Diving into the deep end

Local TV personality Big Budah gets a lesson in avalanche safety from Backcountry Access VP Bruce Edgerly in the early morning hours before the Outdoor Retailer Show opens.

The first thing that hits you at your first Outdoor Retailer Show is the uniform: Approach shoes, black fleece or puffy and a few days’ stubble for the guys. Cute skirt or jeans, subtly designed t-shirt and maybe a beanie for the ladies. Less business casual than Boulder coffee hut.

For the uninitiated it can be jarring to see so many similarly dressed — and let’s be honest, very good looking — folks streaming into the Salt Palace for the industry’s bi-annual pilgrimage to see the latest and greatest in the world of outdoor gear. And I’ll be frank, I was jarred. I’d joined SOAR just two days before the show and despite years spent loitering in gear shops and a few close calls with the full-blown dirtbag lifestyle; it was my first encounter with so much outdoor industry royalty in one place.

The industry has always seemed like a tough nut to crack. Everyone knows everyone, so unless you know someone, it’s an intimidating threshold to cross. Heck, I felt like I needed to borrow a Subaru just to get there (seriously, the road to Solitude for the All Mountain Demo was far too treacherous for my two wheel drive, that Subaru saved my bacon).

But here’s the thing, by lunchtime on Thursday I realized I’d mistaken insular for tight-knit. Clannish for inter-connected. Occasionally overzealous for, well, I wasn’t entirely wrong on that one. It takes a unique group of people to get worked up over advances in the latest fabric laminate. Within hours I’d been taken in, having great chats with everyone from the fabulous OR staff (<- maybe just a bit of brown-nosing our client here 🙂 ) to Montana alpaca ranchers to the founders of some of the oldest, most respected brands in the book. By Saturday night, I found myself across the table from social media wizard Sara Lingafelter (RockClimberGirl!) thoroughly engrossed in a conversation about what disciplines drive the outdoor culture conversation.

Walking back to my car on Sunday I couldn’t help but wonder: How the hell did this happen? An industry I didn’t think let outsiders in had me feeling like I’d been there all along. Yes, people come to OR to buy and sell. It is an industry, after all. But there’s a certain silent acknowledgement that once all the paperwork is pushed and the deals are done, there’s something we all completely agree on. We’d rather be outside.


  • February 6, 2011

    […] We threw him into the fire and he came out unscathed and he still wants to work here (check out his post […]

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