Crisis, what crisis? Spend a few minutes at the fifth annual Moscow Snow Salon, full of smiling exhibitors and eager visitors, and you’re left wondering: “What Russian economic crisis are the papers talking about?”

Held October 16¿18, the show was open to the public and traffic was thick-especially during the weekend. Nearly 100 companies attended the show, but eight key brands seemed to be doing most of the business. Nevertheless, three days was hardly enough time to check out the new gear, meet all the distributors and dealers, and still find time to chat with old friends.

In July, the trade-show-management company Ertzog considered moving the Snow Salon to a larger venue to satisfy the growing number of exhibitors-but the crisis did eventually weed out some of the weaker players and the show remained in the newly renovated Small Manege building.

“We were planning to double our orders,” says Burton Sales Manager Andzhela Sitnikova, “but because of the recent currency exchange-rate changes, the orders will be on the same level as last year. We don’t intend to cancel our ‘Volksnowboard’ program, however. This will include a starter kit of a board, bindings, and a pair of boots for the equivalent of 300 U.S. dollars.”

According to Vladimir Ginsburg, president of Performance Sport that distributes K2 snowboards in Russia, “Compared to the ski program, our snowboard sales program isn’t very strong yet. However, we’re serious about growing our niche.”

While most retailers limit the brands they carry to Russia’s main players-Rossignol, Burton, Oxygen, Nitro, K2, and A Snowboards-others are starting to sell brands almost unknown to Russian snowboarders: Palmer, Sims, Ride, World Industries, Santa Cruz, Northwave, Flow, Airwalk, and Salomon.

“This season Salomon intends to sell its snowboards in all the right places,” says Marek Romanowski, senior sales manager for Salomon in Russia. “Our products will be selling in the Adidas-Salomon central store, as well as in some other sport stores.”

So, has the crisis affected sales? “It’s not the perfect time to start selling snowboard products, but high-quality products will find customers,” says Irina Shakova, general manager of the Kvant company, which introduced Evol, Flow, and World Industries to the market.

For exhibitors, the show was an excellent barometer of the health of snowboarding in Russia. What we discovered is the situation isn’t as bad as we thought. In fact, two other Moscow sport shows held in September were rather weak. Neither of these shows included snowboarding gear. However, the Snow Salon was a far larger success than anyone predicted.

-Valeriy Yevseyev