Gear Head Heaven: Snow Sports Industries of America (SIA) Snow Show 2015

Image from Outdoor Tech

The SIA show held in Denver, Colorado this past Jan29-February 1st was a Gearhead’s dream. The Colorado Convention Center was filled with over 1000 skiing and snowboarding related brands exhibiting their wares and showing us why it’s good to be alive.

It’s Just Business
The SIA is a non-profit, member-owned trade association that celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014. The association sponsors this annual mingling of manufacturers, retailers, buyers, and gearhead gawkers that runs every year at the end of January. All the new products, many that will be on the shelf of your local sporting goods store next fall, are laid out for inspection. Want to know how fat those skis will get? How wild snowboard graphics can become? What the newest jackets will look like? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Well, It’s Not All Business
It may be about business in the daytime but by 5 PM, kegs of beer start arriving at select booths and Happy Hour begins. There are concerts before the convention, during the convention (right across the street in a parking lot) and a big Snowball concert sponsored by Icelantic Skis in conjunction with the SIA at Red Rocks Amphitheater as well.

Skis and Boards and Hats, Oh My
Everything you can possibly need on the slopes was represented here. All the major ski and board manufacturers, along with many smaller start-ups were well represented. Volkl Skis had 56 models of skis on display in their massive area, while many smaller brands found buyers of their craft skis as well. Board manufacturers ranging from Burton to Never Summer and Rome had fancy display areas drawing large crowds to check out next year’s models. This is a meet and greet with not just marketing personnel but a lot of times you get to talk to the guy who made those skis, that board or yes, that knit hat.

My Hats Off to You
Clothing and accessories are big business in the snow industry; so big in fact they both represented a large portion of space on the convention floor. What I don’t get is what’s with the knit hats? With all the helmets everyone is wearing on the slopes these days, you would think hat sales would be down. That doesn’t seem to be the case as there was every kind of knit, wool, cotton or whatever else material they’ll come up with, hat on display.

The Fun Stuff
Accessories ranging from bamboo poles and cartoon character socks, to vests with Argon gas injected in them and yes, even Ass Armor was well represented. I mention Ass Armor, which is basically boarding shorts with thick pads on your butt, just because I rarely get to put the word “Ass” in any columns.

I was approached by a rep wielding a pair of sunglasses that have a camera in the bridge, Bluetooth capability, and headphones attached. I told her I haven’t even mastered a smart phone yet and she immediately turned to another guest. There was a guy pushing goggle-lens protectors that were really no more than the sheet of thin plastic that covers your goggles when you pull them out of the box. He was as enthusiastic about his product as everyone else was, which makes this show an event full of hope and promise for the industry.

Time to Hit the Mountain
After the show closes comes the real fun: The On-Snow Demo/Ski-Ride Fest & Nordic Demo days held February 2nd and 3rd at Copper Mountain. Nearly 140 brands offered up demos on their boards, skis, boots, poles, helmets, and other accessories for testing. Copper Mountain was packed with booths featuring skis, helmets and goggles covering the center village area. And the parking lot north of the lodge was packed with tents of every board company imaginable. The front of the mountain was busiest as some folks tried a quick run or two before switching equipment. The further reaches of the mountain were less crowded as some of us, me included, took some of the equipment to the extreme.

There’s Always a Next Season
The Ski industry seems to be in flux. While there were some dire warnings from some of the seminars, mainly focusing on the differences between big and small mountain resorts, the retail end seems strong. There seem to be more and more startup craft snowboard and ski manufacturers which, while this shows a strong market, also makes you wonder how many can survive. Clothing is bigger than ever, not just because we’re getting fatter, but the market itself. New innovations in equipment and clothing fuel sales such as Voormi‘s new technique called call Core Construction which won Outside Magazine’s award for “Gear of the Show 2015.” It consists of weaving technical fibers into wool gear that they believe may give Gore-Tex a run for their money in water-proof wear. And then there are the knit ski hats, where business is booming.

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Michael Ryan

Michael is a full-time musician and freelance writer residing in Morrison, Colorado. He enjoys downhill skiing, traveling and attempting to play golf. He excels in the sport of extreme napping so if you must call, make it after noon.

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