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Recap: 2018 CWA Summit

Thursday, June 28, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Emily Moore
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2018 was my first CWA Summit – and I have to admit that my expectations, though already quite high, were exceeded in a big way. I have each and every one of you to thank for making May 16-18, 2018 such an exciting and memorable few days for our community. After months of planning, it was humbling to have welcomed nearly 900 participants, presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, and volunteers to Loveland. I realize setting aside your busy agendas (and for most of you, getting on a plane) is an enormous commitment. I am incredibly grateful for your time and investment in the experience – the event is made stronger by each of your contributions.


For posterity’s sake, I have rounded up some of the highlights of the 2018 CWA Summit below. I can’t promise that this is a comprehensive review, but rather a collection of some of my favorite moments. If I missed anything, leave your reactions in the comments, or as always, feel free to email me at emily [at] with your feedback. (We learn so much from your candid comments – please keep them coming!)




Conference Content – New Topics for Everyone in the Climbing Industry

The CWA is committed to supporting professional development for various roles of industry professionals via Summit conference content. Whether you are a prospective gym owner, or are an established industry veteran, we want to provide you with the tools to help you grow. This year, we made a commitment to expand the event’s reach and be inclusive of a greater variety of climbing gym interest groups. 2018 saw more than 40 sessions to help meet your specialized needs. Some of the new tracks and themes this year included:


  • Routesetting – 2018 marked the first year that a routesetting conference track was offered. The CWA hosted top industry setters to speak on numerous routesetting topics and convened a panel on commercial vs. competition setting. Subsequent years will see deeper discussion into the discipline, including hiring, diversity, methodology, and technical training. We’re looking forward to reviewing proposals from the community for expanded setting content in 2019.
  • Women in Climbing – The closing plenary featured a discussion with 7 remarkable women who have shaped the sport of climbing and the climbing industry: Lynn Hill, Renee DeAngelis and Stephanie Ko Pound of Earth Treks/Planet Granite, Shelma Jun of Flash Foxy, Halcy Webster of Alpenglow Collective, Sophia Danenberg, and Becca Droz of Movement Climbing + Fitness. We heard directly from these women who have a combined 100+ years of climbing experience about career advancement, programming, and inclusivity. The lessons learned from this discussion will advise future program development, including best practices in hiring, developing talent, shaping company culture, and creating enforceable company policies to support women in the climbing industry.
  • Diversity and Equity – The conference addressed diversity and equity in climbing through the lens of company policy, hiring, outreach, and program development. The 2018 keynote speaker, author James Edward Mills, shared statistics on the evolving stakeholder demographics in the fight for public lands protection. James asked the room – how can the climbing industry meaningfully contribute to this issue? – and acknowledged climbing gyms as the potential bridge for underrepresented populations into the outdoors. We also heard from Elyse Rylander of OUT There Adventures on LGBTQ representation in climbing and strategies for hiring diverse teams, and Ryan Gagnon of Clemson University/USA Climbing who piloted a program to open new channels for youth to get involved with climbing.
  • Program Management – As the climbing gym market continues to offer ever-more sophisticated programming to its members, we responded in turn by offering the first-ever program management conference track. We would love to hear more from program managers on what training and education will help them grow, so keep us posted with your feedback and ideas for speakers.



I mean it when I say I wish I had the opportunity to connect with each and every one of you. I hope that you had the chance to connect with Bill, Dan, Laura, or myself during the event. But more importantly, I hope you had the chance to connect with your industry peers – the overwhelming majority of you who completed the conference survey listed networking and dialogue as one of your top priorities for the event. We hear your calls for more networking opportunities – both structured and informal – and will be taking that forward into 2019.


Exhibit Hall

This year marked our biggest exhibit hall ever! A huge thanks to our Pinnacle sponsor this year, Vertical Solutions, and to all of our sponsors and exhibitors for supporting the Summit. We were excited to welcome ten new vendors to Loveland this year, who made for exciting additions to the essential lineup the show has come to offer over the past 12 years. I hope you had the chance to explore the latest and greatest ideas from this entrepreneurial and innovative group of climbing industry vendors. Whether you came to Loveland to start exploring the possibilities for your new gym, scope out the latest concepts in climbing holds, or connect with your existing suppliers, the exhibit hall was buzzing throughout the show. If there is anyone you did not see on the floor this year, and would like to see next year, let us know in the comments!



We appreciate the Loveland location for a number of reasons – it helps keep costs under control, it’s convenient for many of our vendors, and it’s well situated to accommodate the Summit group size. But we hear you on some of those pain points about the conference location – to say, during after-hours, Loveland is not the most exciting destination is something we have heard from you more than once. We are working through that on our end, because we know you didn’t fly all the way to Colorado just to sit in your hotel room from 9 PM on!




Though over a month has gone by, I’ll admit that the experience of the 2018 CWA Summit is something I still think about every day. For those of you who manage events, you know the feeling: months and months out from the event date, you plan, you obsess over the details…and in a mere 72 hours, the event is all said and done. I have to thank my CWA counterparts and all of our volunteers for their support, trust, and good humor; and I am also thankful for our CWA community for coming out and showing us the best Summit yet. I’m already looking forward to next year – hopefully you are too. Stay tuned for updates on calls for speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, and volunteers.

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