Our roots stem to 1957, the year an eighteen-year-old named Yvon Chouinard bought a hammer and anvil and started pounding out hand-forged pitons. To support his climbing habit, Yvon traveled to Yosemite and sold gear from the trunk of his car. His intelligent designs were quickly recognized by climbers as the best available.
At the time, climbing equipment was scarce. The European pitons were so malleable they could only be placed once or twice. Chouinard's pitons were made from hardened steel for greater strength. Because they could be placed repeatedly, climbers began to explore the biggest walls with a new confidence. By 1958, when Warren Harding completed the first ascent of the Nose on El Capitan, Yvon's chrome-moly steel pitons had become an integral part of his rack. Chouinard Equipment, located in Ventura, California was born.
Among the early products developed by Chouinard Equipment was the Chouinard carabiner. A vast improvement over existing biners, the Chouinard Standard was light, strong and uncomplicated. It rapidly became the industry standard, embodying the principles of simple, high-function design, durability and performance.
These same values were at the core of two more revolutionary products developed during the sixties. In 1968 Chouinard introduced the world's first rigid crampon, accelerating the trend that had begun from step-chopping to the faster, more efficient technique of front-pointing. Then in 1969, frustrated by the inability of current ice tools to provide security in all types of ice, Chouinard conceived, tested and forged the first curved picks onto all his ice axes. The result propelled ice climbing to new levels of difficulty.
In 1972 an article in the Chouinard Equipment catalog changed the course of climbing forever. A concept that originated in Britain and became known as clean climbing carried a clear, powerful message-preserve the rock by using nuts and other "clean" protection. This revolution was supported by Chouinard Hexentrics and Stoppers. Since then we've been refining the exceptional geometries of Hexs and Stoppers to make these two designs as relevant today as they were in 1972. Later that decade, the Chouinard Ice Screw was introduced. It was the first tubular ice screw on the market and it allowed ice climbers to place protection more quickly and securely than ever before.
In the early eighties, telemark skiing was experiencing a rebirth. One of the main reasons for this growth was a new focus on gear that could withstand stronger forces. During this time Chouinard introduced the XCD Binding, a strong, heat-treated aluminum binding that stood out in sharp contrast to the more flimsy bindings of the time. In 1984, Chouinard Equipment also introduced the first cable binding. In addition to increased side-to-side stability, the Original Cable Binding provided more "snap" between boot and ski for quicker telemark turns. These two innovations were just a precursor to the impact this company would have on the sport of telemark skiing.
The tragedy of Chouinard Equipment was not that the company manufactured defective products, rather it was sunk by its alleged "failure to warn" customers of the potential dangers inherent in the use of climbing equipment.
During the eighties, climbing changed from a fringe activity to a sport that attracted thousands of new enthusiasts. These new climbers were both the economic salvation of the climbing business and its Achilles heel. The increasing success of Chouinard Equipment meant more sales, but that created higher visibility and turned the company into an attractive target for liability attorneys. Ultimately, a little over thirty years after Yvon Chouinard pounded out his first piton, Chouinard Equipment filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, seeking protection from several liability suits which threatened to sink the company. The tragedy of Chouinard Equipment was not that the company manufactured defective products, rather it was sunk by its alleged "failure to warn" customers of the potential dangers inherent in the use of climbing equipment. The spirit that had been Chouinard Equipment could not be extinguished however, and on December 1, 1989 the former employees of Chouinard Equipment signed the papers to make the first employee-owned company in the climbing industry official. Black Diamond was born.
Since then, we've devoted our energy toward the goal of creating a company which fosters the enthusiasm and dreams necessary to design and manufacture the best climbing and skiing gear in the world. To facilitate that goal, we moved in 1991 from the surf of California to the mountains of Utah. Our base in Salt Lake City is located within minutes of great rock climbing, ice climbing and backcountry skiing. We're surrounded by a high-energy climbing and skiing community and a quality of life that suits our quest to climb and ski as much as possible. Although our address changed, one thing never wavered-the design philosophy that had begun years before.
We've devoted our energy toward the goal of creating a company which fosters the enthusiasm and dreams necessary to design and manufacture the best climbing and skiing gear in the world.
The nineties were a decade of change and our designs have continued to evolve in response to the changing needs of climbers and skiers. Starting in 1992, we responded to the need for more downhill control by teaming up with SCARPA® of Italy to introduce the T1, the world's first plastic telemark ski boot. The sport of telemark skiing has never looked back. Today, our telemark ski equipment is unsurpassed for both innovation and reputation. We offer a full line of skis, poles, and bindings. After considerable testing and extensive research, we also unveiled the AvaLung II, and later, AvaLung-equipped packs (essential tools for backcountry safety) that allow the user to breathe when buried in snow.
In response to a rebirth in ice climbing, we incorporated carbon-fiber into the shaft of an ice tool to create an ax that was light, responsive and shaped to fit a climber's grasp. Further refinements with carbon fiber have resulted in the creation of the Cobra Ice Tool. This tool is perfectly matched to the attitudes and needs of today's extreme ice climbs and mixed routes. We've also introduced the Turbo Express Ice Screw, the fastest, easiest-to-place ice protection on the market.
To help climbers in the never-ending quest to redefine what's possible, we built the HotWire, the world's first wire-gate carabiner. Stronger, lighter, and easier to clip, the HotWire proved that a seemingly basic design like a carabiner could be improved to meet the continuing demands of the sport. We've also added Camalots to our line of protection, crafted the Neutrino, one of the lightest full-service carabiners ever made, and built the Half Dome, a low-profile, comfortable helmet designed around the movements of climbing.
We climb together after work, meet in the parking lot for dawn patrol ski tours, and eat as many times per week at Barbacoa as our stomachs can endure.
Since our move in 1991, Black Diamond has developed into a family of sorts. That may sound like marketing hype, but around here it's the truth. We climb together after work, meet in the parking lot for dawn patrol ski tours, and eat as many weekly specials at Mariposa as our stomachs can endure. So it made sense for us to expand the BD family over the past few years to include Bibler Tents, Ascension Enterprises, and Fritschi Diamir. Like us, these brands are driven by the products they make. Their views on business, life and having fun mesh with ours. And by bringing them into the BD family, it allowed all of us greater flexibility to focus on our common goal-to make the best climbing and backcountry skiing equipment in the world.
What began with a backyard anvil and a hammer has grown into a company that's not just for rock climbers, but one that stands for the enthusiasm and spirit of the sports we represent, their values and goals, past, present and future. Since 1957, our designs and products have grown and progressed. This is partly the result of hard work and a great collection of individuals. It's also the result of each of us being climbers and skiers ourselves. We're a company of users-it's who we are. We're the greatest dreamers about what could be, and the harshest of critics about what exists. The creation of Black Diamond is a process which will never end. The company of today is better than ever, thanks to the many people here whose limitless energy and commitment to our sports have created an inspiring future for us all.