Three years ago, a group of Park City business leaders led by Richard “Bez” Bezemer and Ben Rifkin were challenged by the Park City Chamber/Bureau to create a way to drive visitation during the final week of the ski season—when the days are long, the lift lines short, and lodging is both available and affordable. As the group sat down to brainstorm ideas, nothing was off the table. The only parameter was to conceive an idea that might stick well into the future. Someone commented that the best ideas seem to come from thin air. From that, the concept of a spring skiing/business/technology/mountain recreation/conference retreat/street party at 7,000 feet took shape ... and the name stuck. The Thin Air Innovation Festival was born.
To best describe Thin Air is to rule out what it is not. It’s not just another business conference. It’s not another SXSW, or “South By,” as techies refer to the annual gathering in Austin, Texas. Thin Air is about gathering like-minded, high-performing individuals from diverse industries to network, connect, and cross-pollinate against the backdrop of outdoor experiences you can only get in a year-round mountain town like Park City.
Past Thin Air events have featured a keynote address from Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour; an engaging presentation from Italian rapping tech CEO Bibop Gresta of Hyper Loop Transportation Technologies (think Elon Musk’s open-source people-mover idea); and the Thin Air Lounge, a mash-up of rapid-fire micro-panels with a heavy emphasis on connecting, fueled by local musicians and plenty of food and drink.
For this year's festival, the panels are once again trying to stay timely and informative, with topics including: how Swift is revolutionizing the used car–buying experience, and what it means for the future of retail; and lessons and insights from the epic Comic Con intellectual property throw-down. Thin Air co-chair Rifkin says, “We’re steering away from the big-production, hyped-up and ‘talking-at’ types of sessions and working toward smaller, more laid-back formats that lead to conversations between speakers and attendees.” Bezemer, executive director of the festival, adds that, as with Thin Air’s first two events, Thin Air 2018 will bring together the biggest minds across fields of business, science, and technology with talks, activities, and parties. “The mash-up formula is great for interdisciplinary teams looking to drive innovation by collaborating,” he says. “We see potential in building off that model by adding into that mix many of the forward-looking companies and accomplished people from Park City and Utah. That’s one of our biggest shifts for 2018.”
Even if you're not interested in attending any of the conference, you'll no doubt want to tune in for the free open-air concert with Citizen Cope on Main Street, as well as an Olympic and Paralympic Homecoming Parade.
The Thin Air Innovation Festival is April 5–7, 2018 and tickets are currently up for sale. For more information, tickets, and a complete schedule of events—including details about the return of Thin Air’s free Lower Main concert—visit thinairparkcity.com.