In late January, some 1,000 outdoor recreation companies will coalesce in Denver for the first-of-its-kind winter industry exhibition, a combination of the popular Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and SIA Snow Show.

But outdoor companies have been settling in Boulder County for decades, a trend that some predict will grow as brands are drawn by the active lifestyle and the presence of the industry's largest trade show.

It's the Ogden Effect, said Eric Henderson, an outdoor industry public relations professional who stumped for Boulder running store Go Far Shop when it opened this fall. Henderson is referring to the town of Ogden, Utah, where Outdoor Retailer (OR) began hosting its summer and winter shows some 20 years ago before moving to Denver.

Drawn by the yearly crowd of thousands and the energy of the OR show, 19 outdoor brands eventually settled in the town of 86,000, the Denver Post reported. City economic development officials have identified outdoor recreation as a key industry. Nearly 50 companies have headquarters or significant operations in the city, and 1,000-plus jobs have been added over the past decade.

Boulder, too, has recognized the power of its outdoor businesses as a key economic driver. The sector employs some 125,000 people throughout the state, according to the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association, and Colorado is known internationally as a supporter of an active lifestyle and businesses surrounding that.


Advertisement

It was world-class skiing that drew Christian Lovenskiold to Colorado from Norway, but it was Boulder's embrace of an outdoors-y culture that attracted the company he works for, Amundsen Sports. The Norwegian apparel and gear brand is in the process of establishing its U.S. headquarters in the city, with Lovenskiold leading the charge.

"When we were laying down plans to go into the U.S, there was no doubt" that Boulder would be Amundsen's landing place, he said. "Boulder matches the Norwegian mentality that you're supposed to get out in nature."

Amundsen — named for Norway's Roald Amundsen, who led the first successful expedition to the South Pole — joins other European companies with North American subsidiaries in the county. Fellow Norwegian brand Bergans landed in Longmont five years ago. Russia's Red Fox is in Lyons; Italy's La Sportiva and Scarpa are in Boulder.

Even if their offices are elsewhere, global brands have found retail success in Boulder — usually on Pearl Street. Sweden's Fjallraven has a store there; North Face opened a concept shop on the mall this year.

Local operators have taken the opportunity to plant themselves on Pearl as well. GoLite reboot My Trail Company nabbed a spot this summer, and Go Far Shop joined this fall. Owner Kate King partnered with Steamboat Spring sock-seller Smartwool on the concept.

It's notable, Henderson said, that so many brands are investing in retail in Boulder at a time when rents have never been higher and competition from online sources has never been more intense.

"The fact that people are actually opening new brick-and-mortars just show they believe in this area," he said. Boulder is an "ideal example of a retail market that is actually growing; people are purchasing. Walk around downtown right now — those shops are hopping."

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, castles@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/shayshinecastle