Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Outdoor Retailer

The 5 big themes of Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show 2018

A lot went down last week in Denver, but these were the conversations that kept coming up over and over.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

It’s been nearly a week back in reality after all the fun at the first combined Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, but we’re still savoring our favorite moments. We identified 5 topics that everyone seemed to be talking about.

1. Unity

5 big themes at outdoor retailer

The merging of the minds — Outdoor Retailer with Snowsports Industries America’s annual Snow Show — illustrated just how vital it is to link arms to celebrate and strengthen the outdoor industry. For decades, different leading organizations have been independent in launching initiatives and having the important conversations. But a new relationship has been forged, and collaboration is key. Todd Walton, of SIA, said retailers were stoked about the crossover for business reasons and for the chance to meet new people equally psyched about the outdoors.

Todd Walton
Todd Walton of SIAIan Reid

“When it comes down to it, the show is about everyone being in one place at one time and there’s tons of positive energy around that,” said Walton. “What SIA is focused on is continuing that energy year-round and taking some action — not just at the show, but moving the industry forward and collaborating to be as effective as possible.”

Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer’s show director, echoed Walton’s reflections. She said there were 29,000 total attendees, more than 7,500 registered retail buyers from 60 countries and 1,000 brands. “For the first time in history, both communities were together under one roof. The buzz and excitement was palpable and we heard from many buyers and retailers that the event was exactly what they have been looking for.”

2. Advocacy

When the clock struck 7 p.m. last Wednesday, a hard-to-miss countdown clock was projected onto a building in downtown Denver as a message that Feb. 2 was a day not to forget — the day when extractive companies could begin staking claim on more than two million acres that were formerly within Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

5 themes of Outdoor Retailer
The facade of the McNichols building was lit up in dramatic fashion with a clock ticking down to the moment when extractive industries would be allowed into the national monument.Kristin Hostetter

The projection by Patagonia, The Wilderness Society and Conservation Lands Foundation at the entrance of the Night Zero party was the start of many conversations surrounding climate change, public lands and environmental advocacy throughout the weekend.

“Our goal was to raise awareness about the administration’s imminent sell-out of our national monuments to mining and drilling interests, and we think the countdown clock projection was an effective, creative way to do that,” said Corley Kenna, Patagonia spokeswoman. “We saw a lot of support for the effort from the many Americans whose voices were ignored by the Administration when they eliminated the protections. And we appreciate the response from Colorado’s lawmakers – especially Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet – who continue to put the protection of public lands at the top of their agenda.”

But now that the date has passed, what’s next? Corley said Patagonia and other conservation-centered organizations are putting up a fight — through lobbying and future campaigns — for up to 10 other national monuments that could lose protections.

3. Honoring our elders

Elizabeth Hawley in a blue sweater holding a stuffed animal
Elizabeth Hawley, 1923-2018Wikepedia

The first day had not even gotten underway when news broke that Warren Miller, the father of ski filmmaking, had passed away after 93 years of inspiring people to strap their feet onto skinny planks of wood. At the Outdoor Industry Association breakfast, climber Conrad Anker and snowboarder Jeremy Jones led a moment of silence for Miller in an auditorium packed with people. And as the day unfolded, those same people exchanged stories of the man known for his wit and eye for stellar ski shots.

Warren Miller
Warren Miller, 1924-2018Warren Miller Films and Entertainment

“Warren was an absolute legend and a true ski bum at heart,” said Todd Jones, co-founder of Teton Gravity Research. “He never veered from what he believed in and thought was right. He was also one of the best storytellers in the world.”

Then, on Friday, word spread that Elizabeth Hawley died at the age of 94. She was a tenacious journalist who grilled high-altitude climbers and chronicled their hiking expeditions on the Himalayas for more than 50 years in the epic mountaineer’s resource she founded, the Himalayan Database.

They will forever be remembered in our industry.

4. Diversity/Inclusion

On one day, REI’s Laura Swapp presented about the impact of the Force of Nature campaign featuring women of all ages, colors and sizes. On another day, a coalition of American Indian recreation enthusiasts shared their message about how the outdoor industry can partner with indigenous people to save public lands.

5 themes of Outdoor Retailer
From left to right: Gale Straub, Jolie Valera, Elyse Rylander, Brooklyn Bell, Katie Boué, Shelma Jun, and Jenn Brunson participated in panel discussion.Spencer Cox

Katie Boué moderated an all-female panel about how to use social media to advocate for social justice and environmental issues. “While there is still so much work to do in the inclusion and diversity space, as someone who has been attending OR for over six years, the shift and progress was tangible at this show,” said Boué. “The difference between my first show in 2012 and now is huge.”

And Camber Outdoors hosted a standing room only breakfast and panel discussion with industry heavy hitters Jerry Stritzke, Sally McCoy, Donna Carpenter, and Ken Meidell to discuss the evolution of its CEO Pledge and how to move forward on gender equality. 

Yes, the industry has come a long way in its inclusivity problem and it’s getting better at embracing that people of color are not only interested in the outdoors, but leaders, too. Yet there’s still so much work to do. We all seem to agree on that.

Denver Convention Center
Brother Bear is watching!Lauren Danilek

5. The show’s new digs

From the big blue bear to the gigantic windows to the zero-waste stations, Denver’s Convention Center made for an attractive and navigable new home for the trade show. Many of the show’s old-timers, who knew every turn at the Salt Lake City location, were worried about getting lost. But after getting turned around a few times, the numbered, grid-like floorplan made finding booths a breeze.

“I will forever be bitter about OR leaving my city — Salt Lake City — but I think the show was excellent, especially considering how quickly the Outdoor Retailer team moved it to a new city,” Boué said. “The blue bear is totally what won me over.” Meaning, Denver as a whole won her — and many others — over.

Nicholson said the show occupied over a half million net square feet in the Colorado Convention Center. “The City of Denver welcomed us with open arms and the events leading up to this show helped us created an even better experience for all. We are grateful for all the government officials, especially Governor John Hickenlooper, for joining us. We also were thrilled by being able to open up events to the public so that they too could join our amazing community.”