K2 Sports acquires Backcountry Access

K2 Sports announced Monday it is acquiring Backcountry Access (BCA) to add a core collection of winter safety products to its family. SNEWS looks at why more acquisitions could be on the way within the category that has only a few core players.

The rush to the backcountry is on.

K2 Sports announced Monday it is acquiring Backcountry Access (BCA) to add a core collection of winter safety products to its family amidst a surge of growth in the category.

BCA will continue to operate as an individual brand and remain headquartered in Boulder, Colo., where it employs about 45 people. Bruce Edgerly and Bruce McGowan, who founded the company 18 years ago, are staying on and will continue to lead to company.

Officials declined to disclose a purchase price, but more financial details likely will emerge in future filings. K2 is owned by Jarden Corp. (NYSE:JAH), a publically traded firm that also owns outdoor brands Marmot, Coleman and Volkl among its diversified portfolio.

BCA manufactures avalanche beacons, shovels, probes and airbags along with other winter safety tools. It also is well respected in the industry as a leader in producing and promoting winter safety education.

“From a trends standpoint, more and more people are heading to the backcountry,” K2 President and CEO Anthony De Rocco told SNEWS. “This is an important acquisition for us and fills a key category that we wanted to be in. We’ve had our eyes on BCA for a long time.”

De Rocco said BCA will continue to develop, manufacture and market its own products, although some collaboration with K2 down the line is possible. “BCA comes at it from a core backcountry perspective and K2 comes at it from more of an alpine background,” he said.

BCA is one of the first U.S. brands to get into beacons and more recently led the way domestically in airbags. While airbags have been popular in Europe for several years, the technology is just now starting to surge in the United States. BCA had a good jump start in airbags along with ABS and Snowpulse. But competition is heating up with The North Face, Dakine, Burton, Jones Snowboards, Ortovox, Scott Sports, Bergans of Norway and others entering the field.

While it's getting crowded, there are only three top airbag technologies out there, De Rocco pointed out — BCA being one of them, along with ABS and Mammut’s Snowpulse, the latter two of which are licensing their systems to the other brands.The same could be said for avalanche transceivers, where there are only a few main players such as BCA, Pieps, Mammut, Ortovox and Arva.

Larger outdoor brands are taking note. Mammut purchased Snowpulse in July 2011, and Black Diamond bought Pieps in September 2012. More acquisitions in the winter safety category likely are on the way.

“It speaks to the fact that this is a growing trend,” De Rocco said.

But with all the attention, some core brands, including BCA’s Edgerly, have recently expressed concern that too many new products are getting ahead of the priority — winter safety education.

Both BCA and K2 will continue to focus on education, De Rocco said. “With a larger organization, I think we can help foster that education that BCA has pushed forward.”

--David Clucas


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