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October 2016

Outdoors IS International


The popularity of what we describe as non-competitive "zen" sports exploded in the late sixties and early seventies, driven by the shifting culture. By the time the late 70s rolled around, Outdoors had reached a tipping point. Large populations backpacked, paddled, skied, hiked and camped just for fun. And it's grown from there!

Prior to "zen" sports, most athletic endeavors were organized in local leagues or clubs, with regional, provincial and national advancement for those who excelled. In Canada at least, hockey remains a great example of a sport organized in a competitive hierarchy with the NHL at the top of the pyramid.

The companies that built the early Outdoors supply chain were primarily from Colorado and California - the North Face, Marmot, Sierra Designs, Patagonia (or as they used to known - Great Pacific Ironworks) and Osprey. Canada had a few contributors: Far West in Vernon and much later Arcteryx in Vancouver. For those of you with a really good memory, let's add Banana Equipment, Synergy Works, and Class 5 to the early incubator list. These three were also From California and Colorado.

Much of the tech materials that have driven the innovation of premium recreational solutions for humans going outdoors was invented in the 1970s: Gore-Tex, Polartec, Primaloft, seam sealing, core-spun stretch yarns, rotomolding for boats, injection molding, high tenacity synthetic yarns in ever diminishing deniers, and powerful permanent gluing. A list of core outdoor innovation since 2000 would include carbon fiber, lithium batteries and LEDs, satellite communicators and digital mapping, photovoltaics, and all the new technology to lessen or eliminate enviro impact.

As new, optimistic and forward looking as "the suburbs" were after WW2, the burbs were basically about moving indoors - outdoors was paved and lawned in rectangular chunks. By the time the 60s arrived, young people desperately wanted to get back outside - away from all the pavement, stop signs and "ticky tacky boxes all in a row". To the wilderness!

The Great Globalization trend that began in the 1980s that started blending people and cultures, also moved manufacturing offshore. For the past 40 years, the Outdoors supply chain has delivered better and better products every year, at ever lower prices.

Today, humans have become hybrids, mostly human and part digital - completely immersed in connectivity and technology. Connectivity has extended each of our voices to be global, our formative travels and journeys are global, and even our empathy and politics are becoming global. We may relate closely to people in Africa, spiritualists in India, listen to inner city musicians, or sympathize with distant refugees more than our neighbours next door.

Local food supply, music and culture here in Canada are easy to take for granted. But when we return from our travels to exotic distant lands and cultures, what we have grown up with locally comes into focus as being likewise remarkable, unique and valuable. Distant travel gives us context and perspective.

The Outdoor choices Valhalla Pure offers reflect these macro and social trends - this blending of local with distant. We have a mix of Arcteryx and Delta boats from Vancouver, Icebreaker from New Zealand, Norrona, Helle and Kari Traa from Norway, Montane from the U.K., Mammut from Switzerland, DPS skis, Black Diamond and KUHL from Salt Lake City, Petzl and Black Crows from France and LaSportiva, Garmont and Scarpa from northern Italy. And our shop staff include folks from Holland, America, China, UK, and Switzerland.

Those original legacy Outdoor brands from California suddenly have some serious competition. We ARE International! And still the mountain wilderness touches people's lives as powerfully as ever. Bit by bit, we are doing it better, more safely, and with more awareness each passing season.

Waiting for snow in New Denver,

David Harley