BAP named Business of the Year |

BAP named Business of the Year

Mike Lawrence

Rich Hager, left and Bill Gamber will be joined by BAP employees Friday to accept the Business of the Year Award presented by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Steamboat Pilot & Today at Ghost Ranch Saloon during the Chamber's annual meeting.

Take a bow, BAP.

The Steamboat Springs-based outdoor gear and clothing retailer, which also includes Big Agnes and Honey Stinger brands, will receive a Navigator Award for Business of the Year on Friday at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s 102nd annual meeting and luncheon.

Sitting in a back room of BAP’s red house-turned-store at 735 Oak St. on Tuesday, co-owners Bill Gamber and Rich Hager said there are many great businesses in Steamboat and credited their staff for hard work leading to the recognition.

“We just have the best crew,” Gamber said. “We don’t really go through employees – the ones who start here, stay.”

BAP employs 25 people locally, Gamber said, plus 30 to 35 independent sales representatives on the road. The company has its headquarters at the 3,300-square-foot building on Oak Street and also operates out of Big Agnes and Honey Stinger’s shared warehouse on Copper Ridge Circle. Honey Stinger is an energy and organic food brand that Hager said has grown every year since starting in 2003.

“I think all of them have the same mojo,” Gamber said about the trio of outdoor brands. “It’s really great to have three companies really cranking – and all in different categories.”

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Gamber said he started BAP about 20 years ago while in college in Pennsylvania. He brought the company – and a mission of “bringing comfort to the backcountry,” Hager said – to Colorado when he and Hager moved west for an outdoor lifestyle. They bought the Oak Street building in 1995, in time for an epic snow season when they skied all winter, Gamber said.

Hard work mixed with the skiing and recreating, and years later, honors and recognitions are piling up for BAP.

Hager said the company has won five Editor’s Choice Awards from Backpacker Magazine and Gear of the Year awards from Outside magazine and Men’s Journal for Big Agnes products including the Emerald Mountain tent. BAP has products selling in 250 independent stores and 200 brand-name, specialty stores such as REI and Eastern Mountain Sports. Hager said BAP is expanding sales into Canada and slowly moving into Europe, Japan and China.

In May, the Edward Lowe Foundation named BAP one of 50 Colorado Companies to Watch, along with Steamboat’s Boa Technology.

Local praise

Along with co-owner Len Zanni, who is based in Carbondale, Gamber and Hager have earned respect from members of the local business community.

“I have nothing but good things to say about them,” said Pete Van De Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports. “I just think that a business that can grow itself from the bottom up to the level that they’ve done is worthy of unbelievable praise. Especially in a world where it seems like every large manufacturer has huge pockets behind it. : To have them right here in Steamboat Springs is very cool.”

Ed Mumm is the founder and owner of Dig This, which enables people and corporate groups to operate bulldozers and excavators on a site west of Steamboat Springs. Mumm said when he was floating the idea for Dig This, he received a lot of “conventional wisdom” with cautions about starting an unusual business – but not from Gamber.

“His approach has always been if you like your idea and you feel good about it, go for it,” Mumm said. “I know Bill really well, and I’ve always just liked his approach to business. : Plus his sheer gutsiness as far as taking a business where there’s been a lot of competition and accomplishing what he has.”

The Chamber and the Steamboat Pilot & Today sponsor the Navigator Awards, which will be presented at a lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday at Ghost Ranch Saloon on Seventh Street. The event includes guest speaker Michael Berry, of the National Association of Ski Areas, who will discuss the future of skiing in Colorado. Admission to the nearly sold-out event is $25, or $235 for a corporate table.

BAP also is nominated for a Sustainable Steamboat Business award, along with PostNet and Black Tie Ski Rentals. The winner will be announced at Friday’s event. Chamber staff members said today was the last day to RSVP by calling 875-7000 or visiting

BAP’s environmental stewardship ethic is evident, in part, in the amount of time spent outdoors by employees and owners. Gamber said he and Hager are “both sort of washed-up triathletes,” and Hager said his best ideas come from being outside, trying out the products BAP produces.

“They’re still athletes – they’re still out there using the stuff themselves, and that’s something that I think is lost in the outdoor industry, (which) is all about the glitter,” Van De Carr said. “When I got into the business, it was about guys building stuff in the back of their van and in the garage. It was athletes creating equipment that made their time in the backcountry easier, and because of that dedication they’ve excelled in their business – that’s how I see Big Agnes.”

If you go

What: 2009 Navigator Awards, presented at the 102nd annual meeting and luncheon of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Ghost Ranch Saloon, 56 Seventh St.

Cost: $25 per person, $235 for a corporate table

Speaker: Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, will discuss “The Future of Skiing in Colorado.”

Contact: RSVP by the end of today at 875-7000 or online at http://www.steamboat


Learn more about BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger products on the Web at

and http://www.honeystinger….