Blue Ice, a French-based company specializing in mountaineering equipment, has opened an office in Salt Lake City with backing from several former Black Diamond employees who are developing Blue Ice's hard goods range.
The office is headed by Bill Belcourt, head of research and development at Black Diamond until November 2015 before joining Blue Ice last December. He spent more than two decades at Black Diamond, with nearly eleven years as a sales representative and another ten as a climbing category director. Along the way, Belcourt also spent three years as president of Grivel North America.
Charlie Boas, former development manager in charge of retail marketing operations at Black Diamond Equipment, joined Blue Ice in Salt Lake City in March as sales and marketing manager. He spent about four years at Black Diamond, covering retail marketing and packaging development. Other staff at the Blue Ice office in the U.S. are mostly engineers, but the company wants to continue building up its team with industrial design specialists, sales agents and customer service.
Outdoor Retailer (OR) marked the brand's formal launch in North America. The U.S. team is targeting outdoor specialist retailers and a few online retailers, marketing products that are designed entirely for climbers and skiers. Blue Ice said the response at OR was outstanding as it turned out that many visitors had already heard about the brand, and its authentic focus on mountaineering resonated with alpinists.
A key product is the Choucas Light harness, a patent-pending product with easily detachable leg loops that weighs just 90 grams and won an OutDoor Award in the climbing equipment category this year. It was lauded for its ultra-light weight, lighter than a smartphone and compact as a headlamp when folded, despite its two-gear loops and ice screw keepers on the openable leg loops – enabling the wearer to easily put them on or take them off while wearing skis or crampons.
Blue Ice was established in 2008 by Giovanni Rossi, who previously worked at Grivel. The brand was formally established in Geneva, with a European head office opened near Chamonix in 2012, when Rossi decided to build up a team around the brand.
The European head office continues to lead the development of Blue Ice's harnesses and packs. Blue Ice's harnesses are assembled at its plant in Les Houches and the same applies for most of its hard goods, such as piolets and ice tools. However, Blue Ice says that the next generation of harnesses, including the Choucas Light, will be manufactured in Asia, as is already the case for backpacks. The production of upcoming hard goods may be outsourced depending on the items and available skills.