Don’t be surprised if your favorite ski shop is a tad short-handed this weekend. Not because everyone’s out sampling the snow but rather “The Show.”
A mass exodus is occurring from Ski Town USA to the Snowsports Industries America annual SIA Snow Show in Denver, where retailers see what’s new for the upcoming season, manufacturers hawk their newest innovations, and athletes, reps, media and hangers-on converge for the industry’s biggest mega-gathering.
“It’s where the whole industry gathers together once a year,” said SIA President David Ingemie, who moved the show from Las Vegas to Denver three years ago. “Retailers and reps from Colorado ski towns are an important part of the industry, and they know the show is an important part of their business. Having our show in their backyard definitely boosts the local participation.”
Heading there at various times this week are buyers from such local ski and snowboard shops as Ski Haus, Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare, Christy Sports, SportStalker, One Stop Ski Shop, Powder Pursuits, Fleischer Sport and more. A handful of locally based exhibitors also are attending to show their wares, including SmartWool, Point 6, Honey Stinger and Chaos Hats, as well as a variety of reps and other industry personnel. Joining them and more mainstay manufacturers will be such Colorado boutique ski brands as Breckenridge’s Fat-ypus Skis, Edwards’ Liberty Skis, Denver’s Never Summer Industries, Silverton’s Venture Snowboards and Telluride’s Wagner Skis.
In all, this year’s show will see more than 19,000 attendees from 1,000 snow sports brands taking up 332,000 square feet of exhibit hall space at the Colorado Convention Center. And in the midst of all of this are a plethora of Steamboat locals looking to better their businesses in Ski Town USA.
“It’s a chance for us to catch up with all the top brass in the ski industry,” said Steamboat Olympian Chad Fleischer, owner of local shops Fleischer Sport and Fleischer Ride. “We go into it knowing what we’re buying, but we also set time aside to find the new ‘it’ in the industry.”
An example, he said, is Outdoor Technology, a company he discovered at the show four years ago.
“They have an amazing product at a great price point and with great margins,” Fleischer said. “It’s not only about what’s hot but what’s high caliber and makes our stores money.”
Another longtime local doing business at the show is 25-year industry veteran Marty Carrigan, who runs his Global Sales Guys sales and marketing firm out of Steamboat. For him, the show is as vital to business as snowfall.
“It’s the only place we can meet all of our specialty retail partners in an environment where they get a professional representation of the winter sport brand partners we represent,” said Carrigan, whose lines include Aspen’s High Society Freeride, Austria’s Deeluxe snowboard boots, France’s Picture Organic Clothing, Italy’s Level Gloves, Salt Lake City’s Discrete premium headwear and Oregon’s Blackstrap face gear. “It allows us to create a multibrand presentation under one booth.”
And while everyone would rather be skiing or riding, if they have to go to a trade show, they’d rather it have a view of the Rockies than the strip of Sin City. Plus, it’s closer to the slopes of Steamboat.
“It’s exciting that it’s in Denver because this is where the buzz happens in the ski industry,” Fleischer said. “I just skied 2 feet of fresh powder in Steamboat, and I take that energy with me into the show. In Vegas, you just took the smell of cheap perfume and booze in with you. Here, it’s fresh snow. I’ll take Denver every time.”
Inside the show
What’s it like inside the world’s largest annual snow sports trade show? For one, you’ll likely never be anywhere where so many people ski or ride. Aside from serious sets of raccoon eyes, everyone just has that athletic, low-center-of-gravity look. They know how to dodge their way through entrance lines like they’re skiing trees, and they have no problem throwing back an après brew when the day is done. Knit hats and pants ride low in the snowboard sector, where loud music drowns out business discussions, and more conservative conversations command booths in the Klaus Obermeyer and Spyder apparel realms. While some booths are hopping with babes, beer and the latest hot gear, at others, like those hawking new boot totes, you can hear crickets chirping.
While serious business gets done, everyone also knows that the business they’re in is fun, resulting in way more high-fives from long-lost acquaintances than you’ll ever see at a software show.
Then comes the celebrity gawking. When you’re not ogling the 1,502 ski models and 1,018 snowboard models on the show floor, you’re doing so to athletes who used to star in the ski posters you hung in your room as a kid. You’re as likely to bump into Glen Plake or former World Extreme champ Dean Cummings in the hot dog line as you are Bode Miller or Shaun White in the bathroom. Pamela Anderson once made an appearance to showcase her buxomness on a snowboard line. Combine all this with the obligatory partying and schmoozing, and it’s a full four days. And when all is said and done, it makes you even more glad to head home to a place like Ski Town USA.