Outdoor Retailer Expo 2010

Dave Reuss's picture
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From multi-national companies to local brands, this famous tradeshow in downtown Salt Lake City gives just about everyone in the outdoor industry a chance to demo products, make connections, and otherwise have a damn good time. And after a grueling 7 hour drive (only getting pulled over twice for ‘allegedly’ speeding),Crowd at the Outdoor Retailer Expo 2010 we rolled into Mormon-central, ready to join the throng and soak in all the cutting-edge toys from the best outdoor companies.

As soon as I rode the main escalator down and stepped on to the convention floor, my jaw dropped and my eyes went wide. The Salt Palace, which boasts over 500,000 square feet of exhibition space, was absolutely packed, overflowing with extravagant booths touting the latest and greatest in outdoor gear. This year, the show boasted over 40,000 visitors and nearly 800 brands, 170 of those being new companies.

There was literally everything related to the outdoors I could think of: climbing, skiing, mountaineering, camping, backpacking, cycling, hunting, and much, much more. The scene instantly reminded me of a glitzy gaming floor in some sprawling Vegas casino: endless fields of pristine eye-candy, no clocks, no natural light, and the sneaking suspicion that someone was pumping in pure oxygen to keep everyone elated. Add in rubbing elbows with sponsored athletes, pull-up competitions at the climbing booths, and free kegs of beer at 4 pm, and I was in absolute heaven. (Arc-teryx, never to be outdone, was offering free vodka-Red Bulls. We camped there for a while.)Outdoor Retailer Expo 2010

We were all a little overwhelmed and an overnight storm left 12” of fresh powder in the Wasatch range, so we decided to give the OR show a one-day break to venture up Big Cottonwood canyon and sample the terrain at Solitude. It was the best skiing I’ve had in a long time. Excellent snow brought on “hero” conditions, and we found skiiers hooting with joy and launching off every cliff, completely unafraid of their pillowy landings. Multiple times, I found myself effortlessly floating through the powder, the nose of my board would dip, and I’d cartwheel headfirst into the snow. Hopelessly clawing at the powder trying to right myself, I couldn’t help but love it.

That night, we checked out the Salt Lake nightlife at Club Elevate (invitation only), where Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 fame was performing. We camped at the bar in a kind of social experiment, wondering how long it would take the rowdy U-tards to feverishly elbow us aside to get their $7 half-shots of Crown Royal. We lasted a Club Elevate in Salt Lake Citysurprisingly long time. We then migrated to the dance floor, and with Chali and his live band ripping it up on stage, the O/B crew promptly decided that a career in rap might be infinitely more satisfying and lucrative than the magazine trade. Look for our first album to drop sometime in the Fall.

After a few late night misdemeanors, we nursed our hangovers and returned to the show the next morning. I had been wondering about how much companies were shelling out for these elaborate displays, and after chatting up one of the booth owners, we learned that a glamorous OR booth doesn’t come cheap. Start with a base price of $20 a square foot, then add in the cost of the booth display, staff to run the thing, and product to fill it with, and you might be looking at $20,000 for a medium-sized booth. I could only imagine the kind of cash required to fill some of the larger spots, which were approaching the size of tennis courts.Crowd at the Outdoor Retailer Expo 2010

With free, real beer flowing from every other vendor, amazing skiing conditions, and an Outside Bozeman record of only three police altercations, Winter OR 2010 was an amazing experience. If this Salt Lake adventure has taught me anything, its these life lessons: shmooze like you mean it, doing 22 in a pull-up contest won’t get you anywhere, and never believe a “cop” wearing a badge you could buy online. Now that the Summer OR show is on the horizon, our goal this time around is not to prompt anyone to say, “SIR! Keep your hands on the truck-bed or I WILL put you in handcuffs!”

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