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Hickenlooper, Vidal, a Merinotaur and a bunch of crossdressers: SIA Snow Show gets weird

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The SIA Snow Show rang in its second year in Denver yesterday with Governor John Hickenlooper rocking a green 686 snowboard jacket and talking about how stoked he is to go snowboarding with his family this weekend, and Mayor Bill Vidal sporting a puffy black Spyder coat and urging SIA attendees to check out the free "skiin' and shreddin'" to be had at the nearby Ruby Hill Rail Yard terrain park while they're in town: Reminders, both, that we live in an awesome city in a rad state, especially if skiin' or shreddin' happen to be your thing.

"Four or five of the top ski resorts on earth are in the state of Colorado," boasted Hickenlooper, before breaking out a cowbell to start the show. "We need to expand that branding and that connection of winter sports to Colorado, and that's what SIA does."

He neglected to mention that another thing SIA does is get truly weird.

On opening day, for example, we spotted a half-naked half-man/half-ram (Sheeptaur? Merinotaur?) representing for Icebreaker, a wool base layer company from New Zealand.

We also played a few rounds of Huck-a-Hubcap, saw some seriously sexed-up snowboards and a countering "Powder is better than sex" ad campaign, puzzled over a booth full of guys dressed like bananas and watched a Vans representative begin the long slog of making 19,000 waffles for show attendees in a tasty tribute to the shoe company's Classic Waffle Grip soles, circa 1966 and now used in their snowboard boots.

And, to close out Day 1, we caught a script-flipping fashion show in which a bunch of industry dudes modeled next season's women's apparel, soaking up all the self-inflicted objectification they could get to help raise funds for the Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition (OIWC), a non-profit aimed at supporting women in the outdoor, snow sports, action sports and bicycling industries.

Weird works, apparently: The elected officials and industry spokesfolks on hand for the trade show's opening ceremony talked up some significant numbers, like the 19,000 people SnowSports Industries America is estimating will attend this year's show, the estimated $30 million in local economic impact the trade show represents annually and the fact that SIA's 11-year contract in Denver, now in its 2nd year, is the richest convention contract in Colorado history. SIA itself is reporting big numbers this week, too: In December 2010 the snow sports market sold more than $1 billion worth of equipment, apparel and accessories, an all-time industry record for single-month sales. When it snows, it dumps.

Stay tuned: Next week we'll bring you in-depth reports about what's hot and what's not on the horizon for winter 2011/2012, plus an in-depth look at some of the coolest Colorado companies in the biz, some of the kookiest innovations we're not buying and some of the sauciest booth babes and sheep dudes on the showroom floor. We might even show you some actual pictures of skis and snowboards!

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