After the Outdoor Retailer show left Salt Lake City in 2017 following a twenty-year run, the show moved to Denver. But with their current contract with Colorado’s capital ending after this summer’s event, many wonder where the event will go next. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the show sent out a survey last year to event participants, asking them about their preferred spot: Denver, Salt Lake City, Anaheim, Houston, Las Vegas, and Orlando. Out of these options, the answer seems pretty simple: a return to Salt Lake. But returning would be under the state’s terms, and many outdoor companies are not stoked about that. Two dozen outdoor companies, including North Face, Patagonia, and REI, are threatening to boycott the event if they move it back to Salt Lake City.
Denver’s show has its fair share of pros: generally accessible outdoor recreation, a large amount of lodging, and a massive convention center. But according to the Colorado Sun, there is a fair share of problems too: I-70 traffic, hotels being 33% more expensive than in Salt Lake, and only a third of the usual participants showing up to this years event. This could be Covid related, but outdoor brands clearly have reluctance about being in Denver.
The experience in Salt Lake is a whole lot better. The airport is brand new(for better and for worse), the ski slopes and other outdoor activities are easily accessible, and a new Hyatt hotel will be opening soon that has direct access to the convention center. But the reason why they left still remains: the state government doesn’t really care that much about public lands. After President Obama declared Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to be national monuments, the Trump administration drastically scaled back these plans, leading to private enterprises being able to mine and frack. The state of Utah’s defense of these moves led to Outdoor Retailer ditching Utah for Denver. The Biden administration has brought the full scale of the monuments back, but the state of Utah is planning to sue them to stop the move.
Governor Spencer Cox and the Utah Legislature are open to bringing back the popular conference, but it will have to be on their terms. Spencer Cox said they’re willing to speak with concerned parties, but they also said a boycott wouldn’t change their position:
“If Patagonia and these other companies really care about this issue, they’d want to be here to have this discussion, not go somewhere where everybody thinks exactly like them. We would love them to come back. We desperately want them to come back. That sort of boycott will do absolutely nothing to change any policy that’s happening here in the state of Utah,” Cox said. “Not even an inch. We won’t give it another thought.”
For the most part, though, the small and medium-size brands don’t care about these issues, and just want to get brand recognition. And brands like Patagonia, who are threatening to boycott, didn’t even show up to the Denver show this year. After the final show happens in Denver this summer, it will be interesting to see what Outdoor Retailer does next.
Image Credits: Outdoor Retailer