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From industry reports to corporate studies, gear companies often pay good money to learn what adventurers want to buy (more breathable everything!). But these four Colorado manufacturers have little use for polls: As hardcore skiers and cyclists, they live the outdoor lifestyle and know firsthand how great gear should look, feel, and function. So instead of buying jackets and base layers that left them lukewarm, they built their own companies—not just to make a buck in the growing outdoor industry, but also to make their own shred sessions more satisfying.
Founders: Pete and John Gaston
By their early 20s, twin brothers Pete and John Gaston were accomplished ski mountaineers. But mountaineering outerwear struck them as stodgy, so they founded Strafe to make jackets, pants, bibs, and midlayers tough enough for backcountry powder missions but hip enough for young guns like themselves. The epitome of their quest: The Sickbird Hooded Suit (in colors like apple green/pirate black), which features a waterproof, breathable shell and vents to dump heat while climbing.
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Kent Eriksen Cycles
Founder: Kent Eriksen
In 1980, at the age of 25, bike-building wunderkind Kent Eriksen founded Moots Cycles in Steamboat Springs. His YBB rear suspension, developed in 1986, helped chart a new course for the sport, encouraging riders to swap out their hardtails—bikes without a rear shock—for full-suspension rigs. After selling Moots, Eriksen launched Kent Eriksen Cycles, a business he sold in 2016. Now, the 62-year-old enjoys semiretirement, riding events like the Leadville Trail 100—where you’re likely to find him racing with his wife on a custom-built tandem.
Founders: Darcy Conover and Adam Moszynski
As sponsored pro skiers and mountaineers, Darcy Conover and Adam Moszynski wore top-shelf goods, but both wondered: Why are base layers so boring? So the Aspen husband-and-wife team located a manufacturer in Rifle and brought their own goods to market, using technical fabrics that handle sweat and abrasion but are also stylish enough for après. Conover’s pet project, the 1Z base layer top, has become a cult item in Aspen, where women often peel away their ski garb to show off the 1Z at local bars.
Founder: The Boyer family
A former competitor on the pro moguls circuit, Diane Boyer, who took over the family business in 1995, creates high-end designs that appear beside Bogner and Moncler on the world’s runways. Unlike those brands, though, her pieces are built for hard-charging skiers like herself: Her hoods are helmet-compatible, pit zips are de rigueur, and her fabrics have the technical DNA to handle powder days. She was also the first female chair of the board of Snowsports Industries America (SIA), where she helped make skiing’s boys’ club more inclusive. Her reward? In October, Boyer was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.