I’ve just spent the last week at the circus known as SIA, the annual ski and snowboard convention for sellers and buyers of gear. It’s usually a fun event. There are parties, girls, and more parties. There’s a ton of cool new gear to check out. And there’s the chance, albeit rare, that some business will actually get done.
If you haven’t heard of this event, don’t worry. It’s an industry insider lovefest: The general public is not invited or welcomed. And the fact that this is a VIP only lovefest raised some questions in my mind.
Sunday, February 1, was the last day of the show, and quite a sleepy one at that. One reason was that because SIA relocated from Las Vegas to Denver this year, event organizers were able to have a huge on-snow event for two days up at Winter Park. So, with the circus moving to whiter surroundings, everyone was getting the hell out of Denver on Sunday and heading to the mountains. The convention center was dead.
But back to the questioning. There are a lot of skiers and snowboarders in Denver. What if the folks who ran SIA opened the show on Sunday to the general public?
Better yet, what if they sold packages that included getting into the Denver convention center on Sunday and then the opportunity to hit Winter Park on Monday and Tuesday to try some of next year’s toys in an orgy of sneak preview bliss?
I think they should.
One of the sad trends that I’ve watched over the last decade in skiing and snowboarding is the growing elitism of both sports. Pick up a copy of, say, Freeskier Magazine or Transword Snowboarding Magazine, and it becomes painfully obvious that most of us don’t go to the “right” parties, don’t hang with the “coolest” people and, well, we pretty much suck.
But while we may suck, it’s the common man (and woman’s) hard-earned dollars that keep those oh so cool kids in baggy pants year after year, fund the sponsors that fund their parties, and feed the magazines that strictly cover trips with the best pros to the most exotic destinations in the world, trips that we’ll never be able to do in our lifetimes.
So, my proposal stands. Instead of hosting our biggest event behind closed doors, we should open the door a crack and let the regular folks in. These people need to see—and hear—the story behind rocker from the manufacturers themselves. They need to check out—and start lusting for—next year’s outerwear. They need to talk to product designers, developers, and pros to understand why spending their hard earned cash next fall on the new crop of gear is a good investment, an investment that will make them better skiers.
In other words, if we want our winter sports to prosper, everyone needs to be invited to the party.
To read Tom Winter's other columns, go to www.skiingmag.com/winteronwinter.