Jake Thamm and Tamara Laug wanted to build a better snowshoe.
So in the late 1990s, the couple -- who operated shelving company Rack n Roll Sport Systems -- cobbled a prototype from aluminum tent poles, Naugahyde and an old Volkswagen fan belt.
The makeshift design spurred the launch of Crescent Moon Snowshoes, a Boulder-based manufacturer that has supplied shoes and accessories to the snow sports industry since 1997.
Crescent Moon, which has shoes in 250 stores and rental businesses nationwide, is coming out of a two-year period that was the worst in the company's history. Poor winter snowfall and a slow economic recovery nearly buried the firm, Thamm said.
After a "normal winter" and retailers now purging through the build-up of old product, Crescent Moon appears well positioned for a strong return, Thamm said
"Our first 15 years were characterized by steady (sales) growth of 8 (percent) to 10 percent every year," he said. "The last two years, we didn't grow at all. ... We really are optimistic about next year.
"What we really need is a regular snow, regular winter."
The frame of the snowshoes consists of aluminum alloy tubing, which -- when welded into Crescent Moon's iconic teardrop shape and combined with a PVC-free decking material -- creates a stiff and sturdy platform, Thamm said. The binding consists of a single-pull harness system that can be molded to fit the wearer's foot and locked in with a cam-locking buckle.
"There's no opportunity for the foot to slosh around," he said. "It's a very, very stable and very responsive (system)."
Crescent Moon tops off -- or bottoms off, rather -- its shoes with a toe claw. The teardrop shape allows the shoes to clear away from one another as each stride is taken, he added.
"We have tried to apply ergonomics, some common sense and some logic and some innovation ... to make a really great snowshoe experience," he said.
Business has returned for outdoor gear retailers including the Boulder Army Store, 1545 Pearl St., which in 2013 logged "one of the best years," said the downtown Boulder retailer's Johnny Huber, who brought in the snowshoes in the late '90s after talking with Thamm.
"Things are picking up just because we've actually got some weather for a change," Huber said.
Crescent Moon sales have been consistent, he said.
"For Crescent Moon, (customers) just come in asking for them by name," Huber said. "(Customers) have done research on them."
For Crescent Moon to continue to move forward, Thamm said, it will take more than weather. The company that created a snowshoe from tent poles, an old couch and car parts not only has to retain its hands-on approach but also has to continue innovating, he said.
Maintaining the locally based manufacturing outfit is a pinnacle element, he said. In a space off Western Avenue, just west of 55th Street, Crescent Moon's three employees hand-manufacture the snowshoes and prepare them for shipping.
Thamm plans to apply that attention to detail through an increasing focus on the company's web and mobile sites.
"Any business that wants to be relevant and current, you have to have that information ready and accessible," he said.
Thamm and Laug also are focused on creating new products, including a carbon fiber snowshoe designed for competitive athletes and even a longboard -- a skateboard for commuting or cruising -- that could help the company navigate the warm months.
Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.