Consumer Trade Show Or Party Extravaganza?

The Ninth Annual Mondial du Snowboard.

However you approach it, the Mondial du Snowboard in Les Deux Alpes, France continues to be one of the best consumer events in Europe. The Ninth Annual edition was held October 24—26 with a plethora of activities designed to lure consumers.

Sixty manufacturers were on hand to demo equipment at the top of the hill and/or display their goods in the gargantuan tent set up at the bottom of the telepherique in the village. Organization by the Les Deux Alpes staff was outstanding, with tight-but-amiable security preventing the reportedly 30,000-plus visitors from walking out with anything they didn’t walk in with.

Everything from the latest boards and boots to step-in bindings and snow scooters were available for testing. The crowded tent area and typically European, mosh-pit-style lift queues showed the enthusiasm of consumers.

Les Deux Alpes demonstrated a great understanding of the needs of exhibitors by providing VIP passes that allowed pass holders access to a private café as well as the authority to snake all lift lines.

On-snow action included a boardercross track, halfpipe, and snowpark, which were open to all riders every day. The straight jump was limited to pros during the daily big-air show that could be viewed from the entire demo area and restaurant terrace.

Quiksilver provided an innovative bank of computer terminals to let consumers browse the Quik Web site. However, a cursory glance through the throngs waiting in line for the terminals showed most screens tuned to the Penthouse Web site and Hotmail.com.

Regardless, Quik and Mervin’s new marketing weapon, Dave Mailman, seemed pleased with the results. He could be seen with a huge smile on his face, buried behind the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at his stand.

Also popular with the grommies were the autograph sessions. Snowboarding powerhouses Phillipe Lalement and Valerie Bourdier (the best female freerider in Europe) were swamped by admirers at the Gotcha stand, while Rossignol’s Pascal Joubert seemed pleased with the consumer demand that caused them to run out of the brand’s three-day supply of posters on the first day.

Olympians Doriane Vidal, Tony Roos, Jonas Emery, and Alexi Litovaara (riding strong after coming off knee surgery) did a commendable job of hanging around the Rossi stand keeping consumers enthralled.

Vans took advantage of the occasion to hold a European distributor meeting. Everyone was surprised and happy to see Taryn Veytia with her handsome new son, Caelen-as well as her two-year-old skate prodigy, Hayden. Three weeks is awfully quick to be back on the job after giving birth, but most insiders attribute Vans’ rapid success in Europe to Veytia’s hard work and any European Vans meeting would be incomplete without her valuable input.

Others on-hand for the meeting were corporate spearhead, John P. Sullivan, and new European Director Chris Cavanaugh (freshly poached from Reebok).

Not surprisingly, the Switch crew was also there in force with Erik Anderson, Dan Adams, Peter Dericks, and Ted Barber coming over from the States, as well as Bert Conneely, who has done an admirable job of single-handedly riding herd on the European scene during the Vans/Switch merger.

But any snowboarding event held in France is more than just business and frolicking in the snow. Things started early Friday night with the European premiere of the new Absinthe film, Black Box. Two of the film’s stars, Axel Pauporté and Jay Nelson, were on hand to discuss the complex subplots and denouements found throughout the film.

A Justin Hostynek retrospective followed the premiere with three of his and Bill Gallen’s previous works, which brought cheers from even the most hardened snowboard-video critic. The standing-room-only crowd was comprised mostly of professional snowboarders from Hammer, Option, A Snowboards, Rossignol, Quiksilver, and Salomon as well as high-powered industry executives like skate-legend turned Switch Team Manager Bryce Kanights.

Saturday night saw the Vans/Switch crew convening for dinner with a group of about 40 team riders and decision makers, followed by the VIP-only official Mondial party that reportedly raged until the early hours.

The weekend of merrymaking closed in style with an outstanding party at L’Opera organized by the lovely and talented Valerie Blanc of A Snowboards. The guest list was a virtual “Who’s Who” of European snowboarding. Of course, guru, soul surfer, and film star Régis Rolland was there with a big smile and a story or two for the usual admirers who tend to barrage him at these events.

Those intrepid riders still left standing Monday morning were met with twenty centimeters of fresh snow. By midday, the sky had cleared enough to see Fred Demard, editor of Freestyler magazine; Harry Gunz of Rad Air; and Heidi Palmer of Onboard magazine blazing speed lines over thinly-veiled snowbridges, unable to resist the open powder fields.

Big ol’ shakas go out to Marie-Laure Ducos and her delightful staff from Les Deux Alpes for making this event a must for any member of the snowboarding industry trying to get a grasp on the elusive European market.

-Trey Cook