By Josh Farber and Jillian Weynand
Untimely warm weather last week brought people to the beach instead of the ski shop to gear up for the coming season.
Record high temperatures were recorded at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip twice in one week. Even on days without new records set, temperatures remained upwards of 10 to 20 degrees above average for late September.
“We had three days in a row above 85,” David Stark, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Upton, said. “We can still get warm weather like that in early October.”
This unseasonable weather has caused a shift in business at several Long Island ski shops.
“It’s been a bit slower than usual,” Andrew Breco of Ridgeline Ski and Snowboard in Manhasset, said. “Sales had been a bit slow before then anyway, we still have some people coming in to do pre-seasonal rentals.”
At Sno-Haus Ski Shop in Huntington Station, it’s been a similar situation.
“People aren’t thinking cold, they’re thinking ‘oh if I need to get a sweater I can always pull something out of the closet’. They didn’t invest in a big purchase,” Jennifer Davis, clothing manager of Sno-Haus, said. “We did more in equipment, people who are planning for the cold, so we did a lot of seasonal leases.”
Winter sales have also been off to a cool start at Sundown Ski and Patio in Lake Grove. September and March are the traditional crossover months, according to Dave Northridge, manager of Sundown in Lake Grove. Patio sales typically wane in early September, but by early October, sales of winter goods typically start picking up. While the weather may be keeping the more casual consumer from thinking about winter, some haven’t let the heat keep them from opening their wallets.
“The hardcore ski junkies haven’t let the warm weather stop them from coming in,” Northridge said.
Diehard skiers and snowboarders have also been big customers at Snow Shed in Port Jefferson Station.
“People who ski and snowboard are so excited to get back onto the slopes,” Marlene Pollack, an employee at Snow Shed, said. “If they know that they want a certain item they want to come in pre-season and they want to know that they are going to get what they want.”
Working with unpredictable weather is nothing new at local ski shops. Recent winters challenged the store, with consistent high temperatures and below average snowfall at mountains across the Northeast.
“I can tell you that clothing two years ago, when it was so warm, was abysmal,” Jamie Dick, an employee at Sno-Haus, said. “We didn’t sell anything. Then of course last year it picked up because we had a better winter.”
Hunter Mountain in the Catskills received 108 inches of snow this past winter, nearly four times the snowfall compared to the winter of 2015-16, when only 25 inches of snow fell, according to OnTheSnow.com.
That dismal winter caused the store to change the way they order inventory. Instead of placing a large order up front at the beginning of the season, the store now orders smaller quantities of goods, then piggybacks the order for later in the season while maintaining the option to cancel, Davis said.
Customers, too, have shifted the way they buy gear. Goggles have been a consistent seller, and the trend has been towards more durable, higher end models, Monica Kornblatt, another clothing manager at Sno-Haus, said.
“Over the last couple years we’ve been adding on more higher end goggles, and people definitely like spending more and having them for a little bit longer,” Kornblatt said.
The team at Sno-Haus is hopeful the snow keeps coming this winter. In the meantime, they’re expecting more of the hardcore skiers to come check out the new gear for the winter ahead.
“Even if it is warm they come in to get the vibe,” Davis said. “It’s like walking into a food store, looking at all of the food and deciding what meal they’re going to create.”