The 2020/2021 season projections are positive. Increased participation will drive hard goods sales that typically total about $40M according to NPD. Participants will also need winter apparel but most who participate in other outdoor activities won’t need to spend thousands on a new kit. Cross country skiing doesn’t require a helmet, or goggles and not everyone chooses to deck themselves out in spandex (although wicking fabric is helpful).
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are fun to learn, healthy, family friendly, accessible, affordable, and offer great variety. Participants can hike their favorite trails on snowshoes, find amazing winter scenery on groomed cross country ski trails, or wait for snow to fall in their neighborhoods and ski around town. Cross country skiing uses natural movements – it doesn’t require special skills to get started and has a short learning curve. Snowshoeing may be more difficult than walking but most people can start snowshoeing within minutes of strapping on their snowshoes. As an added bonus, many areas that cater to cross country skiers and snowshoers offer fine food and craft beverages.
An important factor likely to drive increased participation on trails this winter is the obvious social distancing advantage these activities have over lift-served downhill skiing. The two largest alpine resort operators have announced that there will be capacity limitations at their resorts and season passholders will have priority. Casual skiers, those that only ski a few times each season, may find themselves blocked out of weekend skiing at lift served resorts. Social distancing is far easier when skiers and snowshoers have miles of trails to explore away from crowds.
The financial bottom line on cross country skiing and snowshoeing tends to be small making these winter activities an excellent option for anyone that wants to experience a true winter wonderland.
Finally, weather is always a factor in winter sports, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing depend on snowfall and the forecast is promising. This season, La Niña conditions are projected, the northern states and Canada will be colder and wetter than normal. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “La Niña favors increased snowfall over the Northwest and northern Rockies, as well as in the upper Midwest Great Lakes region. Reduced snowfall is observed over parts of the central-southern Plains, Southwest, and mid-Atlantic.” Many downhill ski resorts have snowmaking equipment that can compensate for natural snow, but fewer than 20% of cross country trail systems have snowmaking capability. This season’s weather looks promising for most cross country ski areas.