BOULDER - Bruce "Edge" Edgerly navigates a maze of pallets - each laden with boxes reaching the ceiling - in his Boulder warehouse.
"What do we call this room now?" he asks no one in particular.
"The Float Department," comes an answer from behind a tower of cardboard.
"Ah. It's a department now," Edgerly says as his employees tear open boxes and stock swelling shelves with an array of Backcountry Access' Float backpacks, each boasting compressed-air cylinders that - with the yank of a ripcord - inflate airbags designed to save backcountry travelers caught in avalanches.
The avalanche-airbag backpacks are the latest wildly popular avalanche-safety tool that the 18-year-old company - acquired last week by K2 Sports - has developed, adding to a list that includes probe poles, shovels and the continent's most popular avalanche beacon.
As gear developed for traveling in avalanche-prone terrain explodes - skis, boots and bindings sales have soared 57 percent over the past three seasons, according to SnowSports Industries America retail statistics - Backcountry Access has emerged as a leader in the $40 million annual backcountry-accessories market.
"If you would have told me 20 years ago that I could have made a small fortune in backcountry skiing, I would have said you were nuts," said Edgerly, who co-founded Backcountry Access with Bruce "Bruno" McGowan in 1994. "Now everybody is jumping in. It's the real deal. It's mainstream."
K2's purchase of the 45-employee company adds the first backcountry brand to the sporting giant's quiver of 14 ski, snowboard, snowshoe and sneaker names. Terms were not disclosed.
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