20080120-25 / The Winter OR Show / Brooks-Range Mountaineering

Brooks-Range Mountaineering is a small specialty manufacturer owned by a prominent AMGA benefactor, Matt Brooks.  For years he has been producing rescue sleds, simple tarp shelters, and shovels for backcountry skiing.  In the past few years his sales have reached a level to open a booth at the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show, and last summer Brooks-Range was also at the summer show.  Since most of his product ideas are inspired by guides and their reviews, he invites a small crew to staff his booth at the shows.  So this year I joined Olivia Cussen (IFMGA), Mark Kelly (AMGA Ski), O's husband John Race (IFMGA), and Geoff Unger (IFMGA), along with Matt, Cinda, and Alan from Brooks-Range.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I knew the OR Show was big, but this exceeded even my expectations - and all the veteran show goers commented on how quiet and less-crowded the show was from previous years.  All sorts of reasons were tossed around - the economy, the conflicting dates with the Ski and Snowboard Industry Association Show in Las Vegas, etc.  If that's true, then hopefully this was a good show to introduce me to the craziness.

I drove across the Great Basin on Wednesday - because the drive was cheaper than the flight and my economy has given me a lot of time but not much money. I noticed some incredible limestone on the eastern border of Nevada. Note to self: expedition this fall? The show staff had crates of display booths spilling out of the loading docks and into the street behind the Salt Palace Convention Center, and inside it was a maze of half-built booths, yelling employees, and honking horns of fork-lift operators. I missed the Brooks-Range booth by 100 feet, and spent 15 minutes walking around the area in a fog. I couldn't begin to guess how this was all going to clean up. But when we left later that night, it was already starting to happen as event staff laid out the carpeted aisles and collected the discarded merchandise boxes.

For me, the show was my life in Salt Lake City. We would all arrive a little before 9am for the opening, grab free espresso from the Royal Robbins booth (I became known as the "4-shot guy", why are they looking at me funny?) and stand all day talking to media, retailers, and other exhibitors, and then wrap it up and be out the door at 6pm. We did develope a rotating schedule giving us an afternoon or morning off, and towards the end of the show got comfortable enough to give each other breaks so we could go see other booths. I'm especially glad that I got to catch up with friends from A & F Distributors, Off Piste, BCA, Gregory, Remote Medical, OR and MSR, as well as make new friends at Smith and Sherpa Adventure Gear.

Sunday afternoon the show ended at 3pm, and it took us less than an hour to get everything packed up and our display booth loaded on a pallet for the event staff. I was on the road back to California by 4pm, ready for the face shots I would get skiing powder at Alpine Meadows on Monday morning. I have a stack of business cards with ideas written on the back to get through, so I better get back to work.