After a slump in sales at the beginning of the current autumn/winter season, sales of products for winter sports in Russia have proven to be  strong in January and February thanks to abundant snow and weak quarantine restrictions, allowing all ski facilities to continue to operate in contrast with the restrictions imposed on many resorts in the Alps, where many Russian tourists usually go at this time of the year.

Speaking for Kant, a major Russian distributor and retailer of winter sports products, Maxim Vinogradov said that retail sales of alpine ski gear are up by 39 percent since early January as compared to last year, and by 18 percent as compared to the year before. “The demand is high, and sales are hampered by a shortage of some goods, especially alpine skis,” Vinogradov added.

The picture is similar in the snowboard segment, where sales are 58 percent higher as compared to last year and 51 percent above the level of the previous year. Again, a strong demand for this category of products is causing a shortage.

“Obviously, it would be impossible to achieve such results if there were restrictions on ski resorts’ operation in Russia. Currently, all resorts are operating. The hotels at Krasnaya Polyana are experiencing full occupancy and occupancy rates at other resorts are close to maximum levels,” Vinogradov noted.

Cross-country skiing has been the most popular winter sports activity in Russia for many years, but more and more people are embracing alpine skiing and snowboarding, which are considered to be trendier.

Ilya Titarenko, distribution director of Sportmaster, the country’s largest sporting goods retailer, said it is still too early to make any conclusions about the whole winter season in Russia as it is still up and running. Sales have remained strong, but in line with the seasonal trends, they are slightly lower than they were during the peak selling periods in December and January, he said, adding that the operation of the ski facilities is one of the factors behind the strong sales of alpine ski products.

Another important factor is that, unlike the situation in many Western European countries, the Russian retail industry has not been subjected to any restrictions lately, and that all sporting goods stores are running as usual.

Due to the naturally high price tag for these categories of sporting goods, the demand is more susceptible to the influence of personal financial security and confidence in the future, Titarenko said.

The overall flow of tourists to the Russian ski resorts is predicted to grow by at least 10 percent during the 2020/21 season, according to Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Russian Association of Tour Operators. The average hotel occupancy rate in the Russian ski resorts is around 80 percent, which is significantly higher than in the previous years, she added.

It is believed that, to some extent, the rising popularity of winter sports is associated with rather cold and snowy weather in most parts of European Russia since the beginning of December.

The only region where coronavirus-related restrictions have hampered the demand is Khibiny in province of Murmansk, said Lomidze. All other resorts have been operating without restrictions on occupancy rates or the number of tourists since the beginning of the current winter season.

Quarantine restrictions in Russia have remained generally soft on the back of a decreasing number of coronavirus cases. As of Feb. 23, the number of new cases totalled 11,823, which was the lowest figure since Oct. 8. The number of new cases has been falling for several weeks in a row. On Jan. 18, Russia began mass vaccination with its Sputnik V vaccine, and 3.2 million citizens have been injected to date.

Sales of winter sports products online have also been buoyant. A major Russian online retailer of fashion products, Lamoda, has reported increases of 27 percent for snowboard pants and 10 percent for snowboard jackets so far this season.