By Karuna Eberl

Reps broke out the barbecues while dogs sunned themselves in the walkways¿that was the scene at the WWSRA Rocky Mountain Demo at Copper Mountain, Colorado, February 6 to 8. With plenty of blue skies and soft snow, retailers took a break from bemoaning the dry spell in the weather to enjoy their first sampling of the new equipment.

This year marked the show’s second year back at Copper Mountain after a six-year hiatus at Aspen. WWSRA Association Director Sandra Butterfield estimated 1,200 buyers attended the show, along with 70 sales reps, representing more than 300 product lines. Roughly a third of the booths were snowboard related. The numbers were about the same as last year, but up from year’s past thanks to Copper’s proximity to a broader base of retailers, said Butterfield.

Optimism ran high through most of the booths, despite a somewhat hazy group of reps and sales managers, some of who were still recovering from the back-to-back-to-back shows of SIA in Las Vegas, ASR in Long Beach, and ISPO in Munich¿which ended with just enough time to hop a flight to Colorado. Predictably, the big names like Burton and Vans sent a steady stream of demos out the door. For smaller companies, traffic was mixed. Some spent the days looking for ways to entertain themselves. Denver-based Never Summer, however, churned out a record number of demos. And locals Unity Snowboards also enjoyed a strong show.

As far as buyer demographics were concerned, Coloradans, of course, made up a majority, with a healthy contingent turning out from the northern Midwest. Jeff Grella of Vans said the company’s putting more importance on regional shows this year, because of SIA being early. For on-snows, he said, that’s a good thing.

“We might get one or two store reps at Vegas, but we get most of the shop guys here and they’re the ones dealing with customers,” says Grella. “I don’t think buyers put enough importance on riding it before buying it, and to me that’s critical.”

Sims’ Jay Stevens noticed that while he demoed fewer boards this year, most out went to the company’s hardcore buyers. “Dealers are coming with an agenda this year,” he says. “It’s awesome.”

The biggest buzz was the new aggressive women’s boards by Never Summer and Palmer, and the women’s boards and bindings by Nidecker and Burton.

“On the high end, there’s finally a thinking underlying (the products) that women do ride,” said Christina Fecht of the Intrawest retail group. “Before they were flimsy, but this year I might go to a women’s board.”

Other welcome trends, according to both reps and retailers, are longer boards, wider models, and sandwich constructions. “People are stoked on those,” says Lib Tech’s Pete Saari on the sandwich constructions, adding that it’s funny because much of the younger generation thinks it’s a new technology.

Palmer Snowboards drew attention for its see-through topsheets showing off the honeycomb construction. Good or bad, look was a big factor for buyers this year.

“The thing that really bums me out is a lot of people are going off of graphics and not riding the boards,” says Sims’ Stevens. For Sims, however, that wasn’t a bad thing, as its mix of Medieval and Lara Croft-style topsheets hit the spot for a lot of buyers. Some other brands drawing attention: B-Line, Nitro, Forum, and Unity.

Many specialty shop buyers said they’re looking to carry more high-end models that cater to hardcore riders of both sexes and to an aging group of old-school riders. Brands like Arbor and Volkl especially appeal to such a crowd.

One such old-schooler was Scratch Katers, who opened his snowboard shop BSR Sports in Glenwood Springs in 1984. He especially liked the Nidecker Peak. “It’s the end of the day, my knees hurt, but I had so much fun I’m going out on another board. This board makes you want to go out for two more runs.”

For boots, Vans new dial Boa Closure System gained attention, thanks to its easse of use and ability to make minute fit adjustments. Eddie Chaves of Sail and Ski in Austin, Texas, summed up some other buyers’ thoughts: “Northwave boots, I can’t take them off.”

The overall sentiment on the show full of new products was perhaps summed up best by Dave Gabrielse of Snowcrest in Crestwood, Illinois, who said, “The cream is rising toward the top. There’s not as many lines as there used to be, and it’s good.”

As for what’s going to bring in the cake for shops next year, SlopeStyle Manager Jorn Reinmann had a mostly, er, well, somewhat definite opinion. “Burton’s line this year is exceptional, with a lot of variety,” says the Telluride, Colorado-based shop employee. “Burton will be a big seller. Forum will be a big seller. Ride has some good stuff, and Nitro.”