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Optimism prevails at outdoors show, Vail Valley local says

Arn Menconi
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyRepresentatives from local groups SOS Outreach and the Vail Valley Foundation are at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City. Back row, from left: Michelle Hartel of SOS Outreach and Shelley Woodworth and Scott Bluhm of the Vail Valley Foundation. Front row, from left: Arn Menconi of SOS Outreach and Paul Abling, Mike Inhof and Blair Krause of the Vail Valley Foundation.
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SALT LAKE CITY ” Given the state of the economy, we had figured the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City this year was going to be interesting.

With a number of companies laying off employees, and a future that seemed anything but certain, I’d expected to be surrounded by fear and loathing.

And while there may not be a shortage of general concern, I found a surprising number of people in the industry who seemed downright excited about new products, and the overall health of the industry.



Anthony DeRocco, vice president for global product development of K2 Sports, seemed to have a good handle on things.

“It’s going to be interesting when they report attendance. I’m going to assume that it’s down a little bit,” he said. “People are very cautious, and that’s an understatement. The one thing in our favor is that a lot of our sports are lifestyle sports. People will find the money to get out and ski or snowboard.”



DeRocco said the economy was only a secondary concern, and for nearly everyone at the show, it’s all about the snow.

“I’m cautiously optimistic at this point because people are so passionate,” DeRocco said, adding the company’s new gear had him excited for the future.

One such product is the K2 Grom Pack, which just this week took home the Ispo Boardsports Award at the European equivalent of the Outdoor Retailer show.



“We were trying to make it easier for the consumer to buy a package for a young snowboarder,” DeRocco said, adding the Grom Pack would have the boots, board and binding prepackaged. “No one has ever done this … And this will make it easier if, for example, a grandparent wants to buy a package for a young snowboarder, they only need to know the boot size, and they’re done.”

The trend toward making things easier for the consumer was echoed by Dana Morton, director of marketing for GoLite.

Morton said her company was responding to the economic situation by prioritizing gear that was highly technical, yet simple in design.

“We recognize that current times can be troubling, (but) we are very optimistic,” she said, adding that the company has also shifted its communications strategy this year. “Our efforts are now more focused on creating a community-based social marketing campaign to tell our stories.”

Charles Lozner, brand director for K2 outdoor, said the economy has caused the company to look beyond skiing and snowboarding.

“We’ve changed our message a bit in this economic environment, and even though we’ve always promoted showshoeing as a great activity, our message this year is affordability, and that seems to be resonating,” he said. “The product itself is inexpensive, you don’t need a lift ticket, you don’t need to pay for lessons, and you’re an expert by the end of your first day out.”

For Shelley Woodworth, director of marketing for the Vail Valley Foundation, the Outdoor Retailer show provided an opportunity to check out some new gear and get the word out about the Teva Mountain Games, a recent acquisition by the foundation.

“It’s going awesome so far,” she said. “We’re just right down the stairs from SOS Outreach, and they have a great booth set up with a foosball table. But it’s really fun just being here and learning the ropes about footwear. Everyone loves the whole nonprofit angle, too. It’s been great.”

Woodworth said she looked forward to the secondary premiere of a 3-D IMAX movie on the Grand Canyon, put on by Teva and Outside Magazine, but said she was struck by the general sense of optimism that pervaded the show.

“I’ve been to most of the press meetings, and everyone is talking about the economy and how it’s affecting everyone, but people aren’t depressed,” she said. “Everyone is adopting a kind of wait-and-see-what-happens attitude. And most of the products here aren’t for thousands of dollars, they were made to last for adventure. There may be a downturn, but this isn’t the industry that is most affected by it.”

So between games of foosball and gawking at fresh gear, the general sense in the last two days of the Outdoor Retailer show is that the industry will ride out the most recent economic storm. It’s a refreshing blend of confidence and optimism, one that we can only hope is contagious, and begins to spread to other sectors of the economy.

SOS Outreach Executive Director Arn Menconi is sending dispatches from the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, which runs through Sunday.

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