What do you want to hear first, good things or bad?
Let’s start with good:
– There were some notable product unveilings e.g. Redline 3.0 by Madshus, Triac 4.0 by Swix and all-new SK Course boots & S1/2/3 skis by Rossignol.
– Budding Russian label Spine brought its 3D foot scanner and had Petter Northug bare his extremities to demonstrate how Custom Fit technology works in practice.
– Northug himself had a very lively stand featuring just his glasses so far, but ambitions to expand into textiles etc. are clearly there.
– Kaestle is burgeoning on cash injection and market expertise of its new Czech owners.
– KV+ had a large (but rather fortress-like designed i.e. lots of walls with one entrance) segment indicating company’s robust health.
…But you know, that’s about it in ” it really stood out” category.
Now about “bad” or at least less than optimistic news & observations.
Snowless winter in key markets – Southern Norway, Sweden, Finland, European Russia – is not exactly killing the industry but is the last thing it needs right now, just when it started to recover from a string of similarly bad winters in mid-2010s. As one top manager put it in conversation: ” I dont think you will find anybody here today who’d say their business is growing “. He was exaggerating – some smaller companies and market newcomers are still expanding ( cue Kaestle, Spine), but bigger gear and apparel makers are not.
Bad winters are not so much of an immediate worry although most retailers are clearly overstocked – it’s about losing a generation of future customers. 20,30 years ago there was no trail running, dirtbike/fatbike and no Ryanair to fly one to her/ his triathlon camp real cheap. Now customers have choices, compelling choices and reasons to skip skiing altogether.
Which brings us to the point of a big gripe. Cross country skiing still has no proper industry promoter, a lobbying group, a transnational advocacy that would sell narrow planks as cool, healthy and trendy lifestyle to the public and to the relevant authorities when and if necessary.
Here on Dailyskier we love to blabber about newest, best and most expensive gear but the industry lives off bulk sales – that’s how it could afford to innovate technically and sponsor hundreds of athlete in skiing, Nordic combined and biathlon. Lose mass appeal – and you end up like ski jumping or modern penthathon = exclusive sport with high entry ticket and sales of equipment in low thousands per year.
To avoid that, one has to stop expecting masses to somehow naturally float to skiing because, well, you know “ it’s always been that way” . It has to start promoting itself. Remember what “Strong Is Beautiful” campaign did for the sport of tennis a few years ago? That’s what the august sport of cross country skiing increasingly needs – promotion of itself. Let’s just figure out technical details.