New outdoor company looks to find its place in Steamboat

Ryan Bales has launched Slope Mountain Gear, a new local outdoor manufacturer based in Steamboat Springs. The company began developing and producing a pack last year and will start shipping its first pack to customers Friday. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a town known for businesses that have made a mark on the outdoor industry, Ryan Bales is hoping his new startup, Slope Mountain Gear, will follow in the footsteps of Smartwool, Point6, Big Agnes, Honey Stinger, Moots and so many others. But that is not why the entrepreneur moved to Steamboat Springs in 2018.

“I moved here mainly to ski and mountain bike. I did not move here just to start the company,” said Bales, who lives in Steamboat with his wife, Tracy, and their twin daughters Anna and Stella. “I moved here because it is a great place to raise kids, to do the outdoors stuff, and I found it a really creatively stimulating place to be.”

However, once he got here, he started pursuing an idea he’d been thinking about for several years, which involved making a more accessible pack to carry the stuff he takes with him skiing and mountain biking. That idea led to the formation of Slope Mountain Gear last year, and for the past 12 months, he’s been working to manufacture and market his pack.

Bales said he sourced top-of-the-line materials and worked with professionals like Jeff Mullins, who designed packs for JanSport and Dakine, to come up with the designs and prototypes of his new Slope Pro-180X chest pack. That pack will start shipping to those who pre-ordered it on Friday.

Bales, an avid skier, said the pack offers those using it easy access to whatever they want to take on their next adventure — whether that’s hiking, racing down a ski slope or pedaling through the backcounty on a mountain bike.

The pack sells online for $99.99, and Bales said it is durable and made with premium weatherproof materials.

“I wanted to do something a little different, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Bales said. “Once you realize the usefulness of it, just having super easy access to your gear, it really makes a big difference.”

The pack, which weighs 15 ounces, has a six-liter capacity. It’s 13.4 inches long and 10.2 inches wide and comes with a 0.5-liter collapsible hydration bottle and an insulated phone pocket. Bales said the final product was field tested by those who used it every day.

“I really wanted a pack that I could carry water in and have easy access to the water,” Bales said. “That’s one of the big reasons why I created the chest pack design. You completely forget you’re even wearing it, and it does not affect your mobility at all.”

This is not Bales’ first attempt at launching a business.

“In my previous life, I was actually a product designer on the technology side,” Bales said. “I designed a lot of web products and applications and stuff like that.”

In 2012, Bales founded Bync, an online service that provides users with personalized deals and coupons that are synched to the user’s bank and credit cards to determine shopping habits and then alerting them to deals or available coupons. He sold the company in 2018 and moved to Steamboat.

Currently, Slope Mountain Gear’s sole product is the chest pack; however, Bales said the company is in the process of finalizing three additional packs that will be released this summer. The new offerings will include another chest pack as well as two more traditional backpacks.

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