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Adventure unleashed thanks to serious recreational businesses

Colorado culture exemplified in lifestyle-focused companies

Lisa Ryckman //July 3, 2017//

Adventure unleashed thanks to serious recreational businesses

Colorado culture exemplified in lifestyle-focused companies

Lisa Ryckman //July 3, 2017//

Bonsai Design

Grand Junction | Since 2005

Bonsai Design designs, installs and maintains aerial adventure courses, including: Big Zip Rides, Canopy Tours, Zipline Tours, Drop Towers and Aerial Adventure Parks.

WHY COLORADO: Grand Junction is working on re-branding and re-inventing itself as an outdoor recreation hub, and Bonsai Design plans to help by installing and operating an aerial adventure course at the namesake of Grand Junction: the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: The Boy Scouts of America Jamboree project challenged the company to design and install 26 different aerial adventure courses over a three-year period. Overnight, Bonsai went from a single crew working out of a van and a basement to one with more than 50 employees. 

DEFINING INNOVATION: On every installation, the company strives to design a product to showcase the natural beauty and history of the site, whether it’s an African Safari exhibit at a zoo, a cliff-side zipline tour 400 feet off the ground or a repurposed grain silo.

COMMUNITY IMPACT: Owner Sarah Shrader started the Outdoor Recreation Coalition in the Grand Valley (ORC), which now has more than 400 members working to promote and expand outdoor recreation businesses. She is also involved in advocating for school district funding and investing in educational opportunities for youth in the Grand Valley.


Phunkshun Wear

Denver | Since 2011

Phunkshun Wear makes facemasks, balaclavas and base layers for skiing, snowboarding, fishing and other sports.

WHY COLORADO: No mountains, no products. The company was born in a ski-and-ride school locker room at Copper Mountain; its products were developed in Summit County, and they are being built in Denver, where enterprise zones helped in the purchase of new equipment. The company has thrived with help from the city and state’s support of economic development, networking and sustainability.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: Phunkshun Wear decided to embrace sustainability and eco-manufacturing by using only fabric that has polyester made from recycled plastic bottles.

DEFINING INNOVATION: Phunkshun Wear uses a treatment on its masks that make them water-repellant and freeze-resistant yet still breathable — an innovation that sets it apart from competitors.

THE DISRUPTION FACTOR The company offers an industry-exclusive no-minimum custom graphics at the wholesale level for nonprofits, ski clubs, schools, parks departments, other brands, resorts and events.

COMPANY CULTURE:  All staff is invited to attend the SIA Tradeshow, the biggest ski and board show in North America to gain greater understanding of the marketplace. An open-door policy encourages employees to come speak to the owner or the CEO whenever they have a question or suggestion.


Down River Equipment

Wheat Ridge | Since 1985 

Down River Equipment is a retailer and manufacturer of a multitude of river and outdoor related equipment, specializing in
custom fabrication, distribution and retail sales of equipment for all types of river adventures.

WHY COLORADO: For a business that‘s part of the outdoor recreation industry and needs outdoor enthusiasts as customers, there’s no better state than Colorado.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: In September 2013, Down River Equipment was purchased by three long-time employees with more than 35 years of combined history with the company. Last year’s move into a 13,000 square-foot location brought a larger showroom and doubled the production and warehouse spaces.

DEFINING INNOVATION: In the last two years, the company has introduced more than 50 new SKUs (variations of products) that have increased overall sales more than $370,000. It has also made significant improvements to dozens of its well-established products, increasing sales by at least 25 percent.  

THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: Down River hosts more than 12 events/seminars/workshops throughout the year, including two signature events. In 2014, the company created its three-day Raftopia Expo, bringing together 15–20 vendors, nonprofits and more than 1,000 customers. The Down River Rendezvous, an on-river customer appreciation weekend, is a weekend of rafting and socializing for more than 150 people.

COMMUNITY IMPACT: Down River Equipment was one of the founders of the South Platte River Cleanup, organizing more than 200 volunteers to float the South Platte through Denver to pick up everything from trash to mattresses. A corporate partner of the American Whitewater Association, it donates more than $5,000 in cash and products to the organization. 


Tailwind Nutrition

Durango | Since 2012

Durango-based Tailwind Nutrition manufactures and sells sports drinks for athletes training and competing in endurance sports such as trail and ultra-running, road/mountain biking, climbing and Nordic skiing.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS: Jeff Vierling developed a sports drink for his own use, but after locals kept asking for more, he offered it on the Leadville 100 forum. One month later, a woman sent Vierling an email crediting his drink with her first-ever 100-mile finish. That inspired the first round of production. A sample provided to Sunny Blende, nutrition columnist for Ultrarunning magazine, found its way to Trail Runner Nation, a podcast with more than 1 million downloads. After a glowing review by the hosts and an interview with Jeff, Tailwind took off in the trail-running segment.

THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: Prior to Tailwind, athletes believed that complex carbohydrates in the form of maltodextrin, protein and separating calories from electrolytes and hydration was the best way to fuel. With Tailwind, that approach has been turned upside down, focusing on simple carbohydrates, mild flavor and no protein — making it possible to run on the same fuel for more than 24 hours.

GIVING BACK: Tailwind sponsors local athletes, teams and numerous events, including Durango high school teams, Fort Lewis College teams, Durango Youth Soccer Association and the Durango Running Club, among others. The company donates 1 percent of gross revenues to the community.

ON THE HORIZON Tailwind expects to grow its market to Europe and Asia and expand its reach to sports including triathlons, cycling, obstacle course racing and climbing.


Mayfly Outdoors

Montrose | Since 2012

Mayfly Outdoors is an investment company with fly-fishing tackle subsidiaries including Abel Reels, Ross Reels and Charlton Reels.

WHY COLORADO: The company can test its products in some of the nation’s finest fly fishing rivers less than two hours away.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: In 2015, the company decided to stop manufacturing for other brands and focus on its own technology and products. It simplified the production process by designing individual components used across different product lines, dramatically improving on-time delivery.  

DEFINING INNOVATION: By combining business operations, product platforming, and investing in lights-out manufacturing, Mayfly is able to release all model sizes and colors of a product line at the same time rather than in stages. It has taken a very common metallurgical finishing process – anodizing – and improved it by investing in a proprietary method to artistically apply one-of-a-kind graphics to product surfaces. The durable, brightly colored results have led to new partnerships. 

THE DISRUPTION FACTOR Mayfly’s graphic anodizing shop is the first and only one of its kind, creating both high-quality and unique products no other manufacturer can offer. Its investment in the newest manufacturing technologies allows it to compete with larger firms by increasing capacity and allowing parts production to occur outside traditional operating hours.

GIVING BACK: Mayfly contributes 10 percent of every U.S.- made fly fishing reel sale to fishing conservation, which has resulted in nearly $11 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration Program. Mayfly is also the founder of Able Women Foundation Inc., a Colorado nonprofit that seeks to expand fly-fishing among women.



Boulder | Since 2013

Stryd helps runners optimize their performance through lab-level metrics captured by a tiny device worn on the shoe.

PIVOTAL MOMENTS: In March 2015, Stryd launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $250,000 in 10 days to begin production of the world’s first wearable power meter for runners. Stryd then won the 2016 Hype Foundation Global Innovation in Sports Competition, taking home the $100,000 grand prize.

DEFINING INNOVATION: Measuring power generated by a flexible and unpredictable human body took the combined knowledge, effort and collaboration of computer scientists, engineers, exercise physiologists and biomechanics, coaches and athletes. The result, Stryd, is the fusion of wearable sensors with advanced signal processing algorithms built on physical, physiological and kinesiological models with optimized application to the sport of running.

THE DISRUPTION FACTOR: Most wearable devices such as watches and fitness trackers report simple “counting” metrics such as time, distance and steps per minute. Stryd provides a deeper understanding of running form and biomechanics directly to the user through advanced concepts such as power, form power, leg spring stiffness, running stress score and running efficiency score.

COMPANY CULTURE: All members of the team run on the local trails of south Boulder daily, often with wires and early stage electronics gadgets hanging off their shoes, legs or torsos.