The SIA Board’s Boarders: Catching Up With 686 Founder Mike West

Editor's Note: When most people hear "SIA" they immediately think of the trade show, but SnowSports Industries America is much more than that. As a not-for-profit trade organization, it is run by its members and Board of Directors, of whom a third are from core snowboard brands with well over 100 years of collective industry experience. The SIA Board meets regularly to steer the organization's goals, like increasing participation; services, like in-depth research data; and, yes, it's trade show, to ensure SIA meets the needs of brands and retailers today, and in year's to come.

As part of our series on the SIA Board’s Boarders, we caught up with 686 Founder Mike West, who’s also the CEO and president of Westlife Distribution.

When and why did you join the SIA board?

I’ve been on the SIA Board of Directors for about 3 years. I remember we were having a few drinks at this a restaurant in Munich during ISPO when Gumby (Bob Gundram from C3) told me that the Board wanted me to come on the following year. I thought he was joking. Previously, I had pictured that SIA was “the man” and small independent brands like 686 were not on their radar. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I accepted because they want to listen and support the shred world more than heads know.

What are your goals in steering SIA’s direction to better support the sport of snowboarding and its retailers and brands?

That’s always been the focus in my book. SIA is one of the longest standing non-profit, member-owned organizations with close to 40 years of support in snow. The board consists of a dynamic group of key decision makers from all the winter sports; one quarter of them being from the shred side. There are a few initiatives we are working on that stick out – first is the challenge to stay relevant. SIA’s dedicated marketing and sales team, including SIA President, David Ingemie, is always on the road getting important face time with retailers, brands, associations, and customers that make up the shred world. Second is to work the political side of things; SIA has greatly helped in Washington to overcome harsh duties and taxes that would have effected all snowboard hardgoods and softwoods. Our third goal is to keep it simple and concentrate on making the show the #1 tradeshow in snowboarding with fresh ideas and the ability to embrace the odd and independent. Finally and probably most relevant for all of us is to keep things affordable. Hotel rates have dropped and booth space fees have not gone up for exhibitors in seven years.

 What resources does SIA offer retailers that they might not know about?

One of the biggest areas we’re trying to constantly improve is how SIA communicates all the great things that are absolutely free to members. SIA has probably the most comprehensive data available as far as who is participating in snowboarding and what's selling in the stores. SIA can assist if you need help running your business, import/export info, advice on credit associations, shipping discount rates and a whole lot more.

 How has the snowboard side of the show changed since you began coming and what are your goals for the future?

My first meeting with the board years ago I told them that I was one of those brands that couldn’t even get into the show back in the early 90s in Vegas. I had to get a room in the Mardi Gras Motel down the street. From the crazy days when there were over 300 snowboarding brands in the Vegas North hall, to the fallout in the late 90’s, to the rise at Mandalay and finally the move to Denver; snowboarding will always have its own quirky and crazy vibe at the SIA show. As far as goals, we need to always keep things fresh, new, affordable and moving forward to keep the attention of the next generation of young brands and retailers.

What tips do you have for retailers attending the show to make the most of it?

In an era when it’s difficult to spend time and money, we have to make it worthwhile and valuable for retailers to attend. SIA will continue to make sure we have the best brands (big and small), incredible product, key decision makers present and reasons that you’ll have a good ole time at the show and at night. High fives and off-site meetings/hangouts/parties should be taken advantage of because without retailers, we have no show. Don’t make an excuse not to go, our industry is built on relationships. After all, it’s snowboarding and it’s supposed to be fun.