Aspen icon Klaus Obermeyer keeps commanding presence at ski industry’s big show
DENVER — The thousands of attendees of the Snowsports Industries America Snow Show in Denver hear Klaus Obermeyer well before they see him.
Riding up the escalator at the Colorado Convention Center, there’s a faint but distinctive yodel. It gets louder the higher the stairs travel until there is no mistaking that Obermeyer is giving his signature Bavarian call. It’s clear enough that any person who knows Obermeyer instinctively looks around to find him before realizing it’s just a recording.
But Obermeyer, still heading the skiwear company he founded in 1947, has a commanding visual presence at the mammoth ski show as well. Sport Obermeyer’s oversized booth for the show is positioned at the main entrance to the hall where 1,000 brands of skis, boots, snowboards, poles, goggles and apparel, among scores of types of gear and equipment, are located.
Obermeyer, 95, personally greets all of the retailers who come to his company’s booth to check out the clothing lines for 2015-16. He helped found Snowsports Industries America in 1954. The trade association shows off the wares of a $3.6 billion industry to hundreds of retailers and buyers for chain stores across the country. Snowsports Industries America said that 96 percent of the supplier market for the ski, snowboard, apparel, backcountry and cross-country business is present at the event. It’s the biggest show of its kind in the country.
Obermeyer said the skiwear business has evolved in a way that dims the ski show’s role. Retailers must place their orders in December to make sure Sport Obermeyer has enough time to work with the overseas factories it contracts with to get the clothing shipped in July and August and delivered to stores by early fall. Sport Obermeyer pays to get samples of the following winter’s clothing lines manufactured almost a year in advance of the season, then brings its biggest clients to Denver to check out the lines.
Despite the diminished importance, the Snow Show remains important, Obermeyer said, because the stunning visual display of colorful clothes often persuades buyers to add to their orders.
“It’s also a big, skiers party,” Obermeyer said with a laugh. Even people who are no longer in the ski business attend the show to see old friends, he said.
Sport Obermeyer will meet with roughly 600 dealers during the three-day show.
“It makes it possible to see hundreds of dealers in one show,” Obermeyer said. “We’d have to travel for years to see everyone.”
The “economic disorder” of the recession hit many retailers hard.
“When dealers are poor, we are poor,” he said.
Business picked up last ski season. Obermeyer’s sales in dollars were up 15 percent. It appears at this point that sales will increase another 10 to 15 percent this year, he said.
That growth came despite the hard times facing the California ski industry. The buzz at the Snow Show is how California is facing its fourth straight year of low snow.
Sport Obermeyer constructed a 4,000-square-foot display area for the show. To call it a booth would understate it. The clothing is prominently displayed and the walls are decorated with pictures of Obermeyer smiling and models demonstrating the clothing. An eight-member team led by Beige Jones, of Sport Obermeyer, spent three full and two partial days assembling the space. During the show, as many as 20 representatives of the skiwear company will meet with dealers.
It’s not all work and no play for the Sport Obermeyer crew. Obermeyer makes sure of that.
“We try to have fun in this business,” he said. “It’s not like we sell paper clips.”
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