Do you remember that feeling of being picked for dodge ball in elementary school? That rush, that kick in your step? I felt that way when I found out I was heading down to Salt Lake City to visit the Black Diamond factory. The headquarter is literally next to the copper mines (they use a lot of metal), and is truly a magical place. I don’t mean that figurtively- the company moved into an old shopping mall complex that has some sort of castle theme.
The toys abound in the Black Diamond factory, and with it, much of the history of the company. They pride themselves on safety and you can see that as you walk through sections that look like a museum, old tested pieces scattered throughout.
I was able to watch as carabiners were being tested for weight (and retested). As a climber it is heartening to see the lengths a company goes to keep me safe. I peeked my head in an industrial freezer and saw the crazy temperature tests they put equipment through. But if you want your gear to work at -15 Celsius…
You can tell the staff at Black Diamond love doing what they do. They definitely use their machines to make some killer pieces found around the factory. This love for their products (and the outdoors in general) has always been there since the creation of the business in 1989. They make some of the best equipment around by breaking rules, testing limits, pushing limits, and then perfecting the results. Use. Design. Engineer. Build. Repeat. is their motto, after all.
Metal, so much metal. Carabiners, crampons, ice axe blades, everything a child wants to play with! I watched as massive open vats of stone were used to polish the BD crampons. It was mesmerizing. The guy working the machine physically looked like a professional rock climber, just like most others working there. The company is right next door to the Wasatch and clearly most of the staff use it daily. If you want climbers making your climbing equipment and skiers making your ski equipment, then Black Diamond tops my list. That extra long ski lunch break just might result in a better binding or boot, down the line.
Sheets and sheets of metal were twisted, cut out, molested, and every other action word. They work with significant amounts of metal, and you could tell the machinists love it.
It must sound cliched, but this brand is the real deal. I couldn’t get over the enthusiasm everyone had while showing me around. A mix of pride and child-like wonder was evident in all the staff, but no one more so then Peter Metcalf, the CEO of the company. He has taken the small brainchild/side project of Yvon Chouinard, and made it into what you see today. For a bunch of ski bums, that ain’t so bad…
What’s more, since last year, they are bringing this spirit to the world of apparel. You can read our reviews of their clothing collection here, here, and here, and their JetForce inflatable airbag here.