In North America, gear junkies have their allegiances—but there’s a new brand on the block in the US, one that reigns supreme overseas but hasn’t yet made its mark on the American market. Let us introduce Decathlon, the largest outdoor and sporting goods company in the world, based in the Mont Blanc valley near the picturesque mountain town of Chamonix, France. Across Europe, Asia and Australia, Decathlon’s more than 1,600 brick-and-mortar stores offer a one-stop shop for every kind of gear imaginable; from cycling and archery to kiteboarding, soccer and badminton—and, of course, ski equipment. Seeing outstanding success overseas, Decathlon opened its first full-scale storefront in the United States in Emeryville, California, in April 2019, with high hopes of bringing people closer to the outdoors via its affordable, high-quality products.
Simply, what sets Decathlon apart is that the company maintains all of its product development, manufacturing and sales in-house; in effect, when you walk into a Decathlon store or shop online, you most likely won’t recognize the brands you see on the shelves but your eyes will pop at the price tags and the thoughtful designs. By keeping a vertical business structure, Decathlon preserves its low prices while upholding the quality of its gear, providing outdoor enthusiasts a reliable, inexpensive way to get the equipment they need.
For skiers, purchasing a complete kit—skis, boots, outerwear and accessories included—is an enormous commitment; throwing a thousand dollars (or more) at it all can be daunting and even prevent people from wanting to get outdoors in the first place. Decathlon’s approach is to grow the sport by providing quality ski gear at prices that’ll have ski bums’ jaws on the floor.
For example, the men’s and women’s SFR 900 Freeride Kit from Wed’ze, Decathlon’s outerwear brand, offers an integrated, removable puffy liner in the jacket and pants, 12K waterproof coating on the exterior, fully sealed seams throughout, well-sized and well-placed pockets, an articulated fit and a stylish silhouette—all for a fraction of the price. Including many of the same features you’d see in fully stocked price point jackets from “big name” brands, both the men’s and women’s SFR 900 jackets are sold for just $299; the pants, just $249, for both men and women. Beyond outerwear, helmets with MIPS certifications run for as cheap as $120; goggles with photochromic lenses that adjust tint based on the amount of sunlight are sold for a mere $85; and performance baselayer tops, once again available in men’s and women’s styles, are just $60.
Looking ahead, Decathlon is developing hardgoods for advanced and expert freeride skiers that will complement its ever-popular beginner and intermediate, piste-focused skis and boots. Developed at the base of Chamonix’s Aguille du Midi, what could be considered the global Mecca for big-mountain skiing and high-alpine exploration, these yet-to-be-released products follow the same trend as the rest of Decathlon’s lineup: high quality, low prices.
Though we’ve come accustomed to buying name brands that line the shelves at big box outfitters, Decathlon is entering the US market and looking to disrupt the norm with its well-designed and well-priced sporting goods. Skiers living on ski bum budgets, rejoice!