SIA 2017: Reports from the Floor

At the 2016 SIA show, Pugski was still wet behind the ears. Our forum had launched just two months before, and the news page had been up only a couple of weeks. In order to have a presentation for exhibitors, we were scrambling to throw numbers together. We had our vision, but there was skepticism about where the site was going and whether it was real or just a paper fire.

One year later, all that has changed. We were rated one of the top 50 ski sites on the web; we have partnered in projects with SIA and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame; we have been quoted and referenced in major news publications.

So, in our second year at our industry’s biggest trade show, the word was out: Pugski is indeed a major player and, most important, one of the go-to sites for skiing news and information. When setting appointments, we ended up having to tell people we just didn’t have time. We even had to double-book in order to divide and conquer. Appointments that were supposed to last an hour turned into half hours because we needed to fit in more people and brands. We even missed some meetings (sorry, Josh). At the show, brands stopped us in the aisles to see if we would come by their booths. One rep said Pugski is “the authoritative site for ski news and information.” Another manufacturer said, “While we don’t always agree with what you say about our product, you are fair and objective.” We cannot ask for more than that; it allows us to sleep at night. (Actually, it’s funny that I say that: it’s 2:15 a.m. and I can’t sleep right now because I need to get this information to you.)

Ok, from the floor … the elephant in the convention center was what is going on with K2/Line/Full Tilt and their current parent company, Newell. I will confidently say that the rumors of these brands’ death were greatly exaggerated. K2’s booth was one of the busiest at the show; buyers were there to buy, not to question or spread gossip. Just like a healed bone can be stronger than one that was never broken, K2 is as strong as ever and has a product line that reflects that. The same can be said for affiliate companies Line and Full Tilt.

On the new technology front: thanks to Facebook, we got to experiment and report live from the floor with its Facebook LIVE tool. If you didn’t get a chance, check out our Facebook page. We did one report each day, unscripted other than using a few notes. Sure, there were a couple of gaffes, but it was fun and informative. We got to talk to Hall of Fame member Chris Davenport and some manufacturers. I did get my hand slapped by talking about MAP vs. list price; so be it. Expect more Facebook LIVE segments in the future.

Many manufacturers have shifted from focusing on halo products to bringing down price points. There are some really really good skis that will be offered at a $399 street price and boots that will start at less than $200. This is gear that is honest-to-goodness quality product: wood cores, full sidewalls, and so on. Anyone who is on gear from the turn of the century (it still feels funny saying that) should put it in a dumpster and step up; it is well worth it, because this new gear will make time on the snow much more enjoyable.

Walk to Ride/GripSole is another area that saw a lot of talk from booth to booth. This new boot-binding interface is not going away, so they need to figure out how to clarify the design for the customer. I feel like a divorce lawyer talking to two parents: “Think about the kids!” The customer needs to be the concern here. Decide on a name and go with it. If ISO (which sets the boot-to-binding interface standards) needs to come in, so be it, but do it soon. Otherwise, you are going to continue to confuse customers and retailers, which will end up costing you money because someone will get hurt and sue. Considering the advanced age of some gear still being used, this is going to be a long education process; it will take more than just posting a video on a site.

Finally, we had a brief chat with Nick Sargent, the new president of SIA. As much as we at Pugski thought we were sipping from a firehose in our first year, Nick had it 136 time worse (yes, we measured and confirmed that number). I will not divulge Nick’s plans and ideas, but I think they are on the right track to help grow the industry and the show. Nick and I hope to sit down at some point in the coming months and we will share these insights with you, our readers.

Please take a look at some of the images from the floor along with discussion and questions from our readers.