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Stylish and functional: skiwear slides into action

Updated: Feb 6, 2024 By WANG KEJU China Daily Print
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Visitors check out skiwear products during global sports and outdoor expo ISPO in Beijing in January. WU CHANGQING/FOR CHINA DAILY

China's snow-covered playgrounds are witnessing a surge in popularity, especially for those seeking the thrill of gliding down pristine slopes this winter.

However, it is not only about adrenaline-pumping activities; skiing gear — which is turning enthusiasts into stylish trendsetters — has redefined the way winter sport is perceived.

Data from online travel agency Ctrip showed that ski ticket orders for the final week of 2023 posted a month-on-month growth of 113 percent. Meanwhile, the number of ski ticket orders nearly doubled compared to the same period the previous year.

As more individuals embrace the sport and seek out affordable yet fashionable options for their skiing journey, manufacturers and retailers within the skiing apparel sector have been presented with a substantial market opportunity.

"Gone are the days when skiing apparel was purely functional," said An Yang, a skiing enthusiast from Beijing.

Many of her friends who wanted to try skiing just for fun are turning to An for recommendations on skiing garments, she said.

They are specifically looking for gear that not only meets their functional needs, but also looks appealing on camera, since capturing memorable moments on the slopes has become an integral part of the snow sports experience, An added.

According to data from e-commerce platform Tmall, sales of skiing apparel in 2023 rose over 106 percent compared to the previous year, while skiing goggles saw a year-on-year growth of about 73 percent, and skiing helmets surged by over 81 percent from 2022.

The keyword search volume for "skiing" jumped 40-fold on Miao Street, the e-commerce platform of Intime Department Store, over the last 30 days since mid-December, while the number of skiwear items sold witnessed a year-on-year growth of over 100 percent.

"A few years ago, due to the high costs associated with purchasing their own gear, people heading to ski resorts mostly relied on rented skiwear, which were mostly in darker hues and lacking in fashion and self-expression," An said.

Ski suits, jackets and accessories, designed to provide both functionality and a fashionable appearance, have become exceptionally popular among winter sports enthusiasts and casual travelers alike, said Chai Zhenzhen, an analyst at the research institute of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.

A report released by the China Tourism Academy in January highlighted China's status as the largest market for entry-level skiers.

With an increasing number of residents embracing the sport in the post-Winter Olympics era, there has been a significant surge in demand for beginner's skiing equipment.

As the ski apparel market experiences a surge in demand, a rising wave of domestic brands are now joining the race to capture a share of the pie alongside well-established overseas outdoor brands favored by seasoned skiers, Chai added.

Beneunder, a well-known brand in the outdoor sun protection category, has expanded its product line to cater to winter sports enthusiasts.

Recognizing the growing demand for ski apparel, the brand has introduced a ski suit set that aims to provide functionality and comfort while prioritizing lightweight design.

The three-in-one garment, which combines a protective outer layer with insulating inner layers, is priced at around 1,000 yuan ($139) and features an extensive color palette, according to information on its Tmall purchase page.

SnowFlying Industrial Co, a Chinese down apparel maker, has also set its sights on capturing the skiwear market. With a vision to create a "go-to skiwear for the younger generation", the company recently unveiled its skiwear pieces, with retail prices currently set at about 1,500 yuan.

For beginners, ski apparel of domestic brands is proving to be a reliable and cost-effective option, offering a winning combination of style and performance, said Zhou Zhicong, a skiing coach in Chongli, a district of Hebei province's Zhangjiakou city which co-hosted the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

Not only does it boast attractive aesthetics and functionality, but it also comes at a significantly lower price point compared to international high-end brands.

This affordability has led many newcomers to develop a passion for skiing, with the option to upgrade to renowned international brands at a later stage, Zhou added.

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