Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

Winter Outdoor Retailer 2011

Post By: Jake

Veronica and I just got back from attending the Winter Market, Outdoor Retailer (OR) trade show on January 18th-22nd in Salt Lake City. The event, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is basically a giant industry trade show for all human powered sports.  Hundreds of vendors and thousands of attendees are spread around a seriously huge convention center.  There’s 2 shows a year:  the Winter Market, which previews the latest and greatest gear for the upcoming Fall and the Summer Market, which previews the latest gear that will be available the next spring.

The show kicks off with an outdoor demo day–an opportunity for attendees to demo the latest winter sports gear.  This year’s outdoor demo day was held at Solitude Ski Resort. With approximately 1,200 ski-able acres, over 2,000-feet of vertical drop, an average of 500-inches of powder each season (that’s over 41 feet!), and plenty of high speed lift capacity, Solitude is an undoubtedly good choice for skiing near Salt Lake City.  And we were not disappointed! Ten inches of fresh powder greeted us the morning of the All Mountain Demo.  Run after run of fresh, untracked powder!  Lake affect snow rocks!  After a few runs we hopped on the shuttle bus bound for Solitude’s Nordic Center where we got to demo a great set of Atomic nordic skis and Solomon’s Vitane 9 and Active 9 boots. The Atomic skis that we tried performed very well.  Veronica found the Vitane 9 boots to feel great both in flex and all around performance, while I found the Active 9’s to be a bit lacking and on one foot they were downright uncomfortable.  Following the Nordic Center demo, we headed back down to the alpine area for a few more runs.  Even at 2 and 3:00 in the afternoon, with hundreds of other OR participants on the mountain we were finding large untracked stashes of powder!

The next four days of the OR show consist of “The Big Show.”  Over 900 exhibitors packed into the massive Salt Lake City Salt Palace Convention Center all prepped to talk product with retailers, media, and bloggers.  Needless to say, we were a bit overwhelmed.

Veronica and I wandered aimlessly, stopping by booths of well known brands and brands we’d never heard of.  Each of the vendors excitedly spoke with us about their latest innovations and explained to us why their products were #1.  Surprisingly, some of our favorite products were made by a few of the smaller companies that we’d never heard of: The Bamboo Bottle Company, Alpacas of Montana, and Hydro Flask.

The Bamboo Bottle Company is in the final stages of developing a unique twist on a familiar product:  a glass water bottle with a protective bamboo sleeve.  Although, not the lightest water bottle on the planet, the durable glass internal bottle guarantees a fresh clean taste safe from BPA’s and other potentially harmful chemicals.  Meanwhile, the bamboo sleeve protects the glass and allows either hot or cold drinks to be handled with ease.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Bamboo Bottle is its environmental impact.  By using environmentally friendly components to build the bottles and by reducing landfill waste from disposable water bottles, this is one of the most environmentally responsible products we’ve ever seen!

Alpacas of Montana had one of the more crowded booths at the OR show–probably due more to their namesake than the new product line on display as they had two live Alpacas at the show!

While the extremely cute Alpacas drew people in, the product line was none-the-less equally impressive:

  • Alpaca fiber is naturally hypoallergenic and very durable.
  • It is warmer than sheep wool and more luxurious than cashmere.
  • Alpaca clothing is strong, resilient and has more thermal capacity.
  • Alpacas are the most diversely colored livestock with over 22 natural colors, so products can be dye and chemical free.

Although it costs more to process the Alpaca fiber for production, the final products were surprisingly cost-comparable to other similar products on the market. Keep an eye out for the 8 different styles and types of alpaca socks as well as some super cozy yet very high tech alpaca base layers that should all be available from Alpacas of Montana in the next couple months.

The Hydro Flask booth was one of Veronica’s favorite vendors, while initially I passed it off as “yet another metal water bottle company.”  My opinion was completely changed, however, after I got home and tried the bottle out for the first time!  The Hydro Flask bottles are all vacuum insulated stainless steel bottles.  While stainless steel is nice because it doesn’t affect taste and is inherently BPA free, my initial reaction was that it makes for a pretty heavy water bottle.  That was, until I used it for the first time!  Without much thought, I filled the bottle with piping hot coffee one morning and brought it to work.  It tumbled around my truck then sat on my desk for a few hours before I cracked into it.  I opened it up, poured myself a cup of coffee and nearly burned my mouth. To my surprise, the coffee was still just as hot as when I poured it in a few hours before!  Nearly instantly I started thinking about the MANY new uses I have for this bottle:  A hot beverage hours into a snowshoe trip; a warm drink throughout an entire day of skiing; boil some tea in the morning and stash the bottle in your pack for a nice treat at the summit of a mountaineering climb, or pitch 3 of a long ice climb!  Hot cocoa all day long while ice fishing!  The bottle’s weight seemed of little importance as I started thinking about all the applications.  Put simply, Hydro Flask provides all the benefits of a traditional Thermos without the bulk and weight.  Plus, it works equally good (if not better, according to their website) at keeping cold beverages cold.  Ice cold drink on a mountain-bike ride around the Moab dessert anyone?

Walking around the OR show was fairly overwhelming at times, but talking with all the vendors who were all so passionate about their products was definitely a lot of fun.  One of our biggest highlights of the show came on Friday night.  We met up with all the W. L. Gore folks at the GORE-TEX® brand booth to share some laughs and talk about some of the new products coming down the pipeline.  The soon-to-be released GORE-TEX® Active Shell.  It’s insanely light and the most breathable waterproof fabric ever to be made, while still maintaining the “Guaranteed to keep you dry promise”.  Marketed to the niche ultra light and fast crowd, it’s not quite as durable as GORE-TEX® Pro-Shell or Paclite.  It’s built for extremely high energy single day pursuits such as long trail running and endurance cycling where every fraction of an ounce counts, while high performance is still a must. It’s not for everyone, but if you need the absolute finest for extreme single day pursuits, keep your eyes peeled for new GORE-TEX® Active Shell pieces coming from Adidas, Arc’Teryx, TNF, Millet, and Mammut.

After learning about the new GORE-TEX®  Active Shell, we got together with the W.L. Gore folks and drove over to a friend’s home.  Several local friends and several W.L. Gore folks enjoyed some local pizza, Montana beer, and great conversation.


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