Last fall, when Boston’s Snowbound Festival was officially cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ray Stenson’s plan went into action.
The result was a four-day expo of its own in Hanover, Mass. that turned out to be so successful that Stenson’s ski and snowboard outfitter is doing it again one year later.
Country Ski and Sport will host another expo at its warehouse in Hanover, Nov. 11-14, hoping to serve as the de facto annual kickoff to the skiing and riding season that the Boston Ski Expo managed to do for so many years.
The stage is open. Last month, Ski Industries of America was forced to cancel its “Snowbound” festival for a second-straight year due to Covid-19 concerns. Since purchasing the shows from Bernie Weichsel in 2019, SIA has not been able to debut its vision for what had been such a successful forum for local and national retailers.
Stenson, the owner of Country Ski and Sport, which boasts three locations (Westwood, Quincy, and Hanson) in Massachusetts, had already backed out of this year’s Snowbound before its cancellation. Buoyed by the success of last year’s expo, he got started planning another, one that Stenson figures will be the largest ski show in the country this year.
We caught up with him to get the lowdown.
New England Ski Journal: Two years running now you’ve been the only show in town.
Ray Stenson: I know. [SIA was] coming in with no retailer. They couldn’t find anyone else to do it. The ski areas are very reluctant because they don’t know what’s going to go on as far as selling discount coupons and tickets. They couldn’t muster the tribe, as I say. They wanted anybody to be there to only sell this year’s new goods, and not on sale. So, I backed out. We’ve invited some ski areas down (countryskiexpo.com has an updating list of those committed). It should be a good time. We’ve got beer trucks, a frozé truck, and food trucks.
NESJ: How successful was last year’s expo?
Stenson: It was extremely successful considering they were really beating the Covid drum. We spent no money on advertising — just our Instagram, mail lists, Facebook, and word-of-mouth. It was great considering who knows what could have happened. This year, we’ve got a sizable radio campaign going on with WBZ AM, which has always been a mainstay for us, and KISS 108. We’re expecting a pretty good turnout. Thursday (Veteran’s Day), of course, is the holiday, so we think Thursday and Saturday will be the two biggest days.
NESJ: The Hanover warehouse has seen a lot of action over the past few years between the expos and the annual sales. How frequently had you used it as a destination in the past?
Stenson: We’ve historically used it twice a year, in September and in April in the past five years. This year we didn’t do a September sale because we’re going all in for the November sale. Then we’ll do the other one in April, so twice a year is going to be the rule on that.
NESJ: What goes into planning an event like this?
Stenson: A lot. My son is helping me. My wife does all the logistics for the staffing, which is quite intense because we’ve got people coming in from literally all over the country for this event; from boot-fitters from California to ski reps and stuff like that. It takes a lot of work. It’s a big team effort.
NESJ: How do you sell representatives in order to try and attract them to be present?
Stemson: You don’t really sell them because you bought their product from them, and they’re coming to support you and the product. But it just becomes such a big event. Someone may challenge me on this, but it’s going to be the largest ski show in the country this year. Pretty much. So there’s a lot of prestige involved, a lot of competition involved between manufacturers and reps, as well as to sell their product. People come to talk to these guys too.
NESJ: In addition to being important for your business, is there a sense of what the expo might mean for customers in terms of getting in the right, winter frame of mind?
Stenson: Yes, exactly. It’s like a kickoff to the season. Get them going, get them rolling. Historically, Bernie’s show was the kickoff to the season. We’re hoping to start that trend.
389 Columbia Road
(Located behind Tractor Supply Co. along the side of the building.)
Thursday, Nov. 11 — 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 12 — 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 13 — 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 14 — Noon – 5 p.m.