The Colorado Ski and Snowboard Expo returned to Denver for its 25th year this weekend. It’s still going strong, drawing more than 23,000 visitors to the Colorado Convention Center, but the age of the internet has left its mark on this tradition.
This year, 75 ski resorts and retailers of apparel and gear exhibited their offerings just in time for the end of the preseason. And although the autumn has been unseasonably warm, neither exhibitors nor winter sports enthusiasts seemed particularly ruffled.
“There isn’t really any correlation to a slow snow season and a bad snow season,” said Copper Mountain representative Chris Stellato. “Sometimes you have a slow start and an exceptionally good season after that.”
Vail Resorts, Telluride and Big Sky also made appearances. The expo is a major opportunity for these resorts to get face-time with their potential customers, which is important as Denver’s population grows.
“It’s Denver’s one main ski show, so you want to be here,” said Chris Galey of Copper Mountain. “Especially with Denver’s population growing so quickly and all the new people, you get different customers here that are new and checking out all the resorts.”
Over the years, the expo has changed a great deal, event manager and BEWI Productions president Bernie Weichsel said. Attendance has dropped compared to its early years, due largely to internet commerce.
“Twenty-five years ago, it was a very different show then after the internet,” Weischel said. “Then, people had to come to shows to get the stuff they needed.”
Despite the change, people still flock for the sales. The Vail Resorts-owned Colorado Ski & Golf sale offers super discounted prices on designer apparel and gear, making it the most popular attraction of the expo.
Jim Fuller, merchandise manager at Vail Resorts, said it is hard to quantify how internet sales have damaged in-person sales, but he added that forming relationships with customers is key to survival.
“The expo is all about forming strong relationships with individuals,” he said. “Fitting boots, finding clothes that flatter, skis—it’s very personal.”
One thing that hasn’t changed throughout the years? The preseason excitement that the expo signifies.
“It’s a kickoff for the season,” said event manager and BEWI Productions president Bernie Weichsel. “Skiing is a major part of the culture in this marketplace. [The expo] signals the winter’s here, it’s coming.”
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