Amid the new year's first big winter storm in Utah, more than 21,000 attendees gathered in Salt Lake City to see the latest in winter gear and connect with peers at the outdoor industry's largest semi-annual gathering, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012.

Winter Market saw increases across the board, with jumps in buyer, store and overall attendance as well as a significant increase in exhibitor count, easily making it the largest-ever winter show.

“Winter Market remains one of the fastest growing and exciting shows in the country, and the lack of big snow nationwide has not dampened the incredible energy this industry emanates,” said Kenji Haroutunian, OR's show director. “Retailers and media have flocked to the show from the corners of the continent and the world to witness the incredible strength of innovation in 2012-13 products and brand stories, and to partake in the elevation and celebration of the active outdoor lifestyle.”

Areas of large growth for Winter Market included a nearly 30 percent increase in retailers from the Northeast, a jump in footwear brands, which now account for nearly a quarter of all exhibitors, the arrival of iconic brands such as Burton and recognizable debuts like the new line by Quiksilver Mountain. 

“We tell our customers that we're staying on top of the industry's latest and greatest,” said Brigitte Rouleau of Morsel Munk in Winsted, CT. “Outdoor Retailer allows us to do that leg work and research for them in a very compressed period of time. It's such a benefit to be able to see, touch, feel and test new products in person.” 

“For the first time in a long time, this industry seems to be on the same page,” said Gerry Fullington, general manager at Massey's Professional Outfitters. “At Outdoor Retailer, shops were expressing the challenges they face, and vendors, instead of pushing for short term gains, not only listened to those concerns but came prepared with strategies on how to alleviate issues; we all seem to be investing in the long-term health of our industry.” 

The robust retailer corps and enthusiasm surrounding the show fueled strong positive reactions from exhibitors who rely on the buyer mix to expand their brands and OR's community to energize and focus their efforts. 

“This show was exactly what we'd want to see in a show; we saw everybody we wanted to see and we loved the environment,” said Greg Thomsen, managing director at adidas OUTDOOR. “We're seeing the buyers, the magazines and editorial and all the athletes we want to see all in one place so it's a really efficient use of our time, energy and costs.” 

“The quality of buyers was more than what we hoped for; walking around the show we were invigorated because sometimes you start to feel like you know everyone you need to know, but we met a lot of people who really inspired us,” said Beth Steele, Burton's director of sales. “There was a lot of energy and different types of brands than we expected and I think we all felt overwhelmed by the positivity of the show.”

Retailers took to the slopes at Solitude Mountain Resort for the All Mountain Demo. Featuring 60 brands from across the industry, the on-snow event gave retailers the year's first opportunity to test the latest winter gear in the environment for which it was designed. 

University of Cincinnati student Margaret Mussman took home the title in cycle eight of Project OR, the industry's first design-to-prototype competition, with a pair of technical women's ski bibs she designed and constructed in the frenzied 48-hour competition. 

The approximately 500 members of the outdoor media in attendance gave a peek inside the industry-only event through social media and other online outlets, and will for weeks to come. A few highlights from the week of the show included more than 1,700 searchable blog posts and more than 1,500 tweets using the hastag #ORshow.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market will return to the Salt Palace Convention Center, in Salt Lake City, January 24-27, 2013. Outdoor Retailer brings the Summer Market to Salt Lake August 2-5, 20