British Columbia’s Kootenay region is now home to KORE, Canada’s First Craft Outdoor Gear Alliance.
In the context of outdoor recreation, you have probably never heard the term “craft gear,” which refers to the skis, jackets, backpacks, and headlamps we use to enjoy the mountains we love so much. While the concept of craft gear is not as simple as craft beer, it is absolutely just as good. As the world moves towards more sustainably made, locally designed and manufactured products, consumers are increasingly spending their money on goods with a story that resonates with them. That sensibility has been difficult with outdoor gear, as most hard and soft goods come from larger companies with global supply chains. But that’s changing: the Kootenay region is a hot spot, effectively leading this charge in North America.
To bring this burgeoning community of outdoor gear makers together, a group of Kimberley-based outdoor influencers, politicians, and business people, in partnership with the Kimberley Community Development Society, recently launched the Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise (KORE), in an effort to give independent craft gear makers a hub to share ideas, collaborate, and access resources, like business coaching, fundraising, and marketing.
From high-performance tents to custom snowboards, the diversity and breadth of Kootenay-based craft gear makers is astounding. As an example of the experience and innovation throughout the Kootenays, look no further than Cam Shute, who, for 18 years, worked at G3, a winter backcountry skiing and snowboarding manufacturer based in Vancouver. Shute’s newly minted Nelson-based company, Dark Horse Innovations relies on not just his experience in the space, but also the depth of the outdoor community in the Kootenays. “Living in a place like Nelson is key to a lot of my work,” says Shute. “I can very quickly tap into activities so I can go from idea to prototype to testing in a very short amount of time.”
“Everything you can think of that is required for outdoor gear in raw, wild, and breathtaking natural landscapes is made here,” says Matt Mosteller, the chair of KORE’s board of directors. “Here’s a place so rugged and so massive you measure the region in how many countries fit in it. Gear made right here, from backpacks to tents to luges, stuff for adventure on wild rivers, mountains, lakes, and forests.”
Bringing together the Kootenays’ outdoor-manufacturing community is just the first phase of KORE’s vision. “We have discovered a cluster far bigger than we expected, which is awesome,” explains Don McCormick, a member of KORE’S board of directors and City of Kimberley mayor. “But the primary idea behind KORE as an economic development initiative is to attract gear manufacturers, thereby attracting jobs and disposable income to the Kootenays, not to mention an additional tax base for the municipalities.” When it comes to jobs and economic growth, the gear-manufacturing sector is a seamless fit with the Kootenay region, one of the world’s most coveted outdoor playgrounds.
MCG Story Haus, the agency division of Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine (KMC), who were tasked with creating KORE’s brand messaging and communication strategy, is also a huge proponent of the project, as it relates to the stories KMC has been sharing for the two decades it’s been in print. “The whole idea of a craft gear collective in the Kootenays is so cool to us,” says Mitchell Scott, KMC co-publisher and editor-in-chief. “KORE will help cultivate a fast-emerging and absolutely legitimate new business sector in the Kootenays, one that aligns with, and adds to, the robust culture of entrepreneurialism that makes this region so unique. Plus, like buying local foods, you’ll be able to outfit yourself with some sick local gear.”
To find out more about KORE, or to participate as an established or developing outdoor-gear design or manufacturing business, visit koreoutdoors.com.