ISPO Preview:The inside line on the world’s largest show

The 1999 Winter ISPO is being held February 7—10 at a newly constructed 1.3-billion-dollar facility in Munich Reims. But organizers have a lot more to congratulate themselves about than the celebration of their 50th show.

“The size of the show has basically doubled,” says a very excited Peter Knoll, ISPO project coordinator. “We have twelve new halls of 11,000 square meters (34,760 square feet) each. Every hall is air-conditioned and there are ISDN connections everywhere. It’s the most modern facility of its kind in the world.”

Visitors to ISPO’s summer show in September were the first to see the new facilities and were greatly impressed. According to Elliott Hill from Nike’s European office, “The new space is outrageous. Everything has improved-like labor, electrical, supplies, and food services. The new space has a very open and airy feel, which is great when you have to be stuck indoors at the show all day. It’s much more comfortable.”

Snowboarding accounts for much of the growth of ISPO, with the amount of space occupied by snowboard-specific companies doubling compared to last year. Peter Knoll explains, “Snowboards will be located in the World of Fun and Action Sports in Halls A3 and A4. A3 is focused on hardware and is about the same size as last winter’s Halls 24 and 25 combined. A4 is focused on clothing and also doubles the amount of space from last year.”

Of course, there will also be snowboard products shown in the ski halls. Ski hardgoods will utilize close to 70,000 square feet in Halls A1 and A2, while more than 70,000 square feet of ski softgoods will be shown in Halls A5, A6, and B6.

Outdoor companies like The North Face, Patagonia, and Marmot will be in the Outdoor Hall.

All this combines to make the 50th ISPO the biggest winter-sports show in the world. “ISPO is the only show where all the sport brands are present,” contends Laurent de la Fouchardiere, sports marketing guru for Adidas (whose 4,000-square-meter stand will be the biggest presentation by any sports company ever). “We see our most important buyers from all over the world at ISPO, so it’s essential for us to make a good impression.”

Buyers for the show are mostly German, while 43 percent of the show’s visitors come from outside of Germany. Duotone Snowboards’ Stuart Knowles puts it this way, “ISPO is the same as ASR, Outdoor Retailer, NSGA, and SIA all in one show. The retailers are mostly from Europe’s strongest markets-Germany, Austria, and Switzerland-and features a real cross section of retailers. This gives companies the chance to meet with other shops in addition to their specialty retailers.”

But nobody goes to the show just to buy and sell. ISPO provides yet another great reason for the snowboard industry to get together and party. This year, the show itself will feature a snowboard event similar to last year’s quarterpipe huckfest.

However, organizers are expanding this year’s version to hopefully include an entire winter world-complete with snowshoeing, telemark skiing, snowmobiles, and even piste machines.

Post-show partying centers around the intake of copious amounts of fine German beer. For a taste of Munich at it’s cheesiest, a definite stop is the Hofbrauhaus located just off the Marienplatz. It’s best to go steaming drunk because you might otherwise be tempted to sit out the chicken dance, and you’re certain to have to endure a few rounds of the coaster game. Experience has shown that a good drunken stupor makes both of these activities infinitely more enjoyable.

Post-show parties at ISPO-like the ones thrown by F2 and Vans-have become legendary for their Euro dance music and interesting crowd. OnBoard magazines’ Greek dinner has grown from a quiet dinner with advertisers to a plate-smashing free-for-all among the industry’s elite. If you’ve ever wondered why OnBoard’s advertising rates are so expensive, ask them to show you the bill from one of these parties for broken dishhes alone. This is probably the most difficult invitation to come by, but certainly well worth the effort it takes to procure one.

Getting to the ISPO will be easy and cheap this year. Visitors should take the S8 S-bahn (Munich’s subway system) in the direction “Markt Schwaben” and get off at Riem. Loads of shuttle buses will be waiting for them. Public transportation in Munich, including transport from the airport, is free of charge with an ISPO entrance ticket.