Cross-country ski boom: Supplies dwindle as equipment flies off shelves

Cross-country ski sales in Canada have exploded as people look for ways to entertain themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.

One shop in north Saskatoon has already sold a winter’s worth of equipment.

“We’re running out of skis,” said Alison Meinert, a buyer for Eb’s Source for Adventure.

“Our big shipment of skis for the year — it was gone in 10 days, essentially. So that is unprecedented.”

Edith MacHattie, a salesperson at Eb’s, said customers started buying nordic gear in August.

“People were coming in in shorts and T-shirts and buying full ski packages,” MacHattie told Global News.

“We’ve never, ever in the history of Eb’s seen this kind of demand for cross-country skiing.”

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Dwindling supplies

The increased demand is similar to what happened with bicycles this summer — sales skyrocketed as more people took to the road.

When staff at Eb’s saw that happen, they upped their original ski equipment order by about 50 per cent, MacHattie said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Canada is running out of bicycles as more people take to the road

Despite having additional stock, she expects they’ll sell out before more orders arrive.

“We anticipate getting fairly thin, if not running out later on in the season, but we should be okay for a little bit yet,” she said.

“Those who are waiting (to buy equipment) until the snow comes might be out of luck.”

The store has gotten calls from people in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario who can’t find gear at local shops, Meinert said.

“We can see that, definitely, the demand is across the country because of the enquiries we’ve been getting,” she said.

“The factories were telling us, ‘We are full’”

Selection at chain stores in Saskatoon is limited, with cross-country skis available at just one of three Sport Chek locations. Browse the aisles of Atmosphere, and you might find a few pairs of skis picked over from last season.

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More equipment will be shipped to Canada in the coming weeks, according to a representative for Rossignol, a major ski manufacturer based in France.

“We are sold out,” said Jacques Vincent, product manager for Rossignol Canada’s Nordic division.

“We had to ask the factory to produce extra products for us that are coming in November, and that is far over and above what we had planned for our year.”

Read more: Fitness Served Cold: Can cross-country skiing propel you through the doldrums of winter?

By the end of October, he said Rossignol had already topped its biggest sales year on record by about 25 per cent.

Sales initially declined early in 2020, Vincent said, with Canadian retailers placing conservative orders in light of the pandemic. It wasn’t long before they realized they needed more.

By that time, though, ski factories in Europe had temporarily closed, Vincent said. By the time they reopened, there was a backlog of orders.

“Everybody was running behind,” he said.

“It came to a point where the factories were telling us, ‘We are full. We just cannot produce enough product for you at this very moment.’”

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Vincent said he’s happy to see more people picking up the sport.

“I like to think that in a very, very small part, we’re doing… what we can to make this COVID thing be a little better,” he said.

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