Longtime friends and Laguna locals Judy Gray and Jim Foster started their business partnership 50 years ago because they both loved to ski.
Gray owned a travel agency specializing in ski trips and she and Foster co-owned a ski accessories business. In 1977, they decided to try to sell a product they’d developed at the Los Angeles Ski Show.
Despite the popularity of their booth at the LA Convention Center, which was known for great displays and attracting plenty of gawkers, the show itself was failing.
Encouraged by fellow exhibitors, Gray and Foster in 1979 started a competing showcase, Ski Dazzle-The Greater LA Ski Show, and held it in Long Beach.
In hindsight, they admit their naiveté and lack of appreciation for the venture’s risk.
Although their new show won the praise of vendors, they were forced to borrow money from family and friends to cover expenses. Even so, the next year they went deeper into debt and bought the Los Angeles Ski Show.
They rebuilt the show, met their financial obligations and continued to promote Ski Dazzle. The partners acknowledge that snowboarding saved the ski industry by bringing consumers back to the slopes and spawning “terrain parks.”
Their show, now in its 50th year at the Los Angeles Convention Center, resumes Dec. 5-8 with 250 exhibitors and sponsors. Admission includes daily events such as lessons, a climbing wall, ice rink and a simulator showing the slopes of Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Olympics. Tickets are $20 for adults and include a lift ticket from a local resort. Children’s tickets are $5.
The partners continue to grow their business, buying a Seattle show last year, planning a Texas show next fall and staging Taste of Orange County food and wine event next spring.