SIA in Denver features Colorado Rocky Mountain grown businesses
DENVER — That big blue bear peering into the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver is getting a first look at next year’s winter sports goods.
The annual SnowSports Industries America Snow Show is once again filling the convention center with more than 1,000 brands from across the industry — big and small, new and old — setting up shop through Sunday.
While only open to retailers, sales reps, brand suppliers, athletes, industry professionals and media, it’s a chance for companies to show what’s been brewing for the 2017-18 season.
“To me, this is a celebration,” said Marco Tonazzi, owner of clothing store Valbruna, located in Vail on Meadow Drive. “As brands and as people, we come to the ski show because all of us celebrate the world of skiing. This is our industry.”
➤ ROCKY MOUNTAIN PRIDE
Oakley, Helly Hansen, GoPro, Patagonia, Never Summer are some of the bigger names taking up the floor, but beaming with modest pride are the companies from the Colorado Rocky Mountains represented at SIA.
In the massive showroom, almost overwhelming, Minturn company Weston Snowboards was front and center near the entrance — it wasn’t hard to spot the tiny house posted up with backcountry gear flowing out of it.
Mason Davies and Leo Tsuo are enjoying their first year as Weston owners. Last year, the duo finalized negotiations to purchase the company while at SIA.
This year, they are enjoying a primetime spot among the industry giants.
“At SIA, you can get lost in the shuffle,” Davies said Thursday from the 100-percent off-grid, solar-powered tiny house that serves as Weston’s homebase in Eagle County. “And we have been put in this focal point because they realize what we’re doing is something that can change some things in the industry and get away from corporatization and back to the roots of living it — slaying pow and doing what we love.”
Weston Snowboards is active in educating people about backcountry riding. It’s partnering with REI to provide splitboarding 101 classes to the public.
“Immediately, we realized that creating a product that gets people out there and into the backcountry, we have a social responsibility to be part of their education and get them out there safely,” Davies said.
Weston is also looking out for its ladies who shred, creating a women’s board that’s nothing close to “pinking it and shrinking it.”
➤ TEAM BISHOP
Bishop Bindings, based out of Edwards, is making only its second appearance at SIA. The previous time, the Eagle County company was releasing its new Bishop 2.0 bindings — a durable telemark binding with no cables and no plastics.
The team at Bishop has built upon the 2.0 and released the BMFR at SIA on Friday — the event began Thursday and runs through Sunday, with an on-snow event mixed in as well.
The new binding sat safely in a locked box on display until the opening. Product engineer Peter Van Dyke said the all-metal BMFR touring binding has a full step-in, similar to when in alpine mode, so there is nothing to lift up.
“It’s a full backcountry tour mode and uses both types of telemark boots,” he said.
“If there’s telemark skiers in our valley, we want them on our stuff,” said Dave Bombard, Bishop owner and engineer.
➤ LIBERTY SKIS
A regular at SIA and with headquarters in Avon, Liberty Skis is always excited to debut next year’s ski line, and also to be around the best in the business.
“It’s awesome to see old friends and catch up, and it’s cool to show everyone the new product and where the company is going,” said Colin Sutherland of Liberty. “For us, things are going awesome.”
The ski company that tests its own product on Vail Mountain is adding to its Origin Series for next year, bringing in the Origin 90, as well as a similar women’s ski — the Genesis 90.
“This is definitely the one I’m most excited about,” Sutherland said of the board joining the Origin 96, 106 and 116. “This is kind of your all-mountain crusher. This thing just rips. I took it out on Vail around Christmas.”
Liberty has its line of skis on display at SIA, but soon they might need a bigger spot if the skis keep spawning in other sizes.
“We’re just growing rapidly, and we want to get as many people from Vail or anywhere in the world out on our products,” Sutherland said.
➤ ROCKY PLACE FOR BUSINESS
Phunkshun Wear started in Summit County, but now the company specializing in sytlish balaclavas, neck tubes, facemasks and other head attire is working out of Denver.
At SIA, the company that started with a few Copper Mountain Resort ski instructors sewing in the locker room is now announcing a partnership with Coors.
Lanny Goldwasser, owner of Phunkshun, said the company is also collaborating with Protect Our Winters and High Fives Foundation — where 5 cents of every facemask sale goes.
Phunkshun is moving into baselayers, with 16 prints in the works to join its 150 styles for almost everything they sell, and it’s all customizable.
The company also prides itself on sustainability, too.
“This baselayer was made from 26 bottles,” said Brian Schroy, of Phunkshun.
The manufacturer, now in Denver, has a diversion rate of 80-90 percent, Goldwasser said, meaning only 10-20 percent goes to landfills.
Leaving Summit County was a tough life decision, Goldwasser said, but it was best for business, which is continuing to grow.
“Right now, we’re in almost 11,000 square feet, and there isn’t a building that big in Summit County unless you build your own,” Goldwasser said.
Employees were another issue for the business looking for people to sew and other craftsmen in the mountains.
“You can barely find them here in Denver, so in the mountains, forget about it,” Goldwasser said. “We were teaching snowboard and ski instructors how to sew.”
➤ NEW SHOP
Meier Skis, which started in a Glenwood Springs garage, is displaying its skis at SIA — and also a snowboard. But, unlike the other brands, the company is shuttling people to and from their shop, five minutes from the SIA venue.
“If you get a chance to come check out our space, you’ll get a good feel for us,” said Ted Enyon, owner of Meier Skis. “It’s kind of the heart and soul.”
Enyon, in his fifth year at SIA, started the company with a partner in 2009, moving out of the garage and into a factory in 2012. In the spring, Meier Skis moved its headquarters to Denver, right on Interstate 25 near Eighth Avenue.
“It had to do with access to employees,” Enyon said. “It’s really hard out in Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley.”
Meier Skis continues to grow its presence globally with roots in Glenwood and a new, inviting home in Denver with a giant glass window behind a bar.
“People can hang out, have a beer or glass of wine and watch the guys press some skis,” Enyon said.
➤ REPRESENTING COLORADO
In a maze of companies at SIA, the Cirque Mountain Apparel giant beanie is a beacon of light. The Eagle-Vail company is attending its fourth SIA, debuting trucker hats and sweaters, on top of their stylish beanies and other apparel.
“It’s awesome because we can still live in an awesome place like Vail and work in the industry,” said Alex Biegler, founder and CEO. “A lot of the big guys are in big cities around the country.”
At ISPO in Germany, the world’s largest international trade show, Colorado is sending five companies to represent the Centennial state, and three of them were at SIA and are in or began in the Rocky Mountains: Cirque Mountain, Weston Snowboards and Phunkshun.
“The state is behind it, which is really cool,” Biegler said.
That trade show begins in early February, a quick turnaround for the businesses, but will Weston get its tiny house over the ocean?
➤ OTHER LOCAL TOUCHES
SOS Outreach, a nonprofit based out of Edwards, has a booth set up out front of the entrance to the show room, talking to people about its national youth development program.
SOS Outreach, which has gotten 50,000 children outdoors since its inception in 1993, is always looking for volunteers.
“We’re serving about 5,000 kids this year through year-round programs, so it’s not just skiing and snowboarding,” said Kristina Chesney, talking to people at the booth Thursday.
At the Uvex goggles booth, Avon local Taylor Seaton’s new goggs were on display — the Big 40.
“What can I say about them?” asked Philipp Richter, director of marketing for Uvex. “It’s a large goggle with a large field of view and it’s really comfortable to wear. Here, just have a look.”
Uvex meets with its athletes on a constant basis, and Seaton is a part of that.
“They know best,” Richter said. “They can give us some good feedback.”
The crew from SYNC Performance in Vail made the drive to Denver for a few days at SIA.
“We’re here to party,” Phil Shettig said, referring to the family atmosphere that SIA provides.
In the past, Shettig and Geof Ochs have had a SYNC booth set up, but this year they were just roaming, catching up with clients and taking in the scene.
“When we come down here, to be quite honest, we’re pretty excited to say we’re in Vail,” Shettig said. “We’re in the mountains, steps away from our consumers.”
The gathering at SIA is where like minds unite to talk snowsports.
“You get to see all of the people that formed this world,” Tonazzi said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at (970) 748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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