Snow Show, winter Outdoor Retailer union could be boon for local businesses |

Snow Show, winter Outdoor Retailer union could be boon for local businesses

Eagle County company Liberty Skis is set up at the 2016 SIA Snow Show in Denver, displaying skis for the next season. Liberty Skis CEO Dan Chalfant said he's encouraged by this week's news that the Snow Show has been acquired by the owner of the rival Outdoor Retailer show.
Ross Leonhart / Vail Daily | Ross Leonhart | rleonhart@vailda

The deal

Emerald Expositions announced recently the company had purchased the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show. According to a release from Emerald Expositions, which owns the winter and summer Outdoor Retailer shows, the company will create a joint winter show, touted as the “largest outdoor winter and sports industry gathering in North America.” For more information, go to

EAGLE COUNTY — Bishop Bindings and Liberty Skis are small companies. But both of those local winter-gear businesses are eager to start playing in a much bigger arena when it comes to trade shows.

The winter trade-show business changed in a major way this week, when the annual SnowSports Industries America Snow Show was purchased by Emerald Expositions, which owns and produces the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer shows. Emerald announced plans to combine the Snow Show and winter Outdoor Retailer into one very large show.

The home for that show hasn’t yet been finalized, but Denver, which has hosted the SIA Snow Show for the past several years, is in the running for the new, bigger event.

In an email, Rachel Benedick, vice president of sales and services for Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitor bureau, wrote that her organization is “working diligently” on a deal to bring the show to that city.

Denver has for the past few months been working to lure the Outdoor Retailer show. That show had long been held in Salt Lake City but recently pulled out of its deal there in response to the Utah state government’s seeming lack of support for maintaining federal lands there.

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A good deal

If the show lands in Denver, then that would be good news for both the city and state.

“It would be nice to see (the show) come to a place where everybody, including the government, thinks it’ll be a benefit,” said Peter Van Dyke, of Bishop Bindings.

Beyond politics, Van Dyke said having one big show should be a benefit to both retailers and manufacturers.

The new format will be even better if the new, combined show treats small manufacturers as well as the Snow Show did.

“I’m worried a little bit about getting lost,” Van Dyke said. “Outdoor Retailer is everything, and not just specific to one sport. … (The Snow Show) has done a great job with putting small companies up in the show — they put us close to the beer.”

At Liberty Skis, company CEO Dan Chalfant said his company has benefitted from its 12 years of attending the Snow Show. But, he added, the last few years of the Snow Show have seen a dip in both attendance and enthusiasm.

The combination of Outdoor Retailer and the Snow Show has needed to happen for a few years, Chalfant said.

Outdoor Retailer had outgrown its space in Salt Lake City, Chalfant said. That, combined with the controversy over the use of public lands, made a move inevitable.

“It will be great to have (the combined show) in Denver,” Chalfant said. “There’s a better attitude on public lands, and combining snow and outdoor retailers makes sense.”

Tim Shonk is the Boulder-based director of national accounts for Thule, which manufactures boxes, racks, backpacks and other gear.

Shonk said Thule for the past few years decided to skip the winter Outdoor Retailer show in favor of the Snow Show.

Combining the shows will allow Thule and other companies “to see some of the people we may have missed,” Shonk said. “Retailers can make just one trip instead of one trip to Denver and one to Salt Lake City.”

Combining the shows “should be more cost-effective,” Chalfant said. “I don’t think anyone’s in a position to have a couple more shows — that seems silly.”

More people, less expense

Shonk said booths at trade shows can easily climb to six-figure expenses for larger companies. One show “will be a good thing on our end,” he said.

Buzz Schleper has owned Buzz’s Boards in Vail for about as long as anyone can remember. For years, Schleper went to the Snow Show to see — and order — new gear for the next season. Schleper said he’s excited about the prospects for a new, bigger show.

The Snow Show was “getting to be a little slow,” Schleper said. “Attendance had to be way down this year. … It needs some new blood, some new life.”

Big vendors had started to skip the show, Schleper said, noting that Burton for some time has set up an exhibition away from the Denver Convention Center.

“A lot more distributors bailed this year,” Schleper said. “It needs some new blood, some new enthusiasm.”

All of the space at the Colorado Convention Center adds up to 2.2 million square feet. In comparison, the Avon Wal-Mart store is 180,000 square feet.

That’s a lot of space, but is it enough to combine Outdoor Retailer and the Snow Show?

Benedick said it can, writing that the center “can accommodate a larger winter show in January and beyond, and we have submitted an outstanding package that addresses all space requirements.”

If a deal is struck to combine the winter shows, then Van Dyke said he’ll be excited to see the results, “especially if we’re by the beer.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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