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Outdoor Retailer: Fun and frivolity abounded

The SNEWS team goes the extra mile to bring you Outdoor Retailer reports from Little Dell to the men's room and beyond.

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Little Dell Open Air Demo

>> Nearly 40 exhibitors played host to a pack of retailers that, while fewer in overall numbers than the year before according to most accounts, were more in the mood to play and test than in years past. Our team first enjoyed a walk-by spritz of protective sunscreen from the ever-present Jeff Kletter of Kinesys and then headed out to play under the blue skies in boats, in the water, and on the slackline (darn near killing ourselves).

>> Etiquette lessons requested: Our spies during set-up (yes, SNEWS is everywhere) tell us that this year, at least one manufacturer that shall remain nameless for the company’s own protection, acted especially boorish demanding this and that to the point of being moved twice to accommodate various demands. Be warned that if this behavior is repeated next year, we will print names! OR staff and on-site volunteers work too hard to suffer such abuse. No one manufacturer is more important than the other out there. The demo is for the benefit of the industry, so retailers can get out and play with gear. We would suggest more manufacturers need to learn to work together to make the event more successful, rather than treating it as a “this is all about me” presentation.

>> Raid the Dell is fun, but…. Our own Therese Iknoian participated yet again in the mini-adventure race, co-sponsored by GoLite and Gore-Tex. Nine teams of four to five competitors each — up from the six teams that started last year — heading out just after noon. While a great idea, and certainly fun for many, this year’s race suffered from a series of miscues and miscommunications leaving teams actually completing different courses due to missed checkpoints, hidden checkpoint flags and more. On-the-fly instructions from race directors to shorten the course only served to create more confusion, with only two of the teams we can verify actually completing the complete course, one ending up in last and arriving just in time to see the area being broken down. All-in-all, everyone did receive a fantastic intro into team dynamics and adventure racing challenges, with goodies, food and product that left participants grinning. However, next year, we would recommend that GoLite turn to adventure race organizers who actually know how to put together an adventure race course for such a mixed crowd, and to create alternatives with a shorter version of the course for beginners and a longer version for more experienced racers.

>> Hats off to Thule-sponsored DJ Highball: Kurt Smith (aka DJ Highball) was on hand under a Thule tent with barbecue and drinks working two turntables, mixing the thump-thump sound of progressive house music with other musical oddities. Highball is well known in the climbing community for his Kickin Access parties, where he works the wheels of steel to raise money and awareness for the Access Fund. In the past two years, he’s signed up 2,000 members and raised $70,000.

Tent City expanded
If you wanted further proof that OR was bursting at the seams (beyond the forced move of the non-profits to Advocacy Alley along the hallway beside The North Face), you had only to look at Tent City which looked more like overflow housing than anything owing to the sandbags and concrete instead of cool lawn that is typical at the main Tent City venue. Still, there’s a tradeoff for being much closer to the action and as one retailer told us, he didn’t have to walk as far or cross the road to catch a quick nap.

Poochie’s pissoir
Ruff Wear broke new ground in drawing attention to a trade show booth with a full-sized sculpture of a dog relieving himself on a real fire hydrant at the entrance to their booth — and we’re sure it was a boy dog because of the, uh, anatomical nature of the sculpture. In case you are curious, and we know because we asked (we’re investigative reporters after all and have a duty to ferret out the facts), the dog is pumping through about 1,750 gallons of water per hour. And that, dear SNEWS readers, is why hydrants are made from rust-proof steel.

Wobblers wobble but they don’t fall down
The rules of the eighth annual Wasatch Wobble, which was run at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, were easy: Do not puke on Montrail’s loaner shoes; if you do not have fun, the entry fee would be refunded (Ed. Note: It was a free event); and no whiner, no wimps. Despite the early hour (maybe next year we can get a crack of noon start?), more than 200 wobblers toed the starting line lamenting late nights, too much booze, tired show legs and altitude-induced oxygen deprivation. The twist this year: Every wobbler was bestowed a colored dot, with the winner of the Wobble being the person who completed the race with the most dots collected enroute. That was the theory. In practice, most everyone was too tired and oxygen-deprived to take the extra energy to nab dots on the run. So it turned into a barter and begging fest at the finish line to get the dots. Renee Henry of Gore-Tex claimed the title of Top Dot with 81 dots, thanks to her Gore-Tex team who “sacrificed” themselves — and convinced others to do the same — for her dot gain.

Race sponsors Montrail, Trail Runner magazine, Suunto, Layers and DeFeet also announced a tongue-in-cheek search for the race motto. Nominations included “The race that eats its young,” and “Sounded like a good idea Friday night.” SNEWS concurs that the run did sound a lot better when we signed up a day earlier. Others must have too, since Montrail gave out 300 race packets with shirts, and nearly another 100 numbers. Higher math skills tell us that means nearly half of those “sounds like a good idea” folks bailed at the alarm’s first call. That said, we can assure those who didn’t make it that watching the sun rise from the hills above the city was nothing short of spectacular. Even if you were gasping for oxygen.

Hashing with the heathens
SNEWS dutifully showed up behind the Dead Goat Saloon for the La Sportiva-sponsored Hash run organized by the local Wasatch Hash House Harriers for a run through the downtown streets of SLC. Many of the La Sportiva women, including Lynn Hill and her doggie Daisy, were there. (Daisy was after the over-athleticism award, it seemed, trying to drag Lynn faster than desired.) We are left to assume that, with one exception, only the women of the company are strong enough to handle a hash run. Our merry band took off after running through the rules of hashing — which took an interminable 15 minutes of banter, song and jocularity — and the consumption of at least one can of beer — Miller Lite or Busch was the preferred beverage (YECH!!!), with one whispered instruction mid-jocularity to hide the cans since a security guard was wandering nearby. Bad bad to have beer on the street in SLC you know!

Our gang of merry Hashers set about chasing two hares — the lucky two who took off 15 minutes prior leaving flour dots and chalk marks as trail signs to follow in their wake — our starting time about 7 p.m.

Here and there we dashed, loped, walked and wandered, following the scent and chalk patterns, with our gang blowing whistles and yelling “On On” to signify we were on trail. Our route took us right through the middle of Temple Square where we were reminded with a scold from two proper ladies that “there is no running in Temple Square.” We thought the answer of, “We’re running in search of God, madam,” was rather good, but the scowl we received in return encouraged speed rather than lingering. Apparently, humor is not high on the list of Mormon attributes.

By 8 p.m., we arrived at the first beer stop — clearly a violation as hashing is supposed to be for “drinkers with a running problem,” and not for runners in search of a drink. Our hashing hosts were clearly disappointed when most of the OR guests looked aghast at watches and told them we were heading back without finishing the run. Frankly, most of the industry stalwarts had had enough and had other fun and business to get to.

La Sportiva had a good idea, but it needed a little refining and tuning. Next year, we would suggest the company try again, this time with more La Sportiva participants, a better announcement of schedule (we were told 6:30 run that would last about 45 minutes), better promoting to get more there, and a more entertaining tour of the pub life in downtown SLC (what hashers do best). Now that would be hashing worth sweating for.

Pissing on the competition
We’ve always found it a bit curious when a company proudly markets itself in the men’s room, in or out of the urinal. Certainly, there is a somewhat captive audience for, say, a minute or two with little else to do but look ahead, or down — conversation strictly forbidden. However, we do have to give JanSport creative humor props for the splashguards in the trade show men’s room sporting both the JanSport logo and the Nalgene logo and the memorable tag “Wiz Kids.” Too often, this industry takes itself far too seriously, so it is refreshing to see such a message that is so, well, on target. Of course, the next time we’re sipping out of a Nalgene hydration system, while wearing a JanSport pack, it will be quite hard to shake the sounds of flushing water out of our minds.

Party glasses worth waiting for?
SNEWS likes parties (and schwag) as much as the next man (or woman). But pu-leez…waiting 30 minutes for a beer for the glass? Such was the case at the Arc’teryx booth on Friday night when one man, tapping one keg had a line that snaked around the booth with those in the queue waiting a whopping 20 to 30 minutes to get to the front. “Are you waiting for the beer or the glass?” SNEWS asked one man. “Yes,” came the answer. Com’ on, these were your basic beer glasses with the Polartec logo on one side and the Arc’teryx logo on the other. Was it really worth the wait?

The next night was Sierra Designs turn for queues, but we think this might have been worth it. The company was serving margaritas. Oh yeah! And the glasses looked like European wine glasses with a stem shaped like a cactus. These were good.

How to eat yourself silly all day while NOT taking care of business
If someone is really, really good, he or she can make it through nearly the entire day without paying for nearly any meals or snacks and getting all kinds of great stuff — and no one knows free food like the media.

Here was our suggestion for this past show: Start at the coffee booths in the halls at 9 a.m. and pay a buck or two for a coffee but scam the great now-traditional Gramicci mug. Head with coffee in hand to the Dunham booth for some of the best waffles complete with fresh berries and whipped cream. Didn’t get enough of a jolt? Pop into the Vibram booth for a truly fine Italian espresso.

Around noon, head out to the Pavilion for a few nibbles of the best BBQ around at Tony Chacheres spice booth. How about brisket or some turkey that is so melt-in-your mouth that one taster said, “This is turkey? I don’t normally like turkey!” OK, had your meat fill? Then head back into the main hall and on over to the Polartec stand to scoop into a bowl of Haagen Dazs. Yummy. If you haven’t had enough to eat, you can do a second small lunch at the Backpacker’s Pantry booth, starting with a main course like salmon pasta, then digging into some brownies. After that, if you haven’t had your fill yet, just grab candies, chocolate, licorice and gummi bears from reception tables.

By 4, you should have worked up a good thirst. If you’ve got your eyes open you can find a plethora of parties starting about now featuring good beer, imported wine, and other varieties of alcohol such as fine European Scotch and margaritas. To get to the good stuff, you must be cunning and aware. Invariably, these parties will offer nibbles to go with the booze. Don’t be shy. Grab pretzels, nuts, crackers, chips and salsa, veggie dips and even Brie if you landed in the right place. If you’re good enough, you’ll be sufficiently full and you won’t need to open your wallet for dinner. Just remember, this is a bring-your-own-Tums affair.