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BIKING, CLIMBING HOTTEST OF HOT IN S.L.

SHARE BIKING, CLIMBING HOTTEST OF HOT IN S.L.

If you've got some money to spend on recreation and you want to take up a summer sport, you can't go wrong with biking, golfing or walking.

The Deseret News asked major sports stores in the Salt Lake area to pick the sports that are hot and point out the ones that aren't. Their picks and pans are based on this spring's equipment sales.-Biking. It's about to become the national pastime. Stores reported drastic increases in the sales of mountain bikes.

"We are selling five or six times the number of bikes this year that we sold last year," said Wayne Stewart, spokesman for Gart Brothers Sporting Goods. Others cited equally impressive sales increases.

Biking is becoming everybody's sport, said Riley Cutler, general manager of Wasatch Touring. "Whole families are taking mountain-bike vacations." And they're buying the expensive models. Gart Brothers' strongest sales are bikes costing between $350 and $700, Stewart said. Most of Gorilla Bicycle's customers are spending $350, said Dennis Holliday, store manager.

-Climbing. "Climbing is way up. There are a lot of new climbers coming into the market," Cutler said. International Mountain Equipment's sales are up 20 percent over last year, said Scott Roach, retail salesman.

To break into the sport you need shoes, $120; harness, $50; and someone who knows how to climb. Guide Works offers beginning and intermediate lessons for about $50 a day. They also sell guided ascents.

-Walking. A brisk morning walk has replaced the jog. "Walking sales have been fabulous," said Lee Diercks, territorial merchandise director for Herman's World of Sporting Goods. "We are seeing huge increases in sales - two or three times over last year's sales."

"Walking footwear is a huge category for us this year," agreed Lincoln Clark, retail assistant manager at REI, who is also seeing brisk sales in walking accessories: day packs, shorts, jackets, etc.

Stores have stocked a wide array of walking shoes and cross training shoes for walkers. Sales in running equipment have dropped off sharply, most stores reported. Their walking inventory has now eclipsed running inventory.

-Golf. National media is calling it the sport of the '90s and Salt Lake City is on the crest of the trend. If you decide to take up golfing this summer, you won't lack for partners.

Retail stores and golf courses report a tremendous surge in beginning golfers that began two years ago and and seems to mount each summer.

-Windsurfing. Milosport, a windsurfing specialty store, insists the sport is still strong and growing. But other indicators suggest the sport has peaked and is beginning to slip.

One local windsurfing store has gone out of business, some local sports sales representatives have dropped their windsurfing accounts and other general sports stores are shucking the sport.

"We don't do windsurfing anymore," said Wasatch Touring's Cutler. "It didn't work out well for us."

It hasn't worked for Gart Brothers either. They didn't purchase new windsurfing inventory this year. "I think the sport will stay," Stewart said. "I don't think it will die. But I don't think you will see the dramatic increases in new stores and sales that we've seen for the past three years."

-Hiking and backpacking. Both sports have come on strong this spring, surprising several retailers. "We're selling more backpacking tents and packs this spring than we have in the past couple of years," Cutler said.

"Sales in hiking boots are up 30 percent this year over last year," said Gart Brothers' Stewart. Stores also report strong sales in camping and some are surprised by the strength of their camping sales.

-Fishing. "Fishing sales since Memorial Day have been fantastic," said Stewart. Herman's agreed. "Some of the new items, like the Berkley power pole, have been really strong," said Diercks. Most of Gart Brothers' sales have been rods and reels, Stewart said.

Water skiing, canoing, and kayaking remain constant. Softball? Depends on who you talk to. At Stevens Brown: "It's just adequate." At Hermans: "Softball is going crazy."