Innovators to converge upon Park City for inaugural Thin Air Festival |

Innovators to converge upon Park City for inaugural Thin Air Festival

Tiger Shaw, president and CEO of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, is among those slated to participate in panels at the inaugural Thin Air Innovation Festival. The festival, put on by the Park City Chamber/Bureau, will bring together leaders in several fields to explore the theme of innovation in peak human performance. (Courtesy of the USSA)
Tiger Shaw

When the Park City Chamber/Bureau first began throwing around the idea of creating a festival to encourage companies to hold meetings in town near the end of ski season, the focus was on technology.

The group tasked with organizing the festival had noticed a trend: Park City is developing a burgeoning technology scene, ranging from companies opening their doors in town to the city hosting vacationers each winter who are big players in the tech world.

The idea of a technology festival seemed to make sense — except for one nagging question: "Are we limited with where we can take this in the future?"

"So then we morphed it into talking about innovation because there can be all kinds of innovation," said Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau. "We settled on that because I think it gives us a limitless agenda for the future."

Thus the inaugural Thin Air Innovation Festival was born. It is set to be held April 6 through April 8 and will feature a keynote speech from Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour, a variety of presentations, as well as four panel discussions exploring this year’s theme of innovation in peak human performance. Moderators for the panels comprise four Park City residents: Desi Matel-Anderson, CEO of the Global Disaster Innovation Group; Tiger Shaw, president and CEO of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association; Hoby Darling, president and CEO of Skullcandy; and Erik Snyder, CEO of Armada Skis.

Shaw, whose panel will focus on optimizing team dynamics to unlock the full potential of human performance, believes the idea of hosting an innovation festival in Park City makes perfect sense. He said Park City has become a "melting pot," which inspires the king of big thinking innovation requires.

"You have an incredibly diverse — I wouldn’t say racially or ethically diverse but from a business background — set of people in one place, in this oasis in the middle of Utah," he said. "It engenders and promotes that spirit of thinking and innovating."

Synder, whose panel will explore innovations in business culture and mindset, also mentioned diversity. It was one of the reasons he moved Armada Skis to Park City last year, and the company has already reaped the rewards of being in town, he said.

"Whenever you have diversity of backgrounds and opinions and different types of people, it’s good for innovation," he said. "There are so many different personalities that come and participate in Park City, and research has shown that one of the times innovation occurs is when there are collisions among people. A collision on a chair lift can be a really interesting conversation, and I think everyone here has those — the person you meet on a chair lift is one of the things that makes Park City a really unique place for innovation."

The Chamber/Bureau did not release information on the number of tickets sold for the festival. Malone said he is hopeful media coverage of the event — Fortune magazine is serving as a media partner for the event, and several ski and business publications were also slated to cover it — will spread the word for next year. The goal is for the festival to become something companies from around the country are eager to flock to each spring.

Snyder, for one, is optimistic. He said the opportunity to hear from and meet leaders in many fields makes the festival a compelling draw.

"There are so many people I’ve spoken with who are so disappointed they have prior obligations," he said. "As a participant, my hope would be that this becomes something that continues year-in, year-out that we all look forward to as a time to get innovative thought leaders across a broad range of areas together."

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