Editor’s note from Lou: Most readers know we’ve sourced much of our gear coverage over the years from Press Events, confabs that seek to unite bloggers and journalists (sometimes one in the same) with gear and other things. While we’re always open about our participation in these mini conferences and find them incredibly useful, we do approach everything with healthy skepticism. Regarding you, our readers, it is fair to have degree of cynicism about blogging based on press events, as too much “insider” coverage can easily become boorish “B to B” or downright manipulative. “look at me here drinking free beer and talking to the CEO, his skis are thus the best…” On the other hand, we are blessed in the ski touring industry by a degree of authenticity that’s sometimes lacking in other spaces — and we hope that shows in how we respond to press events. In any case, since these things play a big part in what we are as a website, I asked Julia to share her take as a newbie. She did a good job, here you go. (Reader comments about the ethics of blogging, regarding press events and such, appreciated.)
Back in January, I had the chance to attend my second ever ski press event. Louie and I caught an early flight from Seattle to Denver, arriving to
Go Far Shop in Boulder, Colorado for catered snacks and introductions, organized by the hosting PR firm. I noticed Lou and Lisa know quite a few of the reporters, it seems many of the same suspects show up at these events. I even noticed a few familiar faces that I’ve seen on my first PR trip last spring. Introductions and chatting ensue, but even here it’s apparent most of these folks are working for a living, checking out the custom footbed rig, quizzing the shop owner about her retail business, and generally catching up on industry insider scuttlebutt that might be useful later in their reports.
My background as an introverted software engineer is something that I left back home in Seattle, feeling excited and eager to check out a new ski spot in the mountains, meet new friends, and learn how this all integrates with the blogging business as practiced by Lou and his team. Oh, and of course, I’m also psyched to dig into the “featured brands” of the event in a way that’ll be useful for my reviews, and thus hopefully help out our WildSnow readers.
Our group was fortunate to be the first guests at the newly remodeled adventure spot called A-lodge, located near Boulder, Colorado and only a short drive away from a small, tucked away ski resort called Eldora. It’s interesting how the Lodge made a low-key effort to leverage the bloggers and journalists. We got a short presentation on the business, got to meet the owner, Asa, and learn about his now fulfilled dream, but clearly the way this works is we’re to stay there, enjoy it, and report on it. There is no real pressure, no firm agreements about what gets covered and what does not. But there is no reason to beat around the bush, the owners of the Lodge are hoping for some good, diverse coverage.
Fortunately, the place is wonderful (as per how WildSnow works, if we don’t like something or simply are not interested, we don’t necessarily pay attention, but in this case no problem). A-lodge has a fulfilling old cabin vibe that is hard to describe with words: a fine line between comfortable, yet almost camp-like feel of accommodations. I think it is generally the location and the scenery of its mountain canyon locale that creates this unique atmosphere. A special getaway spot in the hills for all kinds of travelers — surprisingly close to metro Boulder but almost feeling like a tucked away lodge in the middle of nowhere Montana. I begin to have dreams about not having a job and staying there forever…
Eldora resort is a short drive away, a smaller yet very impressive ski destination. We were fortunate enough to catch conditions right after a storm has rolled though the area, bringing a few inches of fresh. The way the resort works with the press event is basic. They’re glad to have us there, comp us lift tickets and permission to uphill, testing of Dynafit boots and Sego skis commences. Ski Patrol pointed us to a few pow stashes from the previous storm, allowing us to duck roped terrain and enjoy a few untracked turns.
While we were only testing gear for a day, I can say that this crew was not messing around, and everyone had enough skill to be a legitimate tester. While this was a “PR” event, the marketing gremlins were not present — we worked hard at forming our own opinions based on really using the stuff. The split of gear to test was very impressive; ability to tour in the morning, testing the new Dynafit Hoji boot and skiing on some light Dynafit skis and then getting an opportunity to alpine ski on some next year’s Sego skis in the afternoon. The mix was a wonderful contrast to round up the day, providing an added variety component that is valuable in my opinion. Even though our primary background here at WildSnow is backcountry gear – we also enjoy an occasional day or two “sponsored by chairlift.”
Eldora is the only resort I’ve been to that has specifically marked uphill routes for backcountry skiers; after this trip I believe that every ski resort should have these kind of directions for uphill travelers. Those kind of guidelines really help clear up any confusion regarding uphill travel as well as provide a more increased level of safety for both for everyone on the mountain. Experiencing these sorts of “cultural” things is another way press events inform WildSnow blogging.
WildSnow has already published extensive details about the Dynafit Hoji boot. But after checking the boot out up close and personal, in my opinion the Hoji is definitly a one boot quiver to that covers alpine and touring. Sure, it’s not a skimo race boot nor a World Cup GS boot, but it might do the best job of going up, and down, of any boot yet created. Proof will be the full retail phase starting next fall, but looking good.
I got the chance to jump on a pair of next year’s Sego’s UP Pro, a ski designed by the collaboration between Sego and pro skier Lynsey Dyer. Lynsey is a big advocate for women specific skis that are responsive, stable and playful; the UP pro delivers an exceptional ripping big mountain ski complete with a custom graphic design by Dyer herself. If you are looking for an all mountain ski, I did test, and recommend you check these out. The UP pro is not designed to be a backcountry ski and it does weigh quite a bit, probably not what I’d pick for a backcountry ski of choice. With that said, I’m psyched to see a strong women’s line in the Sego brand and such an amazing advocate behind it. Way to go Lynsey and Sego! And I must say, Sego wins the “best ski bus” award. Watch for it, and take a ride.
Of course, there is no reason not to enjoy these trips — and the people organizing it make sure there is no shortage of tasty food and adult beverages. While everyone joyfully socialized for a while during and after dinner, it was interesting how most cleared out and hit their rooms much before the wee hours. This was obviously a work trip. Fun, yes. Entertaining, yes. But everyone was there to bring the goods to their readers and viewers.
It might be too “business to business,” but at this point in the history of WildSnow, I don’t think there is anything wrong with blogging about PR guy Eric “Hendy” Henderson, without whom this unique press trip would not have been possible. The guy is an extroverted genius who lives for connecting people and business. Why is Hendy part of our history? According to Lou, simply because “he’s been helpful and downright instrumental in our success as bloggers, always there to get review gear to us quickly, organizing truly useful yet fun press trips, but more, making it personal to the point of blending business with genuine friendship.” Oh, and let’s not forget the guy is a former Alaskan heli guide who, can, ski. I saw it with my own eyes.
Overall, I am very impressed with the thoughtful, well structured and fun activities Hendy and his team were able to create during the trip. But more, it is masterful the way the downright materialistic, such as fawning over the Dynafit Hoji ski boot, was combined with the actual reasons we get out and do this stuff. Stuff being, our true love for the sport that skiing is. To that end, Caveman Collective was tasked with making a video of mob of gear writers, with subject matter not “what’s your favorite ski?” but rather “what does winter adventure mean to you”? Get a glimpse of what it means to us here.
P.s. I also gotta thank Caveman collective for my new epic LinkedIn pic. Microsoft approves.