Although the Black Diamond name was officially adopted in 1989, the company’s roots can be traced back to 1957. That’s when French climber and mountaineer Yves Chouinard started hammering out chromoly pitons on an anvil in his backyard and selling them from the trunk of his car in Yosemite. Yves’ equipment quickly became an industry standard. In 1989 Chouinard Equipment LTD was purchased by a group of former employees and renamed ‘Black Diamond.’ Today, Black Diamond has offices on three continents. Its focus is, and always has been, innovative ski and climbing gear and an equally innovative approach to sustainable business practices.
Black Diamond’s approaches to innovation and sustainability have been inseparably intertwined since the very beginning. When climbers noticed that popular routes had been damaged by the pitons traditionally used for protection, Chouinard and his business partner Tom Frost developed aluminum chocks that had significantly less impact on the rock, and then phased out of the piton business entirely. It was a risk, but one that defined a lasting environmentally aware direction for Chouinard and Black Diamond.
Today, Black Diamond’s expertise extends well beyond climbing, with notable innovations in skis, headlamps, backpacks, harnesses, trekking poles, tents, helmets, and many other outdoor products. Black Diamond has earned an outstanding reputation in backcountry skiing for its ground-breaking designs in both AT and telemark gear, including award-winning skis, boots, bindings, gloves, climbing skins, and vital accessories like beacons, probes, and Avalung packs. Moving beyond gear, Black Diamond continues to expand its line of high-quality apparel, offering both the technical jackets and pants one would expect from Black Diamond, as well as appealing, comfortable casual wear.
Even with Black Diamond’s broad range of products and worldwide distribution, it never lost sight of its roots or its high standards of environmentally responsible manufacturing processes and safe working conditions. In 2010 it initiated an official Corporate Responsibility program to monitor and ensure environmental and social compliance and stewardship within the brand, and it put into place a Vendor Code of Conduct to hold its outside vendors to a similarly high standard. Black Diamond is also extremely active in environmental programs, providing continuing support for over a dozen groups whose focus is environmental preservation.
The company came a long way from a backyard anvil and a climber’s vision in Yosemite. Fortunately, it hasn’t lost sight of its values along the way. Black Diamond produces some of the finest climbing and skiing equipment and clothing in the world, but its commitment to the environment and fair labor practices are equally impressive. As it grows, Black Diamond’s influence will also grow—helping to advance the outdoor industry not only through technical innovation, but through social and environmental programs as well.