Behind the Scenes With Black Diamond

Kolin Pow­ick has been the Cat­e­go­ry Direc­tor at Black Dia­mond for 14 years and the Direc­tor of Qual­i­ty for 11. Hav­ing climbed for over a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry, he does every­thing from sport, trad, ice and alpine, to moun­taineer­ing, though he claims to be an expert at none of the above. We sat down with him to get a behind the scenes look at Black Diamond.

Henrik Westling Johan Ranbrandt/ Storsola/ Photographer: Mattias Fredriksson
Hen­rik West­ling Johan Ranbrandt/ Storsola/ Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: Mat­tias Fredriksson

The Clymb: What’s your favorite thing about work­ing at Black Diamond?

Kolin Pow­ick: Being a part of a team that is cre­at­ing inno­v­a­tive cool new prod­ucts that allow us and our friends to go out into the moun­tains, push the lim­its of climb­ing, and have a great time.  It’s super fun work­ing on new prod­uct — start­ing from hav­ing an idea when climb­ing out in the field, to work­ing on con­cepts with the design­ers, test­ing pro­to­types, get­ting it into pro­duc­tion, see­ing it on store shelves, and then see­ing folks out using the gear in the field — it’s pret­ty rewarding.

Black Diamond Global Athlete Babsi Zangerl and Black Diamond Ambassador Jacopo Larcher / Bellavista (8c), Cima Ovest di Lavaredo, The Dolomites, Italy / Photographer: Thomas Senf
Black Dia­mond Glob­al Ath­lete Bab­si Zangerl and Black Dia­mond Ambas­sador Jacopo Larcher / Bellav­ista (8c), Cima Ovest di Lavare­do, The Dolomites, Italy / Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: Thomas Senf


TC: Black Dia­mond was one of the orig­i­nal man­u­fac­tur­ers of climb­ing equip­ment, what about the com­pa­ny has allowed you to main­tain such a high lev­el of respect and author­i­ty in the indus­try over the years?

KP: We’re a com­pa­ny of climbers that is pas­sion­ate about our sport and gear. I think when you get a group of folks togeth­er like that, you can’t help but want to cre­ate the lat­est and great­est gear that helps every­one enjoy climb­ing and take it to the next lev­el. When your ulti­mate moti­va­tion is that, and the results are pos­i­tive, I think peo­ple appre­ci­ate it.

Colette McInerney / Joshua Tree National Park, CA / Photographer: Ben Moon
Colette McIn­er­ney / Joshua Tree Nation­al Park, CA / Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: Ben Moon

TC: Some of the best climbers and skiers on the plan­et rep­re­sent Black Dia­mond, what role do these ath­letes play in shap­ing your products?

KP: We have a pret­ty sol­id group of inter­nal employ­ees that climb at all dif­fer­ent lev­els that real­ly help us shape our prod­ucts, how­ev­er, we also have a broad Glob­al and Grass­roots ath­lete team that are con­stant­ly giv­ing us input, design ideas, and feed­back from test­ing pro­to­types.  The ath­letes are get­ting out on big expe­di­tions and climb­ing a lot — so we’re always tap­ping into their knowl­edge and exper­tise to help when cre­at­ing new products.

TC: What trends in the out­door indus­try are you guys excit­ed about?

KP: Climb­ing is grow­ing — and that’s a good thing.  The bot­tom line is that climb­ing is fun — so if you have more peo­ple in this world hav­ing fun, then ulti­mate­ly the world will be a bet­ter place.

Henrik Westling/ Storsola/ Photographer: Mattias Fredriksson
Hen­rik Westling/ Storsola/ Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: Mat­tias Fredriksson

TC: What’s your advice for peo­ple who are just get­ting into more tech­ni­cal out­door activ­i­ties, like climb­ing and back­coun­try skiing?

KP: I have two total­ly dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed answers to this — and I think they’re both valid:

1) Get out there and fig­ure it out.  Back in the day, you went out with your friends and just fig­ured it out. If you came home alive, it was con­sid­ered a suc­cess. You read books, or maybe were lucky enough to have a more expe­ri­enced climber take you under their wing and act as a men­tor.  There is a lot of good to be said by learn­ing this way:  Hard lessons learned are those remem­bered, etc.  How­ev­er, you may have learned bad habits, incor­rect tech­niques, etc…


2) Hire a guide or take a course.  Just because you have a men­tor, does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean you’re learn­ing the best ways to do things.  There are many expe­ri­enced guides, uni­ver­si­ties, clubs and asso­ci­a­tions putting on cours­es for all lev­els of climb­ing and back­coun­try ski­ing.  These experts can real­ly pin­point the crit­i­cal items you need to know to be get out and have a safe and enjoy­able time.