BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — Though people who enjoy the great outdoors tend to appreciate getting “back to nature” and being away from the “hustle and bustle” of urban life, most still appreciate having access to technology that can literally be life-saving in the event of an emergency.
This week the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 kicks off in Salt Lake City. While the official event begins downtown on Jan. 21, vendors offered a preview Tuesday of the latest new products and gear at the All Mountain Demo at Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
One of the main focuses this year is on backcountry safety. On average, about 15 people die in slides each year in the United States, according to the National Avalanche Center. With that in mind, safety has become a top priority at the Outdoor Retailer event.
French manufacturer Arva has developed electronic beacons that can be used by virtually anyone to help locate someone trapped by an avalanche.
“You carry this beacon under your clothing in order to be detected if you are buried in an avalanche,” explained Arva spokesman Patrick Giraudon, whose parents founded the company.
The beacon has two modes — transmit and receive, he said. When someone is submerged in snow, a partner can switch their device to receive and be directed near the location of the signal using a digital display on a small screen. The display indicates direction and distance, which helps point searchers in the right direction, he explained.
“Using a probe, I can pinpoint the search and with a shovel I could dig you out,” Giraudon said, adding that the simplicity of the system makes it very user-friendly, allowing almost anyone to effectively use it.
The Arva beacons retail for about $279 for the basic model ($350 for a full kit including a probe and shovel), up to $460 for the professional model ($560 for the full kit).
Besides new helmets, apparel and equipment, another new safety product on display was a formula that prevents goggles and sunglasses from fogging or freezing during especially cold weather. The product called Sven Can See is a patent-pending gel that users can wipe onto the polycarbonate lens of eyewear as protection from vision impairing frost and fog.
Sven was a fictional mountain climber character created by company president Scott Newman for his daughter as the star of her bedtime stories. Newman said he came up with the idea while on a frigid outing in Maine.
“The safety aspect is that allows you to be able to see where you’re going and what you’re doing,” he said. A small amount of the gel is applied on the lens indoors at room temperature, “Let it sit for five to 10 minutes, wipe off any excess and you're good to go for the rest of the day,” Newman said.
The new gel product will retail for about $25.
Organizers of the event said highlighting backcountry safety is an essential principle of the industry these days.
“It is very important to us and our brands take it very seriously,” said Kate Lowery, Outdoor Retailer’s director of communications. “People have to understand that with their sport comes responsibility and the need to be careful.”
She said maintaining an active lifestyle should always include doing so in a safe and responsible manner.
Meanwhile, the “made in America” trend has become increasingly popular with outdoor companies, Lowery said. Many retailers are making a particular effort to manufacture more of their products domestically.
“It’s become more and more important and a (key) talking point to be able to say that companies have products made in America,” she said.
From an economic perspective, an estimated 22,000 manufacturers, retailers and outdoor industry suppliers generate more than $20 million in direct convention delegate spending to Salt Lake and the state of Utah, according to data from Visit Salt Lake.
Over the life of the show in Salt Lake City, direct delegate spending by Outdoor Retailer attendees has totaled more than $495 million, accounting for more than $46 million in city, county and state taxes.
Total visitor spending figures are based on surveys of convention delegates conducted by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Surveys conducted over the last five years show the average delegate spends $923 while attending a convention in Salt Lake.
The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show runs through Jan. 24 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
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