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Watch skis being made inside Meier Skis' new Denver factory; Photograph by Chris Kalback

The Exodus of Outdoor Brands From Mountain Towns

The Mile High City's active (and flush) citizenship is inspiring more outdoor brands to move here from the mountains.

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The folks at Mountain Khakis think pretty highly of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The outdoor-apparel company’s founders came up with the idea for Mountain Khakis at the Shady Lady Saloon there, and a marketing video gushes about the town’s transformative effects (“where the wind shapes character…”). Yet when it came time to open Mountain Khakis’ first retail store, the company eschewed its hometown in favor of a larger metropolitan area whose growing consumer base personifies the outdoor lifestyle. Which, according to Mountain Khakis, means residents spend big chunks of many days on the trail and a portion of evenings at craft breweries or restaurants. “The Jackson Hole lifestyle is writ large in Denver,” says Mountain Khakis president Ross Saldarini. “The demographics are perfect for us.”

Mountain Khakis’ 1,800-square-foot flagship store, opening early next month in Larimer Square, is the latest example of a company using Denver as a gateway to reach outdoor lovers. With millennials moving to Denver en masse, a booming economy pouring disposable income into residents’ wallets, and the Rocky Mountains less than an hour away—well, this might be the beginning of a new Colorado gold rush for outdoor brands.

Meier Skis recently made a Denver move, too, relocating its factory from Glenwood Springs to the Lincoln Park neighborhood in November. At the new facility, shoppers peruse products, tune skis, and order craft beers. Meier Skis co-owner Ted Eynon says the company wanted to tap into the huge active community here, but it also needed more employees and faster access to suppliers such as the Mile High WorkShop, which cuts the blanks for Meier’s skis. Then there’s Quality Bike Products (QBP). The Minnesota bike behemoth behind brands like Surly, Salsa, and iSSi transferred its Western distribution center from Ogden, Utah, to an Aurora warehouse in July 2016. The motivation? The ability to deliver products to every single Coloradan within a day. (We spend a lot of money on bikes: Bicycle retail and manufacturing contribute $184 million a year to Colorado’s economy.)

The new arrivals don’t need to call Denver home. After all, Jackson Hole is still Mountain Khakis’ headquarters. Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, predicts that while more mountain-bred businesses will expand into Denver to grow sales, they’ll also keep a presence in their hometowns because their employees love living there. That’s perfectly fine with us. We just want the gold.

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