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The SNEWSÂ® team continues with the third in a series of reports designed to provide you, our reader, with complete coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, this time reporting on the Gore media roundtable, the Conservation Alliance breakfast, and the OIWC gathering.
W.L. Gore media roundtable focuses on youth
“I didn’t really hear anything I haven’t heard before, but it was still interesting.” These words from one retailer echoed the comments of many who attended the W.L. Gore Media Roundtable held during OR Winter Market titled “Generation Y — Teens and the Outdoors.”
Twenty-seven media members and dozens of other attendees packed a room at the Marriott Jan. 31 to hear eight teens, ages 14-18, give their take on how the outdoor industry can better reach out to young people.
Most of the teens on the panel hailed from the Salt Lake region, were outdoor enthusiasts, and grew up in families who participate in outdoor activities. Kudos to W.L. Gore for continuing to sponsor these excellent round tables and for managing to compile such an articulate group of kids who were informative and engaging during the hour-long Q&A session; one that covered a wide range of topics.
The dominant topic concerned the barriers that prevent kids from becoming interested in the outdoors. Micah Wheatley, 18, who does everything from kayaking to skiing to climbing, said kids just lack a general appreciation for the outdoors. “I’ve dealt with kids who played organized sports like football, and they’d say, ‘Kayaking sounds stupid! That stuff is hard.’ They’d ask me why I do those crazy things,” Wheatley said. He and his fellow panel members agreed that many of their friends avoided outdoor activities out of sheer laziness.
But they also indicated that even kids who are interested in outdoor activities have limited access. Panel members agreed that schools could play a key role in connecting kids with the outdoors. But Taylor Clyde, 18, mentioned that kids at his school started an outdoor club, only to have the school system put an end to the organization due to a lack of funding. “If you don’t have a parent who’s interested, it’s hard to get involved,” said Wheatley. Even kids with outdoor-oriented parents have trouble branching out into new activities. “I think backcountry skiing would be great,” said Megan Simmons, an 18-year-old avid skier, “but I don’t know where to go for that.”
Bob Monson, a 15-year-old, likes martial arts and he’s recently been bitten by the kayaking bug. He said he and his father haven’t been able to find a good instructional boating class. Fourteen-year-old Renna Paulos said she wished her school had an outdoor club because many of her friends are “lazy and don’t do anything after school” other than homework.
Simmons suggested that retailers should become more involved in organizing trips. Also, she’d like retailers to put more support behind demo programs, so that kids can try an activity to see if they like it before investing heavily. “Demoing and having that option is amazing,” she said.
Addressing the attendees, 16-year-old Jacob Felsch said, “All we need is for you to open the door a little bit more.”
Money seemed to be a key issue affecting access. When asked whether less expensive products would make a difference, Clyde exclaimed, “Definitely! A new pair of skis isn’t cheap.” He and the others explained how many of them earn their own money to buy gear, and many times they get this money by selling old gear to friends.
Monson said he buys cheaper look-alike brands and shops Sierra Trading Post to save money. He also said that if stores would implement student discounts, it “would be huge.” According to Monson, when Snowbird offered students a $99 ski pass, a large number of his friends took advantage of it.
Not all was bad news for high-end dealers. Specialty shops will be happy to learn that quality service is important to Wheatley, while 15-year-old Meghan Johnston appreciates high-quality brands, which she believes are more “trustworthy.” Interestingly, the teens said they weren’t very much affected by the age of the salesperson they dealt with, and cared more about the person’s product knowledge. Fortunately, they generally agreed that older salespeople do not tend to talk down to them.
While the roundtable did not produce many startling revelations, it’s always nice to confirm suspicions and hear things from the horse’s mouth. If there was any criticism from attendees, it was that the panel did not include kids who have no interest in the outdoors. Many people are anxious to hear the X-Box-addicted, overweight segment of the teen population offer its opinion of the outdoors. We wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly what we get next year, and man, is that going to be entertaining!
Conservation Alliance breakfast brings crowd to its feet
The highlight of the Conservation Alliance breakfast was a poignantly personal talk by Brock Evans, tireless godfather of the conservation movement who missed last year’s breakfast as he battled bone cancer. His unflagging work toward protecting the “magical green places on the map” through “endless pressure endlessly applied” and a moving and inspired talk earned him a standing ovation. Lia Morris, project coordinator from grant recipient The Penobscot River Restoration Project updated the audience on her organization’s successes. And six new members joined the Alliance at Winter Market, enhancing the Alliance’s ability to continue funding conservation projects with far-reaching impacts. Since its inception in 1989, the Conservation Alliance has given 130 grants totaling over $4 million.
OIWC evening garners full house despite Super Bowl
The OIWC, fearful it might lose folks to the Super Bowl game, anted up and acquired a television just in case. Turns out, they probably didn’t need it. Over 160 women and men packed the hall for an inspiring and enlightening evening according to our roving reporters. At any one time, only eight or so folk showed much interest in the game. Seems those at the OIWC event were more interested in cocktails and networking — what a concept. Naturally, a large contingent of OIA staff was there to support Norma Hansen (the recipient of the annual Pioneering Woman award) as were a significant number of staff from Marmot in support of their compatriot Laura Meira. OIWC took time to honor both Meira and the other award finalist, Kim Walker, co-owner of Outdoor Divas of Boulder, Colo., before presenting the award to Hansen. Erin McVoy of Big City Mountaineers also took control of the podium for a short presentation urging more women from OIWC to volunteer for its women’s programs and trips. From all the head nodding going on, we have little doubt McVoy stirred interest from the crowd in helping BCM with its trip load. Following the presentations, the gathering broke into groups by discipline — retailers with retailers, design folk with design folk, non-profits with non-profits, CEOs/Entrepreneurs with like-minded folk to discuss and share common challenges, issues and solutions. Word is that the group networking went so well there are plans to continue the format for the next gathering — Summer Market 2004.