It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; or so that’s what was told to me depending on who you asked. As I wandered around the aisles aimlessly dodging the slow walking hordes of overweight buyers from the Midwest dragging their wheeled carry-ons behind them, it became evident that this trade show, the annual Snowsports Industry of America, was in its death throes. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve come for over a decade which makes me believe it has lost its shine or maybe it’s just the fact as a realist working in a medium that the snowboarding industry has been slow to embrace I see the complete lack of a need for a trade show in this current format.
The truth is, it’s stagnant and in dire need of a blood transfusion or to put some of the proverbial dinosaurs out to pasture that feel this is the only way to do things. Adapt or die needs to be the new mantra of SIA.
It reminded me of the last days of ASR right before it died – Brad Farmer Flux Bindings/Marketing Farmer
Enter Parts & Labor a new trade show with a new format. A fresh take on a stale format, or perhaps just something different that resonates more with snowboarders. I honestly don’t know, even though I went to this show two days in a row and each day I found myself asking, “Do we even need this?”
With SIA you get the more polished glitz and glam showcased under neon lights that are slowly sucking the life force out of you, while at Parts & Labor the lighting was a bit darker and seemed to hide the rough hewn edges that smaller brands cling to. While SIA made a big spectacle of allowing exhibitors to serve beer earlier, P&L blew the Colorado weed industry into your face. This could have been one of the defining characteristics that set apart which type of snowboarder was going to which show.
As my day started at SIA I would be greeted by the overly enthusiastic man who has greeted me since the show came to Denver, he is a character in and of itself. At the upstairs door they scan your badge without a regard to if you’re the person you claim you are, even though they make it a huge ordeal to register as media. Or at least they make me jump through hoops, either way fuck it. As I enter I’m enveloped in old white people in business casual attire surrounded by ski equipment and chotchkey wares. I make my way back to the snowboard section, where in years past as you meander through the temporary food court you are greeted by a ever growing rumble. This year it’s not even a dull roar, it’s more like that of a third full restaurant during the blue plate special. This year the snowboard section seems even more crammed into the back corner, probably because the dead zone as I call it (the area where bad ideas go to die) is empty. I don’t mean there’s shitty companies there, I mean it’s literally empty. There is only one company with a binding swivel plate this year, as opposed to the year there were no less than five. There’s a few random little companies interspersed here or there, but by and large the layout is more spacious than in years past.
Some booths are empty, not even the owners are present, others are packed with reps, regional riders, and that odd family walking around trying to get free handouts. Running into various reps, board designers, and marketing people the consensus is that this is the smallest SIA we’ve ever seen.
As my day ends at Parts & Labor I have to either find a cab, Uber, or wait for the marijuana fueled party bus that will take me there. Even still I’m not sure when that bus picked up, nor do I care. My cab ride on the first day had me pondering if this Somili refugee was kidnapping us or if the show was really that far down in a suburban industrial wasteland. It turned out to be the latter and I say wasteland based on the fact I didn’t even have 3g on my phone. At the door I was greeted by various industry miscreants there to give support to Joe from Nightmare Snowboards or to showcase their little brand. Inside though a tough as nails bouncer sat, ready to ID me to see if I was of age to partake in Colorado’s newest cash crop. There was a slight hum inside, but that seemed to be coming from the weed bar and less from the art show inspired hall.
Upon entering there was a wall of marijuana plants that I and as it seemed others could give two fucks about and then there were the brands. If SIA was empty, day one of P&L from the time I saw it which was after 4 p.m. was dead. I wandered around shaking the hands of people I work with and to get their take on if the show is going well. The consensus is that it was a far cheaper option than SIA. Some were enthusiastic about the premise, others were questioning if they had made the right choice. It was a bit of a mixed bag, but I can say with certainty that no one looked as stressed out or drained like they did while they were at SIA.
The weed industry is going to save snowboarding! – Tylor Berreth Yes. Regional Pro
Day two was much of the exact same, although P&L had picked up, which was to be expected as it was a Saturday. It was nice to talk with new brands that I wouldn’t have met at SIA as well as not be interrupted by people just there to get free products. That was the difference on Saturday between SIA and P&L.
In the end as I sit here a few weeks detached from the show and having read through various emails with people I had attempted to interview before P&L as well as talking with others and reading the numerous recaps, I have to question if we even need a trade show in either format. I’ve decided going forward that I will be done with trade shows and only attend the on-snow portion unless something changes. It’s more enjoyable, you can still get what you need done from a media standpoint, and it will be cheaper.
It’s funny writing this article as yesterday I read an email from the president of SIA Nick Sargent where he continuously preached that the industry must come together and be unified while trying something new, yet what you see is tired and old. It even mentioned that we should try to discredit show poachers and how they are the only winter sports show in Denver till 2030. Frankly, those poachers and SIA should be working together. K2lso ditch Denver, that place sucks. As someone that lives just over an hour from there it costs me more to do three days of a trade show there than it ever did to do a full four days in Vegas.
As we sit here in a pivotal time while the landscape in snow retail and media changes those in the industry need to take a long hard look at how they will make this industry survive for them. Because as we all know, snowboarding will happen no matter if the Burtons, Sims, K2’s, or Bataleons continue to exist.
There’s good and bad from both of these shows and while the good is great, the bad is horrendous. It might be time to re-evaluate if the show should be moved from a city to a resort. A resort that can handle a huge conference of snow sliding types. My .02 cents which seems to be what people agree on, but no one wants to enact is to make the show happen at a big enough resort where there could be a three day demo for the industry. Where buyers, media, reps, regional riders, and the such could congregate to ride the product and share in the stoke of snowboarding during the day and then in the mid to late afternoon and early evening talk business. But what do I know, I run the most irrelevant website in snowboarding, and won’t be attending a trade show next year.