Jan 26, 2022 - News

Outdoor Retailer's Snow Show opens amid uncertain future in Denver

Merchandise on display at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in 2018. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Merchandise on display at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in 2018. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Outdoor Retailer's decision five years ago to move its massive, twice-a-year trade show to Denver marked a tipping point for the state's outdoor recreation industry.

  • Now, with the OR Snow Show arriving this week, Colorado officials are scrambling to convince its operator to stay put.

Why it matters: The great outdoors are synonymous with Colorado, and the trade show is a platform to promote the state and lure companies to make their home here.

State of play: The city's contract with its operator, Emerald X, expires after this summer's show.

  • The organizers sent a survey to attendees Jan. 18 exploring a move to Salt Lake City, Houston, Las Vegas, Anaheim, California, or Orlando, Florida.
  • The show operated in Salt Lake City for more than two decades before coming to Denver. The 2017 exit was prompted by Utah leaders' decision to rescind Bears Ears' national monument status.

What they're saying: The possibility of a move has prompted a strong reaction from the state's top Democrats.

  • "The leaders of the outdoor industry have spoken with an articulate and strong voice that this cornerstone event belongs in a state that shares its values on public land and recreation," reads a joint letter from U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Gov. Jared Polis.

The other side: Marisa Nicholson, the show's director, told Outside Business Journal in August that Denver has "been a great place to host the show" and there's "a really good chance" it returns in 2023.

  • But she noted that it's a smaller city and the show's capacity typically exceeds the convention center's space.

By the numbers: The industry produced $9.6 billion in consumer spending in 2020 and contributed to 120,000 jobs, according to the state.

  • The retailer shows — which are not open to the public — were expected to generate about $100 million in local economic impact.

Between the lines: The governor used the 2021 summer show as an opportunity to recruit companies to move to Colorado.

  • Polis made a point to chat with clothing maker SheFly, which was considering relocating to the state last August and recently picked Gunnison for its headquarters after receiving a $156,000 economic incentive payment.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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