When Smartwool left Steamboat Springs, workers who stayed behind got a “kick in the shorts to recalibrate”

The power of place plays out in Steamboat Springs as locals, economic development champions forge paths to keep workers in town after departure of Smartwool

Eugene Buchanan
The Colorado Sun
Town Hall Outdoor Co. co-founders Robin Hall and Jay Lambert are pictured July 18, 2022, at their company’s garage in downtown Steamboat Springs. The duo worked for a combined 20 years at the Smartwool merino wool apparel company based in Steamboat before Smartwool’s headquarters were relocated to Denver.
Matt Stensland/Special to The Colorado Sun

When Smartwool announced plans to leave its founding headquarters for Denver in 2018 it left a lot of people scratching their heads. Not from the company’s merino wool, but for the conundrum it created for its workers in this thriving but remote corner of Colorado.

Some followed Smartwool parent VF Corp as it consolidated all its brands in the big city. But in the end, many stayed in the mountain town they loved and fought for a new livelihood. 

Credit goes to the power of place. Many people are deciding that where they live is more important than their career path.

Luckily, Steamboat is a community bustling with options. It has a well-established track record of nurturing entrepreneurs, especially in the outdoor industry. Companies like Big Agnes, Honey Stinger, Boa Technologies, Point6 and Moots all got their start here, seeding opportunities for those choosing to remain after Smartwool’s departure.

Smartwool honed sharp workers and fostered an entrepreneurial spirit, leaving an indelible mark on the outdoor business climate in the Yampa Valley. With a supportive business incubation community, chamber and mentors galore, Smartwool refugees opted to stay in the town they adored and start new companies or join others serving the outdoor and other markets. All this has enabled both the community and the workers left behind to weather the departure of an economic heavyweight. 


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