I woke up and picked up my phone: 7 a.m., two hours before the Outdoor Retailer trade show opened and an hour before I was meeting the Rock and Ice crew at breakfast. The hotel Internet was, as always, slower than dialup, so I decided to go for a run.
I’m not used to city running, and Salt Lake is a funny city. The streets are a minimum of two lanes wide in each direction, sometimes more, giving one the feeling of crossing an interstate at the end of each block. Since I’m not used to stoplights and didn’t feel like waiting for a walk signal every quarter-mile, I opted to run squares around the block our hotel was on, zigzagging through the various fast-food parking lots every few laps to mix things up.
I passed the same man handing out Outdoor Retailer information magazines each time I went around my circle; we smiled at each other.
“You running the mile?” he asked. I hoped I would last that long, thinking of all the unfinished projects I wished I was climbing at Rifle instead of lapping people pushing shopping carts with everything they owned down the street. As I jogged past the Holiday Inn, I saw two police cars busting a guest for having beers purchased outside of Utah in a cooler—Coors Light.
I ran past a man biking in circles around a back parking lot, dress pants cuffed to keep them clean from chain grease. He was here for the same reason I was: to get a little early morning exercise in before beginning hours of meetings about SUP boards, ultra-light bike frames, and the newest Black Diamond cams, ounces lighter than last year’s. He was on a mountain bike, which belonged on the trails surrounding the city, not in it.
Twice a year, in August and January, the outdoor industry comes together in the Salt Palace to show off the newest gear along miles of booths costing thousands of dollars each. It’s a place to work but also a place to meet old friends and make new connections while chatting about the latest gadgets that get us up the mountains and cliffs, down the rivers, across the lakes, and through the oceans we love. Those who attend break the culture of the city, biking through parking lots at 7 a.m. and drinking beer full strength beer—illegal to brew in Utah, where “beer” is defined as beverages with an alcohol content of 3.2 percent or less.
However, the outdoor industry isn’t just about selling you a product that you “need” to be complete and then cracking open a celebration beer at the end of the day. It’s about providing people with the best tools possible that will allow them to have experiences in nature they’ll remember. To quote The North Face: “Never Stop Exploring,” whether you’re using this year’s cams or your dad’s hand-me-down, twice-resoled climbing shoes.
Originally published August 17, 2015, on coffeetapeibuprofenclimb.blogspot.com.