Gear Review - Mammut Parinaco Jacket

I love jackets. I am a jacket connoiseur and whether it is a light wind shirt or a heavy duty down parka I love trying on jackets, feeling the fabrics fit and cut and seeing all the features. I really can't get enough of them and now that every outdoor company is throwing in outrageous colors it is even better!

Read More

Gear Review - Black Diamond Mission 50 Backpack

This is the mother of all technical backpacks. I would describe this pack as comfortable, versatile and feature rich. Heavy loads are no problem, stripping weight is no problem, carrying a rope, ice tools, crampons and all the usual alpine/ice gear is no problem and even skis can be carried by the Black Diamond Mission 50.

Read More

Tallahassee Rock Gym Expansion

Every climber has a similar story of their early days...driving home late after climbing with forearms burning thinking of the problem or route that shut you down go after go. I remember it like yesterday. Working at the Tallahassee Rock Gym was a privilege and climbing there was a blast.

Read More

Gear Review - Outdoor Research Stormsensor Glove

Gloves. I don't think there is a more important piece of gear for winter activities than gloves. Your gloves need to be warm and dexterous but they also need to be comfortable and dry. The perfect glove, I have found, does not exist, but there are many good options for all around use and only a few suitable for specific activities like ice climbing or skiing.

Read More

Longs Peak Cirque Ice Climbing - 11.5.12

Alpine climbing at its finest. High elevation, wind, little sun, cold temperatures, it all combines to make an epic day on the mountain. My first day out this season was up to the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Longs Peak Cirque. We started at the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot at 6:20 am and didn't return until about 4:30 that afternoon.

Read More

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gear Review - Edelrid Rage Ice Tools

Working in the outdoor industry allows for certain benefits.  As a buyer for an internet retailer it is my responsibility to know about every piece of gear in the outdoor industry I am responsible for buying.  This lets me get some great gear to play with and evaluate.  I recently got a pair of Edelrid Rage ice climbing tools for this purpose.  I wanted to try out a radically aggressive ice/mixed tool and Edelrid had a new weapon that I had seen at the most recent Outdoor Retailer show back in August.  The tool felt great in hand and the weight seemed extremely balanced and had a terrific swing weight as well.  The ergonomics are aggressive and the grip seemed to fit my hand perfectly.  I have been able to get out and use this tool a few times over the last month and I am happy to say it is a pretty good mixed tool.  Edelrid did a great job entering into the new "competition aggressive" ice tool category where the Petzl Ergo and the BD Fusion reside.  It is aggressive, weighted well and feels comfortable whether hooking or swinging.

As far as Edelrid's first foray into technical ice tools goes, they did a pretty good job.  There was good penetration on hard ice and chandelier as well.  Hooking on rock was stellar and camming into cracks was perfect.  The only real drawbacks to these tools are the relatively flimsy feel of the shaft, much like how the BD Reactor feels, and no adjustable grip like what the BD Fusion offers.  I have found this to be pretty important in high end mixed tools because of the different gloves I use and the overall size of my hands.  You can easily look past these small flaws and tweak the tool to your liking.  Splicing tape lets me adjust grips fairly well and almost any tool flexes when cammed.  I have been told the price on these is a big selling point.  They will be coming in well under competitors like the Petzl Nomic and the Black Diamond Fusion.  This should give Edelrid a competitive edge making headway into North America.
Edelrid Rage tools at Loch Vale RMNP  
Final Say:
These tools are extremely nice.  They are well balanced, aggressive and feel good in your hand.  For the money you probably won't find another pair like them.  Not in the USA or anywhere else for that matter...yet!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gear Review - Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity Trail Runner

I got this shoe back in August and I wanted to run it through the paces before I gave a review.  I think overall Hi-Tec is a great company that makes some innovative footwear and blends different materials to offer a price point product with one or two great features.  The Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity shoe is a pretty good all around shoe.  It has a Vibram sole, great breathability, and a new technology, Ion Mask.  These are all good features and offered on a shoe that is $119.99 is pretty good, but I will run through this review with a few questions about this shoe and the overall feature set and function of the shoe.

The first thing that strikes you with this shoe is that there is nothing special about it.  Honestly.  Sometimes you see a trail runner and you say, "Yes, I can see where the price tag comes from."  Or, "Yeah, it says Gore-Tex or eVent and so the price is justified."  With the V-Lite Infinity you don't get that feeling.  There's no special lacing (more on that), skeleton frame, stabilizing system, etc.  This isn't a bad thing, because this shoe actually brings it on the feature side of things, but it automatically puts the shoe at a disadvantage because there is no "wow" factor.  This is in addition to the fact that the only "wow" factors on this shoe is a Vibram sole and Ion Mask technology, one you don't need and one no one knows about!  No one really looks for a Vibram sole on a trail runner.  It is a welcomed advantage and explains pricing, but Vibram really only comes into play on boots and technical footwear, not trail runners.  By comparison I have two pairs of Salomon trail runners and Salomon never uses Vibram.  Neither does La Sportiva or Scarpa, seriously.  They may use Contagrip of Frixion, but never an expensive leading technology that really doesn't pertain to the function of the product.  This puts the Infinity at a disadvantage because you now have to justify a price that is not comparable to the feature set.  By comparison the Ion Mask technology that Hi-Tec uses on this shoe is great.  There is basically an application of a fluoro carbon (monomer) that charges the outside of the shoe and makes it hydrophobic.  It also resists dirt particles and other damaging debris.

The lack of punch for the Infinity trail runners or lack of quality features, makes the shoe less desirable for most customers because you have to assume that Hi-Tec is making up for a lack of quality or function in their product.  The technology that is present isn't present with any competitor and by comparison the others are doing quite well.  This makes it extremely hard for the Infinity to compete with the likes of Crosslites from La Sportiva or XT Wings from Salomon.  They also don't offer any real trail running function.  By this I mean there is no aggressive tread, no stabilization technology, no special lacing system and no waterproof technology.  For $119.99, you might as well spend another $10 and get something like the Salomon XT Wings.  Speed Lacing, Skeleton Chassis, Ortholite footbed, etc.  What it comes down to is a lack of features compared to competing product in regard to price.  I would like to say otherwise, but honestly, I can't.  

Final Say:
This shoe is very comfortable, breathes incredibly well, and the Ion Mask also allows for a clean look and long lasting upper on the shoe, but the lacing, sole and the pricing are three points that Hi-Tec missed on...completely.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mixed Climbing at the Bear's Den - 11.6.11

Last weekend I got up into Rocky Mountain National Park with a few friends for another day of ice and mixed climbing.  Myself, Ryann, Dan, Austin and David were hoping to get out to Loch Vale and see how much ice had come in since the weekend before, but the weather was calling for high winds and low temperatures.  Typically the Glacier Gorge trail system shields some of the wind, but with the hike pushing 3+ miles we decided at the last minute to go to a small mixed climbing area reached from the Bear Lake Trailhead.  This area boasts some good mixed terrain and very fickle ice.  This early in the season usually affords more ice because of the temperature changes and so we thought we might get lucky for the day and find an ice route or two and a plenty of mixed routes.  The hike is much shorter and the cliff aspect is east, so winds aren't usually a problem.  We got to the base of the cliff and saw that a couple lines were being equipped and development was definitely taking place.  The Bear's Den has about 4 established bolted or otherwise, routes to climb.  There is so much more potential, but overall not much has been equipped because gear can be used or top-ropes can be setup.  We elected to setup top-ropes on a few different routes.  We got on three routes specifically, a great, but difficult M6, a fun ice gully/corner and a cool M5 arete.

The first route I had tried before and so I let everyone else give it a go.  Austin had tried it before as well and got about halfway up it again.  Dan and David had never been to the area before and so they both tried it as well.  It is very overhung and extremely technical with pick and crampon placements.  The route uses a broken crack that hangs almost detached from the wall.  After the lower section the headwall comes in with a wider crack and the terrain gets easier.  Getting through the bottom though proved difficult for budding mixed climbers like ourselves.
Austin on the overhung face
After our feeble attempts on the first mixed route I wandered around the cliff looking for easier terrain for all of us to enjoy.  Just up and left of the main cave was a great blank face that ended in a dihedral.  The corner had stepped ice and rock with a pillar hanging behind it.  It offered some technical ice and very sketchy mixed climbing.  Not particularly difficult, just different and challenging.  I hiked around the ridge and hung a top-rope for us to get on.  It was a great opportunity to introduce David and Ryann to mixed climbing.  David had been on a couple routes and Ryann had never mixed climbed before, so the mixed dihedral and the mixed arete were great opportunities.  We all did extremely well and climbed both routes with relative ease.  The mixed gully was like mushroom tops crowding a rock corner gully.  It was more about body position and technical movements than strength.
Me in the mixed gully
Dan gettin' it
David playing with the new Edelrid tools I got...Ryann,
Dan and Austin looking on.
The little ice gully was fun and a good easy warmup and introduction to the area.  We all ran a couple laps on it, doing slight variations and get some good swings.  I really want to go back and explore soon because there were corridors that had ice in them all along the cliff line.  There are probably a dozen mixed lines that vary from rock faces to ice smears.  The arete was the next route and we all worked out the beta before getting on the route.  Ryann and David wanted to watch first to get some idea of how to climb the route so we all looked it over as I roped up to give it a go.
Dan on the M5 arete
Austin pulling hard

Ryann mixed climbing for the first time!!!

The Bear's Den is a great mixed climbing area and i am excited to get back and check out all the untouched lines that exist with smears of ice and great dry tooling potential.  The short hike, sheltered cliff line and relatively good weather make this place a great full or half day crag.  Plenty of potential and adventure to be had.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Loch Vale Ice Climbing - 10.29.11

Ice season has cometh!  I got up to Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park with a few friends for the first ice climbing of the season.  It was a good day with thin ice and mixed climbing.  My friends Mike (his website here), Crystal and Brian met up with me in Estes Park and we headed up to the Glacier Gorge trailhead.  We hiked in on a pretty packed trail and setup below the ridge that has Mixed Feelings, Crystal Meth and Mo' Flo' Than Go.  The weather wan't too bad when sheltered by the ridge, but there were gusts of probably 25 mph and the temperature hovered around freezing all day.  The sun was out most of the time and so hanging out below routes wasn't too bad.  I had a new pair of tools from Edelrid (the Rage) and so I was extremely excited to try them out.  They are actually one of two pairs in North America right now.  Perks of working in the industry!  The only picture I can find, other than my own, is right here!  There will be a full review on these coming very soon.
Loch Vale in very early season conditions
The best ice was on Mo' Flo' Than Go, so since I was the only leader in the group I roped up and got on the route.  It is a fairly short climb, maybe 30 feet, and so I grabbed a few screws and headed up the shallow dihedral of ice.  The new Edelrid Rage ice tools I used are definitely a mixed tool and so on ice they didn't perform as well as my Black Diamond Vipers, but I wanted to give them a go right out of the gate.  They have a different pick for rock and so the penetration in ice isn't nearly as good as something like the Laser pick from BD.  With that being said I could still get good sticks by flicking my wrist at the end of each swing for a good downward penetrating strike.  The vertical ice was fine and actually pretty thick considering the early part of the season.  I had a few stubby Express screws from BD and of course they went in like butter protecting the climb perfectly.  Stemming in the dihedral ramp went well and the route wasn't really a problem.  After the vertical ice you have to traverse left to a clump of trees with slings, but there was a snow field covering the rock slab and so it was a little nerve racking because I couldn't tell what was under the snow for foot or tool placements.  Everything went fine though and with the anchor set we were able to get on two ice climbs and a mixed climb.
Mo' Flo' Than Go

Mike on Mo' Flo'
Crystal on the left side of Mo' Flo'
Brian Williams on ice for the second time!

Me on a short mixed route by Mo' Flo'

The ice season looks like it will be pretty good out here this year.  As we pulled into the parking lot at Glacier Gorge that morning, I noticed a ton of hanging daggers just west of the parking lot.  I had never seen this before and it reminded me that there is an area called Parking Lot Ice right around Glacier Gorge trailhead.  There were daggers everywhere and wet spots lower that looked to be forming into ice.  This rarely comes in, but it is trying to.  I am pretty excited about that.  I can't wait to get out again.
Parking Lot Ice visible from...the Glacier Gorge parking lot!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chaos Canyon Climbing Season

2011 was a pretty good season at Chaos Canyon.  I got up there a handful of times and finished some projects I have been working on as well as get on some classic problems I hadn't been on before.  It also consisted of a lot of exploration looking around for problems I had never done before as well as finding doable problems for visitors and new comers to Chaos.  It's an interesting bouldering area because the development revolved around harder problems, mostly V7 and harder.  When Dave Graham and company started developing Lower Chaos Canyon and Upper Chaos the problems just got harder and harder.  It seemed like V10 was the starting point for most problems in RMNP.  The reason for this is because developers of new areas usually have some sort of sponsorship and therefore climb extremely hard and get their pictures on magazine covers, etc.  This doesn't mean people like Dave Graham, Jamie Emerson and others don't warm up on the occasional V3 or V5, but it does mean that hiking in 5 miles and gaining 3,000 feet of elevation makes you want to climb something substantial or impressive in order to get recognition and of course climb to your peak ability.  These aren't your run of the mill boulder problems.

Chaos Canyon is one of my favorite bouldering areas because of the variety of boulder problems.  Even with all the difficult problems there are still problems that haven't been developed yet, because they are a little easier or just a little more obscure.  With that being said I love going up to Chaos Canyon and finding new problems that range from V2-V5.  These are great for most of my friends that want to warm up or run some circuits getting ready for something harder.  The established problems from V2-V6 are all stellar and from the second warmup boulder to the Autobot area, all the problems offer exposure, technical climbing and powerful movement.  Two such problems are Autobot and Revenge.  Autobot is a terrific V5 and I run up it every time I am up there.  My buddy Nate visited with a crew from Arizona and everyone tried Autobot with some good results.  We also all jumped on Revenge.  This is a hanging arete compression V6.  Burly movement leads to some technical heel hooking and a powerful topout.  Below are a bunch of pictures from the season.

Ryan C. on a V5 on the warmup boulder
Ryan C. on Potato Chip
Nate on Autobot
Ryann on Revenge
I got out with my girlfriend Ryann and an old roommate Steve for a day of development on easier problems.  We stumbled upon 3 or 4 problems that deserved to be cleaned and worked.  They probably all went at V4 or easier, but here are a few photos.  Check them out.
A nice, but stout V3 just north of the Warmup Boulder
A nice little V1 north of the Warmup Boulder

Deep Puddle Arete
Steve working the arete
A funky little V3-ish problem just right of Deep Puddle Dynamics
Unfortunately I didn't get to Upper Chaos this season to work on some of the V9's and V10's I wanted to project, but next season that will be a main goal of mine.  There are multiple problems like Skipper D, Riddles in the Dark and Right El Jorge among others, that I need to do.  I need to get back to Lincoln Lake as well to put in some work on Rebellion, Unshackled and others.  Should be another good season next year.

However, for now it is onto ice climbing, snowboarding and skiing.  Blog posts to follow about that soon!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gear Review - La Sportiva Speedster Climbing Shoes

My favorite climbing shoes of all time were the La Sportiva Venoms.  They fit perfectly, felt amazing and performed extremely well.  The down turned toe was phenomenal, the elastic form of the shoe made the fit great and the sensitivity was the best, bar none!  This shoe, the La Sportiva Speedster, delivers on almost every facet that the Venom had to offer.  I was talking to the Sales Director of La Sportiva at Outdoor Retailer about the Venom and he let me know that La Sportiva actually abandoned the model because the Vibram webbing, that covered the top of the shoe, was too expensive to make and unreliable coming out of the mold.  I decided to give the Speedsters a try and left OR with a pair.  By comparison the Speedster has a great fit and feel as well and the performance compared brilliantly to the Venom.  I have really liked climbing in this shoe so far.

The Speedster is like a sour beer and requires some time with it before you can make a fair evaluation of the shoe.  There are multiple innovations that seem negative, but in fact, overtime, prove to be great improvements for a high performance slipper.  The first design difference that most climbers see will be the wrap over the front of the toe that doubles the toe rand.  This seems like it would hurt sensitivity, but it actually creates a good buffer that allows your toe to really feel any foot hold.  It also adds durability and creates a good rubber strip that goes over your forefoot for toe hooking.  Pretty good design overall.  The shoe is also extremely low cut.  The cut in the back comes down very low below the ball of your ankle.  This feels strange at first, but it allows for a lot of movement and the heel fit isn't hurt by this design.  I actually like the low profile feel and the fit.  This also allows for super sensitive climbing.  Every foot hold can be felt and really rocking into perches, heel hooks and precise foot points is easy and gives instant response to the climber.  Adam Ondra even uses the Speedster, so I figure they are a pretty good shoe.  I also like the P3 platform that La Sportiva is using to ensure that any downturned shoe will not lose its aggressiveness.  Over a full season we'll see how they do, but so far the shoe has been the same every time I put them on.  Overall I am really liking this slipper as a replacement to the Venom.
Just a little note on fit.  I wear a size 13 street shoe.  Specifically for La Sportiva I wear size 47 trail runners.  In the Speedster I got size 43.5.  These are very tight and I use them for difficult bouldering and overhung sport.  Be careful when sizing climbing shoes, especially if you order them online.

Final Say:
The Speedster is a super sensitive slipper that fits like a glove and performs extremely well on difficult boulder problems and overhung sport.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sierra Trading Post - 40% Off Your Order!!!

Click through this Sierra Trading Post link to get 40% off your entire order!!!  This is good till 2pm MDT.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fred Nicole on The Game

Just climbed The Young and the Rackless in Boulder Canyon with Ryann. Saw Fred Nicole getting on The Game as we passed Cobb Rock. Downgrade to V12? V13? What do you think?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gear Review - Evolv Shaman Climbing Shoes

New climbing shoes are always a blast.  Fresh sticky rubber, suction cup heel, new all comes together as a means to psych you up to climb.  Getting a new pair of climbing shoes sends me back to the time when my new pair was my first pair.  Enthusiasm takes hold and you want to climb hard for hours.  My new Evolv Shamans have been psyching me up for the past month and I must say, they are quite nice.  The new triple Velcro closure allows you to customize the fit from toe box to heel and the fit is extremely nice (for my foot).  One of my favorite pairs of climbing shoes were the original Evolv Predators and the Shamans come close to replicating that shoe.  Chris Sharma designed this specifically for extremely overhanging rock and difficult lines.  The shoe itself went through multiple redesigns and over time it evolved into what you see now.  I've put it through the paces over the last month and wanted to share my findings.  Overall the shoe is pretty comfortable and performs extremely well.  There is a good heel cup that varies in design from other Evolv climbing shoes and the toe box is a good bit different as well.  More on that later.
Bouldering with the Shamans in Chaos Canyon
Evolv's rubber has always been great.  As far as climbing shoe rubber goes they are all a derivative of each other.  They are composed differently and vary on durability and stickiness, but they all started at the beginning and morphed from Five Ten to Scarpa to La Sportiva to Mad Rock to goes on.  Specifically though I think Evolv's rubber is some of the stickiest out there.  Not to mention if it is good enough for Chris Sharma and Lisa Rands, I think it is good enough for me.  Based on materials and construction it is a great shoe.  The build is very nice and the fit is improved with a larger toe box that has a "condo" for the big toe.  What I mean by this is that the shoe dips and the sole has a voided space for your big toe.  This makes the initial fit more comfortable and the overall feel of the shoe a little more friendly.  However this does offer the opportunity for climbers to size down maybe another 1/2 size more than they would usually.  I did not so this shoe is my "comfort performance" shoe.  That extra room for your big toe in the toe box really helps move power to the toe for when you are balancing on small edges and toeing in on overhung roofs.  Bouldering on moderate terrain, sport climbing, they all lend to a more comfortable shoe that doesn't sacrifice performance.  I highly recommend the Evolv Shaman for anyone who doesn't want a super tight and aggressive shoe from some other brands that makes you size down dramatically.  You can come into the Shamans in pretty much your street shoe size and be pretty happy with the fit.
I have been in these for a little over a month and I have bouldered up in Chaos and the 420's, sport climbed in Boulder and Clear Creek canyons and did some moderate routes up at North Table.  The Shaman performed extremely well in every condition.  Small crystals in Boulder Canyon were no match for the sticky Evolv rubber and the slippery Granite/Gneiss of Clear Creek was a joke.  Up at 11,000 feet in Chaos Canyon the shoes performed brilliantly on problems like Revenge, Potato Chip and Autobot.  It heel hooks well and the toe rand has extra rubber to aid with toe hooks.  The only draw back of this shoe, for me, is the breathability.  My feet sweat and for days where it was over 85 degrees the shoe trapped that heat and my feet cooked.  Of course the shoes come off easily, but if there is one flaw it would be the breathability for someone with sweaty feet.  This shoe has also done a great job inside on plastic that was overhanging and edgy.  I am looking forward to some indoor competitions this winter to see how they perform.

Final Say: The Evolv Shaman really has it all.  Three Velcro straps for a custom fit, aggressive but comfortable profile for pushing double digits, suction cup heel for heel hookin' madness and some of the stickiest rubber out there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Surf Expo 2011

Another day, another dollar.  I just returned from another tradeshow, Surf Expo in Orlando, FL.  This is a retailer buying show much like Outdoor Retailer that I reported about a few weeks ago for my job at Sierra Trading Post.  Surf Expo incorporates everything in the watersports recreation industry.  The show had everything on display from touristy souvenirs and resort swimwear to wakeboards and stand up paddle boards.  The show is a fraction of the size of OR, but still boasts filling the main hall of the Orange County Convention Center!  My main goals for attending Surf Expo were to touch base with the vendors we already work with and prospect for new vendors and relationships in the wake, skate, surf and lifestyle clothing categories.  Overall the show was a success and there is much work to be done in the office now to close deals and order new product.
One of the best out there...O'Brien wakeboards and skis
Connelly and O'Brien are two of our larger watersports brands, they makeup the bulk of our hardgoods offerings.  Tube towables, wakeboards, tow ropes, etc. are all hardgoods that we offer our customers and I saw plenty of innovative designs at the show.  They are implementing rocker and new fin combinations to make carving easier and allow for softer landings.  Connelly and O'Brien are both front runners when it comes to high end wakeboards and innovative towable tube designs.  Both of their factory sponsored teams throw down sick tricks at competitions to earn high praise for both themselves and the brands they represent.  These competitions take place on lakes and in cable parks.  Cable parks are basically small man made lakes or ponds that have cable systems running around and across the water.  These cables pull tow ropes around the park and wakeboarders can grab on and make their runs.  Think of a ski resort terrain park and then picture cables running around.  Same idea.  These competitions even take place indoors at expos and tradeshows like Surf Expo.  Check out the video below of one such competition at Surf Expo.

While the wake and lifestyle apparel brands were the main focus of the show there were optics, surf and stand up paddle brands all represented at Surf Expo.  I met with our contacts at both Native and Costa Del Mar just to touch base and say hello.  I also swung by Fox Optics and Von Zipper to see if there would be opportunities to work with them as well.  While it was good to see old friends and check out some new optics brands there are a couple categories that STP has nothing to do with...yet.  These both include surf hardgoods and stand up paddle.  After contacting SurfTech and other surf brands and talking to SUP Love and other SUP brands I am confident that there are opportunities for STP to start working in these categories.  At STP we have always tried to predict market trends and react to our vendor's needs when it comes to moving excess inventory.  We always strive to focus on our customers wants and their overall interests and we believe that these surf, wake and lifestyle brands will all build STP as a company and grow our customer base and customer loyalty.  We have always had the best brands at the best prices, in every category, and always will.
One of our premiere optics brands
Guys in suits on SUP's.  Gotta love Surf Expo.
These surf, skate and paddle categories are all growth categories for Sierra Trading Post and I have been working especially hard to bring some new brands to our customers.  In the wake hardgoods category I have been focusing on pulling in brands like Hyperlite and Liquid Force and had many meetings with a number of different brands.  I met with Sales Managers and Vice Presidents while on this trip and every conversation was promising.  Whether it was sitting down with Von Zipper and looking at opportunities for sunglasses and goggles or lifestyle apparel from RVCA and Vans, the trip went very well.  Some new brands that have started with STP include O'Neill and we have product that will be going up for sale soon.  We are hoping to have other brands including Billabong and Hurley up soon as well.  Stay tuned to Sierra Trading Post as new categories and fresh product crop up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011

I am a Merchandise Buyer for Sierra Trading Post and I love my job.  I get to work with great companies including La Sportiva, Asolo, Black Diamond, K2, Burton and many more spanning the categories I buy.  Those categories include, climbing, ski/snowboard hardgoods, camping cookware and accessories, technical footwear, skate/surf/wake/dive, and sporting goods (golf, tennis, team sports).  Being responsible for all of these categories keeps me incredibly busy.  One day I am working with Callaway Golf, the next I am buying climbing gear from's never a dull day.  One of the great things about my position with STP is the travel I get to do.  About 5-7 times a year I travel for tradeshows related to my categories.  I attend Summer and Winter Outdoor Retailer Markets (Salt Lake City, UT), SIA (Denver, CO), golf shows and Surf Expo (Orlando, FL).  These shows are always important for STP and the relationships we have with our vendors.  We make sure that we get the best product at a discount so we can pass the savings onto our customers.  STP has been doing this for 25 years and we have key partnerships with brands like Asolo, Marmot, Black Diamond, Haglofs of Sweden, Columbia Sportswear, Smith Optics, Smartwool, Vasque, Teva and so many more to ensure we have great deals on great product for our customers.  August 4-7 were the dates for Outdoor Retailer Summer Market this year and I attended the show to purchase product and meet with as many vendors as possible over the 4 day show.

A typical show day starts at 7:00am with breakfast in the hotel with all the buyers and managers that come with STP.  All 12 or so of us sit down, have breakfast and talk about the meetings and product priorities for the day.  It's kind of a rundown of what we are working on and what needs to get done.  The show then starts at 9:00am everyday, but if you know your vendors well, and of course we do, you can schedule meetings for 8:00am and have them bring you into the show.  It's kind of like being a VIP, but not really.  Vacuums are still running and the coffee is flowing thick, but these are some of the best meetings because there aren't 1,000's of people roaming the halls quite yet.  These types of meetings, as you can see from my schedule below, are usually reserved for some of our key vendors and important partnerships.  After 9:00am hits the floodgates open and 1,000's of people run into the massive Salt Palace.  Brand employees, retailers buying for their stores, and sponsored athletes looking to promote their brand consume the hallway between massive booths, some two stories with meeting and conference rooms!  I have run into Daniel Woods at La Sportiva, Dave Graham at Five Ten and many other sponsored athletes that I look up to in different outdoor endeavors.  We also tend to meet with high up sales reps, national sales managers and VP's/CEO's of companies.  Actually from a recent article in Ascent it listed influential people from the climbing culture.  Dale Bard from Ortovox and Jack Tackle from Black Diamond are just two people I work with daily that top the list in that article, but also represent prestigious brands such as Vasque, Black Diamond and Ortovox.
My schedule for OR
From 9:00am to about 6:00pm the showroom is a mess.  People are running around, meeting vendors and stopping in the middle of walkways (super annoying).  Everyone is wanting to get the newest stuff for their shop and check out all the sick new technologies and product.  There are numerous brands that fit this category, but Black Diamond is always a great place to start for new gear and innovative product.  One of the best products at the show was the BD Magnetron locking carabiner.  I have already talked about this new piece of gear once, but it was all speculation as I wasn't able to touch it or try out the strength of the locker.  This was definitely the best new gear of the show and blew away everyone who tried it out.  I talked to a couple guys we work with at BD, Heath Christensen and Bill Kubilius, about dirt and ice affecting the steel and magnet connection and they assured me they have put it through the paces of adverse conditions and use.  It doesn't release until next summer, so they let me know there would plenty of time to perfect the product.  Take a look at the video and see for yourself how good the action is on the carabiner.
Some other brands that came to the show with great new product included Adidas Outdoor, a newcomer to the high performance outerwear and trail running category, Salomon, new colors and technology, and Mammut, great new color palette and innovative apparel.  Every brand has something to offer and no one disappointed.  It was great to walk the show and see all the familiar faces and talk about the brands and what they are bringing to the outdoor market.  Even new vendors like Yeti Coolers, Hurley and O'Neill felt right at home with the outdoor scene.  On top of that, Billabong showed up for the first time ever because of the cancellation of another show, Action Sports Retailer.  They took up the entire upstairs ballroom with there brand portfolio including Sector 9 and Element skateboards, RVCA, Von Zipper, Excel Wetsuits and more.  One of my categories includes these new skate and surf brands and having them in SLC for Outdoor Retailer was great.
New lightweight trail runner.  Not out quite yet...
New colors from Salomon
This guy shows up wherever Mammut goes!
One of the best out there, the Hubba Hubba!
After a long day walking the show we usually meet with a vendor for drinks and dinner.  At STP we have and always will be focused on our relationships with our vendors.  The partnerships we build help both STP, our customers and the brands we service.  We like to remind our vendors that we are not so big we have forgotten about them, so we meet for a nice dinner to talk about business, have a few laughs, and share in a great meal.  I had dinner with Edelrid the first night at a great local place called The Bayou and Saturday met Teva for dinner at Bambara.  Both dinners were fantastic and the company was great.  After any night life we usually retreat to our rooms for a quick 30 minutes of finishing orders or responding to emails and get ready for the next day.  I met with too many vendors to name them all, but here a few things to keep your eye on in the seasons to come.
  • Edelrid - Great German climbing company making their move on the US market.
  • Adidas Outdoor - Great outdoor apparel and trail runners that rival Salomon and La Sportiva.
  • Contour Helmet Cameras - Everyone knows I use a Contour HD and love it.  Look out for some sick new product.
  • Kayland - Amazing hiking boots and approach shoes.
  • Salewa - Second best gear of the show in my book.  New ice boot that flexes for the hike and locks rigid for vertical ice.  What?!?!
Overall tradeshows are a blast and even though they consist of long days the work we put in goes to benefit our customers and helps us get product that would otherwise get lost at some other retailer.  We sell only off price product so we don't have to focus on promoting full price vs. off price.  We simply offer the best product at the best price from the best brands.  That's it!  Pretty easy when you think about it that way.  I will be attending the PGA Expo soon in Las Vegas, NV as well at the Surf Expo in Orlando, FL.  Look for more tradeshow reports and more great photos.

New Black Diamond helmet.  The Half Dome
redesign has been delayed.
New monopoint crampon from BD.  It uses the same Cyborg
front point so you can replace it easily.
La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0 trail runners and Speedster climbing shoes