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Though about fewer 5,000 people will attend the winter Outdoor Retailer show that opens Thursday at the Salt Palace than came to the summer trade show last year, the big event is expected to generate about $20 million in direct spending over its four-day run.

The event is not open to the public but plays an important role in how Americans enjoy their outdoor experience.

Manufacturers from around the world show off the latest camping, hiking, clothing, climbing, electronics and gadgets to retailers who must make decisions on what will be available in stores.

The event also brings together outdoor leaders from all over the country who discuss land use issues and the economics that drive the $646 billion annual business of selling outdoor gear.

"Outdoor recreation is essential to the American economy with over $646 billion in spending on gear, vehicles, trips, travel-related expenses and more," said Amy Roberts, the Outdoor Industry Association's executive director. "2016 marks the National Park Centennial celebrating 100 years of getting Americans outdoors in iconic parks like Utah's Arches and Zion that bring in dollars from residents and out-of-state visitors. Recreation in the state of Utah attracts and sustains families and businesses, creates healthy communities and fosters a high quality of life making it critical to manage, protect and invest in the state's national, state and local parks, waters and trails."

The Winter Market show actually got an early start Wednesday when Solitude Mountain Resort hosted the All Mountain Demo. The event focussed on backcountry safety.

The show was moved to earlier date this year, helping with what can be a crunch for hotel rooms along the Wasatch Front and ski areas. The past few Winter Markets shared the stage with the Sundance Ski Festival.

It is smaller than the Summer Market show, which brings in about 27,000 visitors who spend $25 million in Utah. But that doesn't mean that folks working or dining downtown won't see larger than numbers of people.