Snow was falling steadily as I began my ascent to Brighton Mountain resort last month after wrapping up at a busy Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. The mood in the car was elevated, as I drove along with several locals who were seeing their first real storm of the season. Up at the ThirtyTwo house, walking distance to the lifts, spirits were similar. As I dove into the brand’s educational seminar on its newest line of boots and outerwear for 2013, it was apparent that the company puts a large emphasis not only on letting its sales staff and retail partners try the gear for themselves, but also takes their feedback into serious consideration as further tweaks are made throughout the development process—a strategy that has become increasingly successful over the past ten years since it launched the annual Boot Camp event.
The yearly tradition was founded by long-time ThirtyTwo Marketing Director Brian Cook, who has seen the event through its infancy and attended every session since its inception. Celebrating a decade this January, the camp returned to its birth place at Utah’s Brighton. For Cook, giving retailers a tangible, hands-on look at outerwear and boots, and a chance to see how they work on the hill, is a key part of what ThirtyTwo represents. Retailers from across the country follow a few days of riding with a comprehensive presentation from the ThirtyTwo sales staff detailing each new product in the line, allowing them to make educated decisions about next season’s buys.
For Ben Olson, owner of Damage Boardshop in Duluth, Minnesota, this year marks the third notch on his boot camp belt.
“It’s great meeting all the in-house dudes in person that I’ve been talking to over the years via phone or emails and then giving your input on the products,” says Olson. “In this day and age it’s great to see a brand like ThirtyTwo listening to what real snowboard shops have to say about their brand and boot camp is a great way to accomplish that. “Besides talking with company folks, I really dig talking with other shop owners from the different regions to see what’s checking and working well for them. You can bounce ideas off each other and then go back with some fresh concepts that will make your store that much better and help you survive during the rough times.”
TransWorld Business was able to sit in on the learning experience, as well as enjoy a few runs in the more than 30 inches of fresh powder Brighton received. Curious to learn more about Boot Camp’s roots, we sat down with Cook to get his perspective on how it all got started, how the event has evolved, and why he thinks it is still a valuable resource for retailers who return year after year.
How did you come up with this event in the first place?
ThirtyTwo Boot Camp was created for the love of snowboarding! We just wanted to get out of the tradeshow slump. Let’s take our friends, riders and partners out of their stores, shops and areas to snowboard new mountains throughout the USA.
Why do you think this event is valuable to retailers?
ThirtyTwo retailers get to see and test the new products, and talk with other retailers about what’s working. They also get one on one interaction with a brand that is one of their top sellers, snowboard and have a good time (Party)!
How have you evolved boot camp over the years and how do you continue to make it new and innovative for those returning retailers?
ThirtyTwo has kept Boot Camp fresh by focusing on new locations and snow; we always try and go someplace fun and new. Most retailers can barely leave the store during the month of December so they are excited to meet up and roll to ThirtyTwo Boot Camp; they know it’s going to be a good time!
Brighton was the original location of the first boot camp. How did it feel to return to the mountain celebrating ten years of boot camp?
Going back to Brighton is like coming home from a long trip to your house and bed, it’s the best feeling EVER! WE LOVE BRIGHTON! Park, powder, easy hikes, mellow crowds, should I keep going?
What type of feedback do you get from retailers who attend? How do you use that type of information to improve the line?
We get tons of feedback about how to make things better or ideas they’ve had. I remember, back in the day, retailers were telling us we need a Fast Track system, and we responded by coming up with one that is very competitive and leading in the market. We also get feedback in colors and styles that are working and those that aren't, we listen and make changes. Then next year we give props to the retailers that suggested those ideas and show them how we implemented their idea, they’re apart of the 32 team and family. We wouldn’t be where we’re at without honest, loyal retailers that truly care about snowboarding.
What’s new for next season with your boot line? Any new technology that you’d like to talk about?
ThirtyTwo has tons of new technology including 1:1 lasting on the Prime and Lashed (men's and women's, Laced and Fast Track). Meaning we have a true half size for every foot print.
One of our top team riders Joe Sexton wanted a low profile boot that was made for riding rails and park, he got it. It's called the Maven, slim liner, low volume footprint and very skate inspired.
JP Walker wanted a lighter boot, he got it. We gave him the STI Evolution outsole (No rubber and 20% lighter than the competition) light weight synthetic upper and a very minimal look and style.
What’s been the most recent best sellers as far as styles and colorways go?
The ThirtyTwo LASHED is our number one selling boot for both men's and women's, Lace or Fast Track. This year the Lashed has a new 1:1 outsole, independent eyestay for nice even lacing and tightening, internal cuff for superior fit and support and with a soft to mid flex. With a price of only $200 bucks, it’s the KILL ZONE!
The ThirtyTwo Shiloh and Shiloh 2 jackets have been doing really well, solid colors, big logo, 10K water proofing and 10K breathability. They are also priced right and selling super good for retailers.
Do you find that retailers like to stick with these, or does holding an event like boot camp help them branch out?
ThirtyTwo Boot Camp is and has been a way for retailers to try new things and learn what's new with the brand. From new outerwear team riders Chris Bradshaw and Scott Stevens getting signature gear to all the new technology on the boots. So of course they stick with what’s working and also check out the newest gear that will set them apart from their competition.
What do you foresee for the future of boot camp and what do you hope to see from the program as it moves past the decade mark?
We will stay true to what we are a privately-owned snowboarding brand that cares about snowboarding. We’re not making a board of directors happy or helping some corporate company take over the world; we just want to shred, have fun and progress with new technologies that make snowboarding better. Having our retailers be a part of 32 and Boot Camp is huge, we want to make this event happen for another 10 years! Could you imagine a 20 year anniversary of Boot Camp? Snowboarding, partying, and shredding the best gear possible? I can!