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Boulder’s Backcountry Access pioneers avy safety gear, education

The Denver Post/Helen H. Richardson

The Denver Post/Helen H. Richardson

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.

To read this article in its entirety, go to http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_22359216/boulders-backcountry-access-pioneers-avalanche-safety-gear-education?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com