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After a 5-year hiatus, Outdoor Retailer returns to Salt Lake City

In advance of the return of Outdoor Retailer's 2023 Snow Show to Salt Lake City, the expo's organizer held an education event at Brighton Resort on Jan. 9, 2023.
Sarah Ervin
In advance of the return of Outdoor Retailer's 2023 Snow Show to Salt Lake City, the expo's organizer held an education event at Brighton Resort on Jan. 9, 2023.

The Outdoor Retailer trade show is back in Utah after a brief stint in Denver. The show left over objections to state lawmakers' stances on public lands issues in 2017.

The show decided to return to Salt Lake City last year and opened its “Snow Show” on Jan. 10. Roughly 400 outdoor brands and an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 visitors are expected to come to the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Show executives said the outdoor community showed a clear preference for the return.

“With the surveys that we were sending out to our broader community, both the retailers, the reps and brands, Salt Lake City was the preferred choice of location for convening our communities,” said OR Senior Vice President and Show Director Marisa Nicholson.

Outdoor Retailer left after organizers had stark disagreements with then-Gov. Gary Herbert over public lands issues, including a request by then-President Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument designation in southeastern Utah.

In announcing its return last spring, the show said staying engaged and contributing to the discussions around public lands and the environment was the better option. Still, some big-name brands like Patagonia, The North Face and REI threatened to boycott the show if it returned to Utah. Those brands are not participating this year.

Patagonia has been an outspoken corporate advocate for issues like climate change and public lands. In September of 2022, company founder Yvon Chouinard gave the company away to a trust and nonprofit organization to help fight climate change, with all of the company’s profits going toward those efforts.

Show organizers said the door is open if those brands want to come back.

“I will say that you sort of lose your voice when you step away from the table,” said Visit Salt Lake President and CEO Kaitlin Eskelson. “And there is a lot to be really proud of here in Utah … For those that want to be a part of that conversation, we welcome them and we want to talk.”

Nicholson added that Outdoor Retailer and Visit Salt Lake are organizing quarterly meetings with industry members and state officials to discuss issues — including the ones that led to the show leaving Utah in the first place. An update on those talks is expected this week.

“The nice thing about it is it's ongoing,” Nicholson said of the talks. “It's really providing an opportunity for all of these different representatives from different groups to come together to talk about things that are important and to align on where we should focus and how we should bring in those conversations and discussions that are relevant and vital to the health of the outdoor industry.”

Outdoor Retailer’s snow show runs until Jan. 12, 2023.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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