(Editor's Note: OnTheSnow.com Associate Editor Jill Adler is on the scene in Las Vegas for the huge ski industry trade show. She'll blog daily right here. You can't in the hall without a pass, so come along with Jill through Saturday right here.)
I remember one year, I sat with the president of the now defunct OVO helmet line. "You know what would be really cool? A slot for your ponytail," I said. "A ponyport." All of sudden everyone in the booth at the Ski Industries of America show was a buzz. We were sketching designs, analyzing the placement, clinking beers over the next generation of women's gear. What would you know, but the very next season a women's helmet with a ponyport appeared. Both Boeri and K2 scooped the idea.
If you're wondering what's next for the snowsports industry, who will have the next big innovation or design, SIA is the place. It's where shaped skis first wowed retailers, where snowboard companies first landed legitimacy in the industry, where obnoxious plaids splashed the softgoods scene. This year's show is no different.
Closing out an eight-year stint in Las Vegas, the SIA show has drawn more exhibitor booths, more companies walking the floor. There are about 100 new exhibitors. I've also noticed more first-time attendees like Bailo, Fate clothing and Woolrich; perhaps jumping in before the ski industry packs up in Vegas and moves to Denver next year at the Colorado Convention Center.
Considering the economic climate and weak start to the 2008/09 ski season, that's good news. Ski and snowboard hardgoods, apparel and accessories from socks to digital cameras are represented on the floor.
It's the last hoorah here and few want to miss it. Though SIA organizers are stoked about a move to Denver for a 10-year deal with the city and the Colorado Convention Center, the murmurs from the show floor suggest a less-than-psyched attitude. One sunglass and goggle company owner foretold of an exodus of manufacturers.
"My guess is a lot of companies will look to regional trade shows to showcase their goods rather than fly to Denver," he told me as he wrinkled his nose at the move. Many attendees agree that the SIA show is only part of the reason they're here. They love the relatively warm, consistent climate (and change of scenery), the party atmosphere, the cheap hotel rooms, and the accessiblity. Plus, no one has ever said "What happens in Denver stays in Denver."
As always, the snowboard section of the Mandalay Bay Convention Hall is crowded, loud and buzzing with energy. The rest of the Hall remains relatively civilized as buyers mill around or skip from one meeting to the next, shopping for their 2009/2010 inventories. They also have their ears open for hot product ideas. Who knows who will deliver the next generation of ponyports.
There are trends beginning to take shape. Last year felt like just more of the same. After the rise of wild prints and fabrics for outerwear in 2006, and reverse camber (rocker) skis in 2007, last year's show was like Groundhog Day. This year seems fresher.
We're spotting more kids and youth products and styles (Volkl actually has a Gotama Jr. reverse camber ski) and a finer focus on women's specific items as they have begun to respresent 30 - 35 percent of the winter market. Oakley's Gretchen Bleiler Signature Series offers a wide lens surface area on a smaller frame to maximize the peripheral and downward views through them. The SIA show itself is hosting a "Women's Equipment Center" to showcase the niche. Women's jackets take on a slightly longer length.
More skis with rocker (reverse camber) to target mainstream consumers and not just the freeride pros. No more multi-print jacket and pants combos. You pick. It's your jacket or your pant that has the personality.
OK, it's off to troll the floor for more gossip and gear beta before heading back to the Luxor and changing for the Criss Angel/Cirque du Soleil magic show. One thing that will be sorely missed when SIA flees town is the intense variety of post show entertainment. Also on tap tonight is a farewell to Vegas party sponsored by SIA in Until Rain at the Palms Casino Resort. Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction performs live.
Come back Thursday for another report.