SIA Snow Show in Denver looks to 2015-16, on-snow at Copper next week | SummitDaily.com

SIA Snow Show in Denver looks to 2015-16, on-snow at Copper next week

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@summitdaily.com

The future is now for the ski and snowboard industry at the Denver Convention Center this week.

SnowSports Industries America (SIA), the member-owned winter-sports trade association, is hosting its annual Snow Show Thursday, Jan. 29, through Sunday, Feb. 1. The convention will be followed by two on-snow demo days at Copper Mountain Resort Monday, Feb. 2, and Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Much like the semiannual Outdoor Retailer convention, the Snow Show is an chance for companies to show next year's products to retailers and the media.

Closed to the public, any guest at the convention must have a direct tie to the industry as a manufacturer, distributor, retailer, company representative or member of the media.

For smaller ski companies like Breckenridge-based Rocky Mountain Undergound, which focuses more on all-mountain and backcountry skis, it's an opportunity for more exposure.

"The walk through traffic has been busy," RMU marketing operations coordinator Stephanie Wiesemann said. With a booth located between industry giants Rossignol and Volkl, she added that RMU has turned some heads with its new designs.

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Close to 20,000 industry insiders from across the country make the pilgrimage to the convention, which annually features about 1,000 brands. Now in its 61st year, the Snow Show has been held in Denver each of the last six years.

More than just skis and snowboards, the show includes all things winter sports, from new jackets and goggle designs to the latest in backcountry safety technology. SIA also presents its research on the state of the industry and trends in sales.

INDUSTRY ON THE UPSWING?

There was a sense optimism again at this year's convention, as the industry continues to show signs of rebounding from its economic downturn.

According to SIA's research of industry trends and sales, snowsports-related equipment and apparel accounted for $3.6 billion in retail sales last year. That figure was up 7 percent from the previous year and somewhat surprising considering below-average snowfall in the West.

But with an aging baby-boomer population leaving the sport, there remains some concern about bringing new participants to skiing and snowboarding.

WHAT'S NEW?

Lighter is better was one of the themes at this year's convention, from helmet and boot to ski and snowboard designs. The emphasis on lightweight gear is in part a response to the growing appeal of backcountry travel. Backcountry gear was once again a focus, with more companies delving into the market.

Notable among snowboard manufacturers was a trend toward more creative surf-inspired designs.

"Everybody is doing really funky powder boards," said Pete Wurster, founder of Silverthorne-based Unity Snowboards. "That's definitely the movement. Every brand pretty much has a surf-inspired pow-board."

Wurster opted not to have a Unity booth at this year's convention but attended the event to get a feel for what others in the industry were doing.

He said that more companies also seem to be adding a splitboards — snowboards that come apart for backcountry touring — to their snowboarding lines.

The convention portion of the show wraps up Sunday before heading to Copper Mountain for on-snow gear demos Monday and Tuesday.