Commentary on OR/SS Winter 2019 by Kurt Gray

Almost Top 10 List

1. The show is a good marriage

The humanities come along with the ski crowd, their world is full of art, music, beauty, craft. The outdoor industry balances that with its own core beliefs in science, rules and order. That fun mixed with fear dichotomy is what being in the mountains is all about, a passion that is clearly shared by both groups.

2. Politics are more powerful than product

The outdoor industry has finally gotten its arms around how important environmental issues are to the millions of people that depend on a little nature in their lives. Red hat or blue hat, this is the time to think about putting outdoor planks into political platforms.

3. Bottom-Up product trending

The Street now decides what products will be adopted and the stories that go along with them are being generated by the users themselves. The top-down days of an outdoor or ski company creating a collection of apparel and dictating to the market -- taste, fashion and story -- are gone.

4. Waterproof - Breathable Wars

Newsflash, it’s over, Microporous won. The difference between the two types of WPB technologies has always been lost on the pedestrian public. Microporous waterproof - breathable fabrics allow humidity to escape easily, all of the time, and that’s a big deal for mountain athletes. Preventing overheating is much harder than keeping people warm. The microporous fabric allows humidity, i.e. water vapor, to leave the garment taking the associated heat with it, thus keeping the athlete fresh and strong.

5. Hydroflask

The company that had the most people in one place at one time in one booth was a water bottle maker. It’s not a product; it’s a cult.

“Once people see themselves in the outdoors, their identity follows. And they start to make decisions based on that identity.” – Deanne Buck

6. Motors are good 2.0

What if electric motors drive the dirt bikes that trash the backcountry? Does removing the sound pardon the sin? Last question: What is a $14K electric dirt bike even doing at this show?

7. Color flashback

Spruce green, some kind of blue and rust or red. That was the color sensibility for Holubar’s products in the early 80’s and it seems to be relevant again today.

8. Save the Duck

When sustainability excuses are left at the rendering plant’s door you end up with a company that doesn’t kill any animals at all. Loose synthetic insulation is coming; it has the right aesthetics, it’s durable and it’s inexpensive.

9. No shows

Interesting that both Fuji and Sony declined exhibiting for a second year. Several key outdoor vendors spent their funds on booths at the November show and they went missing from the January venue. If the 3 outdoor shows survive they will have very different personalities.

10. Diversity

When will we see outdoor and ski companies created and managed by somebody other than white people? The show is depressingly monochromatic and doesn’t even reflect Denver’s not-very-diverse background. With all the gathering political capital and the economic advantages on the side of the outdoor industry it has an Achilles heel; the cultural, social and economic demographics of the current participants are a monoculture.