Powder Week marked its 17th year in February. Headed up by Powder’s robust staff and its many contributors, this year the ski industry descended upon Big Sky, Montana, to test the best of the best gear for 2018—and of course, to party. Lots of that, actually, as Editor John Davies pointed out in the following interview.
But what sets the event apart from a typical ski gathering is the unbridled enthusiasm and attention to detail in evaluating next year’s product. By forming what they’ve deemed the “Powder Union”—a group of about 30 people from shop managers, to ski guides and the title’s own correspondents—Powder has humbly grown the week-long event into a must-attend industry staple.
Because product innovation and the snow sports community always spark strong interest, we sat down with Davies to understand how Powder Week came to be, and where it’s headed.
There is a great story and history behind how Powder Week and the Powder Awards got started – why has it been important for Powder to continue to build and nurture this?
Both events came from the vision of former Powder editor Keith Carlsen. The ideas were instrumental in helping Powder evolve from thinking of itself as just a magazine and taking ownership of its role as a leader and authority within the ski community. Carlsen saw Powder Awards as a chance to bridge a disconnect between the magazine and the skiers who kept making the sport better while honoring their achievements. Nobody else was doing that at the time.
Powder Week started similarly, and modestly, as a chance to get ski manufacturers together to talk about what's new in skis. It's grown into this wild, massive sub-cultural event. Both events have been important for business and marketing reasons, but, more essentially, as vehicles of outreach to our very small, very important ski community.
How have you seen Powder Week evolve and grow over the years? How, if any, has the overall direction changed since its inception?
A lot of the details of the event have changed from editor to editor, and location to location. Big Sky is our third location in 17 years, after Jackson Hole and Snowbird, for one year In 2017. The event is bigger, more organized, and more professional and wilder all at the same time. This is my 11th Powder Week, and the heart of it is still the same.
At its essence, it's still the best week of the year because we get to go skiing (and party) with all our best friends in the ski industry. What comes from that is really valuable. Not only all the information that makes up our Buyer's Guide—annually our best selling issue as well as our most visited page on Powder.com—but the relationships developed from the event.
Powder Week itself is now a community of friends. It wasn't always this way. The person responsible for maintaining the soul of this event, year after year, with annual pressures to grow it, is our editor-at-large Matt Hansen, who has overseen the event for the edit team for the past dozen years or so.
Why does the ski industry need this type of event? How does it strengthen Powder’s overall mission?
From an editorial perspective, it's the only way for us to try hundreds of skis, argue about them for awhile, and find the threads of consensus to share with readers: ‘These are the new skis you should know about.' We don't take that authority lightly, nor irresponsibly.
Our process for identifying the best new skis is incredibly thorough—it’s an entire year of planning and is ever-evolving. It's also essential for relationships. Our office is in Southern California. We don't see a lot of the ski industry here.
This is our chance to go skiing with the people who have put their lives into building these skis—the engineers, the marketing teams, the ski company CEOs—and to better understand their challenges and successes… and then go ski something somewhat death-defying together… and then drink a pitcher of beer together. That's invaluable for everyone there.