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Outdoor Industry Gathers In Denver To Discuss Getting 'Indoor Nation' Outside, Other Threats

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Hed Hi Media
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Courtesy of Outdoor Retailer
The 2019 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver.

The annual Outdoor Retailer Snow Show is happening this week in Denver. The show began on Wednesday, and runs through Friday.

The show is geared toward people within the industry rather than consumers. It’s a place for retailers and manufacturers to check out the latest outdoor gear — and it’s also becoming a place to meet and discuss some of the big issues facing the industry. 

Jason Blevins from The Colorado Sun joined KUNC’s Colorado Edition to explain what the show is, and why it’s important for those of us who aren’t there:

“The Outdoor Retailer Snow Show draws about 25,000 people from the outdoor industry,” said Blevins. “An annual rallying spot for all the marketing folks, the manufacturers, the retailers — everyone who’s connected to the outdoor retail industry, outdoor industry in general shows up here. And lately we’ve been seeing a lot more nonprofits and political action and cultural groups and a whole lot of different groups coming together, not only wheeling and dealing and buying, retailers go in and they stock their shelves for the coming season, and then they also have lessons and classes and leadership seminars and all sorts of things that help guide this industry as it matures.”

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Credit Hed Hi Media / Courtesy of Outdoor Retailer
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Courtesy of Outdoor Retailer

The show is also an opportunity for people from the industry to meet and discuss some of the big issues their facing. One of those issues is declining participation in outdoor activities across the country.

That was the topic of a new report released Wednesday by the Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit for the outdoor industry focused on increasing outdoor participation.

The 2019 Outdoor Participation Report details the amount of time that Americans spend outside in 2018, and it shows that while more people went outside once last year than in previous years, Americans went on 1 billion fewer outdoor outings than in 2008.  

Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation, told Colorado Edition about some of the big takeaways from the report: “The big news this year is that we find that 50% of Americans say they get outside one time per year, and that’s a big number, but it’s one time per year, and that means that 50% of Americans don’t get outside even once per year, to ride a bike with their children, go for a run on a  neighborhood trail, go for a hike, go camping, go fishing or go hunting.” 

She added that the implications of this go beyond the industry: “It’s more than the outdoor industry, we’ve become an indoor nation and we’re less active, and that has a lot of implications, not just for the outdoor industry but for our health and wellness, for how we connect as a community, and so it really should be something that, it’s obviously important to the outdoor industry, but it should be a concern to all Americans.”

The show moved to Denver in 2018 after two decades in Salt Lake City, Utah.  And the move can tell us about how the industry engages politically, and how that political engagement has changed over time.  

Robert Duffy, a political science professor at Colorado State University, explained the reason for the move: “A few years back, there was some controversy in the state of Utah over President Obama’s decision to declare Bears Ears National Monument a national monument. That was a controversial decision with the Republican-controlled state legislature there, and a number of the folks behind the trade show were upset at the decision of the Utah state government basically to come out against the national monument, and decided shortly thereafter to move the trade show to another location, and it turned out to be Denver.”

We asked Duffy what this example can tell us about how the industry sees its role in politics.   

“I think it’s one of the early signs that the outdoor industry was starting to recognize that it was a fairly large industry, with pretty big sales every year, billions of dollars worth of sales, and employed quite a number of people whose livelihoods depended on getting outside and enjoying the outdoors and saw that climate change and efforts to expand energy exploration and other sorts of activities, mining on public lands were threatening the very things they were in existence for,” said Duffy.

The Outdoor Retailer Snow Show runs through Friday in Denver.

These conversations are part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for Jan. 29. You can find the full episode here.

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