Steamboat does OR: Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show makes new home in Denver
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Salt Lake City’s loss is Denver’s gain.
After a long run in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show — held July 22 to 26 at the Colorado Convention Center — moved to its new home in Denver this past week, bringing a score of manufacturers, retailers and other outdoor industry professionals from Steamboat Springs along with it.
As well as marking Outdoor Retailer’s inaugural summer presence in Denver, the move follows the Winter Market trade show’s transition to Denver, in conjunction with the annual Snowsports Industries America trade show. Both moves solidify the Mile High City’s status in the outdoor industry, which has let its voice be heard when it comes to politics and public lands; the move resulted, in part, from marquee outdoor brands like Patagonia vowing to boycott the trade shows if they remained in Salt Lake City due to Utah’s position on preserving public lands.
“Denver is going to be a good home for us for a long time,” said event director Marisa Nicholson. “We felt the industry would support the move to Denver, and that’s ultimately what drove the final decision to move here. The inaugural January show was a great indicator of the energy we can create here in Denver as our new home.”
In all, this year’s Summer Market trade show drew more than 1,400 brands, thousands of attendees and millions of dollars in economic impact to the state. A substantial part of this included outdoor industry workers based in Steamboat — including employees from Smartwool, who took four days to bike to the trade show from Steamboat via Rocky Mountain National Park.
Plenty of non-pedalers also made the pilgrimage, including such local manufacturers as Point 6, Big Agnes, Honey Stinger, Sweetwood Smokehouse, Chaos, Hala Gear and more, all looking to showcase their new wares. They were joined by employees of such retailers as Ski Haus and Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare, there to sniff out new products for the upcoming season, as well as public relations personnel, independent reps, outdoor photographers, athletes and more — all conducting business and networking in Denver’s festive downtown setting. A variety of seminars, workshops and panel discussions made it an educational event as well.
“It’s great that it’s in our backyard now,” said Paige Boucher, attending the show as founder of Inside-Out PR, whose clients include The North Face, Mystery Ranch packs and sock manufacturer Wigwam. “It’s a super important show for the outdoor industry and is now way easier to get to for us.”
As well as affording manufacturers the chance to meet with key buyers and suppliers, another benefit of the show is that everyone’s under the same roof, so the speak. “It allows small brands a level playing field with larger brands and delivers an audience that all brands need,” said former show director and brand consultant Kenji Haroutunian, adding it’s just as important for smaller brands from towns like Steamboat as it is for larger corporations. “The opportunities are comparable regardless of a brand’s size or marketing budget.”
As for Steamboat’s outdoor gear manufacturers, it’s almost imperative to attend.
“It’s an incredible setting to meet buyers and retailers and other partners across the outdoor industry,” said Big Agnes Marketing Director Garett Mariano. “And it’s fantastic to be a Colorado brand at the show in Denver. It’s very much full circle to design and innovate products in Colorado and be at the outdoor show in our home state marketing them for retailers across the country.
Sister brand Honey Stinger is equally smitten with the Mile High location. “We love having the show in Denver,” added sales manager Nate Bird. “We’re a Colorado company, and it’s a lot easier logistically for us. The whole vibe is awesome. Plus, my mom lives down there, so the kids can stay with grandma.”
Local inflatable stand-up paddleboard company Hala Gear, featured on the cover of the summer issue of Steamboat Living magazine, also used Steamboat’s proximity to attend OR this year, including the on-water demo day on the South Platte River at Confluence Park downtown, where it made waves showing its wares to retailers.
“Having the show in Denver helps our buyers better understand the waterways and terrain that inspire our gear designs,” said President Peter Hall, who used the show to tout the company’s new price-point Rival line, Inflatable Carbon construction and patented Double-Stack technology. “It is great to have this vibrant industry feeling at home in Colorado.”
Chaos and CTR Headwear, which bases its customer service and shipping operations in Steamboat, is another company that trekked over the Continental Divide to attend the show. “As both a local brand to Steamboat and a growing national brand, it helps us connect directly with retailers from across the world,” said Gary Supple, U.S. director for both brands. “We learn about new trends, emerging hat brands and make new connections for the future.”
Scotland-based clothing manufacturer Trespass, whose three-person U.S. office is based in Steamboat, said it uses the show as much to court new retailers as solidify relations with current ones. “It’s essential for meeting new customers, catching up with existing ones and enjoying the buzz that our industry has when everyone gets together,” said Operations Manager Barbara Clark. “We wouldn’t miss it.”
The bottom line for these local manufacturers is the chance to meet with buyers, which are the glue that holds the show together. And it’s just as essential to them as it is the manufacturers.
“OR is very important to us, and it’s great that it’s now in Denver,” said Ski Haus Manager Murray Selleck. “It’s our chance to find what’s new out there. We already know what sells well, so we go to find the unique, up-and-coming companies pushing design and presenting new ideas.”
Of course, there’s plenty of fun to be had as well, with the networking spilling into the evening at parties throughout downtown Denver. This year’s festivities included the Night of Stoke film festival, a beer-and-bike brewery tour highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, and an Outdoor Industry Jam, inspiring retailer rock-and-rollers and mandolin-playing manufacturers to let their hair out and perform on stage in front of their peers. “I go to see all the new equipment, but also all my old friends,” said local Barry Smith, owner of Mountain Sports Kayak School. “It’s a pretty fun and unique gathering place for people in the industry.”
- Hala Gear
- Honey Stinger
- Point 6
- Chaos Hats
- Grip Pro Trainer
- Sweetwood Smokehouse
- Trespass USA
- Big Agnes
An alphabetical sampling of local outdoor businesses
With an educated workforce, easy airport access and great product-testing grounds right out the office door, Steamboat Springs is a true hotbed of outdoor businesses. “They’re a major driver of the community that offers year-round employment and quality wages,” said Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Kara Stoller. “With more than our share of outdoor businesses calling Steamboat home, it makes town have a much more balanced economy.”
Founded by competitive ski racer SaRa Gezon and John Bowers, who recently graduated from Colorado State University with degrees in marketing and sustainability, Adventure Hounds offers lifestyle apparel while enriching the lives of shelter dogs. With a line of shirts, sweaters, neck warmers, beanies and more, it donates 20 percent of its monthly sales to different animal shelters. “We have two passions, spending time outside and dogs,” said Gezon. “Our donation helps provide sheltered dogs with food, shelter, caretakers, grooming and other necessities to help find them a home.”
Founded in 2000, Big Agnes is an award-winning tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad manufacturer headquartered downtown Steamboat. In 14 short years, it’s won multiple Editor’s Choice awards from national magazines and has grown to harbor more than 600 North American retailers, including EMS and REI, where it has become the co-op’s number one outsourced tent brand. Employing nearly 40 people locally, the company is also in 10 international markets throughout Asia and Europe. “Steamboat is a great place to be based,” said co-founder Bill Gamber. “You couldn’t ask for a better place to test our gear.”
Founded in 1998 by Gary Hammerslag, Boa Technology builds dialed, reel and steel cable closure systems for tightening everything from recreational footwear to medical supplies. The system can be found on a third of the world’s snowboard boots, as well as 100 brands in more than 15 categories. With its main office now housed in a new 23,000-square-foot facility in Denver, it still houses an outsourced medical branch in Steamboat.
Cogma Bikewear is fueled by passion for pedaling. Founders and competitive cyclists Karen Tremaine and Clint Ball began as bike apparel makers in 2011, producing comfortable and “slightly rebellious designs.” “Ours is a lifestyle brand,” said Ball. “The foundation we build from is that we actually live the mountain town lifestyle. Product ideas come from our daily experiences and friends. We get to play and work outside in our backyard every day. We feel lucky to be here.
In 1982, Steamboat locals Dave Gowdy and Chris Timmerman invented the Quick Float to inflate float tubes for fishing high-Alpine lakes. In 1986 they added the open-front float tube U-Boat to its offerings. Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, Creek Company is now a market leader in the high-end personal flotation craft category, manufacturing pontoon boats, float tubes, tackle bags, fly-fishing accessories and more. “Having our business here has been a great inspiration for all we do,” said Gowdy. “When it comes to R&D we can test our product in a matter of minutes.”
Design. Adventure. Better. That’s the premise behind stand-up paddleboard company Hala Gear, founded in 2010. The company offers an innovative line of inflatable SUPs and accessories, testing its wares daily on the Yampa River. “We wanted to make a better paddleboard that was stable and performed well,” said founder Peter Hall. Hall manufactures the boards overseas, with distribution centers in Steamboat, Seattle and California. “They’re stable enough for everyone,” Hall said, “from grandparents to the younger generation.”
Hog Island Boat Works
Hog Island Boat Works, based along the Yampa River, introduced the world’s first rotomolded drift boat to the fishing market in 2007. The company now produces a full line of rotomolded drift boats, available with trailer, anchor and other accessories, as well as a new line of equally accessorized rotomolded, motorized skiffs. “We make performance, roto-molded boats that can go anywhere,” said founder Johnny St. John. “And it’s great to do it all out of Steamboat, where you can wet a line during lunch break.”
Founded in 2002 by Big Agnes co-founder Bill Gamber, energy food company Honey Stinger has grown to more than 40 local employees. While the company’s original line of honey-based energy gels arose as a natural, long-lasting energy source for endurance athletes, it now also produces bars, chews, waffles and gels. The company’s best seller, the Stinger Waffle, improves upon the popular stroopwafel racers use in Europe. The company is on track to double its sales again this year. “It’s another great company to be based in Steamboat,” said Gamber. “We use the product every day.”
Kent Eriksen Cycles/Bingham Built Bikes
Kent Eriksen helped introduce mountain biking to both the country and Steamboat Springs. Owning bike shop Sore Saddle Cyclery in the 1970s, he founded Moots in 1981 and was elected into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1996. He later founded Kent Eriksen Cycles downtown, also specializing in titanium bikes (he recently won the Best Titanium Construction award at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show). Now owned by Brad Bingham, the company produces up to 200 custom cycles per year.
Founded in Steamboat in 1981, Moots hand-builds titanium road, mountain and cross bikes, with a staff that lives and breathes cycling. “We’re surrounded by great riding, which inspires us personally and professionally,” said marketing manager Jon Cariveau. Moots was recently selected as a Colorado Company to Watch by the State Office of Economic Development. The company also sponsors numerous community programs, from trail work days to cycling teams. “We build the most innovative high-performance titanium bikes in the industry,” said Cariveau. “We’re proud of them, our team and the town we call home.”
Founded by Peter and Patty Duke, who started sock giant Smartwool in 1994, Point 6 is another local company putting Steamboat on the world’s sock map. The company uses merino wool fibers combined with state-of-the-art spinning and knitting techniques to create soft merino products built for optimal comfort and performance. It currently has about 15 employees working out of its Steamboat headquarters, serving more than 800 retailers and 20 distributors in 15 countries.
Based out of the old Steamboat Springs Airport building, Smartwool is Steamboat’s leading outdoor brand. Its merino wool apparel was born on a simple belief: keeping feet comfortable on the slopes. It’s since expanded into a complete apparel line, all made from New Zealand merino wool. Owned by VF Corp, the company has received multiple Editor’s Choice magazine awards and continues to lead the merino wool sock and apparel market. Its 400 sock and apparel products — which use enough yarn each year to circle the earth 500 times — enjoy worldwide distribution through more than 6,000 retailers in 40 countries.
Founded in 2002, Spiffy Dog is home to the World’s Most Comfortable Dog Collar. With experience designing climbing gear out of lightweight, quick-drying aerospacer material, its founders applied the material to pet products, and the result is its top-selling dog collar and other pet accessories. “It’s a dog-friendly town and a great location to test our products,” said brand manager Kyle Nelson, whose Air Collar line includes 25 styles and matching leads.
Founded by Under Armour co-founder Ryan Wood, Sweetwood Smokehouse’s mission is to promote American agriculture and the Western way of life. A family owned company, it offers a full array of naturally raised beef products, including award-winning Sweetwood Beef Jerky and its new Sweetwood Fatty, a delicious hickory smoked meat stick. You can find its products all over the country in specialty grocery and stores like REI and Academy Sports, and it stands behind every order shipped from its Steamboat headquarters.
TALON Grips targets law enforcement officers and other gun users desiring enhanced grip for their firearms. The company has grown from a basement operation in 2012 to now having five employees with 75 U.S. retailers and three international distributors. Offering 126 different gun model grips in two textures, business is, well, booming. “We never could have imagined it would grow so quickly,” said president Mike Morris, whose company is expanding into iPhone grips as well. “Steamboat’s a great place to be based. The mountain lifestyle and community are hard to beat.”
Founded as Jacobs & Turner in Scotland in 1938, and launching Trespass USA in 1984, Trespass is a longtime maker of winter and summer outdoor apparel, opening its U.S. operations headquarters in Steamboat Springs in 2004, where it employs three people. It’s a great place to be based, said operations manager Barbara Clark, for its lifestyle and location. “We’re excited to offer our spring and summer line to the U.S. market at this year’s OR show,” she said. “And it’s great that Steamboat is so close to the show’s location in Salt Lake City. It’s also a great place to be based for our brand because we work with companies across the nation.”
Why They’re Here
“Steamboat is an ideal outdoor environment to test and develop new products…there’s a romantic credibility of being located here.”
— Chris Timmerman, The Creek Company
“It is a natural fit for our outdoor-focused cycling business. It’s easy to balance work and fun in a town with so much outdoor activity and industry to offer.”
—Kent Eriksen, Kent Eriksen Cycles
“We make mountain products, so where better to be situated than in the mountains? It’s a fantastic community for our employees to live in. The right individuals come to us because they want to have a career and live the life they want to.”
—Travis Campbell, (former president, SmartWool)
“Steamboat is a great place for us to be based because we can test our products right out our back door.”
—Bill Gamber, Big Agnes/Honey Stinger
Local OR product sampler
Big Agnes Deer Park Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes’s new 600 fill DownTek Deer Park Sleeping Bag is part of its new system bag-pad combo geared for those who want girth but also might want to carry their bag. Its Park Series Downtek bags are big on room, with double zippers and top corner hand pockets that feel like your comforter at home. The Park bags’ unique quilt-like construction turns your bag into a backcountry bed. $299.95, bigagnes.com.
Hala Gear Rival Line
Built on a platform of durability, stability and maneuverability, Hala Gear hits this year’s OR show with a slew of innovations, highlighted by saidits new price-point-friendly Rival line — with three new competitively priced boards, including the Yoga-specific Hala Asana and Rival Hoss and Rival Straight Up. It also debuts its Inflatable Composite Technology, making its boards lighter and more rigid than ever. $1,079 to $1,099, halagear.com.
Point 6 Boot Medium Mid-Calf
Made in the U.S., Point 6 uses merino wool fibers combined with state-of-the-art spinning and knitting to create socks perfect for hunting. Its Boot Medium Mid-Calf (wool 70 percent, spandex 3 percent nylon 27 percent) comes with a lifetime guarantee and offers cushioning around the entire leg and foot with extra cushion on the instep to provide support and protection against pressure points from heavier footwear. The cozy next-to-skin wool insulates the foot from hot spots and blisters, while its compact-spinning process keeps it soft, non-itchy and durable. $23.95, point6.com.
Smartwool Hunt Medium Crew
Smartwool’s Hunt Medium Crew carries a medium full cushion leg and foot with Smartwool fit system with arch and ankle support and flat knit toe seam. Made from 65 percent merino wool, 34 percent nylon and 1 percent Elastane, they’ll keep your feet warm, breathing and cozy over hill and dale. $18.95, smartwool.com.
Chaos Kids CTR Aqua Torrent
This new kids line from Chaos features a multitude of proactive fabric, color and prints for youth, as well as new smaller sizes up to tweens, as illustrated in the Summit Junior Torrent, which comes with a waterproof/breathable shell, sealed seams, moisture wicking sweatband, removable chin cord, floatable brim, and one-handed size adjustment system. $28, chaosheadgear.com.
Trespass Men’s Kumar DLX Rain Jacket
Also available in the women’s Martina, this high-performance rain jacket comes with an adjustable zip-off hood, water-repellent front zip, underarm ventilation zips, and welded lower pockets with water repellent zips. It’s made from a woven shell of 100 percent polyester TPU membrane, with a polyester lining. $199, trespass-usa.com.
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