Reno ski, winter gear shops may benefit from CA stay-at-home order
RENO, Nev. — Bud Heishman is in a position few small business owners have found themselves in this year: extra busy.
“I’m stacked up right now with boot (fitting) appointments,” Heishman, owner of Snowind Sports, a ski shop off Mt. Rose Highway in South Reno, said in a phone interview last week with the NNBW. “Business has been good this year — we’re setting records.”
Heishman said Snowind Sports’ business in November jumped about 25% compared to last year, and its December sales are up roughly 20% from 2019, which was the biggest December on record in its 26 years of business.
November and December, Heishman added, typically account for 70%-80% of the shop’s annual business.
The coronavirus pandemic — which cut last ski season short across greater Reno-Tahoe — has propelled demand for boots, bindings, skis and more this holiday season.
“(People) want to get outside and recreate,” Heishman said. “They want to get out and ski. I also think more people are working remotely and are moving to this area like crazy because they want to live this lifestyle. I think it opened peoples’ eyes to get involved in outdoor sports.”
Bobo’s Ski & Board in Reno hasn’t seen a slowdown in sales either, said manager Paul Van Sickle.
“Business has been good,” Van Sickle told the NNBW. “We’re on track for about the same (sales) as last year.”
Steady sales have come despite uncertainty swirling around Reno-Tahoe’s 2020-21 ski season — in the age of social distancing, most resorts are not allowing walk-in sales and are operating at limited capacities.
What’s more, on Dec. 11, California public health officials issued a three-week stay-at-home order for much of the state — including the California side of Lake Tahoe and Truckee, where the bulk of the region’s ski resorts are nestled — due to hospital capacity concerns.
The order is designed to, among other things, limit nonessential travel and deter tourists from driving up the hill to Tahoe — though outdoor recreation, including skiing and snowboarding, is allowed.
“We’re going to take it as it comes, but so far we haven’t seen that loss in business of our daily rental situation without out-of-town travel coming in,” Van Sickle said last week. “All of our loyal, in-town customers have been coming in. All the normal faces that we usually see are coming in, and we’re happy to see that.”
Van Sickle feels Bobo’s might even see a boost in business due to the California order, considering more tourists and second homeowners may instead come to Reno to shop and hit the slopes at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe or Diamond Peak.
“We’re thinking that people are probably going to be coming to Reno to stay,” he said. “At this moment we are seeing some people spilling over into town. I think it could increase business quite a bit.”
“We’ll certainly see more traffic going up to Mt. Rose than we would have if California didn’t shut down,” said Heishman, whose shop sits 10 minutes from the ski area. “As long as our side (of Tahoe) doesn’t shut down, that should play into our favor.”
Meanwhile, Rusty Donlon, co-owner and manager of Reno-based Gear Hut, is not so sure California’s stay-at-home order will increase traffic at his outdoor gear consignment shop.
“We have actually had a couple tourists in the store recently that are leaving the Tahoe region because of the shutdowns,” Donlon said. “I don’t see any sort of shutdowns, whether in California or Nevada, being actually good for business.”
So far, Donlon said Gear Hut has seen its biggest increase in sales coming from customers looking for backcountry ski equipment.
“They’re trying to stay away from resorts because of health concerns or because they don’t want to invest the money into a pass to then find out the resorts are closing down,” he said.
That line of thinking is spread across the country. Sales of backcountry-related equipment — such as snowshoes, splitboards and skins — grew a combined 76% in the opening months of the year’s snow season (August-October) compared to the same period in 2019, according to market research firm The NDP Group.
Heishman said his business is seeing more and more backcountry equipment plucked off the shelves as well.
“Because of the last year being shut down, a lot of people were still wanting to ski so we’re also seeing an uptrend in backcountry stuff,” he said. “In fact, most of the manufacturers are sold out already of boots and bindings, and anything related to backcountry is hard to get a hold of right now.”
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