A line of skis from Vokyl is decorated with jungle creature graphics.
Between the top-of-the-line camper vans and bedroom-sized inflatable igloo, just past the bar set up with rows of whiskey shots and around the corner from the skis decorated with cow spots, I huddled on a bench, clutching a bag full of business cards, and hyperventilated over a detailed exhibit hall map of this year’s Outdoor Retailer Snow Show.
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as a first-timer at this huge, sensory-overloading affair, where product developers show off their wares, retailers look for goods to stock their shelves, and journalists sniff around for interesting stories. Nearly 30,000 people filed through the doors of the Colorado Convention Center for the show last year, and judging by the crowds, this year’s show should come close to the same attendance.
I’m here for two reasons: To connect with companies that might want me to write gear reviews about their products, and to spread the word about the Arctic Cowboys expedition I’ll be covering this summer.
Austin paddler West Hansen, who led a paddling expedition nearly 5,000 miles down the Amazon River from source to sea in 2012, then followed that up by paddling the Volga River in Russia, plans to lead kayaking expedition through the Northwest Passage in the Arctic this summer. They need sponsors and donors, and could also use a bunch of parkas, tents and sleeping bags on their eight-week traverse.
With so much to look at and take in – from snow boots with soles that flash in neon colors to an array of fat-tired bicycles, backpacks, gloves, hats, snowboards, socks, dehydrated meals, jackets, long underwear and more – my head was spinning by 3 p.m.
Highlights so far?
I met polar explorer John Huston.
Meeting John Huston, a polar explorer who, along with his partner Tyler Fish, skied 475 miles to the northernmost place on the planet in 2009. I told Huston about Hansen, the Austin paddler, in hopes they can share intel about fending off polar bears and dressing for success in frigid temperatures. (Huston had to don a dry suit to swim during part of his journey, and towed an inflatable sled loaded with gear behind him.)
Learning about Parks Project, which sells T-shirts and other soft goods and keeps part of the proceeds for profit and gives the rest to non-profit groups that help support our national parks (including Big Bend National Park.) Hearing about the collaboration between 686, which makes technical apparel, and NASA. Seeing homegrown Texas company Yeti’s display, bustling with interested clients. Watching a ski-making machine in action.
Ogling a whole landscape of CBD products. Seriously, there were so many lotions, oils and capsules that they took up an entire wing of the convention center.
Meeting old friends from the ski industry and other journalists at assorted dinners, happy hours, meetings and parties.
And finally, just taking in the enormity of it all. The show covers three floors, each one bigger than a football field, with a collective 1,000 or so booths to peruse. That’s a lot of turf to cover but I’m doing my best, squeezing in explorations along with talks about everything from
This guy is promoting apparel, including Hawaiian-themed ski parkas, by Snoloha.
One final note. The most prominent theme at this year’s show is sustainability. Over and over, products are showing off their green side. Even show organizers are discouraging the use of single-use plastics. (Participants don’t get plastic holders for their badges, for example, and you won’t find plastic bottles of water here, either. Just filling stations.) Companies are encouraged to join the Climate Action Corps, which is designed to help companies collaborate to measure and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
I like that. Especially in an industry that relies so heavily on taking care of our planet.
We’ve got to work together to become more sustainable.