Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 is now underway, and our roving reporter Sara Lingafelter is on the scene to keep us apprised on what's going on. Here is her first post of the show:
The All Mountain Demo kicked off Outdoor Retailer on Wednesday at Solitude ski area, a short drive from Salt Lake City. OR is the largest U.S. trade show for the outdoor industry, and the All Mountain Demo is our opportunity to try out gear from manufacturers a full season before it hits the market. This isn't my first rodeo—it's my sixth visit to Outdoor Retailer, and spending a day skiing for work at the All Mountain Demo is always a particular treat.
When the ski shuttle arrived at Solitude this year, I was daydreaming about the All Mountain Demo from last year. The Wasatch had experienced a long hiatus in fresh snow prior to the show, and on demo day the whole hill was ecstatic that over 8" of fresh powder had fallen the night before. As a novice skier who'd never before skied powder, I provided entertainment to the fellow show attendees riding the lift overhead as I tried to figure out just how on earth to ski all that fluffy stuff. I skied demo fat skis all day, and spent as much time dusting fresh powder off my helmet and goggles after wrecking as I did skiing.
It was awesome.
Fast forward to this year's demo. When I landed in Salt Lake, I chatted up my shuttle driver who confirmed my fears: The snow just isn't in yet. As we unloaded from the ski bus, Kevin, our greeter at Solitude gave us the rundown on where to go for what. He wrapped up his introduction with the comment: "The motto of the day today is: Help someone, today!"
When I got off the bus, I was shocked by the sight of bare trees and a visible lack of coverage on the hills. The conversation around the demo was partly about business but mostly about conditions here in Utah—one of the United States' great ski destinations—and at home for show attendees. Those of us from the Pacific Northwest, who are experiencing snow in the lowlands and a great season in the mountains, are the envy of our friends from destination ski areas in Colorado, Utah and California.
I checked out a pair of not-yet-on-the-market Black Diamond women's skis with a nifty new Plum TLT-style binding to try out. "If they don't hold an edge the way you're looking for in these conditions, bring 'em back and we'll try something else," the ace who fit the skis to my boots said as I skied out of the BD booth.
As I rode the lift with Larry, a construction worker from New Jersey, we chatted about the conditions. He pointed around the hill saying that it's better up high, but he confirmed what my eyes told me: down low on the mountain was hardpacked and icy. "Over there," he waved toward the left side of the ski area, "it's not good even by East Coast standards."
My skiing has improved since last year, so the icy conditions weren't as baffling as last year's powder—or quite as much fun (although, there's no complaining about a day of work spent on skis). I worked my way down to a line called "Inspiration" that turned out to be hardpacked moguls with tufts of grass sticking out the top.
After that, I decided to call it a ski day, say a little thank you to the Snow Gods and add my own motto for the day: "More snow, please." As I headed back to return my skis, I saw one little guy whose enthusiasm wasn't flagging. Luke, who was touring the demo with his mom and dad, tried out a pair of MSR Denali Tyker snowshoes and absolutely refused to have them taken off. When his dad knelt down to try to snap off the snowshoes, 2-year-old Luke took off down the demo aisle, and I didn't see him again.
Salt Lake City, along with much of the country, is doing a snow dance. Signs outside of businesses in town read: "Pray for Snow."
By the afternoon flakes started falling at Solitude, and the weather report calls for snow continuing through the week. If the forecast holds, Salt Lake residents will be breathing a sigh of relief, packing their skis and heading for the hills this weekend—along with more than a few of Outdoor Retailer's 20,000+ attendees who book their travel to the show each winter with ski days tacked on.
For more coverage from the show this week, please visit our Facebook page where we'll be posting photos and news as it happens. Stay tuned for a wrap-up of what's new and cool for fall 2013 on The REI Blog on Monday!
Photos by Sara Lingafelter.