Trade show time: Steamboat migrates to annual OR Snow Show in Denver
February 2, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Like town's more than 70 bird species flocking to Steamboat Springs every spring, local outdoor companies again migrated to Denver on Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 for the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show at the Colorado Convention Center, marking the second year of the new combined exhibition.
Craft skis, craftier brew
Harvest Skis releases "Homegrown" IPA/ski collection
Skis and suds, anyone? That was the story this year for local and new trade show exhibitor Harvest Skis, which recently collaborated with local brewery Mountain Tap to create a beer using all-Colorado grown malt, hops and yeast to pair with its best-selling Homegrown ski.
"We love to ski and ride, and the Harvest guys love beer, so why not make a beer together?" said Mountain Tap co-owner Rich Tucciarone.
Inspired by Harvest's most popular, all-mountain Homegrown ski, the 6.5-percent brew — which Harvest co-owners Eric Baker and Scott Eckburg helped make — is a Pale Ale-style malt with rye. Harvest's Homegrown ski, which comes with a full-wood poplar core, is the company's top seller. "It's a great partnership," said Baker, adding their inaugural exhibition at the trade show, where they handed out the beer while showing retailers their skis, was a huge success. "And people responded to our ski line really well."
The exodus — which likely made Steamboat's ski slopes a little less crowded Wednesday to Friday — takes place every year from Ski Town USA to Denver, letting retailers see what's new for the coming season while allowing manufacturers the chance to showcase their latest wares, which this year includes everything from air-insulated jackets (yes, you pump them up) to goggles that won’t fog, a Grateful Dead-themed ski from Atomic, a boot-fitting app from Fischer, a ski collaboration with Porsche from Elan, inflatable snowshoes and more. Smartwool turned heads with its new Intraknit apparel technology, Honey Stinger with new chew and waffle flavors, and Point 6 with fresh merino accessory offerings.
Other local manufacturers showcasing new products or meeting with buyers included Big Agnes, Sweetwood Smokehouse, Chaos Hats and more, as well as reps, public relations experts, athletes and other industry personnel. Heading there to see all the new gear were buyers from such local outdoor shops as Ski Haus, Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare, Christy Sports, Sports Stalker, One Stop Ski Shop, Powder Pursuits, Fleischer Sport and more. Twelve Colorado Mountain College students even made the trek as part of a "Work Experience" course, placing them with various brands.
"It's great to have our largest trade shows of the year in Denver," said Molly Cuffe, Smartwool's director of global communications. "Since it's close to home, more of our team can attend, which is invaluable for them to see what other brands are doing, participate in the educational sessions, and network within the industry."
Fellow sockmaker Point 6 also relishes the trade show's proximity to Steamboat. "It's one of our biggest events of the year," said Point 6 Sales and Marketing Coordinator Mackenzie Yelvington. "It lets us show off our latest gear — we're entering the base layer, accessories and gloves market this year — and catch up with industry partners and friends and make new connections. We always manage to drum up business, buzz and inspiration there."
Offering three days of networking with anyone who's anyone in the ski, snowboard and outdoor industry, this year's show saw nearly 20,000 attendees from 1,000 snow sports and outdoor brands exhibiting their wares in more than 332,000 square feet of exhibit hall space. It also included seminars and presentations, a talk by Gov. Jared Polis, panel discussions on climate change, a packed-house talk by free climber Alex Honnold, a concert at Red Rocks and more.
Still, while Steamboat and other Colorado mountain towns were well-represented in the attendee mix of buyers, sellers, athletes, marketers and more, this year also saw some attrition from local exhibitors, due to trade show politics and positioning; owner Emerald Expositions hosted a similar trade show in Denver just two months ago to cater to the apparel industry.
"We attended November's show, so we just walked this one to meet with retailers, partners and suppliers," said Len Zanni of Big Agnes, which, until now, had exhibited at every OR show since 2001. "Now there are three shows each year, which has caused some confusion. Many retailers and exhibitors, particularly those of us that don't make ski and snowboard hard goods, are still trying to figure out how best to allocate resources. We're still trying to determine which winter show is best for our brand."
Both shows, however, were spot on for Big Agnes's sister company Honey Stinger. "Even though we're more mainstream now, the people who come to the Outdoor Retailer show represent our core user group," said Honey Stinger's Nate Bird. "A lot of skiers are bikers and hikers in the summer."
While their client Wigwam exhibited at this year's combined show, Paige Boucher of Steamboat's Inside-Out PR saw one of its clients, backpack-maker Mystery Ranch, pass this go-around. "It's still a great show, but three a year is just too many for some brands," said Boucher, who took advantage of the show's proximity to Steamboat to backcountry ski Berthoud Pass on the way down.
The show's real audience, of course, is retailers, there to network and figure out what to buy for the upcoming season. "It's a really important show for us," said Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare owner Harry Martin. "We use it to finish up ordering clothes and accessories and get a sneak peak at new hard goods coming out. A lot of our staff also goes to the on-snow demo afterward so we can find the best skis for our customers." Sidecountry-type ski boots with walk modes are selling well, he said, as are all the new designs in AT bindings, including the new Salomon Shift.
Thirty-year ski industry veteran Marty Carrigan, owner of Steamboat's Global Sales Guys, which represents several soft and hardgoods brands, said the trade show is as vital to his business as snowfall. "It's the only place we can meet all of our specialty retail partners and show them all the brands we represent," he said. "It allows us to create a multi-brand presentation under one booth."
Afterwards, many attendees headed to Copper Mountain for two days for an on-snow demo letting them test the new products on the slopes. "Both the show and on-snow demo are a great chance to catch up with all the top brass in the ski industry," said Chad Fleischer, owner of Fleischer Sport. "It helps us find the new 'it' in the industry."