With more than a foot of fresh snow on slopes overnight and another foot forecast through the day, Pepi Gerald, like any true-blue powderhound, is staring out the window of his Oak Street shop working but wishing he were somewhere else.
A steady stream of customers keeps Gerald and his 2nd Wind Sports staff busy this time of year, answering questions, talking about the latest gear, fitting skis and boots and ringing-up all kinds of holiday purchases. And when that action slows down, there’s a regenerating stack of skis and snowboards in the back that need waxing, grinding, sharpening and mounting.
“I haven’t even looked at conditions on the mountain,” Gerald said Wednesday as the first measurable snowfall of the season fell in downtown Hood River. “For me, this time of year is like the metaphor of an alcoholic working at a liquor store.”
Gerald says holiday sales have been pretty good for 2nd Wind and that the recent snow will kick the store into full winter mode for the next few months.
Down the road at Doug’s Sports, owner John Melesko says winter gear sales are about in line with last year’s, which were up from previous years.
“From the gear side of things, the Solomon Guardian binding has definitely been the hottest single-selling item in the skiing arena this season,” Melesko said. The Guardian is an alpine-touring hybrid ski binding that works like a traditional downhill binding but can unlock at the heel to be used like a telemark setup. “We’re getting more and more questions about backcountry around here. We definitely have a good back yard for it with the proximity of Mount Adams and Hood.”
Melesko said winter gear sales so far are “holding their own,” and have been trending up with ski gear and down with snowboarding gear. For Gerald, the trend between the two gear types has been more distinct.
“We probably sell 20 to 1 in skis over snowboards,” Gerald said. “It might have been even about 10 years ago, but skiing has been on the comeback, especially with the new shapes and technologies.
“Skiing is not like skiing any more. With fat skis, it’s more like floating on top of the powder; like snowboarding but facing straight downhill. For places like Mount Hood that get a lot of heavy snow, fat skis have been extremely popular.”
On the rental side of business, Doug’s Sports is now the only shop in town that offers a full range of ski and snowboard rentals (2nd Wind rents cross country gear and has ski and snowboard demos, but no dedicated rental fleet).
“We’re heading into our busiest time of the year for rentals,” Melesko said. “There are times over Christmas break when just about everything we have is rented out.”
For both shops, the cross country ski market has grown and held steady in recent years.
“You can cross country ski just about anywhere there’s snow” Gerald said. “It’s also something that a lot more people can get into. You don’t have to be a great athlete to put on a pair of cross country skis and enjoy the outdoors.”