EAGLE COUNTY - Technology is fine, but sometimes there's nothing like a good, old-fashioned trade show.
A big part of the ski industry will converge on Denver for the SIA Snow Show at the Colorado Convention Center starting Thursday and running through Sunday. The show, sponsored by the Snowsports Industries America trade group, fills the cavernous building in downtown Denver with everything from skis to boards to clothing to headphones and cameras. If there's even a chance a piece of clothing or gear will move off horizontal, it's at the Snow Show.
Buyers will prowl the seemingly endless rows of booths and displays, looking for the right items to put in their shop windows this fall, and, of course, making or renewing connections with suppliers.
That chance for face-to-face meetings is a big part of what drives the crew from Avon's Liberty Skis to the Snow Show. While Liberty's start-up funding came, in part, from a great night at the craps tables when the Snow Show was in Las Vegas, company president Dan Chalfant said having the show in Denver is a very good thing for the industry.
"I love that it's in Denver now - it's the heart of the industry," Chalfant said. That means that beyond the contacts made on the show floor, manufacturers and buyers can also get together during a couple of Snow Show-related ski activities.
And it's that personal contact that can make the difference between "I'll take a dozen," and "We'll get back to you."
"It's really the best way to contact the majority of buyers," Chalfant said. "You're speaking directly to buyers and the press, and they're all there."
Rachel Hadley of Krimson Klover, a Vail- and Boulder-based company that makes women's knitwear, agreed.
"If you're anybody in the ski industry, it's a must-go," Hadley said.
The buyers and media types with appointments who stop by Liberty's booth - much of the business is done in pre-arranged meetings - will get to see the company's new line for 2012. That product line includes several new models. One ski has cutaways that let people see the bamboo used to make all Liberty skis. Another is the "Variant," which Chalfant described as a skin-capable ski for back- and side-country expeditions that still does well on a resort's groomed slopes.
But Liberty isn't alone in working on Swiss Army skis.
Vail resident Jesse Pomerantz is the western territory manager for Kaestle skis of Austria. He said that company is also bringing out models of touring skis that are much wider under the boot than standard Nordic skis. Kaestle is also unveiling new skis for terrain parks and halfpipes.
"We're targeting younger skiers," Pomerantz said. "We're looking at what we can do to make skiing more fun."
Pomerantz said the SnowShow also comes at a good time for both suppliers and buyers. The current season is about halfway done, and selling time for the season to come has just started. The SnowShow gives everyone a chance to refresh their contacts.
"Rhonda Swenson, our owner, knows these people ... it's a really good social opportunity," Hadley said.
And plenty of business gets done at the show. Hadley said about half of the people coming to Krimson Klover's booth will actually order items for their shops. The rest will pick up catalogs, then wait to see what the retail environment looks like closer to next season.
Chalfant said Liberty takes a "significant" number of orders at the show, but most orders for next year will come later. But besides talking to established customers, Chalfant said the show is also an opportunity to pitch Liberty to other vendors.
"We have a real difference in our business model and product," Chalfant said - including what he called the highest margins possible for retailers. Company reps also have a chance to explain the facts behind Liberty's motto: "Ski differently."
But what everyone realizes is that there's a pretty narrow window to sell gear, and having a lot of people in one place for a few days helps make that happen.
"We're all talking about what we're going to be doing," Pomerantz said. "There's a lot of value in doing that in that atmosphere of what's new."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.