I have been visiting Boardexpo, at the Helsinki Fair Center for at least 4 years and it has become a tradition I can barely miss..
Unlike its Italian counterpart this exhibition is not limited to action sports and tourism but has also a digital technologies bonus floor which attracts plenty of visitors. The whole happening has a quite wide audience being advertised on almost every media weeks before, it shouldn’t be a surprise then that around 50.000 people visit the fair during the opening days. For those of you that think that 50.000 people are not a big number after all I suggest you to reconsider, thinking that the whole city population that doesn’t exceed 500.000, being the largest city in a country of only 5 million people.
Another thing to take into account is the entrance fee, not exactly a cheap one even in Finland, notoriously not one of the cheapest country in Europe.
Boardexpo has become nonetheless a solid reality trough the years and attracts nowadays a wide range of spectators, from expert winter sports workers to curious customers, from professional athletes to simple weekend warriors, that rush to Helsinki in the last days of October and the first days of November.
This year edition seemed to me a bit downscaled if compared to the first editions I took part in, a few years ago. There used to be an inside snowboard ramp where they held a contest but that was soon dropped out of the program. This year instead there was a snowboard show in the center just the day before the expo began. A valid strategic choice that surely held more public than any other solution but also lowered a bit the level of the expo itself.
Furthermore a lot of snowboarding brands were practically missing, their booth replaced by distributors’, where you could barely get a glimpse of the next year collection , 2 or 3 items alongside of other 3-4 brands’. The only “real” booths were Makia’s and Icon’s who had done a great job and held an outstanding collection for next year.
A little better were ski brands where at least Rossignol was holding ground with its School Bus and several others like Black Diamond had small but well organized booths.
The exhibition still lacked the presence of important brands, like Salomon for example which is managed by Finnish Amer Sports, and gives a clear signal of the consideration the big brands have for this fair.
Still well presented to the public were the tourism booths where the biggest and most famous Finnish resorts had great marketing and promotion, even smaller resorts like Talma and Serena (Helsinki own local hills) had one. Also the railway company VR had a stand amongst them, maybe sign of a greener kind of tourism input?
Other highlights included the ever popular big screen where a crowd of youngsters could watch some fine snowboard flicks, the indoor miniramp with some high-level-young-age skaters ripping it and the Bagjump where everyone could try soft landings jumping from a crane.
On a sad note most of the attention of the crowd was directed toward the selling stands (and there were plenty) where last year’s gear was on sale, this notoriously creates a bit of a clogging in the selling of new gear and can potentially have serious effects in boardsports trade. But at least the deals were real and lots of people walked away happy, a good sign in an otherwise crisis-stricken economy. Another great feature along the line is the used gear hall, where people can take their old gear to sell it and you can find good deals at a convenient price, a classic feature of this fair that doesn’t affect sales as much as the sellout of last year’s gear and has the positive side of recycling instead of producing new junk.
Honorable mentions should be made for those celebrities that were at the show, almost every finnish pro-rider you could think of but also Miss Finland ’09 (who was just working in a stand as promo-girl) and Kalle Palander, former ski race champion who was there to advertise his newly opened racing school in Ruka.
Overall Boardexpo is the one and only wintersports exhibition in Finland, so it’s also the best you can get!