Snow Sports Industry Converges in Denver

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3min 57sec

Outdoor enthusiasts hope the snowfall Colorado’s been getting over the past couple of weeks will continue, after dismal early winter conditions. This week state tourism officials ran a full-page ad in the New York Times proclaiming the snow’s return in an effort to boost visits to Colorado ski resorts. Right now thousands of people are in downtown Denver because of winter recreation. Companies are displaying their newest gear at the SnowSports Industries America Snow Show. Colorado Public Radio’s Anna Panoka stopped by the convention center Thursday, and here is a transcript of her report:

SOUND: cowbells ringing

REPORTER ANNA PANOKA: Denver officials helped industry leaders kick off this year’s trade show with cowbells. And, just like there are times you need more cowbell, the companies showcasing their wares want to see more snowfall. Kelly Davis is research director for the trade group that puts on the show - she says sales have taken a hit this season.

KELLY DAVIS: At the end of November we were up significantly and as the snow failed to fall in December, we fell a bit – we’re 2 percent down in in dollars compared to last season.

REPORTER: Lack of snow, Davis says, explains most of the variance in sales in the snow sports industry. And she says accessories like gloves and goggles take more of a hit than higher-priced items like skis and snowboards.

DAVIS: You’re buying those thinking about some activity you’ll do in the future – where hey, snowshoes, it snowed, it would be fun to do that in the neighborhood, walk your dog in the snowshoes. Or, I need a new hat or I need new gloves, or I forgot my goggles, I need new goggles.

REPORTER: Or you need warm socks. Steamboat Springs-based Smartwool is known for its merino wool socks. Amy Beck is the company’s Vice President of Sales for North America.

AMY BECK: Absolutely has it been a tough year – has there been no snow, accross the country and then a lack of cold weather on the East Coast has also been a challenge for us but we absolutely still continue to see success on our sock business and on the broader product offering.

REPORTER: Beck says Smartwool isn’t just about socks anymore. It sells sweaters and layers and Beck says the company is expanding its apparel line next season. It’s also boosting its use of a new technology called PHD.

REPORTER: So you’re going to show me what PHD is.

BECK: It’s really, again, the highest degree of performance in it’s all around fit, durability, and really making the socks perform for your end use. So, enhancing the high wear areas of the sock.

REPORTER: Comfort and detail are a big deal at the snow show. J.J. Collier is Vice President for Design and Marketing for Boulder-based ski-wear manufacturer Spyder.

J.J. COLLIER Stretch fabrics have been critical, that’s sort of the new baseline, even down into the lower price point product. Highly breathable fabrics is another trend that’s sort of come from outdoor - that’s one of those things that might trickle down from mountaineering. Color is the most obvious thing looking around right now.

REPORTER: Collier walks through Spyder’s booth pointing at dozens of bright jackets. Color also seems to play a big role in what people strap onto their feet. Hand-crafted designs on skis made by Denver-based Icelantic are displayed on a well-lit white wall as if they were in an art gallery. Company founder Ben Anderson says he hasn’t really felt the impact of the early season snow drought:

BEN ANDERSON: Sales have been great for us. I mean, we’ve doubled from last year and we actually already sold out, we sold out in mid-November. Truly it couldn’t be better.

REPORTER: Anderson says having something new and different on the market is key. Winter recreation businesses are hoping skiers and boarders are as optimistic about the rest of the season, as Anderson is about his product. The Snow Show runs through Sunday. I’m Anna Panoka, Colorado Public Radio News.

Click here for information about the SIA Snow Show.