The month of January, 2014, has been unusually packed with trade shows and snow sporting news. Starting with the naming of the USA snowboarding team, Kelly Clark’s gold win at Winter X Games in Aspen, Sochi Olympics kick-off, Outdoor Retailer Trade Show, and now, followed up by 2014 SIA Snow Show January 30-February 2, in Denver, CO.
First, for those of us who attend Outdoor Retailer and SIA Snow Show, there are similarities to note. Many trends in outerwear are taking leads for streetwear, no doubt, with a growing number of camo patterns, block colors, nature motifs, and bright colors. Technical fabrics have gotten far more fashionable, especially with more tailored, slimmer silhouettes, which is why sportswear, including first-layer pieces, are trending across the fashion industry.
SIA also announced many changes, including a new Chairman of the Board. Bob Gundra, co-founder of Capita Snowboards and Union Bindings is taking over for Tim Petrick, from K2, as the new chairman of the 16-person SIA board. It will be interesting to see if his roots in snowboarding will help SIA move in a progressive direction.
In an interview with the Snow Sports Daily, Gundra said, “We’re a 60-year old organization. I want to focus on how we can be more nimble moving forward. We have tough participation challenges again.”
One key market potential for increasing participation in snowsports overall is to get more women involved. Not only do women make the majority of purchasing decisions in the family, but as our data has shown, more young women ages 13-25-years-old are interested in learning to snowboard and feel an association with the lifestyle, than males in the same age range.
To this extent, SIA also announced they were concentrating on representing more women and elected 4 new females to the board, increasing the overall percentage on the board up to one-third.
At the 3rd Annual Outdoor Industry Women’s Collation keynote breakfast and awards, the talk centered around the importance of women in management positions in the industry. One of the most powerful panels consisted of Anne-Marie Dacyschyn, VP of marketing for Burton, Liz VerHoeven, marketing director for AIM Mountain Group, and Krista Parry, senior VP and chief innovation officer for Powdr Corp. Each outlined how to increase brand appeal to females and the importance for the snow industry in recognizing the differences in the women’s marketplace.
This is a similar problem with the Outdoor Industry. Female participation, youth culture markets, and creating greater opportunities for a more ethnically diverse marketplace are significant challenges to the growth of all outdoor-related sports in general.
One organization that is addressing the issues of getting more young people into the outdoors and onto the mountains, and increasing diversity is SOS Outreach. Founder Arn Menconi’s organization celebrated its 20th Anniversary at the show, and noted that they have reached some 40,000 kids through their efforts.
Other anniversaries celebrated at the show were Bonfire’s 25th anniversary (see story), and TransWorld Snowboarding Rider Poll Awards recognizing Bryan Iguchi for the Legend Award.
While SIA retains much of its original fun and humor, ranging from Lib Tech’s on-going themed booth reps (this time as the Bluemen-women group), legendary cocktail hours , and networking opportunities, heavy issues were also being tackled. First, Protect Our Winters (POW) hosted a breakfast with SIA and the Aspen Skiing Company’s Environmental Foundation discussing climate issues. Rolling Stone contributing editor, Jeff Goodell spoke about “Field Notes From the Climate Wars.” Obviously, global climate change is greatly affecting the snow sports industry which brings up the bigger picture of sustainability.
High costs of skiing and snowboarding during a time of ongoing economic challenges has also taken its toll on the industry. “Send Off to Sochi” event at SIA honored our athletes headed to the Olympics this week and with it, the hope for generating greater awareness and interest towards increasing participation, especially among a new youth culture.
SIA’s Snowboarding Committee also attempted to re-stoke the passion of snowboarding within the industry itself with a campaign called “Snowboarding Is…” Inspired by Snowboard Committee member Mike West of 686, people could write, draw, and express what snowboarding means to them on a huge billboard-sized panel at the show. Seeing how many showed up to share their stories and read what others had to say brought a street-art type of coolness to the show floor and reminded everyone that snowboarding, and snow sports in general, can mean so much more than just doing the sports themselves. There’s a passion behind it all, a connectedness with nature, mixture of fun, challenges, camaraderie, and accomplishment that you can only get from riding like the wind and feeling a part of something that’s greater than yourself.