Across an industry that is rapidly changing, Utah-based Snowsports Industries America is leading the way. Nick Sargent, a former ski racer, World Cup ski tuner and marketing chief for Burton, is pioneering efforts to change Snowsports Industries America (SIA) from a trade show company to a global leader in data-based marketing, sustainability and diversity to grow the equipment industry across America. He joins Last Chair to dive into the story and how a 2016 move of SIA to Utah was pivotal to its evolution.
Sargent grew up on skis near Stowe, Vt., cross country skiing to school, ripping alpine turns on Mount Mansfield and talking his dad into buying him a Burton Backhill as a kid before snowboards were a thing. In college, he built a passion for the western mountains ski racing for Western State in Colorado.
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His career path took him right into the ski industry, serving as one of the original ski technicians at Park City’s Rennstall, which led him to a few years of ski tuning for Dynastar/Lange on the World Cup before landing a job with Salomon and later Burton, where his savvy approach to marketing brought brands to life.
When he took on leadership of SIA in 2015, he oversaw its transformation from a trade show company to an organization developing a roadmap for the sport’s future. Topics turned to climate–how can the industry mitigate the number of winter days it was losing each season? Sustainability–what steps can be taken to recycle products? And diversity – how can skiing and snowboarding become more inclusive?
The catalyst for much of that change was a board-directed move of SIA to Utah from its previous home outside Washington, D.C. Instantly, the organization became more connected to its sport.
In this episode of Last Chair, Sargent shares fun and insightful stories from his days tuning skis in Park City to his yearlong persistence that led to his tenure with Dynastar and how he developed one of the most successful hospitality houses for Salomon at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah.
What fostered your love for outdoor sports?
My mom encouraged us to stay outside as much as possible. And we were just having the time of our lives playing in the snow and the woods and the farm fields. It was a real Tom Sawyer type of upbringing. That's what it was all about…just having fun. Winter is long and the more fun you could have–a winter was more enjoyable and you almost were disappointed when spring came around because you wanted to keep riding and skiing and sledding and having fun with your buddies in the snow.
How did you initially make your way to Utah after college?
I had a friend and a ski coach of mine for a little while, Will Goldsmith, and he was living in Crested Butte. He invited me to come work at a new ski shop that he and another colleague, Brian Burnett, were starting, called Rennstall in the early 90s. I came to Park City and couldn't believe the lights and the people and the buildings. I thought it was the right place for me at that time. And that was really the golden ticket–learn how to tune skis at a world-class level, get exposure to a lot of different athletes from around the world and also get a lot of exposure to the ski companies.
What motivated SIA to move to Utah in 2016?
(The board said) ‘we want you to move the organization to Utah. And we think Park City would be the best location. All roads come through Utah in the winter sports business. And there are a number of member companies that belong to SIA. It would be great for us to be closer to our business, closer to the sport, and put us in a place where we're going to be front and center.’
What has made Utah a good home for the winter sports industry?
Since around 2002, Utah had a mandate to attract winter sports brands to the state. It’s why Rossignol is here … Amer, Salomon, Atomic, Descente and Black Diamond, they've been here for a long time, Scott Bikes and so on. It's just one of the best environments for a company, specifically, if you are an outdoor or a winter sport brand, it has all that you need from the snow perspective, from an outdoor perspective, from biking, hiking, hunting perspective, you know, whatever your sport is, Utah has it. But I would say, you know, one of the appealing factors for myself and moving SIA here was the proximity to the airport, the proximity to Salt Lake City, the proximity to the Cottonwoods. Snowbasin Resort, Powder Mountain.
“These brands are waking up to this new consumer in this new world and really pushing the needle on their product development and really pushing the needle of putting recycled material to the test. ”
-SIA President & CEO Nick Sargent
How does SIA approach climate?
Climate change is the largest threat to the winter sport business. (The winter sports industry) drives an engine for this state and the community. We need climate. So, you know, We started an initiative called Climate United. It's a way that we can gather our members, the suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and the resorts to start to pay attention to climate. And we've lost 35 days of winter in the last 30 years. They're working with different groups around the country and addressing climate and raising awareness of the effects of climate. We're working hard with the Biden administration and the Inflation Reduction Act, which was just passed. I'm really proud of the work that the team has done here to help push that across the line.
And how do you approach sustainability?
A lot of people will say climate and sustainability are the same thing. But sustainability is how we work with clean manufacturing and really doing the right things for your company and your business that set you apart. Whether you're reducing your carbon emissions, your greenhouse gas output, whether you are putting in solar panels, having gardens, mandating that your product is manufactured in a clean and reducing your waste – those are elements that really come into play and we have a long way to go. We have a lot of leaders out there. Burton Snowboards is doing a great job. Rossignol is doing a great job. Patagonia -- the news about giving their company to climate. I mean, that's the ultimate!
How important is diversity to sport growth?
It's beyond a moral imperative. It is a business imperative. The funnel of winter sport participants is getting narrow. We had a huge boom in the sixties and seventies and eighties and the baby boomers had carried this forward. But unfortunately, it's been a wealthy white man's game. It's our job to change that. It's our destiny to open up the outdoors to a more diverse audience and get more people comfortable in snow no matter what color you are or your gender or your sexual preference or things that don't matter. All that matters is that you're getting outside and having fun.
On the equipment side, how have skiing and snowboarding innovated together?
The shaped ski made it easier for beginners and intermediate to pick up the sport and learn how to turn their skis so much that snowboards have adapted shapes as well to make it easier for people to ride and get comfortable when they're on snow. The other one was twin tips. That inspiration came from snowboarding and giving people the ability to go backward or forwards, not only on snowboard, but also skis. They were feeding off each other and the designs were very simple and easy to execute.
You’ve been living in Utah now at times over a span of 30 years. Favorite run?
I'm a little reluctant to share it with everyone. But it's no secret. When you're at Alta Ski Areaon the Supreme Lift and you go far, far out there to Last Chance, those woods out there, you can still get powder a few days after a big storm.
Listen in to the full episode of Last Chair with SIA leader Nick Sargent.
SIA’s mission is to help the winter outdoor community thrive. SIA is the trade association of the winter outdoor industry. Through SIA membership, brands, destinations, retailers, service providers and nonprofits solve immediate business problems, adapt to changing pressures, save and grow. SIA and its members spot trends that matter, facilitate industry-wide strategy and innovate to ensure the winter outdoors thrives for future generations.
SIA’s ClimatedUnited program is a two-step initiative designed to energize the entire snowsports industry around climate. Step 1 is the ClimateUnited Pact aligning the industry around a set of achievable principles and signals the industry’s strength and commitment to tackle climate change at the speed and scale that it demands. Step 2 is more action-oriented, providing guidance to businesses in their own climate action planning. The Climate Lab and 1.5C Business Playbook give businesses a balanced and achievable framework focusing on what really matters, prioritizing advocacy and leadership alongside emissions reductions.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| Today we are in Park City, Utah, the home of Snowsports Industries America. Nick Sargent, president and CEO, thanks a lot for joining us on Last Chair.
Nick Sargent: |00:00:08| Thanks, Tom. Good to be here.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:09| You know, we're recording this in early October and just looking out the window, Nick, you have this amazing view of almost the entire ridgeline at Park City Mountain. Beautiful fall colors. This is a great time of year, isn't it?
Nick Sargent: |00:00:21| It certainly is. The colors are popping. It's nice to have some inclement weather to break up the bluebird days. And it's nice to see some rain. It's been a while.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:30| You know, it's kind of interesting. We're sitting here. Yeah, it's nice to have some inclement weather once in a while, in a little bit of rain. We've actually had a lot of rain. The colors. I was wondering if they were going to ever come out. But it really is spectacular. You grew up in Vermont. How do you rate our color here in Utah compared to Vermont in the fall?
Nick Sargent: |00:00:48| Well, I've got to be honest. You know, Vermont foliage is hard to beat, but Utah certainly has some amazing color. And certainly, you know, the scrub brush and the Aspens and, you know, the blue sky, it's amazing to see. And in comparison to Vermont, you know, I would say it's right up there.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:08| Cool. Yeah, it is a really … beautiful time of year. And the best part is we're now counting down the days to the season and it won't be long, just a little bit over a month now. And we'll be thinking about getting up on the lifts there. Appreciate you joining us here on Last Chair. And we're going to cover a lot of territory here today. We're going to talk about SIA, what it does as an organization, the move to Utah to bring this national organization right here to the state. We're also going to talk about climate. We're going to talk about inclusion and a number of other topics. But just to kind of get things rolling, give us a little bit of your background as a skier. I know you grew up in Stowe, Vermont, and how did you get into the sport and what was life like there growing up near such an amazing resort?
Nick Sargent: |00:01:49| Yeah, Stowe was great. And truth is, I'm actually just ten miles north in Morrisville, Vermont, and little less known than Stowe on the global footprint. But I had an aunt and uncle who got me into nordic skiing at a young age, and I really took to it. And we lived on a golf course. So in the winter we had a lot of open space to go nordic ski. And in fact, my dad used to drive me to school every day and my older brothers would make us ski to school. And so I would Nordic ski to school and leave my skis against the building and spend a day walking around, going to gym class in my Nordic boots and slipping and sliding. And then I would ski home. And, you know, growing up in Vermont is it's an experience. The weather can be really difficult. And if you get into it, the weather's beautiful and the snow is great. And like everyone who grew up in an alpine environment or a snowy environment, it was the way the world was. You didn't know any different and you couldn't wait to get outside and play with your friends and digging tunnels and snowballs and sledding. And it really was an exceptional place. And, you know, you weren't bothered by modern-day marvels of social media and phones. And, you know, we had a TV with two channels, CBS and, and VCR, and that was it. So we weren't really inside. And my mom encouraged us to stay outside as much as possible. And we were just having the time of our lives playing in the snow and the woods and the fields, the farm fields. And, you know, it was a real Tom Sawyer type of upbringing.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:42| How old were you when you first discovered that you could take a lift to the top of the mountain?
Nick Sargent: |00:03:49| You know, we had what was called the Sunday Program. Every Sunday in the winter, they would load up the kids on the buses and they would ship you off to the mountain. And the first time I went, I couldn't believe the amount of freedom that you had on skis on the mountain. And my first runs were at Toll House. And if you're familiar with Spruce Peak and Mount Mansfield, that's the little beginner hill just a mile or two, before you get to Mount Mansfield. And you know, my friends were there and the hot chocolate was good. And it was just an amazing experience. And to feel that T-bar pull you up with such force was really cool. And then we progressed to Spruce Peak and the chairlifts and it was just a really fun environment. And again, I mentioned my friends, but that's what we did. And we all went skiing together and discovered that it was more than a sport. It was a lifestyle and. We want it in.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:01| Snowboarding was evolving in your part of the country, actually, during that time. Did you get a hankering as a kid to ride aboard?
Nick Sargent: |00:05:09| Yeah, I did. And you know, I first started skiing in the early seventies and I think the first time I saw snowboarding was sometime around 78 or 79. And I thought, you know, I need to have one of those. It was going to sit well on the porch next to my sled and my Nordic skis and my alpine skis. And it was another apparatus that we could go have fun on. And I convinced my dad to buy me one for a birthday present. And it was a Burton Backhill. And he walked me down to Shaw's general store on Main Street in Stowe and bought me a Backhill. And we spent hours on that thing, including hiking Spruce Peak in between gait training and ski racing during our lunch break and just learning how to maneuver and ride. And it was really fun and exhilarating.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:02| Did your ski racing coach know that you were out there on a board?
Nick Sargent: |00:06:06| They found out quickly because under the chairlift there are these straight lines and everybody was wondering who was doing that. And a good friend of mine, his name was Woody, he and I would hike up and make these straight lines and and and then the mountain company found out and then they didn't like that. So they asked us politely to not come back with our snowboards. And that changed a few years later.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:34| Interesting. You know, it's fun to look back at those stories. You know, we probably all did some stuff that maybe wasn't quite acceptable at the time. But, you know, we're kids and we're just pushing the envelope a bit and having fun.
Nick Sargent: |00:06:44| That's what it was all about, was just having fun. And, you know, winter is long and the more fun you could have, you know, winter was more enjoyable and you almost were disappointed when spring came around because you wanted to keep on riding and skiing and sledding and having fun with your buddies in the snow.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:01| What did your ski racing career take you?
Nick Sargent: |00:07:04| Well, it took me to college, so that was a win. I thank my parents for introducing me to ski racing. And I went to Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, and got a ski scholarship to ski race. And they were an NCAA school at the time. And so it was fun to ski it and CAA and GTS and slalom and and but clearly it wasn't good enough to make a US ski team or any of that. But you know, I would say skiing has taken me all over the world in different capacities and then my background in snowboarding has taken me to a lot of places around the world that I might not have ever had the chance to go see.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:49| So you grew up in Vermont. You ended up going to school at Western State in Gunnison, Colorado, near Crested Butte. How did you find your way? I know you've made several sojourns out here to Park City. Now you're based here, but how did you find your way to Park City back in the nineties?
Nick Sargent: |00:08:07| Yeah, I had a friend and he was a ski coach of mine for a little while, Will Goldsmith, and he was living in Crested Butte. He invited me to come work at a new ski shop that he and another colleague that were starting, Brian Burnett, called Rennstall. And this was sometime in the fall of 92 or 93. I can't remember the exact date or year. So I said, sure, I'll come work for you, and came to Park City and couldn't believe the lights and the people and the buildings. And there was activity happening in action. And I thought it was the right place for me at that time. And, funny, funny story, I came out for a part-time job and my first day I think I worked 16 hours and then I think an average day at Rennstall was somewhere between 14 to 18 hours a day and I was the only employee. So there were three of us tuning hundreds and hundreds of skis every week.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:09| Well, Rennstall is really a Park City tradition now, an institution that's been around for quite a while. But the guys who started it, Will and Brian, came off of the World Cup tour. They'd been tuning World Cup skis for some years and you kind of eventually found your way into that as well.
Nick Sargent: |00:09:26| I did, yeah. And that was really the golden ticket was, you know, come work for Will and Brian at Rennstall, learn how to tune skis at a world-class level, get exposure to a lot of different athletes from around the world and certainly here in Park City and then you also you'll get a lot of exposure to the ski companies. And so anyway, I had pinpointed Dynastar-Lange as the company I wanted to work for, and I had met their director of racing, and he was a really, really great guy and has been a lifelong friend. But I called him for a year every Friday to 2:00, and I think he thought I was just a real pain in the ass. So he ended up hiring me.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:15| And sometimes that's the best way to get a job.
Nick Sargent: |00:10:18| Persistence pays off. And, anyway, so I got the job and that's how I started my career, you know, tuning skis professionally and doing World Cup service and again, skiing. Took me all over the world.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:32| Awesome. Did you ... How long did you do that? How long were you on that tour? Because I think a lot of people look at this as a real glory thing. But after you do that for a few years, man, it's a job.
Nick Sargent: |00:10:44| It's a job. You know, I did it for five years and it was you know, it was more of a job than a job. It was a commitment. And, you know, as I said, I've been all over the world and I've been to the nicest hotels and never left their basement. And so ... I ... you know, an average workday would start at 5:30, and it would end sometime around midnight or one in the morning. And you would have anywhere from, you know, on a light day, 10 pairs of skis and on a busy day, maybe 30 if you're ski testing and glide testing downhill skis and, you know, it wasn't a job for the weak of mind or heart. You had to fully commit to it and I did. But, you know, again, after five years, I had more aspirations and other goals I wanted to achieve.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:38| Who are some of the athletes you worked within that time?
Nick Sargent: |00:11:42| Well, you know, the superstars were Tommy Moe and Chad Fleischer and Willi Wiltz, another inspiration in the ski tuning community, was responsible for those guys. And I had a fair amount of exposure and a fair amount of work given to me for them. But I was primarily on the women's speed side. And so the names at the time Megan Gerety, Kirsten Clark, Jonna Mendes, Shannon Nobis, But they were also ... I was ... I worked specifically for Dynastar, but Dynastar was owned by Rossignol. So you would always get new assignments, whether it was, you know, some of the men from the French downhill team or Italians. You know, Debra Campagnoni was someone I did some work with quite a bit as well as, you know, I did boots for Tomba and Dynatar owned Lange boots. And so if you were to be a World Cup service technician, you had to be proficient with boots. So I was not his primary boot technician. But, you know, I could change a buckle, I could grind out a hot spot. And then Dynastar Lange owned Look bindings. So I was also the World Cup Look binding technician. And so I got a lot of exposure doing the bindings for athletes like Tomba and a handful of others. And anyway, you know, you had a lot of exposure. They call it the White Circus for a reason. And it's a traveling roadshow. And like anything, you know, you end up doing a lot of work for those athletes that ski on your products, but you also end up doing a lot of work for some of your colleagues that work for Salomon or Rossignol or Volkl or Atomic helping them out if they're sick or injured or whatnot.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:34| So you found your way back to Utah. You worked for Salomon, and there are a lot of stories we could probably tell. But I want to go to the 2002 Olympics. And I think at that time, just thinking back to myself, a lot of us probably didn't know you at the time, but we just knew that there was this super hot hospitality program at the Miner's Hospital here in Park City, which you were the one who pulled that off.
Nick Sargent: |00:13:57| I was, yeah. so I left Dynastar and got a job with Salomon. And Salomon was owned by Adidas. So Salomon Adidas or was it Adidas Salomon? Anyway? It was. I started out in their marketing department and then that transitioned into, I guess was manager of the Olympic experience or something was the title. And I happened to know a lot of people that I had met in my days doing World Cup service. And I also had a lot of friends here in Park City that I had met along my journeys and time here in Park City. And one of those was Brad Olch, and he was the mayor. And I ran into him at a ski show in Las Vegas, which was owned by SIA, Fortuitous, here we are today. And I told him what I was up to and he said, Hey, I've got a hot property that the Utah Olympic Committee and the IOC just gave back to us, called Miner's Hospital. And I said, I'm looking for a location. I'm going to fly directly to Park City from here and I'll meet you in a day or two. And long story short, we got it.
Nick Sargent: |00:15:10| We nailed down the deal. And so I created the hospitality zone for Adidas and Solomon. And we had a restaurant, a media floor. We had a hospitality floor, We had a private meeting space, and we were hosting athletes. We are also hosting retailers every 48 hours. We would flip some retailers and bring new retailers in and really give them the Olympic experience. And so I was in charge of that miner's hospital. And, you know, I probably did too good of a job because the International Olympic Committee stopped by and informed me that I was pushing all the buttons on guerrilla marketing before guerrilla marketing was a thing. And, you know, I thought I was being cute and smart. And I said, well, why don't you send me a letter and I'll get back to you in two weeks? Beautiful. And so that came back with the global CEO of Adidas calling me directly, saying, Take that down. And because we are the sponsor of the next Summer games in Athens and they're going to cause a lot of heartache for us.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:25| But it's just a fun story. Those of us who were here in Utah for the Olympics in 2002, Park City really was the happening place. I mean, it was okay in Salt Lake, but the things that were done up here on historic Main Street. But out of all of it, that party at the Miner's Hospital, it really stood out. And I think for a lot of us, it was the first time that we really got to know the Adidas brand in winter. And it was a huge promotion for Salomon. So it was great after the fact to kind of learn this story as to how that great party came about.
Nick Sargent: |00:16:58| It was a wild time. I mean, I would say, you know, back in the Olympics, I've done five or six Winter Olympics. That one stacks up as one of the best because, you know, just to your point, you know, Salt Lake and Park City, you know, this is an amazing space to have an Olympic Games. And the town was on fire. The people were so excited. It was great to host the world here. And we were fortunate to have a backdrop with Miner's Hospital, which couldn't be any more iconic to Park City. We had miner's carts with fire pits, and we froze product in ice blocks and flags and lasers and a huge outdoor viewing screen. And I poached the live feed from the International Olympic Committee. So we had a, you know, a viewing station, which probably shouldn't have ever happened and probably won't ever happen again.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:57| But the statute of limitations has passed.
Nick Sargent: |00:17:59| That's right. So anyway, it was a great time. And again, I had such great friends here in Park City. You know, I got to blend my friends with my professional world. And needless to say, when the games were over, I was ready to go home.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:14| We're going to talk more about SIA in just a minute, but I want to hit one more stop in your career. I think a lot of us in the industry really got to know you as in the role that you had with Burton Snowboards for many years. You grew up as a skier? And I've always wondered this. You know you grew up as a skier. You were a skier, you were a ski racer. How did you end up at a snowboard company?
Nick Sargent: |00:18:34| Yeah, that is one of those questions that I continue to ask myself beyond my life at Burton. But I had a really good colleague that I worked with at Adidas and Salomon, and he took the job as chief marketing officer. And after the Olympic Games, I had created a name for myself by selling sponsorship and partnerships and. So this buddy of mine went to Burton. He called me up and said, there's a great opportunity here for you to take licensing and partnerships and really make something, something cool happen. And it's an open canvas, you know, we'll give you the globe as your footprint and we'll, you know, we won't get in the middle of your business. So. I'm from Vermont, so I said, what a great way to leave Portland, Oregon, and get back to Vermont. And I was starting a young family at the time, and I wanted to get closer to my family in Vermont. And so it was a great opportunity. But yeah, I was stuck at a snowboard company as a skier for those first six months and. It really was a difficult transition and my wife was like, Hey, you know, suck it up and make the most of it.
Nick Sargent: |00:19:55| You know, you moved us back to Vermont, and that was the little pep talk I needed to really get into it. But it was great. You know, this was the day, right, when Facebook was just starting, digital content was a thing. Red Bull, the energy drink was just starting to come on the rise. The Games coming out of 2002 had really propelled snowboarding. There was a huge demand for action, sports and snowboarding. And so I was monetizing the hype and the brand and the culture to major Fortune 50 companies that were paying millions and millions of dollars annually to be a part of this. And we created a Burton Global Open series as a way to develop world-class athletes. Shaun White was part of that, and Danny Davis and Terje Håkonsen. And, you know, the list goes on and on Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter. And so we had events in Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Tokyo and China, and they all culminated around the Burton US Open, which was in Stratton. And then I ultimately moved it to Vail on a request from Jake.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:17| And then from Burton. How did you make the leap to SIA?
Nick Sargent: |00:21:22| That was another strange one too. I was walking into ISPO in Munich, and I happened to bump into a friend of mine from a competing snowboard company. And he was the chair of SIA, a guy named Bob Gundrum. And he said You know what? You'd be perfect for the job as president of SIA. You know, would you consider applying? And, you know, I thought about it and I said, no, I'm pretty happy at Burton. But, you know, timing is everything. And I saw that the runway at Burton was, you know, we were running out of real estate and the business had changed, the sport had changed, certain media had changed. And, you know, it was going to be a tough lift at Burton. And so the timing was right. And so I put my hat in the ring and it went through the interview process, which was long and drawn out. And I ultimately got the job.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:24| And at that point, SIA was not here in Park City, it was out in the DC area.
Nick Sargent: |00:22:29| It was in McLean, Virginia, just outside DC. And my deal with the chair and the board at the time was I will commute from Vermont to Washington. I'm not going to move there permanently. I had kids and they were into ski racing and Vermont was a good home for us. And they said, that's fine because we want you to move the organization to Utah. And we think Park City would be the best location. All roads come through Utah in the winter sport business. And there are a number of companies and member companies that belong to SIA. And it would be great for us to be closer to our business, closer to the sport, and put us in a place where we're going to be front and center.
Tom Kelly: |00:23:18| Let's talk a little bit about Utah and it becoming a bit of a hub for the ski industry. If you go back 20 and 30 years, it really wasn't that. But what really precipitated the move and the evolution and this startup of so many companies here in Utah over the last 20 years.
Nick Sargent: |00:23:36| Yeah, it has been, I would say since 20 I'm sorry, 2002. I know that Utah had a mandate to attract winter sport brands to the state. And, you know, hence why Rossignol is here and why Amer, Salomon and Atomic are in Ogden and Descente and Black Diamond, they've been here for a long time. Scott Bikes and so on. And the list goes on and on. It's just one of the best environments for a company, specifically if you are an outdoor or a winter sport brand, it has all that you need from the snow perspective, from an outdoor perspective, from biking, hiking, hunting perspective, you know, whatever your sport is, Utah has it. But I would say, you know, one of the appealing factors for myself and moving SIA here was the proximity to the airport, the proximity to Salt Lake City, the proximity to the Cottonwoods. Snowbasin, Powder Mountain. There's just so much activity in such a very close proximity. You're not driving all over creation to get to where you want to participate in your sport. And certainly with the new airport. And, you know, I-80 is easy going up and down. There's very little traffic. It just sings out. You know, this is a great place to do business. It's a great place to work. It's a great place to live. And, you know, like we were saying earlier in this session, you know, right from the front of my office, I look right at Park City Mountain Resort. I have my gear right here in the office. I can go out at lunchtime or go sneak out in midday and make some runs and come back. I don't know a lot of other locations where you can do that. Certainly, you can, but not at the level that Park City and Salt Lake have to offer.
Tom Kelly: |00:25:43| I think sometimes we forget about the cultural aspects of what goes into a community and how a business can thrive there. But you are, as you know, as we look out the window right now, we can see the fall colors on the ridgeline at Park City Mountain, but you can be at Alta and Snowbird or Snow Basin in an hour. You can be up in Big Cottonwood in less than an hour. That cultural aspect has really helped you in a few years now you've been here with SIA.
Nick Sargent: |00:26:11| It gains a lot of credibility. And, like I said, all roads in the winter business come through Utah, specifically Park City during the year. And whether you are an accessory brand, a hard goods brand, you know, ski, snowboard and apparel brand, you are going to come to Park City with your business. And, you know, it lends itself to the business and specifically to SIA. It gives us the credibility that we need to be a viable component to the winter sport business. And, you know, unfortunately, we have the passes that work at all the resorts. So when our members come, they can post up here, do some work, go on the hill, make some runs, come back, host their own meetings here. So this is really a multipurpose facility.
Tom Kelly: |00:27:01| You work in an outdoor sport. And I think anybody who works in that field, whether you happen to work in hunting or fishing or skiing, snowboarding, whatever it is, that lifestyle is really the draw. And there are so many different components to lifestyle. You have all those right here in Utah.
Nick Sargent: |00:27:18| You do. And you know, that really is the defining essence of the winter sport business is this lifestyle. And, you know, if you're working in this business, you live it, you breathe it, you eat it, you spawn it, and you know, your kids grow up in this environment. And but, you know, I have a lot of other friends that work in private equity and technology or whatever their space is and they're enjoying the lifestyle that that that we've created, that we've endorsed and we promote.
Tom Kelly: |00:27:50| But the nature of what you do at SIA, you are a trade organization, so your brand may not be familiar to skiers and riders. Tell us a little bit about what Sia does and why it's important for those of us who ski and ride.
Nick Sargent: |00:28:03| Sure, yeah. So SIA is a 70-year-old trade association, originally designed to host an annual winter sport show, or as it was called, the ski show. And, you know, the intention of SIA was to create an environment where commerce can happen, where the retailers can see next year's product from the manufacturers, they can write their orders and then the retailer would receive their product. Six, seven months later, we sold the Snow Show, which was the name of the trade show to Emerald Expositions. And those of you that remember, Outdoor Retailer here in Utah, they're the owner of Outdoor Retailer and we're happy to have them back here in Utah this January.
Tom Kelly: |00:28:59| It's a trade show.
Nick Sargent: |00:29:00| Which is a trade show and it's the largest winter sport trade show and summer trade show as well. And since selling that trade show, we've really transitioned to a true trade association. And we have three primary legs to our stool and we focus on climate. And as you know, the biggest threat to winter sport and the winter sport business, we also focus on diversity, inclusion and equity and as one of the greatest opportunities for our sport as well. And then we focus on participation and getting new skiers and snowboarders and mountains. Bike and fat tire riders and Nordic, sledding, trail running uphill, downhill, whatever you want to do in the snow. We're focused on getting people excited about winter. And then, you know, the last one is advocacy, and that's working in Washington to help push climate, to help push tariffs and reduce those tariffs for our manufacturers as well. So we're really the silent organization that keeps the winter outdoor business afloat.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:14| I want to start and talk a little bit about your efforts in climate. And this is something that's important to all of us as skiers and riders. And I think the younger generations coming through are particularly concerned about this. You've really embarked on some action steps with Sia over the last few years now.
Nick Sargent: |00:30:31| Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I said this just a second ago, but climate change is the largest threat to the winter sport business. And in a state like Utah, where the state tax from winter sport is somewhere 850-900 million just behind Colorado at 1.2 billion, you know it drives an engine for this state and the community. And it's not just the retailers. It is, you know, the restaurants, the bars, all the people driving, driving people around. I mean, it's an industry. And so we need climate. So, you know, I started an initiative here called Climate United. And it's a way that we can gather our members, the suppliers and the manufacturers and the retailers and the resorts to start to pay attention to climate. And we've lost 35 days of winter in the last 30 years. And if you look at winter in its totality, it's right around 160 days. So when you think about what we've lost in the last 30 years, you know, that is almost a sixth of our business. And I can't imagine what's going to happen in the next 30 years if we lost another 35 days and we virtually lose, you know, a strong third to almost a half of the business of winter.
Nick Sargent: |00:32:03| And so, you know, we have a group that work here, and their focus is on climate. They're working with different groups in Washington. They're working with different groups around the country and addressing climate and getting and raising awareness of the effects of climate. And, you know, fortunately, we're working real hard with the Biden administration and the Inflation Reduction Act, which was just passed. And so I'm really proud of the work that the team has done here to help push that across the line. And so we were invited to the White House a couple of weeks ago to celebrate that with the president, the vice president, and a select group of senators and congressmen, Congress, Congress folks. And, you know, and those are those high-five moments. But we have a lot of work ahead of us. And we're going to continue to push and drive this initiative and really set it up to be good stewards for the next generation.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:09| Climate and sustainability are two different things, but they're both focused on similar interests for the future. But talk a little bit about your initiatives in sustainability.
Nick Sargent: |00:33:19| Yeah, sustainability is, you know, a lot of people will say climate and sustainability are the same thing for the less informed. But sustainability really is, you know, how we work and clean manufacturing and really doing the right things for your company and your business that set yourselves apart. And you know, whether you're reducing your carbon emissions, your greenhouse gas output, whether you are putting solar panels, whether you are having gardens, you know, employee run gardens in your on your property, whether you are mandating that your your product is is manufactured in a clean a clean way and reducing your waste, you know, those are. Those are elements that really come into play and we have a long way to go. We have a lot of leaders out there. Burton Snowboards is doing a great job. Rossignol is doing a great job. Patagonia -- the news with giving their company to climate. I mean, that's the ultimate and but we have to continue to keep our foot on the gas and we have to continue to be diligent and then really look at how we are operating not only independently and individually, but as a company, as socially and. And where we fit in the environment. And it takes work of everyone to make this come together.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:53| Let's go back to what you just mentioned about Patagonia. And recently, if folks have not heard this news, Yvon Chouinard, the originator of Patagonia, made a really remarkable decision that hopefully will provide some support in this area for future generations.
Nick Sargent: |00:35:10| You know, it really sets a trend and it really was a courageous move. And again, I read it like everybody else. I had no inside awareness of that deal. But, you know, when you think about it from the outside, you know, this is someone who's really putting all of their resources where their mouth is. And, you know. It's great for our industry. It's great for that brand. Probably could be considered one of the best marketing campaigns I've ever seen in our modern world. But getting back to the point of, you know, this, this is an example of. Taking corporate profitability and putting it where it belongs. We don't need more wealthy people. We need more money to support our lifestyle and to protect it. And we need more companies to be thinking about how they want to position themselves, either if they move their company into the public space or they want to unload their company. They're tired and they want to retire. Or how do they set their company up for the next generation? And so this is a great example of one person doing an amazing and amazing feat for a great cause in a great industry.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:42| Yeah, it's just a great story. Let's hop over to diversity, equity and inclusion. I think it's no secret that historically skiing has not been a very diverse activity, but it seems that in the past few years there are some meaningful strides that are being made to embrace this through alliances with a number of organizations. Ski Utah's Discover Winter program being one. Outdoor Afro, National Brotherhood of Skiers. Many like this, and I know your organization has been very engaged in these efforts to diversify the sport of skiing and snowboarding.
Nick Sargent: |00:37:22| Yeah, we have to know, it's beyond a moral imperative. You know, it is a business imperative. And, you know, the funnel of winter sport participants is getting narrow. We had a huge boom in the sixties and seventies and eighties and the baby boomers had carried this forward. But unfortunately, it's been plagued with a, you know, a wealthy white man's game. And it's our job to change that. It's our destiny to open up the outdoors to a more diverse audience and get more people comfortable in snow no matter what color you are or your gender or your sexual preference or things that don't matter. All that matters is that you're getting outside and having fun. And there are some great groups out there. You mentioned Discover Winter, Afro Outdoor, SOS. There's a lot of great organizations that are doing amazing work to make winter sport accessible. Share Winter is another great example of an organization that is really engaging, underprivileged youth to get outside and play and financially supporting a lot of these initiatives as well. Not just their own, but these other groups. And so, you know, we have to be looking at broadening, broadening the interest in these sports. And, you know, diversity is the best way and most frankly, the easiest way to raise the tide and get chips to float higher. And so that's what we're focused on. We have a team here that focuses on it. We have a committee of industry leaders that are focused on it. And again, like climate, it's not going away. And we have to do all that we can do now for the next generation and set ourselves up for success.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:25| What are some of the specific initiatives you have at SIA to help with this? Is this something where you're looking to help with funding or just to through engagement? What are some of the mechanisms?
Nick Sargent: |00:39:34| Engagement is our number one right now, and there are a lot of groups that have money to fund. And but beyond that, you know, a lot of it is education and it's getting our industry to wake up to hiring talented individuals for certain roles at companies, getting more people available to work at resort, getting more people of color in diverse backgrounds to feel comfortable coming to a town like Park City where your server is white, your ski school teachers white, your, you know, pilot's white. You know, that's a bigger problem. But we have to we have to really focus on getting people comfortable coming here, spending their money, spending their time. They've got as much money as everyone else out there. And, you know, they shouldn't be limited by color or or background. And so a lot of education and really trying to get more conversions and get people to think broader than narrow.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:43| Let's shift gears a little bit here. And as the head of SIA, you are in contact with hundreds or thousands of different companies out there. So you're certainly have your finger on the pulse of what's hot and. What's coming up. But before we get to what's hot now are going to be in this coming season, let's take a look back at the evolution of gear. Certainly, ski and snowboard gear has evolved immensely over the last couple of decades. What have been some of the really pivotal changes over the last 20 years or so that are making a big difference today in making it easier for people to get on the mountain?
Nick Sargent: |00:41:16| You know, I think with the evolution of the shaped ski, you and I were talking a couple of days ago, and I used the term parabolic, which, you know, is a dated term. And it's really a bad hangover for product design. But the shaped ski has really made it easier for beginners and intermediate to pick up the sport and learn how to turn their skis so much that snowboards have adapted shape as well to make it easier for people to ride and get comfortable when they're on snow. You know, the other one was twin tips and it was no phenomenon that that really that inspiration came from snowboarding and giving people the ability to go backward or forwards, not only on snowboard but also skis. And that's been, you know, really wonderful technology integrated into product as well as the birth of integrated bindings or step-in bindings for snowboard. And, you know, and there's been a lot of people along the way and, you know, if you had to point your finger at one person, you know, Shane McConkey was was a leader and innovator in what he was doing with his skis when he was riding for Volant and, you know, the spatula ski and so on and so forth, and kind of mocking the industry. But he was on to something. And that has kind of carried forward and, you know, still today is very relevant.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:51| Yeah, it was an interesting pioneering period. But I like what you had to say about snowboard and ski kind of feeding off each other during that heyday of let me call it in the nineties and into the aughts.
Nick Sargent: |00:43:01| Yeah. As much as they, you know, someone's probably going to call me up after they hear this and say, I was completely wrong. But I think, you know, they were feeding off each other and the designs were very simple and easy to execute. And, and there is a strong interest to try new things. And, you know, there's been a rift between skiing and snowboarding since the inception. And I think a lot of that has gone to the wayside. And everyone realizes, you know, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. And certainly, you know, I can ski, I can ride, I can do both at a very high level. And so I don't really see a rift there anymore. But I think back in the day of designing product, there was probably quite a bit of competition.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:50| Yeah, and I love pointing it all back to Shane McConkey.
Nick Sargent: |00:43:53| He's a legend. His still his soul is still there and his vibe is probably stronger than it's ever been. And, you know, there's just some classic videos of him just trying different things with, you know, skis and water skis and, you know, skiing, you know, all over all over the world and peaks and beginner runs, whatever. But it just took someone to really poke fun at themselves and try different things. And it gave a lot of ski manufacturers good ideas at a time where the business was really flat.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:30| So as we look ahead, what's the next big idea in ski and snowboard technology?
Nick Sargent: |00:44:36| I mean, the one that I'm paying a lot of attention to is ski and snowboard product made out of recycled material. And Rossignol has a line called the Essential line of skis, which are made out of recycled material. And I really think, you know, when we start talking about sustainability of manufacturing and product and this industry and the sport, that's the direction we have to be going in. And I have yet to ski on the product. I've heard from Rossignol how great it is. Obviously, they're not going to tell you otherwise. But you know, I do believe the product is good. I've seen it and it looks beautiful and this is where we have to be going as an industry if we want to prolong winter and if we want to prolong the industry for the next generation.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:31| Let's talk about the market for this. And I think it's easy to see that people are going to flock out for new ski and snowboard technology that's going to make it easier, more comfortable, maybe faster, whatever the case might be. You do a lot of data analysis. It's one of the big, big backbone pieces of SIA. Do you see the generations coming up now as being really motivated to look at where did this product come from?
Nick Sargent: |00:45:54| Yeah, we do. And you know, research and data is a huge part of what we do here and we supply that back to the industry. We're constantly surveying the industry on different initiatives to create feedback. But you know, we are seeing consumers who are socially conscious and wanting to see their favorite brands do the right thing, focusing on climate, focus on sustainability, focus on product that is innovative and quite honestly, using recycled material. How are we going to reduce all of this junk around us and do good with it? And so these are tomorrow's consumer, you know, they're very serious, they have money and they have time and they're going to search out who's doing the best job, and that's going to be their brand.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:45| Do you see across the leadership of those manufacturers that you work with and distributors, do you see an increased sense of awareness of how important this is?
Nick Sargent: |00:46:54| Yeah, that's a great question. And, you know, I would say six years ago, not so much. Today. Absolutely. And these brands are waking up to this new consumer and in this new world and really pushing the needle on their product development and really pushing the needle of recycled material to the test. Where are the limits on this on these materials if you're going to sell a ski to someone and they're going to go ski at 40-50 miles an hour, you want to make sure that material does his job. So there's a lot of research happening right now using testing, recycled product and testing their limitations.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:42| Well, Nick, we appreciate you sharing some thoughts here today. And we're going to close this episode of last year with our Fresh Tracks segment. Just a few questions to wrap things up. Do you remember back to your first ever pair of skis and what those might have been?
Nick Sargent: |00:47:55| Well, they were Nordic skis, and I do believe they were Nord Lens. Is that is that a brand that you might remember? But I'm pretty sure that's what my Nordic skis were.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:07| Were they Northland's.
Nick Sargent: |00:48:08| Northland's. There you go. Northland's. And they were hand-me-downs from a friend of my uncle. And, and I definitely got the most out of those skis.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:22| They were wooden skis.
Nick Sargent: |00:48:24| They were wooden.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:25| Did you have leather thongs as bindings?
Nick Sargent: |00:48:28| I did not. They had that little three-pin, you know, push-down binding super wide big spring. Oh, yeah. And so that's what we were ripping around on. And then eventually, you know, I think I think my father realized, oh, this kid's actually going to ski a lot. He bought me a pair of Rossignol skis.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:49| Cool. You've been in Utah on and off for a period of almost 30 years. Have you developed that favorite go to run in Utah?
Nick Sargent: |00:48:56| I certainly have. I'm a little reluctant to share it with everyone. And, but it's no secret, you know, when you're at Alta on the Supreme Lift and, you know, you go far, far skiers left out there to Last Chance, those woods out there, you know, you can still get powder a few days after a big storm. But you know, I we were just talking about the front side of Park City and the Crescent Woods. And I remember, you know, ripping turns down Willys before CB's was there. And then certainly, you know, going to Deer Valley, you know, that was a treat back in the early days and and certainly still is today. But, you know, being able to just rip turns down Deer Valley is always, is always a good guess.
Tom Kelly: |00:49:38| Yeah. Make a note, get the pencil and pen out crescent woods. That is a really good one off the front side of Park City. Do you have a. Oh, let's go to the best ever piece of gear you've ever had. Could be anything. It's just like you. Like the color. You like the performance.
Nick Sargent: |00:49:53| Yeah. It's got to be, you know, my cell phone. Because I can. I know where I'm going on the hill and people can track me down. But now, you know, I think there's been ... I've had a lot of gear, as we all have. And certainly I'm a huge fan of my beacon. And I wear that inbounds and out of bounds and I love the technology and the safety component. You know, I think the integration back into a Lange ski boot after snowboarding for 12 years and you know it's like putting your foot into a sports car and that boot just performs unbelievably well. And I had forgotten from the time I had left Lange and Dynastar, in all the years in between, just the performance at that boot offers. And so I'm a huge fan of the ski boot.
Tom Kelly: |00:50:44| I want to go back to your beacon comment. I really love that and I don't think a lot of skiers or riders really think about that. But what would cause you to wear a beacon inbound? Do you look at conditions or you just do it as a matter of course.
Nick Sargent: |00:50:56| I just do it for a matter of course. You know, we've all lost a lot of friends in avalanches over the years. And certainly, you know, there are as many inbound accidents as there are out of bounds. And I just think it's a safe piece of product to have on you. And no matter what happens, you know, you know that someone has the potential to find you and it's very little effort to throw it on and it just sits under your jacket. And I'm just a huge fan of, you know, precautionary measures, making sure that I'm safe so I can go do it again the next day. And I don't want to leave it to chance now.
Tom Kelly: |00:51:37| It's just a great policy, I have to say. I don't do it all the time, but I do it any time I'm in an environment inbounds where there's a potential of something happening, whether that's a tree well or or a big slide. Let's move on to more fun stuff. Your favorite Utah opera spot.
Nick Sargent: |00:51:54| Oh, man, that's a that's going to be another good one. You know, I used to like to go to the bar where Rennstall used to be in Park City. I can't remember the name of that bar. It's right at the at the corner of gate.
Tom Kelly: |00:52:10| The Pig Pen.
Nick Sargent: |00:52:11| There we go. Love the Pig Pen. It's still there. It's still. I know it's there and I've been there. I worked there in that when it was Rennstall for a couple of years. And I also rented that for Sundance for Burton Snowboards. So I've kind of have a nice relationship with that space but it really sings to the essence of the ski bum life and why we all moved to a resort town.
Tom Kelly: |00:52:37| Last one, your favorite sauvignon blanc.
Nick Sargent: |00:52:39| Oh, man. That's a that's another tough one. I love the savvy b's. And, you know, I bought some Loveblock the other day. That was delicious. That goes down pretty easy. And certainly, you know, the New Zealand sauvignon blanc are my favorite nice dry and tart and I've been drinking a little bit of the California sauvignon blanc and enjoying those, too. So, yeah, I'm just enjoying the wine.
Tom Kelly: |00:53:07| Good. Can you get that at the Pig Pen?
Nick Sargent: |00:53:09| No, you cannot.
Tom Kelly: |00:53:09| I didn't think so. Nick Sargent, president and CEO of SIA, thanks so much for joining us and sharing some insights and talking about your life here in Utah.
Nick Sargent: |00:53:17| Thanks, Tom. Appreciate it.
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