By most accounts the On-Snow Demo at this year's Outdoor Retailer Winter Market was quite a disappointment owing to the absence of most of the major Nordic ski companies and an absence of snow. While it is true that the date conflict with SIA made the no-snow, errr, no-show decision for the ski companies easy, many have told SNEWS they have been considering not going for the last few years regardless.
Those same ski manufacturers have told us that they estimate it costs them up to $15,000 to rent a space, man the two-day event (staff has to be hired since reps often have sales meetings before a show) and ship demo skis. On top of that, the newest products often don't get tested by the retailers due to all the "friends of the industry" that come out of the woodwork.
By contrast, attendance at the recent Copper Mountain regional demo was significantly up over previous years. Those who showed up were either buyers or key salespeople so the quality of actual testers is higher. Unfortunately, the Nordic track at Copper was very poor for testing. It is likely that other regional ski demos will also play a major role in retail buying decisions for the coming year.
SNEWS View: We have a suggestion. First, lose the idea that this is a demo. It never has been save for a very few dedicated retailers. Second, what people enjoy the most about the "Demo" is having a chance to be outdoors, be together and party. Consider that 400 folks packed into the Apres Ski party tent sponsored by PowerBar the first day of the OR demo this year. So play on that desire to party and play! Call us nutty, but how about canning the first night party altogether, too. Instead, organize busses beginning at noon, the day before the show opens. Bus everyone, including exhibitors, reps, distributors, retailers -- the entire darn industry -- up to the area formerly known as the On-Snow Demo and hold one heckofa party. Open up the slopes to free skiing, under the lights when it gets dark. Put on demonstrations of skill like this year's telemark exhibition. Open up the tracks (if there's enough snow) to skating and classic fiends. Organize races. Head out into the winter wonderland on guided snowshoe hikes, scavenger hunts, you name it. Party down under a huge tent with food, music, games and more. Celebrate the industry and the chance to get together and play until midnight when the last bus heads back to Salt Lake City. Just a thought, mind you.