The business of the backcountry

Backcountry gear sales continue to rise, but who's educating consumers?

The winter of 2011-12 was, by most accounts, a poor one for the snow sports industry. Dismal snowfalls combined with a hurting economy to push U.S. retail sales down 12 percent in units and 4 percent in dollars compared to 2010-11.

But one category bucked the trend: backcountry-specific equipment. From splitboards to alpine touring gear to beacons, sales were up. New-to-North America, avalanche airbags would not stay on the shelves. Backcountry-focused brands like Dynafit, Spark R & D, Voile and Backcountry Access all reported double-digit growth, even with sales leveling off from an explosive growth spurt witnessed over the past half-decade.

The problem with introducing more people to backcountry travel? Increased traffic means an increasing likelihood of avalanche accidents. And as the snow-sports industry revels in huge opportunities for growth in the backcountry market, the lines between personal responsibility and industry accountability have merged. In the event of an accident, no piece of equipment is a guaranteed life preserver, but the good news is that brands are seeking to educate consumers about the risks associated with their purchase. READ MORE


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