Words: Mallane Dressel
Twin brothers Pete and John Gaston started to notice the need for the type of technical apparel their company, Strafe Outerwear, produces when they took trips from the University of Colorado, Boulder, to Aspen every weekend.
"The more we started hiking, and the more we started to earn our turns, the more we realized that no one was making it at a level that was both appealing to a younger crowd and affordable for a younger crowd," says John.
By their senior year, they had created the initial designs for their products. In December 2009, they started working with factories and designing prototypes to make sure their products would have all the features, like 16-inch thigh vents for breathability, that they thought were essential for extensive touring.
Their showroom at the base of Aspen's Highland Ski Resort, which opened last November, is equipped with a lounge and design area in the back. When asked about how the showroom increased their business, John says, "We want to make sales because it's a business, but really we want to create a community surrounding freeskiing. We want it to be a place where people can grab a cup of coffee, hang out, and talk skiing."
The brothers conduct their business using a direct sales model, which they believe permits them to offer their products for 40 percent less than their competitors, such as Arc'teryx. This approach also enables them to obtain direct feedback from customers, local resort ski bums who the brothers call 'Opinion Leaders,' and their team of sponsored athletes.
Their most popular pieces, the Nomad Jacket and Pant go for $350 and $300. Their showstopper, the Sickbird Suit, costs $600. When asked about the Sickbird's popularity, John says, "We had a lot of doubters who had a preconceived notion of the one piece suit from the '80s and '90s. Ours definitely breaks that mold. Most people who do take the leap and try it on end up walking out with one because they are so unique."
Strafe products feature a 17-stitch-per-inch thread count, one of the highest in the industry. Their high stitch count ensures durability and waterproofness. Oakley White-Allen confirmed the product's toughness when one outfit held up throughout his season competing in the European World Tour. This year, Strafe upgraded to an even more durable Gelanots fabric, allowing John to confidently believe that they will carry the most durable gear on the market this year.
"I think Strafe Outerwear is going to do great in the ski industry," says Josh Daiek, Strafe athlete and reigning World Freeskiing Championship winner. "Once word gets out, people will realize that Strafe Outerwear has an unparalleled versatility of both function and style."