Retail insiders are expecting skis, skates and other outdoor recreation items to be hot ticket consumer items hearing into the winter season.

Staff at Apenland Ski and Cycle in Lethbridge say they are already seeing the trend.

“The interesting thing is that we’ve already started seeing people come in for boot fittings,” said marketing and web manager Joe Molina.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been staying closer to home and looking for outdoor leisure activities that can be done at a distance.

Molina said over the summer months, there was high interest in buying new bicycles and servicing old ones.

“It’s been really cool to see the increase in activity outdoors, so it’ll be interesting to see what the next season looks like in terms of demand for equipment,” he said.

Apenland is in the midst of changing its displays from warm-weather sports like cycling, to cold-weather equipment like skis, snowboards, boots and outerwear.

University of Lethbridge student Sarah Thompson said she already bought a season pass for Castle Mountain Resort and is looking forward to the upcoming ski season.

“This semester and probably next semester all of my classes are online, so it leaves a lot more opportunity for me to ski and snowboard,” she said.

“I’m going to use that to my advantage and get out as much as I can.”

Castle Mountain Resort recently announced it was planning a December 4 opening, and posted the changes that skiers can expect when they hit the slopes this winter.

Cole Fawcett, Castle Resort sales and marketing manager, said they’ve had requests for information over the past couple of weeks and wanted to keep guests and future guests informed about the plans for the 2020-2021 ski season.

“So that they are in a position where they can feel confident that yes, there will be skiing and snowboarding this winter specifically at Castle Mountain Resort,” she said.

The pandemic forced the resort to close earlier than anticipated in March. Fawcett said early-bird season pass sales in the spring were strong, providing the first hint that Albertans were interested in staying closer to home.

Over the summer, there was limited commercial activity at the resort, but Fawcett noticed there was strong interest in outdoor activities like hiking and camping in the area.

“As summer continued the number of hikers and just general recreationalists in the area was mind boggling,” he said.

Fawcett added he is hoping the resort can pick up where it left off last season, after experiencing outstanding snow conditions and the earliest opening in about 15 years.

“The great thing about skiing, much like golf, is once you are out on the mountain, physical distancing is not a problem, especially at Castle Mountain where we have so much terrain,” he said.

Thompson believes spending time on the ski hill will be a great way to enjoy the outdoors while remaining safe. “Most skiers use a ski mask anyways, and the way the equipment works it allows for social distancing because your skis and snowboard prevent you from getting too close to anyone else.”

Molina said one reason for the early interest in winter gear may be that people saw how quickly bikes and outdoor equipment sold in the summer season.

“So it’s definitely a good time to get ahead of that rush before the snow hits,” he said.