters has an outpost in the St. Regis Hotel in Deer Valley in Park City, Utah.
Alps & Meters will be focusing more on the women’s segment to try to rev up sales. Like many brands, the company has faced “various supply chain challenges,” which have inhibited the company from acquiring enough inventory to maximize demand, but the brand is working to rectify that. To try to speed up its turnaround time, the brand has recently launched the Authentic American Alpine collection of heavy gauge knitwear that is made in the U.S. The brand favors traditional fabrics, old world techniques, which are resonating with consumers globally, Joseph said. Retail prices range from $475 to $495 for the knitwear.