Outdoor: Did you hear?...

BackcountyStore.com ponies up $75K for new URL, Icebreaker saves 'Shrek the Wonder Sheep' from cold nights, Columbia partners with new Norway and Iceland distributor, AKU hires U.S. operations general manager, plus much more....
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>> BackcountryStore.com has been coveting the Backcountry.com URL since the company's inception, but acquiring the name came down to money. In 1996, when co-founders John Breese and Jim Holland started the company, the decision was easy. Since they barely had enough money to even register bcstore.com, they wistfully took a pass on chasing Backcountry.com. In 1998, two years into their growing business venture, they made their first attempt at acquisition, but the asking price was $5,000 -- no go for a company that barely had $500 to spare. Each subsequent year that Breese and Holland approached the owner of the URL, he would raise his price to match the growing success of BackcountryStore.com. It didn't take too long for Breese and Holland to realize their success was driving traffic to Backcountry.com and driving up the value of a company name they dearly wanted as their own. So, in early May, Breese and Holland swallowed hard and wrote out a $75,000 check to a very happy, and now former, owner of the Backcountry.com URL. Breese told SNEWS®, "We decided to change our name for one because people continually thought of us as Backcountry.com and dropped the 'Store' accidentally. We also feel that the name Backcountry.com is a better fit with who we are. Backcountry.com is the name we should have launched with in 1996 and hopefully it's the name they'll put on our tombstones a 100 years from now. We are backcountry."

>> Icebreaker merino clothing has come to the rescue of Shrek the Wonder Sheep, who lost six years of fleece in late April to a live audience of millions around the world on CNN, BBC and five other networks. The wild and woolly merino took to the hills of rugged central Otago in New Zealand's South Island, evading roundups for the last six years and growing 27 kgs (nearly 60 pounds) of fleece over that time. A merino sheep typically carries up to 5 kg (closer to 11 pounds) of wool. Shrek was shorn on April 28, and now faces the freezing winter without his thick coat. In response to concerns about Shrek's health voiced by the New Zealand SPCA, Icebreaker made a special merino jacket for Shrek, which is layered from three different weights of Icebreaker merino fabric to ensure Shrek is insulated from weather extremes. If he wears his coat all winter, Shrek will be in the running to set a new world record (are sheep eligible to set world records?) of long-term wear, currently held by adventurer John Smith, who wore his Icebreaker clothing for 196 days straight without being washed, while based in Antarctica. The late Sir Peter Blake was the first to test the "whiffy limits." He wore his Icebreaker for 43 days straight while setting a world sailing record in 1994.

Icebreaker also made five world exclusive tops with Shrek’s wool. Two were auctioned online at www.shrekauction.co.nz, raising over USD $10,000 for the children's health charity, CureKids. One of the remaining three tops is being given to New Zealand's most famous adventurer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first person to conquer Everest. (Photos of Shrek may be viewed only by accessing the Outdoor: Did you hear?... story online at www.snewsnet.com.)

>> Columbia Sportswear signed a distribution agreement with Portland Norge AS on May 13 to distribute Columbia and Sorel products in Norway and Iceland, starting with the spring 2005 line. According to Columbia, the partnership will capitalize on increased business prospects and opportunities for brand expansion in Norway. Oslo-based Portland Norge is a newly established company founded by Henning Hexeberg, the majority holder of Fashion Holding AS, sales agent for other U.S.-based footwear and apparel brands. In addition to distributing Columbia and Sorel product, Portland Norge will own and operate two Columbia Sportswear retail stores under a licensing agreement with Columbia. The stores will open in spring 2006 in Oslo, Norway, and Reykjavic, Iceland. Portland Norge will also handle the marketing of the brands. "Over the past few years, Columbia and Sorel have developed reputations overseas for producing high quality products," said Bill Tung, director of international operations for Columbia. "We feel that this particular market has been underserved, and consumers will enjoy increased access to our products." For more information about Portland Norge, call +47 922 66 055.

>> Perception Kayaks (a division of WaterMark) is partnering with Volkswagen of America for a promotion at the upcoming Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colo. Visitors to the Teva Mountain Games (presented by Volkswagen June 3-6) will receive a coupon for a free Perception America 13.5 kayak when they visit one of nine participating Colorado Volkswagen dealerships and purchase a Volkswagen vehicle before July 15. Perception will also provide the nine dealerships with a Perception America 13.5 kayak to be displayed from May 10 to June 14 on a Volkswagen Touareg in their showrooms. The participating dealers are located in Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder, Thornton, Littleton, Denver, Lakewood, Aurora and Glenwood Springs. Volkswagen will have kayaks shipped directly to their customers immediately following their vehicle purchase. The retail value of the Perception America 13.5 is $599.99.

>> Fox River is adding online customer surveys to its market research program. Customers are being directed to www.foxsox.com via a note on Fox River packaging to complete a survey that has 14 questions and takes about five minutes to fill out. Fox River wants to learn more about what activities the company's customers participate in and what brands of socks and footwear they purchase. The information gleaned from the survey will assist Fox River in developing new styles and refine the designs of existing socks in the line. In addition, there are opportunities for survey participants to become a Fox River product tester or in-store merchandiser. To access the survey on its website, click on the "survey" link on the top of the right hand menu bar.

>> Ibex Outdoor Clothing, a U.S. manufacturer of wool performance apparel, has signed on as a sponsor of The Breast Cancer Fund's fifth annual mountain climbing expedition, "Climb Against the Odds," to support breast cancer prevention. Ibex will provide climbers with its ultralight Woolies Rib Zip turtlenecks and tights made of superfine merino wool. The climb team consists of over 30 breast cancer survivors and others that have been touched by the disease. Climbers will attempt to summit Mount Shasta in Northern California in July. In 2003, The Breast Cancer Fund's mountain expedition event raised over $750,000 for breast cancer prevention efforts. "Climb Against the Odds" is receiving significant backing through the support and sponsorship of Clif Bar, Inc., makers of Luna Bar. The owners of Clif Bar, CEO Gary Erickson and his wife Kit Crawford, will be joining the climb.

>> AKU Trekking and Outdoor Footwear, with headquarters in the Montebelluna region in Italy, has hired Joe Guglielmetti as the company's general manager for its U.S. operations. Guglielmetti will be responsible for overseeing sales, marketing and distribution in the United States of the AKU brand. Additionally, Guglielmetti will manage AKU's private-label business for premier catalog companies and stores. AKU was founded in 1990 by Galliano Bordin, who has over 50 years experience in footwear design, and is sold in 27 countries.

>> Big City Mountaineers (BCM) is expanding the trips it is able to offer under-resourced teens this summer from 21 to over 35. But to do that, BCM need industry volunteer help. Last year, the most successful year in BCM's 15 years, over 20 percent of the adult volunteers came from inside the outdoor industry. BCM wants to keep that bond with the industry by ensuring that at least one in very five volunteers on each trip has connections to a retailer, rep, manufacturer, distributor or more. There is simply no better way to connect with a teen in need of inspiration than through sharing your industry and love of the outdoors with them while on an 7-day backcountry adventure. BCM needs to hear from you soon if you are interested, so call Erin at 303-271-9200, ext. 2 or send an email to erin@bigcitymountaineers.org

>> Royal Robbins hired Doug MacInnis as national sales director. MacInnis has more than 10 years of experience in sales and marketing, and has worked for Dearfoam, Joe Boxer and Nautica Hosiery. He joined Royal Robbins on May 3.

>> Mimi McCurdy has joined the Adventure Sports Magazine team as a senior national advertising sales executive. Prior to joining, McCurdy was the outdoor editor for Sports Trend magazine. She is based out of the Adventure Sports Magazine corporate office in Snellville, Ga., outside of Atlanta, and can be reached via email at mmccurdy@asmagazine.com.

>> Marmot has hired Mountain High Sales as the company's new sales agency in the Great Lakes territory. Mountain High Sales and Marketing, owned and directed by Eric and Marcia Haberman, and based in Pittsburgh, Penn., services Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. It also represents Vasque Footwear, Keen Footwear, Atlas Snowshoes, Jet Boil and High Gear.

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