The SnowSports Trade Show (SIA) January 22-25 this year illustrated just how far the evolution of skiing and snowboarding have come, and yet how far it still has to go towards increasing consumer awareness of lifestyle products of winter sports goods in general. With the freeride or freestyle skiing movement, of course popularity of snowboarding, and now, snowmobile-cross as highlighted in the Winter X Games (which started the last day of the show), there’s clearly a massive fan base potential for winter sports. But for some brands, retailers, and resorts, the crossover into tapping into the lifestyle of that which so many of us are passionate about, is just coming into the forefront. There’s a demand for winter lifestyle product from a far larger youth culture consumer base than those who presently participate in such sports, but too often winter sports brands simply listen to their athletes-only--without realizing the bigger potential—not to mention influences from other sports, music, and the multi-cultural diversity of the American landscape. However, some brands, as indicated at the recent SIA show, are getting it, perhaps out of necessity, by creating product that’s cool and technical and lifestyle oriented and reaches across boundaries. They’ve realized that reaching outside the core doesn’t necessarily water down the core, but actually increases innovation and the potential participation of new riders and skiers who may move into the sport inspired by the lifestyle of the brand that created such an inclusive cool atmosphere for them. It’s these brands that give me hope in times when the ghost of global warming continues to cast a heavy shadow on the industry.
As usual, the energy was mostly located at the gathering of the tribes (including the Rock Steady B-boy/B-girl dancers) in Hall C—the snowboarding location where small brands and even larger brands are still clearly hungry. Rome Snowboards’ theme in black and white ala Blues Brothers suit, tie, and hat, and corresponding booth display, collage graphics, punk-inspired designs, and general vibe was the corner where most people congregated. The hype surrounding this brand from Vermont definitely reflects that Burton, while still Kind of the Hill in that state, has a small giant that’s climbing the mountain. Volcom and their psychedelic shack theme, complete with tie-die shirts, skirts, “Peace” and “Burn Your Bra” signs, ‘60’s-‘70’s karaoke sing-along sessions, reminded everyone that it’s Peace not War that new-school riders and skiers are into, while Lib Technologies guys kept the humor alive dressed in banana suits and bright yellow skin-peel motifs. Capita Snowboards was popular with their “letters” graphics and artwork on snowboards and booth, reminding everyone of the time this brand was simply a 4 foot but 5 foot space with a couple of artists painting boards live on site. Palmer boards was interesting with hanging boards like a circle of trees that captured art and humor particularly with a Bazooka Joe gum graphic; and Gnu with their wooden artwork and on-site artists painting in their traditional Northwestern themed fashion. Grenade Gloves kept up the military invasion theme with green parachute openings and loads of promo stickers for their upcoming Grenade Strikes Back tour presented by Boost Mobile—a Pro/Am contest series touring rather small mountains with big personalities (and cool snowparks), such as Spirit Mountain, MN, Loon, MT, NH, Raging Buffalo, IL, and June Mountain, CA. You could say that the theme-thing works pretty well, but there were other stand-outs whose theme came from another source, such as Session’s music-inspired aesthetics including punk-skate, plus a very cool denim outerwear outfit (clearly hip-hop inspired), mix of full-on freeski crossover styles with bright colors, and the incorporation of new technology. Sessions introduced a d30 design first layer program that provides a max injury protection composite. The stuff is used in snowboard and ski wear to help prevent injuries, such as on the elbows and knees, and acts like a shock-absorber in the actual material. The d30 looks like a mix between Silly Putty, Goo, and Slime. But it’s red and flows with your movement, then acts like a major shock absorber as demonstrated when hit with a hammer.
As mentioned previously, The Yard (see, “The Yard at SIA—The Space for Up-and-Coming Brands—Provides Cool Vibe, Lounge, DJs, Art, + Street-cred to Winter Sports”), which unfortunately was located in Hall A, far far away from the snowboarding area, also provided a cool vibe and environment for the future of winter sports where new brands in hardgoods and softgoods were located. Read the story from last week for more.
Other brands showcasing innovation was the Burton booth made of recycled cardboard, including the stands for the snowboards, and their Andy Warhol collaboration collection, Nikita and the launch of a couture outwear piece complete with salmon-skin shoulders (which would do well at the Sundance Film Festival), and a new brand called Nōmis out of Canada which uses Venture Technology to produce heated hoodies.
MP3 and iPod pockets or wearable audio products could be found in most outerwear jackets on the market these days, indicating that technology and electronics, inspired by music, is a must-have aspect to winter outwear. On the safety side, Recco avalanche reflectors are also being incorporated into various outwear jackets, such as Sessions.