January 15, 2016
Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, Utah—of both the Summer and Winter varieties—is always one of the most exciting times for our GearCooper buying and marketing teams. We get to geek out on all the newest and latest gear for the up-coming year and meet up with all our favorite sales reps and vendors, plus take some awesome side trips. As this was January and therefore winter, perhaps most exciting for us SoCal residents is that we were within a half-hour drive of some of the best mountains and ski in the country. Perhaps it was a combination of the lack of snow in our local mountains, the legends surrounding Utah’s powder, and the GearCoopers’ many recent ski and snowboard purchases that had our team stoked to take full advantage of the trip to Utah and roll it into back-to-back snow weekends before and after the show.
We arrived late on a Friday night and crammed into a small Airbnb house in the suburbs of SLC. It was more of a basement than a house, and cramming seven restless skiers and snowboarders and all our gear made things nice and cozy (to put it politely). Couch space, pillows, and blankets all became hot commodities as people rushed to claim their own bit of real estate for whatever few hours of sleep were to be had. With most people either sleeping in a pile on whatever bed space was available or using their Tetris skills to construct makeshift beds from unused couch/chair cushions, plus everyone being psyched on the adventures of the morrow, naturally there wasn’t much sleep to be had. But that was OK; we were safely ensconced in Utah, minutes from some of the greatest snow on earth.
The first day, our gang hit up Snowbird. A recent midweek storm meant attendance had been low, leaving some of the sidecountry bootpacking lines fresh and track-free. We frantically scrambled to make the bootpacks and find the freshies, and admired our handiwork at the base as we relived every turn in reverse, our eyes tracing the lines back to the top of the run. It was a blast, and for several in our small group of both skiers and snowboarders—who are accustomed to resorts’ manmade, machine-groomed “snow”—this was our first experience making fresh tracks in shin-deep powder. All in all, the day was spent frenzying up the bootpacks for several runs until our legs and lungs burned, cooling off on some in-bound moguls and groomers, and then repeating the process until the day was done and the ski lift managers turned us away at the chairlift, barring further rides to the top.
Despite the lack of sleep, sore bodies, and wet snow apparel, day two started with a bang. We couldn’t wait to get back to Snowbird and do it all over again. What made this day special was that it was assistant buyer Hayley’s birthday, so making sure that we split runs with stops for celebratory drinks was mandatory. The sun was out, the snow was great, and for a few short hours we were the happiest group of friends there ever was. The mountain party gradually became an evening party, and it was a joy welcoming Hayley into her latest trip around the Sun.
With the trade show now just days away, our team’s time together was temporarily split as some GearCoopers headed out to SLC to prepare for work, while others sacrificed early morning or evening hours to continue the snow extravanganza. On Monday, I borrowed a car and made my way out to Brighton in the early afternoon, where I solo-skied until 9:30pm. It dusted on the resort while I played around in the freestyle park working on 360-degree spins (which I never landed, but I did get really good at the 270-to-faceplant combo) and managing my airtime on some of the jumps. I also discovered an app called Ski Tracks that gave me hours of entertainment as I tracked my top speeds, vertical elevation, and length of rides. I became obsessed with racing myself, guessing the distance of a run, and finding the quickest way down. That evening I received a text that Terry, Gear Coop’s founder and CEO, and senior buyer Dan Delange were planning a final day of skiing before the show. I immediately drove back to Snowbird, arrived around 11 pm, immediately crashed on the hotel room floor, and was up at dawn ready to hit the mountain all over again.
As for Outdoor Retailer, its four days came and went, and it was as much fun as it was informative—check out blog.gearcoop.com for all the awesome stuff from that angle!—but the entire time I was eager to get back to the mountain for the closing session of our trip. For the last couple days, we found ourselves back at Alta and Snowbird, where we bootpacked what remaining good snow was left and pushed beyond our tired bodies telling us to stop to squeeze in those precious final runs. It was all worth it knowing that before I could even process the experience, it’d be another Tuesday morning back home or a weekend on the local manmade groomers, and I would be dreaming all about Utah all over again.