Ski industry convenes at Copper Mountain Resort to demo hundreds of skis, boards, boots
Summit Daily News
COPPER MOUNTAIN — Craig Peterson stomped around Copper Mountain Resort on Monday wearing one ski boot.
The corporate buyer for Christy Sports liked a new Technica model because of its narrower width, he said, before moving to another booth.
He picked up a boot by Apex, a Boulder-based company making the country’s only boot system that allows skiers to take off a hard outer frame and comfortably walk around in a soft snowboarding-like boot. A handful of the company’s customers wear the boots for both skiing and snowboarding.
Then Peterson walked with a lopsided stride around the room to talk about an integrated warming system in a boot in next year’s Salomon line. Christy Sports has been selling “hotronics” for years, he said, but “that’s new, real new.”
As a product buyer for Christy Sports, which has 38 stores in Colorado and four in Utah, Peterson explored the latest and greatest in 2015-16 boots while his team of 15 ski testers visited booths outside and tested all kinds of skis on the slopes.
His group would sit down and compare notes Monday night before the second of the two-day on-snow demo event at Copper as part of the annual four-day trade show held by SnowSports Industries America (SIA), a member-owned winter sports trade association.
Ski industry insiders from across the country and the world make the pilgrimage to the convention, which featured about 1,000 brands and finished Sunday, Feb. 1, at the Denver Convention Center. Now in its 61st year, the Snow Show has been held in Denver each of the last six years.
On Monday, Feb. 2, and Tuesday, Feb. 3, the 2015 On-Snow Demo/Ski-Ride Fest & Nordic Demo offered hundreds of 2015-16 skis, snowboards, boots, poles, helmets and accessories to compare side-by-side.
The goal is to help retailers decide what to buy and stock for next season and to give media previews of things to come. About 140 brands showcased their goods, gave explanations and how-tos, and offered large retailers like Christy Sports discounts and incentives to buy their products wholesale.
For skiers and snowboarders, the demo days are like a visit to Santa’s workshop. The overwhelming amount of unique, innovative products would make any snowsports lover crave thousands of dollars of gear.
But the event is closed to the public, as registered attendees must have direct ties to the industry as manufacturers, distributors, retailers, company representatives or members of the media.
In all, organizers expect roughly 20,000 people to attend the whole convention, and those people represent about 81 percent of the total buying power in the snowsports industry, according to an SIA market report.
After four days inside meeting with people under florescent lights, said SIA spokeswoman Lori Crabtree, the relaxed Demo Days are a great follow-up to the show in Denver.
“This is what everyone lives for is to test it firsthand,” she said.
At the end of last ski season, SIA reported that sales of women-specific gear, backcountry and Alpine touring equipment and snowsports accessories of all kinds were trending up.
The accessory capturing the most sales was the action camera, up 20 percent in dollars sold over the previous season.
Last season, the industry sold $616 million in apparel, $619 million in equipment and $736 million in accessories for a grand total of nearly $2 billion in sales at specialty stores. Add to that $867 million in apparel, equipment and accessories sold online, and the ski industry has huge economic impacts, especially in Colorado.
For Copper, the demo event offers exposure to thousands of influential people, said Stephanie Sweeney, resort spokeswoman. The ski area is in its second of a three-year contract with SIA and hopes to host the event after next season as well.
At the booth for Denver-based snowboard maker Never Summer, a representative said about 100 boards had been tested by lunchtime.
The company’s marketing director Chris Harris said though the event was one of many demos Never Summer attends every year, his team was excited to visit the industry’s largest in the company’s backyard.
Rick Foster, a sales representative from Western Winter Sports Representative Association, has been attending the annual SIA trade show and demo days since 1985.
He’s seen the size of the event explode over the last 30 years and has witnessed changes in gear trends.
For decades skis were designed as unisex, he said, so “one of the biggest things still out there is the women’s market.”
Only in recent years has the snowsports industry worked to make and market gender-specific products.
As retailers make decisions on specialized products and targeted demographics, Foster said they also are on the hunt for the perfect gear for all terrains and conditions.
“It’s tough to find one ski to do it all, but we’re all trying to make that,” he said.
This year continues a trend toward more efficient uphill-downhill crossover boots, bindings, skis and boards with the growing popularity of Alpine touring and backcountry skiing and riding. Foster said weight is one of the biggest factors buyers are considering.
Stefan Bast, director of sales operations for the Breckenridge-based ski maker Skilogik, said he was personally excited to try a new lightweight helmet made by Pret.
Skilogik’s wood designs and pearl inlays caught the eye of many buyers Monday, Bast said. He assured interested industry representatives the gear skis better than it looks, but he said he doesn’t have to say much.
“The skis talk for themselves,” he said.
Some companies focus on functional upgrades year-to-year while others emphasize visual changes, Foster said.
Annelise Loevlie, CEO of the Denver-based ski manufacturer Icelantic, explained to buyers how graphics on the company’s new skis were designed to honor 11 mountain cultures around the world.
The art represents somewhat of a departure from the company’s traditional graphics as it tries to appeal to a broader demographic, Loevlie said. “Because our story is so different and our art is so polarizing, people have to understand it and get it.”
Between explaining the history of her brand and talking about new models, Loevlie said she was excited to demo a specific AT binding.
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