Thin Air Festival partners with Snowsports Industries America for innovation event |

Thin Air Festival partners with Snowsports Industries America for innovation event

Ben Rifkin, left, and Richard Bezemer are co-directors of the Thin Air Festival. They are excited to present the festival this year with partnerships from organizations such as Snowsports Industries America and the Youth Sports Alliance. .
Carolyn Webber/Park Record

Since the Thin Air Festival’s inception two years ago, organizers have been searching for organizations to partner with. In true coincidental, “out of thin air” fashion, Snowsports Industries America appeared.

That is how Richard Bezemer, executive director of the festival, said he sees it.

The festival, which is scheduled to take place from April 5 through April 7, connects a range of industries and features breakout sessions and networking events in Park City. The festival’s goal is to provide a structure for organizations to hold conferences alongside Thin Air.

While searching for partnerships, Bezemer met with SIA leaders, who were looking for their own way to link with professionals of other industries.

With SIA’s recent shift toward research and education, an event in conjunction with the Thin Air Festival was a no-brainer, said Maria McNulty, chief operating officer of SIA. SIA moved its headquarters to Park City two years ago and sold its trade show, the Snow Show, last year.

“We’d like to challenge our industry to look outside of winter and look at other industries for inspiration,” she said. “Thin Air was a perfect platform to be able to look at what’s happening in tech, health, automotive — what is going on around us.”

The event is being called SIA’s Spring Fest at the Thin Air Festival.

Fostering collaboration between industries to find inspiration is one of the main purposes of the Thin Air Festival, and McNulty said that it was attractive to the association.

“If you just work inside a vacuum, you don’t grow” she said. “We see this as a huge opportunity to provide new tools, new insights and new inspiration. That is what is key to innovation.”

One of the breakout sessions will be a workshop on Friday afternoon to discuss possible solutions to declining participation in winter sports. McNulty hopes that by getting a diverse group of minds together, new ideas will spring forth.

Bezemer said that he is eager for the workshop and other sessions, with topics ranging from how tech is changing the health care industry to one titled “How Comic Con revolutionized the entertainment industry.” Creating “collisions” of industries is what he loves about the event.

Ben Rifkin, co-chair of the festival, agreed.

“Innovation happens when people with different ideas meet,” he said. “We try to create space for those collisions.”

The name of the festival comes from the phrase “out of thin air,” referencing innovation and new ideas as a major part of the event.

Bezemer said that this year’s festival is a pivotal year because of the partnership with SIA. It is reflective of the general direction that the festival hopes to take through more partnerships.

The idea for the festival originally emerged in 2015 from members of the Park City Chamber/Bureau. Tasked with coming up with ideas to boost tourism, they settled on creating a festival at the end of the ski season, when visitation numbers tend to drop.

“In the beginning, the idea was tech,” Rifkin said. “But we realized that tech wasn’t an authentic header for a Park City event. We have some technology companies here … but you can’t just stamp technology on Park City.”

As organizers molded the festival, they realized that performance was a strong attribute of Park City. Performance athletes, be they Olympic skiers or amateur cyclists, train and play in Park City, and Bezemer said that focusing on that aspect of the city made more sense.

“There is an energy about this place, and to some extent that is what we are trying to tap into with Thin Air,” he said. “We think that, when people come out here, they are maybe a little more optimistic, a little bit in a better mood, a little more willing to share, a little bit more willing to go for it. That’s what you find around athletes, that’s what you find around business people and that’s what you find about residents that live here.”

By having the festival in April, it is also a way to celebrate the ski season and the joy of living in a ski town all year, Bezemer and McNulty said.

The festival plans to commemorate Park City’s Olympians and Paralympians from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games along with Park City’s Olympic heritage with a parade down Main Street on Friday evening. The parade is in partnership with Youth Sports Alliance, another organization Thin Air is working with this year.

An open-air concert from Citizen Cope is set to follow.

McNulty said SIA plans to continue to partner with the Thin Air Festival moving forward. Bezemer and Rifkin hope to see more organizations latch onto the festival in the future so that it can continue to grow.

“It would be devastating if, in another couple years, Thin Air is still just Thin Air Conference,” Rifkin said. “We want all these different organizations to do their own thing and activate in their own way at the same time. It’s the sum of the parts that is the most interesting; it’s not what we’re doing on our own.”

The festival is expected to bring in between 400 and 500 attendees, which is similar to last year’s numbers, Bezemer said. For a full schedule and ticket information, visit

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