There’s a reason the annual SnowSports Industries America Snow Show takes over the Denver Convention Center for four days every year. With more than 1,500 models of skis, 900 snowboard styles and countless apparel pieces and gadgets on display, it’s a lot for anyone to try to take in in just one day.
It may come as little surprise, considering all of this winter’s precipitation, that the snow sports industry — already worth $3.4 billion annually — appears to be rebounding well after a few down years.
SIA, in its 60th year, returned to Denver Thursday for its fifth consecutive time, giving ski industry insiders a chance to get a sneak peek into the future. Because on the showroom floor at SIA, it’s already next winter.
“If you’re a skier or a snowboarder, this is like going into Santa’s workshop,” Liberty Skis vice president of marketing Tom Winter said. “It’s overwhelming the amount of products, toys, things you didn’t think you needed, or even knew existed, but now you want badly.”
But to get a look at the convention — which runs through Sunday before packing up and heading to Copper Mountain Resort for two days of on-snow testing — you have to be in the inner circle. The show is open only to those with direct ties to the ski industry: distributors, manufacturers, company reps, retailer or members of the media. In all, organizers expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people to attend.
“SIA is the only place where buyers and the media can see entire product lines from the (2014-15) season,” SIA spokeswoman Elizabeth Hurst said. “It’s where the industry happens.”
The goal is for retailers to be able to make decisions on what they plan to buy and stock for next season, and for the media to get a preview of things to come.
“It’s an amazing experience,” Winter said. “I think they should open at least one day to the general public, but right now it really is an industry-insider love fest.”
So what’s on tap for 2014-15? In some ways more of the same, with a little tweaking and fine tuning.
“I think we’re seeing a continuation of trends,” Winters said. “There’s nothing really revolutionary.”
The big trend across the board: the continued growth of the sidecountry and backcountry gear markets and an industry-wide economic recovery after a few down seasons.
More companies seem to be stepping into the alpine touring equipment market to satisfy the growing trend of skiers stepping off the beaten path.
“We’re seeing strong growth in that category,” Winter said.
Hardware and apparel companies also are looking to make gear lighter and warmer for the coming season.
“There are some decent innovations throughout the various segments of the industry,” outdoors industry gear reviewer Aaron Bible said. “Advances in technical fabrics are driving the apparel industry, while advances in materials such as carbon fiber and other lightweight constructions are driving the hard-goods industry.”
Comfort also seems to be a focus. “Boots with a ski-walk mode are going to be big for 14/15, providing options for alpine skiers to get into the backcountry or simply an easier way to walk at the base of the mountain,” Hurst said.
The convention portion of SIA wraps up at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Copper Mountain will host the on-snow demo on Monday and Tuesday.
“Copper has really progressive terrain to make it perfect for demoing a variety of products,” Hurst said. “It’s a new location, which we’re really excited about.”
“It’s an amazing experience. I think they should open at least one day to the general public, but right now it really is an industry-insider love fest.”
Vice president, Liberty Skis