Local ski patrollers form new
outdoor company, design rescue pack
EMERGENCY PACKS: From
left, John Keith, Jeff Rich, Todd Strickland and the
guy and Kevin Pack attend to someone in need. /
Photo courtesy Todd Strickland and Bill Sinykin
By Annalisa Fox
May 3, 2006 | Two ski patrollers from Beaver Mountain
in Utah, Bill Sinykin and Todd Strickland, have designed
a backpack especially for ski patrollers, because they
couldn't find one that catered specifically to their
needs as on-the-go emergency personnel.
The two have decided to run with their idea and form
a new company called Pron (pronounced "prone") that
will be based out of Logan and will sell backpacks and
other soft goods, such as coats, gloves and ski pants,
in the outdoor market, Strickland said.
Strickland is in his "rookie year on the ski patrol,"
while Sinykin has been patrolling for the past 20 to
30 years. After making it through four cuts of skiing
and medical training, Strickland said he started looking
around for a backpack in which to carry his supplies.
After looking around to no avail, he thought, "Gee,
if I can't find anything, I'll do it myself," he said.
With Strickland's background as an industrial designer
and Sinykin's experience as a mechanical engineer, Sinykin
said he feels they formed a "very good marriage, so
to speak," when co-designing the pack.
By June, Strickland said, the company will have six
to seven products designed and at various stages in
the manufacturing process. Three of the packs are designed
especially for runners, and Sinykin has been dealing
with a running company in Salt Lake City that is interested
in doing business with Pron.
When Sinykin, who is also a member of the Professional
Ski Instructors of America, first told his friends
about the backpack, he said they told him "everybody
and their uncle does a pack," and wondered why Pron
would design another one.
"The pack has enough things that are unique and different,"
said Strickland, "that I think we can be a player in
the market." The pack is designed to carry snowboards
and skis on the exterior, no-slip surface. It opens
like a book and has three adjustable lumbar and shoulder
pads, Strickland said.
"I especially appreciated the easy-access to the pack,"
said Ben Stowers, a member of the National
Ski Patrol who used the Pron pack on an all-day
backcountry ski trip. "It basically allows you to unzip
the pack like a planner or binder, then unfolds and
lays flat giving you easy access to your gear."
While Stowers also said, "The zippers, straps and
buckles are all burley and built to handle extensive
outdoor use," another member of the ski patrol at Beaver
Mountain and senior studying watershed science at
Utah State University, Quin Bingham, was concerned about
the weight of these heavy-duty features.
"The pack looked and felt solid. I was able to try
one on and it fit good," Bingham said, but "it seemed
a titch heavy."
The running packs will be lighter, said Strickland,
but said the ski patrol pack is constructed of heavier
fabrics to withstand the wear-and-tear of the patrollers'
Strickland said the company hopes to have a Web site
available in June of 2006 and Sinykin, who has contacts
with the NSP said they are working on having an advertisement
in the coming issue of Ski
"We wanted to create a high-end pack with a low-end
price," said Sinykin, who is currently working on developing
a business plan to present to capital investors to help
get the company off the ground. Up until now, Strickland
said, the two have covered all of the costs themselves.
With hopes of becoming a key player in the industry,
Strickland explained how Pron teamed up with Troy Oldham,
a journalism professor at USU, to give beginning public
relations students an opportunity to develop a PR strategy
for the company.
Oldham was in charge of testing and training for the
ski patrol at the local level when Strickland was trying
out, he said, and that's how they met.
"Troy is in the know with things cool and with skiing,"
said Strickland and has done some entrepreneurial work
himself. Strickland said Oldham liked the pack when
he saw it and suggested letting his students develop
PR campaigns for the product.
"Public relations is a lot of fun," said Taylor Scott,
sophomore at USU who worked on developing a campaign
for Pron, "Doing this campaign gave me a chance to learn
about an industry I otherwise never would have learned
about, plus, it gave me a chance to practice real-world
skills like pitching to a client."
Both Strickland and Sinykin said they enjoyed hearing
the student proposals and intend to start promoting
their product once more aspects involving the company,
the Web site and the pack designs fall into place.
"We are a little behind for this season," said Strickland,
but "we'll go when we can next year."