Over the past several seasons, the annual Backcountry Base Camp, held just before OR Winter Market in Salt Lake City, has evolved from a fun event with a few manufacturers and a few retailers who wanted to ski into a must-attend prelude to the show. This year the event will host several new exhibitors, including Salewa USA, New Balance, and Movement Skis.

As of press time, the number of exhibitors was up considerably compared to this same time last year, with 52 companies slated to attend versus 39 previously. However, the BBC is still only about 75% booked, with several negotiations on-going. In addition to the increased number of manufacturers,, most are requesting larger booths in order to accommodate the growing crowds of retailers. As a result, the BBC will have a much larger footprint than last year with better access to many of the key exhibitors.

Attendance is expected to be up at the demo. According to Peter Devin, OR show director, attendance for the entire show is tracking up “about 9%” over last year and this should boost the number of buyers at the BBC.

This year, Exum Utah Mountain Adventures, operating under a special use permit from the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, will lead tours into the Brighton Backcountry. In addition, al attendees will be able to use Brighton’s Millicent Lift to test new gear throughout the day. The Base Camp will also feature a Nordic ski test track, a snowshoe demo area, and a Rail Jam demo by several of the exhibitors’ sponsored athletes.

The manufacturers who attend are looking at this primarily as an educational opportunity. “Not all of the retailers at the Base Camp come from a backcountry perspective,” said Donna Ebbett, Garmont N.A.’s marketing director. “Many of the Alpine and snowboard retailers are just getting into backcountry and there is a big leap in education that needs to happen there, especially with safety equipment. The Base Camp is the perfect place for that to happen… Also for the Outdoor Retailers, in the past three years, backcountry gear has made some huge strides. They can get out there and see that backcountry boots don’t have to be soft and mushy anymore.”

Chris Strome, marketing manager for Genuine Guide Gear agrees. “With skis and bindings, you can talk about it all you want, but until you get people out there, they just can’t understand. We have eight different skis in our line, and on the show floor I can describe to you exactly how each one feels. But when you get out there and make a few turns, you feel the difference and you can experience the difference – you just cant do that on the show floor,” he said.

Last year, OR streamlined the registration process and made transportation more readily available to attract more attendees to Brighton, which is just over an hour away from The Salt Palace in downtown SLC. These improvements are being carried over to the event this year. In the past, the event was primarily a ski demo day for outdoor retailers, but each year more categories are represented, with snowshoes, camp stoves, backpacks, hydration systems, and nutritional companies all attending this year.