2023 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show Review

March 13, 2023

By: Joe Sheldon 

Joe Sheldon
On January 10-12, 2023  I had the pleasure of attending the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Salt Lake City. As someone who wants to work in the outdoor industry, this event was an invaluable experience. The convention brought together a wide variety of outdoor products, brands and enthusiasts. Many of the exhibitors sell directly to consumers online and also try to get their products in retail stores. As the retail buyers walk around, the exhibitors are quick to bring them to their activation to demonstrate the value of their product or service. Most of the exhibitors are smaller, lesser known companies. That is not to say that there were no industry titans at the event, but the value is strongest for companies trying to find their footing in the industry. 

Another strong relationship was between designers and exhibitors. Many companies send representatives to this event to look for materials to integrate into their designs. From zippers to GORE-TEX shells, the Snow Show displayed all of the materials one might need to make a product. Many of the designers came from established companies, but many designers were in R&D of their own products looking for the best materials on the market.

In addition to exhibitors, several guest speakers and discussion groups happened across the convention. From inclusivity to inventory management, the Snow Show brought in experts from across the industry to share their insight. 

Conference Image
The annual Innovation Awards took place on January 11th. The new products/companies were graded on four criteria: Spark, Desire, Function and Impact. The convention defines these criteria as seen below. 

  • Spark: concept, design, appeal
  • Desire: opportunity, differentiation
  • Function: innovation, functionality, insight
  • Impact: cultural, environmental, business

A common theme of many of the winners was to move away from petroleum dependence in outdoor products, as a large amount of outdoor clothing and equipment are made from petroleum. This is problematic because petroleum is not only unsustainable, but these products often leak petroleum back into the environment. Several of the winners mentioned in their speeches that the products that we use to enjoy the outdoors should not harm the earth. A common theme in the industry is to put the planet over profits. Many of these companies could increase their bottom line by ignoring environmental needs. However, the outdoor space is less driven by pure capitalism and instead is fueled by a desire to access the outdoors in a safe and sustainable way. Almost all of the products were born as a solution to an issue that the founder encountered in their own outdoor recreation. They then developed a product and decided to share it with the world. Their motives are not to make money hand over fist, but to help solve a problem. 

Joe on ski machine
As a student, the networking opportunities at this convention were second to none. I was drawn to many products and met many founders/CEOs in the early stages of their product. Below is a list of some of the connections/activations that were of particular interest to me. 

Paka: Paka is a company that makes outdoor apparel using Alpaca fur. They won an innovation award for their Alpaca Fur down jackets. Synthetic materials used in standard down jackets rely heavily on petroleum, but Paka’s down jackets have been tested to be the warmest down jackets on the market. At their booth, Paka even had live alpacas on-site to feed and pet! Paka won an innovation award at this year’s event.

Stoko: Stoko makes a knee brace  in the form of a legging. The patented design has two dials on the waistband. As you turn a dial, one side of the leggings tightens up and supports the knee. This can be worn as a single or double brace. Amazingly, the leggings provide the same support as a typical knee brace but with a much less bulky design. Stoko won an innovation award at this year’s event.

Safeback: Safeback is a new technology in Avalanche Survival. 3 out of 4 people buried in avalanches die from suffocation and typically, an avalanche victim has 10 minutes to be rescued. Safeback has created a device that helps pull oxygen from the snow and displace the carbon dioxide that the victim breathes out. This extends the timeline for survival. Safeback was nominated for an innovation award this year. 

MXXY: MXXY is a San Diego based hydration pack that integrates electrolytes into a typical bladder and nozzle hydration pack. The pack has two bladders, one for electrolytes and one for water. On the nozzle, there is a patented dial that allows the user to seamlessly transition between water, electrolytes and a water/electrolyte mix (in increments of 10%). MXXY is available online and has a new design they are hoping to release soon. They believe this new design will greatly improve the functionality of their product. 

Split Skis: Split Skis is a European company that has re-imagined the way back country skis can be built. As the name implies, the skis are able to separate into two pieces that are easier to carry. The skis were designed for military purposes, but Co-founder Kuba Wesolowski is hopeful to break into the recreational market soon. Split Skis won an innovation award at this year’s event. 

Groove Life: Groove Life is an active/adventure lifestyle company. Started in Alaska, Groove Life initially made silicone wedding bands for people to wear when a metal ring is unsafe to wear. The rings are designed to break under 30 pounds of pressure, ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. As Groove Life grew, they moved to Tennessee and now make wallets, belts, watch bands and more. All of their products are built for an active outdoor lifestyle. 

The Outdoor Retailer Snow Show is an amazing event for anyone considering working in the outdoor industry. All of the products and companies on-site serve a purpose; they solve a problem in the space. As an outsider to the industry, it was eye opening to see how many passion projects turned into a viable business. The commitment to sustainability and inclusiveness within the industry is beyond admirable and something other industries should strive for. 

Categorized As