November 21, 2013

Helmet cam sales on the rise

Business ascends 50 percent as skiers scoop up the devices to record the thrill of the descent.

By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Vt. — Hey, mom, did you see that cool jump? That explosion of powder? How I squeezed between those trees?

click image to enlarge

A skier sports a GoPro digital camera mounted on her ski helmet. Helmet cams have become so ubiquitous that they are “almost the norm” at Steamboat Ski & Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The Associated Press

There are moments on the slopes when skiers wish all eyes were on them. But here’s the next best thing: helmet cameras, which enable skiers to photograph and videotape their own descents, jumps and tracks to show off later.

Helmet cams have become so ubiquitous that they are “almost the norm” at Steamboat Ski & Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colo. “The cameras take bragging rights to the next level,” said resort spokeswoman Loryn Kasten.

Steamboat is even incorporating user content into its own social media and marketing, because the vantage point of the skier or boarder taking video has more impact than the pro cameraman standing at the bottom. The user videos, Kasten says, are a “scrapbook in motion.”

NOT JUST FOR KIDS

A new teen center at a members-only resort will even have indoor video editing booths and a screening room to play footage and finished films for a crowd.

The teen center is part of a new lodge at The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain in Wilmington, Vt. Hermitage owner and founder Jim Barnes was inspired by the interest of his own children – ages 16, 14 and 9 – in using the cams.

But the cameras are not just for kids. Barnes recalled a 40-something who took video of 47 runs during a single day last season.

“Each generation pushes other generations to do it. Gen-Xers are sharing, and Gen-Yers and Z. There’s a push for all of them to use cameras because they’re going to share it,” said Kelly Davis, director of research for the SnowSports Industries America association.

“Sharing” is the key: The explosion of social media is what’s led to the leap in cameras among skiers and boarders – not to mention surfers, skate boarders, rock climbers and mountain bikers.

“The cameras seem to be driving people to do more adventurous things, explore the back country, so they can share it,” said Davis. “It’s not just ego. But people are aware that they are presenting an image of themselves, and videos of them doing this stuff starts conversations.”

Even older skiers who don’t use the cameras are watching the footage. “My grandma loves to see the video. She got them for us so she can see us skiing,” said Will Coffin, a 13-year-old member of Vermont’s Mount Snow race team. “And I don’t ski with my parents much, so sometimes I’ll show them, too.”

His 11-year-old brother Charlie will show them “to anyone who’s there after skiing.” Most likely his videos are off-trail in the trees, which he thinks makes the best visuals. The Coffin videos will occasionally go up on YouTube, and they’ll watch the ones their friends make.

SALES AND IMPULSE BUYS

Sales of the cameras, like the industry leader GoPro, were up 50 percent to 123,000 at snow sports retailers for the 2012-13 ski season, according to the Sports Industries Association. The trade group expects a higher number for 2013-14, with additional sales at electronics stores and elsewhere that the SIA does not track.

GoPro sells its HD Helmet Hero Plus 3 model for close to $400, but the price has not deterred impulse buyers who see others using it and must have one.

“Veteran skiers are looking for the best deal, and might get their GoPro in an off-season sale,” said Kasten. “But it’s also not farfetched to say, a family will come into one of our retail outlets and tell us, ‘We’re using our iPhone for video, but we just saw someone else’s video’ ” shot with a GoPro. Often they’ll buy one on the spot.

(Continued on page 2)

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