Retailers are seeing spike in backcountry gear sales. That has avalanche educators, search teams worried.
AVON — Doug Stenclik is stacking skis and lining up a new point-of-sale system at Cripple Creek Backcountry. He wasn’t planning on opening his Avon and Aspen Highlands ski shops in September, but skiers have been buying early and often.
“It’s not slowing down, only picking up. So it’s real,” says Stenclik, whose online sales of touring and backcountry skis, boots and equipment are up fivefold in August and September at his CrippleCreekBC.com site, which has spurred him to open three of his four brick-and-mortar stores earlier than ever before.
“It’s exciting, but it’s also challenging. There are a lot of people coming in who have never been in the backcountry. I think it’s going to be pretty frightening at the trailhead with how many people are showing up this winter,” he says, “but in the same breath, I have to say this is good. There are more people getting out and enjoying human-powered sports on their public lands and recognizing all the things we love about the backcountry.”
As ski resorts tinker with crowd management plans that will limit access to the lifts in the coming season, all signs point to another spike in backcountry travel — just as they did in March, when ski areas closed early in response to the pandemic.
Sales of uphill equipment and avalanche safety gear are soaring. Avalanche educators are ramping up campaigns to reach new backcountry explorers. Search and rescue teams are preparing for additional calls for help, and resorts are closely studying their uphill policies to accommodate what everyone expects to be a banner year for skiers venturing beyond the resort boundaries.
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