This is one of our favorite gear interviews. We talked with James Bronson, Pro & Industry Supervisor for Arc’teryx.
1. My first experience with Arc’Teryx was when my luggage didn’t show up on a heli-skiing trip. A guest loaned me a full Arc’Teryx suit. I found myself hoping my luggage didn’t ever arrive!
So what’s the story behind the Arc’Teryx fossil logo?
The fossil is the ARCHAEOPTERYX LITHOGRAPHICA, the first reptile to develop the feather for flight, freeing itself from the constraints of the horizontal world – it represents evolution which has always been one of the main building blocks of the company. The other being Innovation. [with a capital "I"]
2. How many heliskiing operators ski in Arc’Teryx gear?
3. Did you specifically target that market, or did your popularity among heliskiers happen organically?
It was a bit of both. Because our roots are in technical alpine gear and because backcountry/heliskiing straddles that Alpine and Snowsports world we’ve been easily able to transition into making really high performance product that worked well for this audience, but we do have relationships with some heliguide operators, so some of our product has been more influenced from this angle as well.
4. What is the most popular jackets for heliskiing?
From a client perspective the Rush and Sabre SV jackets have been very popular.
For guiding the Vertical or Heli Guide Jacket are the jackets of choice.
5. Is the Vertical jacket new?
Its been in the line since 2010 and is the replacement for the Stinger jacket which was designed from the Heli Guide Jacket.
6. Do you sell more bibs or pants to skiers and boarders?
We sell more bibs to skiers but in general. More and more guides are going with pants over bibs.
7. What other big mountain or off-piste gear do heliskiers like?
Sabre SV and Rush Jackets for sure as well as the iconic Sidewinder SV. If it’s really cold and people are just doing heli drops without skinning, the insulated Micon jacket (Sarissa –w’s) is also popular.
8. What’s the philosophy behind the Arc’teryx brand?
The Arc’teryx advantage, what we feel sets us apart from our competitors, is our Design, Materials & Construction philosophy. We merge our unrivaled designs with the best quality, highest performing materials and assembling them in the most innovative and most durable manner for the intended use.
9. It seems like your roots are in climbing, eh?
Yes we began as a very small company manufacturing harnesses from a basement in North Vancouver!
10. The name looks like someone cheated at Scrabble or needed a secure password. What does it mean?
It’s a shortened form of ARCHAEOPTERYX LITHOGRAPHICA. [I would still call your bluff in Scrabble]
11. It seems like you sell out of many styles and sizes. Is that intentional to keep inventory down?
No, we simply out sell our production capacity consistently every year.
12. Do you sell more directly online or through retail?
Our current mix of online vs. store is about 20%-80%
13. What is the strategy behind your limited distribution?
Our strategy with distribution is we work with the best shops that have the best ability to sell the best product.
14. I see Arc’teryx outerwear on eBay. [I am selling a Medium Heli-Guide Jacket there myself]
15. Are you aware of any issues with counterfeiting product?
Unfortunately, like all manufacturing companies, there will always be some counterfeits out there, but our customer service team are highly knowledgeable on our product and can always spot a fake if someone asks and we remind our customers that if they spot what they think is a counterfeit to let us know. [Cool]
16. You work with heli guides on product development, right?
Yes, we work closely with many different types of guides. Many of our designers are good friends with guides and you can often see them around the office being shown prototypes and providing feedback.
17. Arc’teryx is one of only a few major outdoor industry outerwear brands in North America to have its own domestic North American manufacturing facility. What are the pros and cons?
Pros – we can do small production runs without penalty, we can quickly find and solve production issues, we can test new manufacturing concepts
Cons – it’s more expensive than using overseas or non-north American factories. It’s difficult to find factory workers in Vancouver. This is one of the biggest challenges for us as the average age of the factory worker goes up it is harder and harder to find new, qualified employees.
18. You sponsor 29 skiers (I am available to make it an even 30….), but only two snowboarders. Why no love for the knuckle draggers? Can they not afford Arc’teryx?
We actually do love snowboarders too but when we hire athletes to represent the company we want to be sure, what they do reflects what our brand stands for. Like our skiers, we would prefer to have snowboarders on the team that spend a substantial amount of time in the back county on self-propelled trips, which means they need to be split boarders and professional split boarders occur quite a bit less than back country skiers currently. [I knew those dirt bags were lazy!] [So you have all my sizes, right?]
19. What else would you like heliskiers to know about Arc’teryx?
I think the most important and perhaps the best thing for heliskiers, or any backcountry enthusiasts to know about Arc’teryx is that we design for the backcountry because we play in the backcountry. Our design team are active snowsports enthusiasts and know what people need in the backcountry because they play there.
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)