SnowSports Industries America is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with its 50th global trade show beginning Monday, January 26, 2004 at the 2004 SIA SnowSports Show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

“This industry has shown tremendous growth and maturity,” noted David Ingemie, president of SIA for the past 27 years. “To see a mom-and-pop environment mature into a $2.2 billion marketplace is remarkable. We should be especially proud of the years of hard work and development we’ve all put into the sports that we love,” he said.

In the early 1950s, European companies dominated the marketplace with family-owned importers and distributors in the U.S. representing multiple European lines. U.S. market growth exploded as an entrepreneurial boom in the snow sports business occurred in North America, inspired by members of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division returning home from World War II. European manufacturers began to feel the success of these newly-founded American companies, and established dedicated U.S. subsidiaries of their European lines, thus ending the reign of the multi-line importers and distributors.

It was in this environment that SIA was born in 1954. A consortium of 32 manufacturers came together to form a singular organization called the National Ski and Apparel Association with the mission of making North America the strongest snowsports marketplace in the world. SIA established yearly trade shows in New York and San Francisco (which was later moved to Los Angeles) and lobbied for the industry on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

“The SIA trade show is an example of how 2+2=5,” said Stu Keiller, president of Kaelin Sportswear who served on the SIA board of directors from 1982 to 1996. “When all facets of the industry, not just suppliers and retailers, get together, the industry tends to be successful and grow. In most sporting industries, the different groups do not interact as well as we do in winter sports.”

With momentum provided by the televised Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley, Calif., in 1960, the snow sports industry enjoyed explosive growth through the 70’s. Participation increased with advances in technology among skis, boots and bindings. Resorts introduced multiple-passenger lifts to transport more people up the mountains and reduce lift lines dramatically.

As individual companies across the industry flourished in the 1980’s, SIA followed their lead to foster a marketplace where its membership could thrive. “SIA convinced manufacturers that through their cooperative effort, they could accomplish a great deal in developing a marketplace beyond what each could do individually,” said Bill Danner, a board member from 1976 to 1989, and currently an independent consultant. “By creating initiatives that drew visibility to winter sports, and not just the manufacturers, the industry has been able to nurture and sustain itself.”

Snowboarding, which had roots in the mid-70’s, re-energized the industry starting in the late 1980’s. Youngsters (and later, their parents) gravitated toward the new snow sport. “As a member of the ski industry, some of us thought the boarders threatened our livelihood,” remembers Bud Allen, president of Mirage Sunglasses whose association with SIA spans 28 years, first as a sales representative and later as a manufacturer. “On the contrary, they were our future,” he said.

Acknowledging the impact snowboarding was having on the industry, the SIA board of directors changed the trade association’s name in 1997 from Ski Industries America to SnowSports Industries America.

“Technological advances in snow sports products have changed the way we play on snow,” adds SIA’s David Ingemie. “From the early revolutionary design of Howard Head’s easy-turning metal skis in the 1950’s, and Bob Lange’s plastic boots, to the technological advances and development of the snowboard, the introduction of shaped and twin-tipped skis, the advent of snowshoeing and a resurgence in cross country skiing, the industry is poised for a healthy future as it moves into the new millennium.”

Ian Ferguson, a 27-year veteran of SKI Magazine’s sales staff commented, “This is an industry where you can combine your vocation with your evocation. Not many people get that opportunity.”

Ingemie concludes, “This group has never forgotten where and how it got started and it still understands that, above everything else, it is people out on the snow that makes this a fun business.”

To mark its 50th anniversary, SIA will host a party, 6 p.m. on Monday, January 26, 2004 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Shoreline A. The event will feature a look back at 50 years of brands, faces, technology, innovation, trends and style.