Edward Stoner
estoner@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

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February 1, 2013
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Denver's Snow Show: The gear is here

DENVER, Colorado - Women promoting sunglasses stood around in bikinis and fur vests. A DJ for a headphones company spun tunes atop a trailer. Spyder showed off a custom Audi R8 inside its booth. Pepa of the hip-hop trio Salt-n-Pepa performed for Burton.

And there were lots of stickers. This is an industry that loves stickers.

Behind all of the fanfare, and the stickers, there was serious business to be done at the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show inside the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. This week, it is the epicenter of the $3.3 billion retail snowsports industry.

"For the ski industry, this is it," said Dan Chalfant, president and CEO of Avon-based Liberty Skis. "This is the big dog."

Liberty's booth had the company's line of 2013-14 skis plastered to the wall as Chalfant and other employees chatted with buyers, media members and other industry insiders on the floor of the convention hall.

This is Liberty's 10th year at the SIA Snow Show. For them, it is a chance to renew connections with buyers with whom they have worked in the past, as well as connect with people who aren't familiar with Liberty.

They were showing off their wide Helix skis, the really wide Double Helix and the enormous Mutant 192, as well as a new ski that will benefit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and will be hand-tuned by former U.S. Ski Team racer and valley local Sacha Gros.

Friday morning, Eagle-Vail-based ski wear maker Skea's booth was hosting buyers from Whistler, B.C.; Sun Valley, Idaho; and Pittsburgh, Pa.

Owner Diane Boyer said that during the show, she will come in contact with buyers that represent 80 percent of her yearly sales.

"Buyers can come see the whole collection and feel the whole culture of the brand," Boyer said.

One of Skea's coolest new products is a down jacket called the Cali. It has a 3-D, bubble-like fabric that is stretchy and water-proof.

As a past chairperson of SIA, Boyer was one of the people behind the show's move from Las Vegas to Denver in 2010.

The buyers

On the other side of the coin were the buyers.

Mike and Deb Grant, owners of Off Piste Sports on East Meadow Drive in Vail Village, were taking a break Thursday afternoon after a full day of appointments on the opening day of the show, which runs through Sunday.

The Grants will place over 50 percent of their orders for next season at this show. As a small, independent store, they want to stand out from other ski shops in Vail, so they were looking for unique items - clothing, ski equipment and accessories - to put on their shelves next season.

"If it shows up in too many stores, we don't want it," Mike Grant said.

This is the one event where they can see just about all the merchandise they need to stock their store. There are lots of aspects of a product that you just can't understand via a catalog - colors, sizing, and just the benefit of holding a product in your hand.

"You can touch it, feel it, try it on," Mike Grant said.

For the Grants, the SIA Snow Show is also a time of excitement of the new year. It's an annual reunion of reps, buyers and manufacturers who together ride the ups and downs of the industry, and a chance to look ahead to a new year.

Buzz Schleper of Buzz's Ski Shop will spend three or four days at the convention, where he does most of his buying for next season. He is booked up with retailers such as Burton, Never Summer and K2.

For him, nothing can replace seeing a products live.

"To see the whole line fresh, you have to come to this show," Schleper said. "If you don't come, you are just guessing."

SIA is as much about the extracurricular activities as it is about the convention floor. Schleper was still choosing options for that night that included a Spyder party and a concert by the punk band Pennywise.

There was also a boxing match between industry figures sponsored by Skullcandy and Pabst Blue Ribbon that was billed as "Boxing, bros and brews."

Building relationships

The companies ranged from the industry heavyweights to the newcomers just trying to establish a name for themselves. On the latter end of the spectrum was Weston Snowboards, a Minturn-based company that was at its first SIA Snow Show.

Owner Barry Weston Clark said he was trying to build relationships with good retail partners, "not just sell to anyone." They would like to work with retailers who have a strong emphasis on backcountry outfitting.

The convention is also an opportunity to get media exposure. Clark said several media members expressed interest in talking with Weston because of its sustainability focus - the company makes snowboards from beetle-kill pine.

Some saw the convention as a unique opportunity to get face time with the most powerful people and companies in the industry. You could include the Vail Valley's SOS Outreach in that group.

SOS Outreach's Seth Ehrlich said the group was meeting with the corporate partners who make the group's work possible - creating mountain adventure-based programs for at-risk youth.

They include K2, Ride, 686 and Quiksilver.

"This is our chance to see them in person," Ehrlich said.

They were also hosting the fourth annual Youth Summit on Saturday, where they would present a lifetime achievement award to snowboard pioneer Tom Sims.

SOS had a booth set up near the entrance to the big convention hall. Of course, they had stickers.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Feb 2, 2013 10:32AM Published Feb 1, 2013 09:20PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.