There’s a reason people who love to be outdoors choose to live in Colorado. With 10,000-plus miles of trail through national parks, state parks, national forests, and other public lands, the Centennial State has no shortage of breathtaking scenery—and endless opportunities for running, mountain biking, skiing, paddling, and climbing. With all that, it’s no wonder so many outdoor brands have chosen to set up shop in Colorado. The natural landscape inspires constant innovation, much of which helps to enable conservation and stewardship of Colorado’s natural resources. Check out these nine cutting-edge brands that continue to break barriers in the state where we live, work, and play.
1. Big Agnes
"When you boil outdoor adventure down to its purest essence," the Big Agnes website explains, “you end up with the simple act of camping.” That philosophy has driven the Steamboat Springs-based company for the fifteen years it’s been manufacturing sleeping bags, pads, tents, and apparel. Big Agnes has won Gear of the Year-type awards from Outside, Backpacker, and Men’s Journal (among others) for innovations like it's breathable and waterproof eVent fabric. The company also supports numerous nonprofits, like the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and SheJumps, and has a committed corporate social responsibility policy that supports fair labor standards and uses alternative energy sources and sustainable materials whenever possible.
2. Honey Stinger
Plenty of companies put out nutrition products meant for athletes, but in a place with as many serious outdoorsy folks as Colorado, it’s crucial that those snacks be delicious, too. And Steamboat Springs’ Honey Stinger delivers. Honey Stinger’s energy gels and chews, waffles, protein bars, and kid-friendly snacks are made with their own blend of organic wildflower honey, which is free of genetically modified ingredients. Thanks to a culture of encouraging employees to spend time in the outdoors, Honey Stinger regularly participates in REI’s #OptOutside on Black Friday, and its Hive sponsorship program provides support for both amateur and professional athletes.
A reliable knife is an essential part of any backcountry adventure kit. With roots in Golden since the 1980s, Spyderco is the pioneer behind the folding knife. With a never-before-seen round hole in the blade, allowing users to open it with one hand, the first Spyderco folding knife has become a staple not only in the cutlery industry, but in the outdoors as well. Sypderco knives also feature a clip on the handle (since it’s so easy to lose those tiny items in the field) and the option of a serrated blade. The company also makes a point of contributing to the local community, donating a portion of proceeds from its knife sales to charitable organizations.
4. Wagner Custom Skis
Nestled in the heart of the San Miguel Mountains in southwest Colorado, Wagner Custom Skis creates gorgeous custom skis. Their cutting edge Skier DNA fitting process takes stock of customers’ skiing behavior and goals, then calls on its team of ski design engineers, computerized diagnostic tools, and high-quality materials to fine-tune your dream skis. Wagner has also managed to do away with the limitations of traditional ski molds, opting instead to assemble skis, as they describe it, "like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle." With over 7,000 pairs of Wagner custom skis on the slopes to date, this company can stand behind its guarantee: love your new skis, or they’ll refund your money or build you another pair.
Who said there was nothing new under the sun? Pagosa Springs-based VOORMI is a relative newcomer to the outdoor apparel scene, working to push the boundaries of merino wool. Advances in precision knitting allow VOORMI to create fabrics that reflect or absorb light, hold less odor, and are incredibly soft. The company also uses surface-hardened wool technology, which means you can, incredibly, wear a wool garment as a water-resistant layer. All VOORMI products are manufactured right here in the U.S. of A.
If there’s one outdoor product everyone needs, it’s a durable case to keep your electronics from breaking or getting wet on a backcountry adventure, which is why OtterBox has won so many awards. Once a tiny Fort Collins startup, OtterBox began by creating a sturdy drybox for whitewater kayakers. Today, in addition to its original wares, the company produces reliable protection cases for phones and cameras, along with several others types of cases to keep gear dry and intact. OtterBox is also known for its positive company culture and excellent employee benefits, and the OtterCares Foundation is committed to empowering kids through philanthropy and entrepreneurship.
7. Never Summer Industries
Headquartered and manufactured in Denver, Never Summer’s snowboards have a solid reputation for good reason. Never Summer has the first patent of its kind for its hybrid camber technology, so they’ve earned the right to be picky about the shops that sell their snowboards and longboards. They’ve been building snowboards since the onset of the sport in the early 1980s, and have been testing and fine-tuning their products since. This independent manufacturer also offers a three-year warranty on its products, so you know that you and your board will be taken care of.
There’s a reason this Steamboat Springs-based wool manufacturer regularly appears on Outside Magazine’s list of Best Places to Work. Smartwool takes great care of its employees and the places they love to play, offering 40 hours of paid volunteer time annually, generous vacation policies, and a culture of playing outside. In addition to a commitment to using sustainable, ethically-sourced materials for its high-quality products (with a 100% satisfaction guarantee for customers), Smartwool sponsors several nonprofit organizations, including conservation and stewardship-minded orgs like Leave No Trace, the Conservation Alliance, and Protect Our Winters.
9. The e-Bike Company
Want to explore Colorado by bike, but feel a little intimidated by the route? Or maybe you have some family members that never quite learned how to ride a bike, but are still up for a two-wheeled adventure? Well, the e-Bike Company, based in Colorado Springs, has created a machine to help. Their electric-assisted bikes are clean and quiet, offering riders the chance to go farther and faster than they could on their own—all while experiencing the incredible scenery Colorado has to offer. They also make it possible to expose friends and family who aren’t cyclists, along with kids and those with physical disabilities, to the joy of cycling. The e-Bike Company also offers kits to convert your current bike into an electric bike—and, when you’re ready to break a sweat again, you can dial it back and mash those pedals.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated in partnership with Choose Colorado and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].