- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

The signs of impending winter are evident: a chill in the morning air; mentions of snow on the Weather Channel; ski shops having their preseason sales. But the winter season won’t really begin until Nov.7, when the National Ski & Snowboard Expo opens a three-day run at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va.

To area skiers and snowboarders — and those who yearn to be — the Expo is the start of what could be a five-month season of trips to snow covered mountains. Representatives from U.S. and Canadian ski resorts, manufacturers and retailers will exhibit products and distribute information, including learn-to-ski/snowboard packages.

The Expo features a ski swap to benefit the Virginia Special Olympics and retailers selling equipment and clothing at preseason prices.

“Journey,” this year’s film from Warren Miller Entertainment, will be shown every two hours throughout the weekend. Special demonstrations, retail programs and virtual reality skiing also will be featured. The winner of the virtual reality downhill race receives a ski vacation to Sunday River, Maine.

Admission to the Expo is $10 and includes a year’s subscription to a snow sports magazine and the Miller movie. Wisp Resort lift passes will be given to the first 500 attendees on Friday, Nov.7. Drawings for prizes occur hourly, with a grand prize of a ski vacation to any one of five Vail, Colo., resorts.

Dulles Expo Center is off Route 28, north of Interstate 66. Hours are Friday from 4 to 9p.m., Saturday from 10a.m. to 8p.m. and Sunday from 11a.m. to 6p.m. Information, 703/644-9899; nationalskiexpo.com.

Stay fit, go skiing — The more Americans learn about the health and fitness benefits of snow sports, the more inclined they are to try skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, said a Harris Interactive survey sponsored by SnowSports Industries America, a trade association for the winter sports industry.

According to the Harris survey of 2,450 Americans, 7 percent participated in a snow sports activity (downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing or snowboarding) in the last two years. Yet, three times as many adult Americans — 21 percent — say they would be more inclined to try snow sports if they knew more about the health and fitness benefits.

Snow sports have been targeted as a means to encourage fitness and decrease the number of overweight and obese Americans.

Pro football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, said, “Americans need to be physically active all year long. The nation’s alarming obesity statistics emphasize the need for programs offering physical activities in winter.”

Swann said the Council encourages Americans to try winter sports like downhill and cross country skiing, ice skating, snowboarding and snowshoeing, and to sign up and log winter activities at its Web site (presidentschallenge.org) to earn Presidential awards.

Season passes boost numbers — One reason last season set a record for skier visits is the exploding number of season pass sales. Season passes tend to prompt skiers to hit the slopes more often and on more flexible schedules.

Last season 57.6 million skiers visited winter resorts in the United States, surpassing the 57.3million in the winter of 2000-01. Nationally, the number of passes sold per resort increased by 60 percent from the 1999-2000 to the 2002-03 seasons. The greatest percentage in growth occurred in the Southeast, where season pass sales were up 84 percent.

Keeping warm — The snow sports industry is doing its part in helping refugees. SWAG (Sharing Warmth Around the Globe) distributes retired ski resort uniforms to needy people in nine cold weather countries. In two seasons, SWAG distributed more than 35,000 pieces of winter resort uniform clothing from 21 United States resorts. The SWAG Web site, swagusa.org, has information on how resorts and organizations can participate.

• Snow Sports appears Sundays in The Washington Times during the winter. Contact: bclapper@washingtontimes.com.

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