As Boler Mountain season opening looms, winter gear in high demand

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Ski, snowboard demand surges amid COVID-19 pandemic' Coronavirus: Ski, snowboard demand surges amid COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: The impact of the pandemic has been felt by many and one of the ripple effects has been a surge of interest in recreational sports equipment. Shallima Maharaj reports – Nov 24, 2020

As the weather gets colder, sales are heating up for winter sports equipment in London, Ont.

That’s according to a pair of local stores that have been dealing with a seemingly endless stream of customers who are looking for something to do this winter as COVID-19 restrictions continue to force people outdoors.

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“We’ve definitely seen a huge uptick, especially in the ski side and snowboard side,” said Scott Kernaghan, the manager and buyer at London’s Source for Sports.

Sales have increased so much, Kernaghan says, that inventory has struggled to keep up in some sections.

“Snowshoes and cross-country skies are a hot commodity. (We’ve sold) double or triple what we would normally do in a single season this early,” Kernaghan said.

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Along with a new type of demand, Kernaghan says the pandemic has also brought in new customers for winter sports equipment.

“They might be snowbirds that are staying local and they skied, you know, 10 or 15 years ago and they want to get back into doing something… and a lot of new skiers as far as kids (whose) parents are wanting to get them doing something and it’s a fun thing they can do as family,” Kernaghan added.

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Much of the same has been seen at Play It Again Sports, according to general manager and owner Ken Van de Haar.

“With hockey registration down and there’s no public skating really and there’s a lot of other activities you can’t do, people are looking for something to do,” Van de Haar said.

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“Everything snow” has been driving the sales at the local sports shop, but Van de Haar says cross-country skis are by far the hottest commodity.

“People are coming, families, you know, to get five pairs of country skis. That’s an example where there’s nothing left, I’ve got maybe two pairs of country skis, used, that’s it,” Van de Haar said.

“People are trying things they’ve never tried before.”

As for those still looking to make a purchase before winter arrives next month, both Van de Haar and Kernaghan suggest buying sooner rather than later, as private sellers will likely gouge prices once retail inventory dries up.

“I’ve been telling customers that the old saying, ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush,’ in 2020, a bird in the hand is worth about 50 in the bush, so if you can get something, grab it, and you can’t be too picky,” Van de Haar added.

Read more: Ontarians should celebrate holidays with own household only, government says

Those already well-equipped to hit the slopes will have to wait at least two more weeks before Boler Mountain opens its winter season.

Greg Strauss is a member of the management team for Canada’s most southerly ski resort and says Boler Mountain is eyeing a mid-December opening for the season.

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“Next week, it looks like we got a steady stream of some -4 (degree temperatures) coming up, so we’ll be firing up and hopefully we’ll hit our target,” Strauss said.

In the meantime, interest has already skyrocketed at Boler Mountain with surging sales in season passes.

“We saw unprecedented demand there and we’ve actually had to cut off season pass sales early, as of Nov. 1,” Strauss said.

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While high demand is almost guaranteed at Boler Mountain, a big uncertainty lingers over how COVID-19 restrictions will affect ski resorts.

“The whole industry in Ontario is still waiting for the clarification on what can and can’t be done,” Strauss said.

Boler Mountain has already taken up a number of measures as it awaits further instruction, including mandating face coverings throughout the property, eliminating all-day tickets to increase customer turnover amid limited capacities and introducing a number of sanitization protocols.

“It’s just a matter to see if there’s anything else coming down from the province.”

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