Outdoor Retailer trade show bailing on Utah after disagreement over public lands | SteamboatToday.com

Outdoor Retailer trade show bailing on Utah after disagreement over public lands

Scott Franz

— Outdoor recreation business leaders are putting their money where their mouths are by taking their biggest trade show out of the state that has hosted it for 20 years following a political feud.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday that Outdoor Retailers’ decision to snub Utah in the future follows a disagreement the outdoor industry had with the state about its position the sale of public lands and its desire to rescind former President Barack Obama's designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

By ditching Utah, the outdoor retail industry is taking an estimated $45 million in annual economic impact from the trade show to another state.

The show attracts tens of thousands of visitors who are looking to see the latest and greatest outdoor gear from the world's top gear makers.

Several companies in Steamboat Springs regularly attend the show and show off their tents, socks, sleeping bags and beef jerky.

Denver is currently lobbying to become the new home of the winter show, a move that Steamboat Chamber Resort Association CEO Kara Stoller thinks would benefit this city.

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"I think if Outdoor Retailer moved to Denver, Colorado, that Steamboat Springs would be able to attract some new businesses that would come up here and look and experience our town," she said. “I think it's unfortunate that the Utah governor didn't value Outdoor Retailer to work with them, however, I hope that OR finds a home in Colorado."

In recent years, Utah has been a major competitor with Colorado in the outdoor recreation industry.

A few years ago, representatives from the Steamboat Chamber traveled to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City hoping to convince some businesses to consider the Yampa Valley as a home for their companies.

Big Agnes and Honey Stinger co-founder Bill Gamber on Thursday weighed in on Outdoor Retailers search for a new home.

"Whether it goes to Denver or another city, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger always prefer a location that enables our staff to get out and recreate," Gamber said.

He noted the local companies had signed on to two letters pledging support for public lands and opposing Utah's proposed actions to sell them.

"Not only do our companies benefit from outdoor recreation, but we support recreation on public lands, and we take the ability to use them and stewardship of them by federal and state agencies seriously," he said.

The companies will still attend the upcoming summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.

Gamber said that banding together with other industry brands is a better approach than protesting by boycotting a show.

Prior to the decision, Point 6 owner Peter Duke said his company also supported the outdoor industry's stance.

"As a company, we will continue to participate at the show, but we are definitely supportive of moving out of Salt Lake," he said.

Molly Cuffe, Smartwool’s director of global communications, said the company will assist in the search for a new home for OR.

“We fully support and agree that OR should leave Utah,” she said. “It is our intention to be active in helping the (Outdoor Industry Association) and Outdoor Retailer search for a new, better location that aligns with the core values of the outdoor industry.”

Smartwool employees bike from Steamboat to the Outdoor Retailer summer show in Salt Lake City every year.

How far would Smartwool employees bike to a new location?

“You know we are always looking for reasons to be out of the office, … We'd probably ride our bikes pretty far, but we'll have to make that decision when we know the next location,” Cuffe said via email.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10