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The Rocky Mountain Gear Guide

The Rocky Mountain Gear Guide: How the Cancellation of Outdoor Retailer’s Summer Show Affected Gear Makers

For the first time since 1982, the gear industry’s hallmark trade show didn’t go on as planned.

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Long before anyone knew about Big Agnes or its sleeping bags, founder Bill Gamber and former PR manager (now co-owner) Len Zanni went to Outdoor Retailer (OR) to sell magazine editors, product buyers, and gear junkies on their sleeping bag/sleeping pad combo. They only had two prototypes, but the trip to Salt Lake City, where OR was held before it moved to Denver in 2018, was successful: They got a lot of buzz and within the next few years were winning awards. Unfortunately, brands didn’t have the same opportunity this past summer. On April 2, COVID-19 spurred the cancellation of OR’s Summer Market. The show ultimately transitioned to an online platform, where attendees virtually visited brands’ booths and listened to talks. Still, industry members are feeling the absence of face-to-face networking, not to mention demos of products—like Big Agnes’—that make an impression on guests. “OR’s Summer Market is the confluence of everything that is everything outdoors,” Zanni says. “Photographers, manufacturers, product developers. It was a big loss to not have it happen.” Although January’s winter show is also going virtual, organizers hope to return to normalcy soon. Says Marisa Nicholson, OR’s senior vice president and show director: “There’s tremendous value to the outdoor and snow-sports industries in being able to come together in person in Denver.”

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