A Backbone Style Gear Test

The 5Point Film Festival brings in a slew of outdoor industry insiders and athletes to Backbone’s homebase in Carbondale, Colorado. Among the attendees this year were Damian Quigley, associate publisher of Freeskier magazine and Donny O’Neill, senior editor of Freeskier. On Thursday, before the 5Point festivities started,  we took them for an old-fashioned backcountry ski test on Carbondale’s famed Sopris Mountain.

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The group skinning up Sopris.

A little backstory here: throughout the year Backbone attends and hosts ski tests to get the equipment of Black Diamond, La Sportiva and other brands on snow, and tested by publications in the ski industry. The only problem with these tests is you rarely get to use a backcountry skiing setup in its full capacity (i.e. the up and down). Donny was hoping to test the new Black Diamond skis in the backcountry all year, and due to adverse snow conditions, we had to wait until the end of April to make it happen.

Sopris was the objective, but testing gear, showing the Freeskier crew Backbone’s backyard and having fun were some of the perks along the way . The crew consisted of Jason Smith, Donny O’Neill and Damian Quigley from Freeskier, and Sam Coffey, Fielding Miller and John DiCuollo from Backbone.

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Yup, still skinning. Earning those turns.

We started our trek at 6:30 a.m. on a clear, April morning. After a quick walk on the frozen mud, we were able to put our skis on and start skinning. 4,000 total feet of climbing later and we reached the summit at 12,966 feet —you could see hints of spring starting to peak through the valley below.

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Backbone’s Sam Coffey (front) and John Dicuollo

To me, this trip was a perfect example of what sets Backbone apart. Yes, we’re  PR and media professionals, but each one of us embodies the lifestyle that is associated with these brands. We’re an enthusiastic group of skiers, runners, bikers and climbers who live for the moments we get to spend outside.

Furthermore, when you take someone on an adventure that the gear is created for, it creates a better understanding of the equipment and its capabilities. There are the details that can’t be gathered from reading the specs in a digital workbook. Similarly, there are aspects to relationships that cannot be made through email and phone calls alone. These in-person experiences help us share the products in a more authentic way.

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Damian Quigley skiing the bowl

We skied the most-common Sopris line down the bowl of the eastern side of the peak. We enjoyed cold, Colorado snow on the top, harvested some corn in the middle, hit a funky, breakable crust in the basin, and ended with soft, spring slush: it was ideal to test the skis in a variety of conditions. All in all, a solid day of work.

If you want to read the Freeskier side of the story, check it out here: http://bit.ly/1HVOkoc

—Sam Coffey

 

 

An Adventure with Backbone’s Newest Employee

Red Rock Canyon National Park, Las Vegas, Nevada – 3.9.15-3.12.15
Words and Photography: Corbin Clement

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Entering the Park looking at the Ginger Buttress and Mt Wilson.

After finishing graduate school last Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to undertake a 6 week journey in Asia solely for pursuits of eating, climbing and surfing. For months after that, my time commitments were limited to three days a week at an SEO internship, working various events for Burton, and finding myself a job where I’d be happy enough to sit still.

Upon the realization my wondrously ample free time (and schedule flexible enough to break the back of your average Cirque Du Soleil contortionist) would be coming to an end, Holly Yeary, Thomas SeymourAbby Seymour and I decided to take a mid-week trip to one of the Canadian circus’ permanent residences, Las Vegas. For me, this was a last hurrah before accepting a dream offer to be a part of the Backbone Media PR team. (Psyched to be here!) These days, a vacation from your vacation is the only way to stay sane.

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Thomas cleans his route. This afternoon, we had a huge zone all to ourselves.

As fun as fist-pumping up in da club with Paris Hilton may be, we happily planned to remain far from the central attractions of the city. As this was the first time I’d ever done fly-in camping, I had no idea what to pack. So, due to $400,000 bag check fees, I ended up bringing barely enough clothing to keep my fellow return flight passengers from having to accompany a character of questionable appearance. 

After arriving to the campsite in Red Rock many hours after the night had, we slept immediately.  No sense dragging ass in the morning due to lack of sleep. That’s what coffee shops are for. Barred from bringing camping fuel by TSA, each morning we opted for the 5-minute commute from our campsite to Dunkin or the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  This was the soft man’s camping trip.

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Thomas leading Fear and Loathing while Holly and Abby watch. Taking this shot was very entertaining. I had to perch precariously on some very steep and crumbly sandstone. Scrambling the opposing face here was a perfect vantage point. I was able to stay level with and close to Thomas almost the entire route.

The first climb began on the alleged “classic” multi-pitch sport route, Unimpeachable Groping. After a hurried approach, we rounded the corner to the belay zone and Thomas’ fears of congregation were relieved. We embarked on an awesome 7 pitches of mellow crimping.  Not one other group arrived to follow after us. The next two days were filled with hot laps in more popular zones, all of which provided unbelievable climbs. I was lucky enough to be pushed by my monkey friends, as they showed no capacity for fatigue.

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Everyone cleared out a little bit before this, as it was looking like rain. The weather missed and I was able to get in this last route of the afternoon. The face shown here was amazing, sporting the most consistent crimps the entire way up. I pause on one of the few good rest zones. Photo: Abby Seymour

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Abby climbs to the pinnacle of the final pitch of Unimpeachable Groping. Aside from what’s shown here, the climb offered 6 stacked pitches of vertical awesomeness. Regretfully, my rope management skills were frequently sub-par. Photo: Thomas Seymour

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Holly topping out. The rock here is so red. Don’t be fooled by the grey light. It glows in sunlight. Maybe that’s why they call it Red Rock Canyon.

Our last night there, we booked a hotel room which was supposed to have a complimentary spa. Checking in after a long day of climbing, ready to indulge, we were informed everything in the hotel closed at 7:00pm (except the casino, of course). We made do.

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Photo: Tomas Seymour

Backbone Media POV 2015 — “How Does Media Impact Adventure?”

Climber Tommy Caldwell, along with photographer Taylor Rees, Vimeo’s video curator Ian Durkin and grassroots marketing manager for Outdoor Research, Christian Folk spent a rainy afternoon last Friday nestled inside Steve’s Guitars in downtown Carbondale discussing, “How does media impact adventure?” The panel, moderated by Backbone’s own Penn Newhard, ran alongside the 5point Film Festival, which provided a weekend full of inspirational films, speakers, and festivities.

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From left to right: Penn Newhard, Tommy Caldwell, Taylor Rees, Ian Durkin and Christian Folk. Photo courtesy of Anders Norblom/5point Film Festival

Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson hovered thousands of feet above the ground during their record-breaking, free climb of the Dawn Wall in the Yosemite Valley in January. They were all alone on that monumental face, and yet the touch of a screen could ignite conversation among hundreds of thousands of people.

While 30 years ago their journey could have only been witnessed from those on the ground looking through binoculars, today, that journey was captured in real-time and shared with onlookers all across the globe.

It has Caldwell thinking.

“Do we climb for our own growth, or do we need to share that inspiration?” he said during the panel.

Essentially, Caldwell summed up the moral dilemma facing the interwoven nature of media and adventure: at what point are you taking away from the adventure with constant documentation and sharing?

Caldwell seemed to answer his own question when he mentioned that he dropped his iPhone off of the Dawn Wall. He insists it was an accident with a sly grin, but seemed relieved at the sudden freedom from the digital world.

“I would still much rather go on a trip with no content,” Caldwell said. “But I’m lucky because no companies have come to me and been like, ‘this is what you need to post.’”

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Rees brought a different opinion to the table — on a recent expedition, connecting with the digital world provided some much-needed comfort. She was in remote Myanmar where her team (Renan Ozturk, Hilaree O’Neill, Emily Harrington, Cory Richards and Mark Jenkins) struggled with the brutal climate, lack of food, and illness as they attempted to climb Hkakabo Razi.

Rees’ posts during that expedition captured followers with their honesty. As she writes in a November 2014 Instagram post, “Sometimes you have to be stronger than you believe yourself to be…I huddle with them [the cooks] no longer afraid of getting sick. Pure conviction that i’m healthy as can be is my best chance.”

The desire to share your own story is nothing new, but the digital medium —especially social media— provides a window into the adventures of mountain athletes and enthusiasts. Their stories, often full of struggle, challenging circumstances and maybe a summit selfie, or two, are available to follow in real time.

“I think people are just trying to be moved  and that’s really the heart of it,” Caldwell said.

—Celine Wright

Cut Through the Noise with Integrated Strategies and Targeted Outreach

Look around your office: Is your colleague scouring a cool, new website? Is someone on a smartphone checking out Instagram or Snapchat? In the average workday, how often do you find yourself in a rabbit hole on your computer or phone, reading messaging from a brand or someone in your social circle enticing you to make a purchase?

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Consumer brands trying to cut through this noise face a significant challenge. Historically, marketing agencies recommended a siloed approach: advertise in publications that match your target audience and/or engage in a focused PR campaign with that same media.

Of course, this approach doesn’t cut it anymore.

We live in an omni-channel world where consumers not only go into stores, but they research online and survey social networks to gather even more information about products they might purchase. Moreover, they’re doing this research on desktops, mobile devices, and tablets 24/7/365—as well as leaning on their real-world social networks — to gather trend information. Every one of these touch points eventually informs their purchase decision.

This means two things: First, brands must develop marketing programs that can be supported through all touch points—there is no longer a hierarchy in determining where brands should share their message. That being said, utilizing the power of social networks and influencers should be approached with the same depth of strategy as traditional publications.

You can’t fight the power of social networks. Instagram and Twitter personalities are beginning to hold the same prestige as established print publications, and their ability to yield measureable results is staggering. See this engagement Lord & Taylor just brought to life on Instagram. I’m not arguing that a product pick-up in GQ is no longer valuable, but the sweet spot, now, is pick-up in GQ while simultaneously engaging in a digital advertising campaign and seeding that same product to a vetted list of bloggers and Instagram influencers.

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Of course, remaining true to your brand and product is key throughout all of this. It’s ill-advised to pitch and send a new mountaineering boot from La Sportiva to a bunch of fitness bloggers simply because “They are active, too.” Finding the group of social influencers that speaks to your target audience can be tricky, but it’s essential to the success of a campaign.

There will always be room for traditional PR and advertising tactics, but as we look forward in the world of marketing we can no longer ignore just how interconnected our world has become. For brands and marketing agencies alike, acknowledging this and working towards a shift in approach to marketing campaigns will be crucial as we all learn to navigate this rapidly-changing landscape.

— Alison Nestel-Patt

Backbone Media Returns to the Big Apple

Twice a year, a critical mass of Backbone’s PR and media teams trade the Rocky Mountain corridor for skyscrapers, pavement pounding and a much wider array of cuisine. If you were in the NYC area last week and spotted a group of guys and gals rocking plaid, denim and athletic shoes, it was probably us – and no, we weren’t trying to pull off the Lumbersexual look.

Despite the rain mist, the event saw over 75 journalists, bloggers, photographers, stylists and publishers throughout the day. This showroom provided a platform for brands to reveal what is in the pipeline for fall and winter 2015. Fifteen brands were in attendance this year and covered a wide array of categories including fashion, active lifestyle, mountaineering gear, cycling, technology, deep-sea fishing apparel, and more.   Participants were Smartwool, Eddie Bauer, POC, Les 3 Valles, YETI Coolers, Polartec, Hoka One One, Vibram, American Pistachio Growers, Stio, Stower, Distiller’s List, Walls, Grundens and FluidStance.

This year we were lucky to have a hosted happy hour featuring fresh fish hor d’oeuvres from Grundens and premier cocktails from Distiller’s List.

For Eddie Bauer, last week in NYC was a double-header!  Following the Backbone Showroom, the brand held a launch reception for the new Eddie Bauer Limited Edition Collection by Ilaria Urbinati at Freemans Restaurant. A menswear line aimed at combining the heritage and original aesthetics of the brand with modern silhouettes and styling, the event targeted the who’s who of men’s design, fashion and style.

Attendees from GQ, Men’s Journal, Details, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire, WSJ’s Off Duty, WWD, and many others made efforts to see the new collection. The notable celebrity stylist who has built her career ensuring the men of Hollywood are dressing the part, Urbinati’s long-time friend and client James Marsden stopped by to show his support of her line.

All in all, it was a busy week for Backbone in the city, and it never ceases to amaze us  with how tired you can get from walking around zero-pitch landscapes all day!

Until next time NYC,

Alison Nestel-Patt & Katie Wolitarsky

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The Best Part of Work 2 of 2

All businesses have certain criteria and filters they put on their work.

At Backbone, our criteria boils down to if we believe in the brand.

Taking this beyond the work environment we can see how ‘believing in the brand’  manifests itself on a recent personal trip to Antarctica to climb Vinson Massif with friends Linden and Slinger.  Expecting cold temps between 0 centigrade and -40C it was pretty reassuring to be able to rely on client’s products for protection from the elements.

So, how do you pack for a few weeks vacation on Antarctic ice? Here’s a selection of some client and non-client products that went down south.

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Russian Ilyushin 76 cargo plane on the blue ice runway at Union Glacier

Travel

Stio Rivet jeans and Otto Shirt

BD  Post Op Hoody and Mission belt

BD speed pack  – for laptop to ski touring pack

Lululemon Metal Vent Tech LS and Hoody

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Lindon Mallory on the Twin Otter flying from Union Glacier into Vinson Basecamp

Core & Insulation

SmartWool NTS Lite  Baselayers – I’m a big fan of boot top 3/4 length bottoms as they alleviate bunching up of too many layer and boots

Polartec CoEfficient Hoody and Polartec Powerstretch tight – lightweight and warm

BD Stance Belay Pants

First Ascent MicroTerm jacket – lightweight and fitted to layer under jackets

BD Cold Forge Parka & Stance Belay Parkas – double down on the down

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Slinger and Linden looking out from high camp

Hands, head and feet

Gloves – BD digital liner, Rambla, Guide gloves and Absolute mitt. Both Slinger and Linden used thr First Ascent Guide glove extensively.

Headwear – Kask Headband – assorted Buffs (TGR and Strafe) – old Patagonia Highloft shell hat, BD Balaclava and Cloudveil 4 Shadows Beanie. Regulating your body temp starts with your head

POC Iris goggles and Jeremy Jones Signature glacier glasses. Spare glasses were Revo Guide glasses

Thermacell Heated footbeds – remote control heat at the touch of a button. Great in climbing/ski boots and around camp

La Sportiva Olympus Mons  – these things are MONEY

BD Sabretooth crampons – probably the best all around crampon ever made

BD Quadrant ski boots with Intuition liners

Forty Below neoprene overboots (for ski boots and around camp)

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Windy, cold conditions on the fixed lines

Outerwear

BD Vapor Point Shell

Stio Hardscrabble soft shell pant

Old School Marmot 8000 meter down pant  – yup, the old yellow and red ones

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Linden descending from high camp

 

Hardware

BD Carbon Aspect Ski

BD Ascension skins – dependability is king

BD Whippet, Raven Ultra ice axe and Expedition 2 ski pole. The Whippet is more versatile and handy than an ice axe much of the time

Assorted locking biners – (I went with a Magnetron Vaporlock which is super great with gloves/mitts on), wiregates (larger body types like the Hotwire is better), ATC, Express Turbo ice screw, prussiks, Tiblocs and 1 ascender, SMC pickets

BD Saw and Deploy Shovel

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Lunch stop on the glacier

Nutrition

Penn’s special gorp – mix of shelled pistachios and chocolate covered espresso beans (protein, anti oxidants and caffeine)

Mix of cheeses, salami, proscuitto, crackers

Dinty Moores, Ramen, and Tasty Bites. Real bacon and burgers at basecamp.

Couple of boxes of wine, a flask of Genepi.

Assortment of Honey Stinger waffles and chews, GU and Chomps and Voke Energy Tabs. CLIF bars and Snickers

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Reflecting on the summit

Sleeping and accessories

Big Agnes Doubletrack insulated pad – the pad is key to warm and comfy sleep

Big Agnes girdle – turns any stuff sack into a compression stuff sack.

Alps foam matt

Old school Feathered Friends overstuffed -40 bag – I have an extra long to stuff in liners, gloves and pee bottle.

MSR XGK stoves

Klean Kanteen insulated thermos waterbottles X2

GoalZero Solar Chargers

Lumix DMC – Gm1 – compact interchangeable lens with a 12-32 and 40 – 200 lenses. Great small camera.

BD Mission 75 backpack

Journal, Team mascot Paco the penguin. Paco summitted with us then hung on our Christmas tree and now lives in my 7 year old’s room.

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Descending

Stuff I did not bring but my partners did and I was jealous

Gregory Makalu Pro Backpack  – my buddy Linden Mallory has guided all over the world with this pack. It has seen a lot of time and is a classic Gregory pack

Sea to Summit – Padded Soft Cell for electronics and Aeros Pillow Premium. Apparently Slinger now sleeps with his pillow at home

Coal Freya neck gaiter – super warm, wooly gaiter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Part of Work 1 of 2

With 2014 coming to a close, we took some time to compile a “Best of” list for Backbone.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.17.24 AMOnce again this year, our accomplishments are the result of hard work, creativity and  partnerships with strong brands and great people.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.04.15 AMWhether helping to launch a brand via Kickstarter, winning stacks of editorial awards from both endemic and broad based media alike, or working with our partners to create best in class native advertising, here’s a quick look at some of Backbone’s best accomplishments in 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.04.38 AMHired 13 people

Won 13 new accounts

Tracked over 18.5 billion editorial media impressions (that’s with no multiplier applied)

Successfully launched a new digital programmatic platform – FastG8

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Built out content creation solutions for multiple brands

Redesigned (and majorly improved) our logo and corporate ID

Created a new business process, strengthened our values and mission

Completed our best New York media events to date, including a very successful pop up in Midtown

Finalized a new website (look for it soon!)

Opened a new office in Denver in a stunning space and relocated our Jackson office

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Updated our wellness stipend to better reflect diverse interests and needs

Added more structure, titles and support to the organization to create growth opportunities

Increased structure and support in Jackson and Denver offices

Created the DCM monster that is now Lindsay Logan. Hired Colin Cares to support digital effort

Worked on some groundbreaking campaigns for our clients like The Human Factor for BD, Best Towns for Toad & Co., content creation for Opedix and Revo, and many more

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Finished a remodel in our Carbondale office

Paid for the remodel mentioned above

Bought stand-up desks for  everyone so we live longer

Shifted our file management and phone system to the cloud

Bought a new coffee machine and got it running

Installed a water filtration system

Spent 2000 nights on the road and called 174 ski days legitimate work (*estimated)

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Consumed 140 pounds of coffee – but only 8 kegs (weak sauce on the keg work)

Launched the YETI Hopper, ABOM goggles on Kickstarter, AvaTech, expanded business in active lifestyle, hook and bullet and destination markets

Devoted time, energy and effort to non-profits – Protect Our Winters, Big City Mountaineers, First Descents, Thompson Divide Coalition, Spring Gulch Nordic Center, Roaring Fork Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Red Hill trail system (you should support one too!)

Ran media trips stand up paddling on the Hudson, heli hiking in Squamish, multi-day rafing on the Green River, fly fishing in Patagonia, heli skiing in British Columbia, road riding with the US Pro Challenge, backpacking in the Uintas

Raised money and summited Mount Shasta for BCM’s Summit for Someone program

Named one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work for third year in a row

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New York, New York : Backbone Media 2014 Fall Showroom

With 15 different adventure and outdoor lifestyle brands, 18 mountain people Backbone employees, over 80 NYC media and a California brewery, Backbone Media took the outdoors to the big city last week in NYC.

Backbone travels east to host our bi-annual showroom every spring and fall to stay connected with the fast-paced and ever-changing media landscape in NYC .

For a city often referred to as the “concrete jungle,” NYC is home to a surprisingly large number of active lifestyle and outdoor publishing houses; Outside TV, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, Fitness, Shape, Self, Women’s Health, just to name a few.

The showroom showcased current and new for spring 2015 products from Eddie Bauer, YETI coolers, Chaco, Stio, Polartec, Gregory, Thule, Gerber Gear, Maven, HOKA One One, REVO, Opedix, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages, Poron XRD and non-profit First Descents. We were also thrilled to have our friends from Firestone Walker there to do a beer tasting during happy hour.

A few of our favorite images from the event are highlighted below. Thank you NYC for having us, and we are already planning our return in April so be on the lookout for details!

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True Innovation + Macro Relevance = ???

PR folks have a serious weakness for superlatives.

This new widget is the lightest, fastest, bestest (this truthfully is a word. A super superlative the best of the best!). It is quite silly, really. We’ve joked in our office of creating a new product release template structured in a Mad Libs format to fill in the superlative gaps for a press release.

Yet there also lurks true awesomeness (also a rarely used word defined as: an unmeasurable amount of awesomenimity). Smart people are creating solutions to problems and true innovation occurs everyday. What is ideal is when the innovation or launch of a new product or company correlates with trends that have macro or societal relevance.

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Which brings us to AvaTech.  Avatech is a start up that came out of MIT. The Founder and CEO, Brint Markle, had a close friend get caught in a slide (he survived). In processing the situation Brint observed that all avy gear is basioally triage based, and reactive technology. Thus, AvaTech was founded to design a solution that would give skiers and riders good data to facilitate better decision making and avoid getting caught in an avalanche before it happens.

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AvaTech is a proactive solution that quickly and accurately analyzes snowpack and facilitates real-time sharing. Backbone helped launch AvaTech to the media a few weeks ago  – and the group  is quickly catching attention as it  attends the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) in Banff this week.

 

Why has the launch been successful? AvaTech is honestly innovative. Don’t take our superlative laden perspective for it, in a feature article released last week in The Avalanche Review (TAR) considered the leading publication for snow pros and patrollers, Jordy Hendrikx professor of snow science at Montana State says,” “Every so often, new technology comes along in an industry that’s not step change, but orders of magnitude. We’re seeing this with AvaTech today in our industry.”

In the first 5 days of launch, AvaTech received over 25,000 youtube views, organic sharing of the content on Facebook was exceptional, (over 400 shares) as was the coverage on OutsideOnline, Wildsnow, Powder, Backcountry, Freeskier, Transworld, Unofficial Networks, TGR, and TAR. Innovation helps, but an overarching macro trend focusing on safety not just in snow sports but in all gravirty sports in general comes into play as well. As the number of off piste skiers rises, so too does the need for safety products. We’ve seen this with helmets, body armor, as well as an emerging trend for safety products and protocol in the backcountry. The Black Diamond JetForce airbag is a great example. So, while AvaTech’s SP1 is not the lightest, fastest perhaps it is the bestest as it hits the sweet spot of a thoughtfully innovative product, which has been carefully developed and is poised for success and relevance with snow pros, and backcountry enthusiasts alike.

Look for out on the hill this winter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charging into Fall 2104

Having just completed the bi-annual Backbone Charge (because we do not retreat) staff outing, here is a quick look at some recent projects we’ve completed—from product launches, to trend stories, to native advertising.

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Bonfire at the annual Charge at the Harry Gates Hut (photo compliments the talented Erik Wardell)

ABOM

At 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, September 7, we dropped the F-bomb. For the past several months we’ve been working with Abominable Labs on the launch of their game-changing goggles, which feature a lens that heats up to immediately eliminate fog, much like your car’s rear window defroster.  It’s a product that is really innovative, but also makes you think, “why didn’t I think of that.” We’ve been working for weeks to coordinate the announcement of the product with the launch of their kickstarter page and it was fun to see the stories roll in from the Oregonian (Abom is based in Lake Oswego) OutsideOnline, GearJunkie and Gizmodo in the first 24 hours. This is a brand that’s poised to shake up the goggle market.

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HOKA ONE ONE

On the heels of the Outdoor Retailer show and recent awards in Runner’s World, Competitor and Trail Runner, to name a few, HOKA is hitting it’s stride. Here’s a quick look at Deckers CEO Angel Martinez on Mad Money talking about HOKA along with other Deckers brands. Key take-aways: connect, create experiences and build relationships with consumers, omnichannel sales and “web-rooming.”

Black Diamond
Following up on BD’s popular Mountain Project mobile app is a native campaign with Outside. “If it ain’t broke, break it” takes consumers into Black Diamond’s QA/QC lab and provides a peak into the product testing that serves brand’s mantra: Use Design Engineer Build Repeat.

See you out there!