What to do at Winter 2018 Outdoor Retailer

Alejandro Medellin

There is always so much to do at the Outdoor Retailer show, between viewing the latest in jacket technology and lining up for free booze, it’s hard to stay on schedule. This year, the show has found a new home in Denver after a highly publicized exit from Salt Lake City. Leaving the beehive state after 20 years, however, hasn’t slowed down the Outdoor Retailer show. This year, there are plenty of events, talks, workshops and parties—Rick Ross, more famously known as the Teflon Don, will also be making an appearance.


The show officially opens on Thursday, but the party kicks-off Wednesday night at 6 p.m with Upventur’s very own Nomad Social. The event, hosted at Little Machine brewery, is dedicated to content contributors, with several key company partners in attendance as well. There will be free beer, tacos, and gear giveaways for those lucky enough to win. You must RSVP on Eventbrite to attend, but do it fast because tickets are running low.

If you’re looking for something more educational there is the Outdoor Industry Associaton event Night Zero Untamed. Speakers from Outside Magazine will be there, as well Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper. The event is being held at the McNichols Building between 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., and your OR badge should get you through the door, although they ask that you RSVP because of limited space.


The first day of the show is always full of energy, talks and plenty of beer—welcome to the madness. Of course, there are lots of parties after the show closes for the day, but if you have the time there are some amazing panels and talks throughout the whole week.

The North Face is hitting the ground running this year with three significant discussions, but there is one that stands out the most. After announcing that they were sending a team of their top athletes to Antarctica we were stoked to find out more. Now, you will get to hear all about their adventures. The speakers include Conrad Anker, Anna Ptaff, Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin and Savannah Cummins. That right there is the flexing muscle of one of the largest companies in the industry—don’t miss it. The event will take place at the North Face booth #44007-UL between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Once the show closes for the day, OIA is hosting their Inspiration awards from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Colorado Convention Center for those people and companies that made a difference in the outdoor community. After the ceremony, though, the real party begins at Temple Nightclub from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Goretex is sponsoring the event, and entrance is free with an OR badge. Timbuk2 and POW are hosting their own parties, while Range, Mountain Standard and MIIR are teaming up at Ratio Beerworks for what sounds like a wild night. Get that Pedialyte ready; you’re going to need it.


If you’re still alive on Friday—or hydrated—then take a seat at the Conservation Alliance breakfast. The event, which is open to the public, is being hosted by writer and former Outside magazine Editor, Kevin Fedarko and Filmmaker, Pete McBride. The pair walked across the Grand Canyon to showcase the many problems the national park is facing.  To listen to them speak about their adventures, visit the Centennial Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Denver from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

The outdoor industry was never supposed to be about suits and corporations, or at least that is what this next talk is about. Titled, Lighten (the f@!%) Up, the event is sure to ruffle some feathers, but that may not be a terrible thing. The event is being held at the Trend + Design Center and hosted by Jen Taylor, brand manager and director of creative development for Mountain Khakis. Don’t miss out on all these knowledge darts from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Capping off the night at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., is a combination fashion show and concert. The fashion show starts the night off, but afterward, concertgoers will see the performances of Miami rapper and ex-security guard, Rick Ross, as well as Brother Ali, JAUZ and DJ Matt Cassidy. You will need to purchase a ticket for this event ($50) but use code “ZOOLANDER” at the checkout for a 20 percent discount.


After a night of loud music and, I imagine, models covered in multiple layers of down jackets with the most advanced fabric ever created, it’s good to know there are still a few events left to check out. Starting out bright and early is the, An Industry Reimagined panel with Donna Carpenter, CEO of Burton; Jerry Stritzke, CEO of REI and others. The event will touch on terms like women’s leadership and the CEO Pledge—a movement started by Camber Outdoors, who are sponsoring the event.

Author of recently published book Pure Land, Annette McGivney, along with members from Native Women’s Wilderness, Indigenous Women Hike and Native Outdoors will host a panel on public lands. After last year’s decision to shrink Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, the topic of public lands has been on everyone’s mind. McGivney, also the editor for backpacker southwest, will moderate the event, which is sure to be full of engaging discussion. The panel will be located at The Camp, booth #56117-Ul, and will go on from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.  

Every day of the show, OIA hosts a breakfast and lunch event that focuses on a particular topic, all of them are worth going to, but Saturday’s is especially important for the future of the industry. The panel, compromised of two local professors from Texas Women’s University, will discuss the “importance of growing outdoor communities on college campuses,” according to the title. Other panelists include representatives from Southern Utah University and the Outdoor Foundation. You can find the panel at the Mineral Hall inside the Hyatt Regency Denver between 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

As the show winds down, the number of events on Saturday will stay about the same, but the Backcountry Film Festival’s Night of Stoke stands out. The event, which will screen first-edition films, will also feature speakers like Conrad Anker, Stacy Bare, Caroline Gleich and Tommy Caldwell. Those who haven’t lost their Outdoor Retailer badges yet will be able to get in for free at the Bellco Theatre inside the Colorado Convention Center from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Obviously, the sheer number of events and parties make it impossible to give them all fair coverage, but you can view the full list here, or view this list of events highlighted by OIA. After walking the show floor a hundred times, and day drinking at various booths, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit one of the many talks, and maybe gain some insight into this large and varied industry we call our own.