Erica was part of the NOLS: Expedition Denali team, winners of the 2014 Inspiration Awards. Photo by NOLS.

Outdoor Retailer trade show wrapped-up last week, January 24, 2014 in Salt Lake City, UT, marking another successful show and capturing the energy of the on-going evolution of the industry about the outdoors. One of the most exciting aspects took place during the 2014 Outdoor Inspiration Awards, created by Adidas Outdoors, and the attention brought to increasing awareness about outdoor sports and the brands and people that are changing the course of the industry.

NOLS: Expedition Denali won in the group category, bringing specific attention to introducing outdoor sports to underserved communities, in this case, African-American youth. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) ran it’s first expedition with African-Americans on a Summit of Denali in June, 2013, which also marked the 100th anniversary of the first ascent of North America’s highest peak. The chosen team included a diverse group of young men and women, plus a support team, that trained for
months for this climb and learned the important skills of teamwork, communication, and training for this climb.

NOLS: Expedition Denali also had an inspiring campaign via Kickstarter which helped to raise funds for the climb. While there’s an obvious need to bring greater attention to diversity to the outdoor industry, as one climber put it after the ascenet, there’s even more of a need to introduce the outdoors to young people as a whole. What he made clear is that here he was, a 22-year-old college-educated young man, who for the first time, did something outdoors.

Young climbers autograph signing at Adidas Outdoors.

Lack of introductions for young people to outdoor sports starting even with the basics of going for a hike or camping, are an ongoing issue in this industry.  Adidas Outdoors is one brand who has been pushing hard to get this changed. On-site at the show they hosted an autograph session featuring young male and female climbers, and brought attention to the fact that the future of the outdoor industry lies in creating greater awareness among a new generation towards getting active, being outside, and eventually, becoming stewards of natural places.

Other winners of the Inspiration Awards included Timbuk2 in the company category for their pioneering spirit in cycling. The San Francisco-based company launched the movement of messenger bags in 1989. Since its inception, the company has been a supporter of Bike to Work Month on a national scale each May. Timbuk2’s involvement in Bike to Work Day reflects the company’s unremitting dedication to promoting the positive benefits of cycling on individuals, communities, and the environment. Timbuk2 Bike to Work Month activities included: Bike to Work Day Energizer Stations, Bike to Work Day Instagram Contest, a Bianchi x Timbuk2 Limited Edition Bag which honors Timbuk2’s unique bike heritage and allegiance to two-wheeled machines, GoPro Bike Commuting Videos, a Facebook Sweepstake, and an awareness campaign at the Bike Expo New York.

Jeff Lowe was granted a special Lifetime Achievement award. Lowe, an American alpinist from Ogden, Utah, is known for his visionary climbs and first acents established in the US and Canadian Rockies, Alps and Himalayas. In 2004, he had to give up climbing and now continues his passion for climbing through Ogden Climbing Parks. His goal is to promote and develop the climbing potential around Ogden, Utah. In addition, he runs programs enabling underprivileged children and those with disabilities to enjoy the climbing experience.

“This years’ winners are incredible brand ambassadors for our industry,” said Greg Thomsen, managing director, Adidas Outdoor USA.“Each has found the time to impart the amazing benefits of outdoor pursuits and have made us a better community. Jeff is an inspiration to all of us, as he finds the strength to battle his challenges today. We thank them for their absolute devotion and commitment. It is always especially tough to choose finalists because all the nominees are all heroes in their own right.”

Other sponsors of the 2014 Inspiration Awards included Boy Scouts of America and Litle & Co.

Stay tuned for more stories posting soon from the Winter Outdoor Retailer 2014 show.