Thursday, December 13, 2007

America Outdoors Confluence 2007

Last Wednesday, I took the drive over the then snow-barren Sierra to Reno to attend the annual International conference (Confluence '07) for America Outdoors. The Confluence is an annual 3-day conference that invites over 400 outfitters and whitewater equipment vendors from the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Thailand, Korea, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador. The "Confluence" provides a venue for industry in-service opportunities, marketing, sales, operations, government/regulatory changes, equipment innovation, and networking.

To stay current in marketing, I attended a session on Internet Marketing Tips. The session was interesting, validating, and featured (surprise) the W.E.T. River Trips California Whitewater Rafting Blog site! We were the premier example of Blog use! We've been blogging for years as a way to stay in touch, to vent, and refresh our information. It was way cool to see our website blown up to a 20' projection screen in front of an audience comprised of over 400 of our industry peers. I think we'll keep blogging!

The most controversial topic of the conference dealt with the Forest Service's proposal to completely change the Nation-wide permitting system. (W.E.T. River Trips operates on the California Salmon, Scott, and Klamath River under USDA/Forest Service permits). The Forest Service is the largest regulatory system in the United States for the whitewater rafting industry and sweeping changes to the system are a truly hot topic. When all was said and done, our industry has adopted a policy of: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" The system truly isn't "broken" and problems in the system seem to be limited to very small regions of the Forest Service's over-view (ergo: the Six Rivers National Forest where we operate is just fine, Thank You!). The discussion isn't over and the debate will continue with very strong opinions coming from outfitters in Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and beyond.

The highlight of the Confluence is always the Banquet/Party/Auction that was held Thursday night. Thanks to Zach and Steve, the party was complete with a "mineshaft theme"... think headlamps, helmets, and glow-sticks...?! The food was great, the auction brought in some serious cash, and the beer wasn't bad (at least, I was told so...I had to drive).

After 30 years in the business, I've run into an amazing collection of folks. It was awesome to re-connect with so many of them: Donna, Marty, Roger, Nate, Bill M, Dick, Scott, Dr. Bert, Jason from Hyside, George from Maravia, Bill McG, Lorraine, Zach, and my first employers in the industry John and Sharon. There were many others old and new... One of the truly great things about our industry are the people involved in it. Although we compete for clients, jockey for user days and permits, and generally mess with each other... we all know that if we ever need help or advice, there will always be a welcome hand extended and a sympathetic ear from someone in our industry of whitewater outfitters.

After the party, we drove back over the Sierra with chain controls on Interstate 80 from Truckee to Alta! The entire Sierra was completely blanketed with fresh snow and some results collected over 18 inches of snow and the valley received over two inches of rain. The whitewater season starts in less than four months (although we all know that W.E.T. guides will be out there in just weeks... Smith River in February? South on New Year's day?). Bring it! In the meantime, let's snowboard, ski, ice climb, mountain bike, and ride motorcycles! ...Happy ChrismaKahAnza!

Posted by Big Poppa!

Note from the young blogging staff: Thanks Big Poppa 4 not yelling at us for missing the 8:30am meeting on Thurs morning; we partied too hard on Wed night!

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