Last year was a miserly winter, with poor snow pack on the West Coast and brutally low temperatures in the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard—and those conditions dramatically crimped both the Nordic and downhill ski industries, with major dropoffs in nearly every measurable indicator of those sports.
Yet, at the very same time, another snow sport grew in popularity: snowmobiling. Sales in North America for new "sleds" held even from previous years, and jumped worldwide by 12 percent, while miles ridden in North America—probably a more keen indicator of the sport's growing popularity—showed a 20 percent increase.
All of which is to say: Boo-yah! Snowmobiling is an up-and-coming sport, and a local company is grabbing hold.
Harold Olaf Cecil stands in a back bay of a warehouse on Bend's far north side. Six motorbikes stand side-by-side as he explains how Giant Loop started as an outfitter for off-road motor biking and has steadily expanded over the past several years. With a neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper beard (although decidedly more pepper), Cecil is demur and level speaking; he looks more the part of a middle school chemistry teacher than a spokesperson for a company that equips balls-to-the-wall sports enthusiasts with rugged gear. Giant Loop is a main supplier of what Cecil calls "adventure-proof packing systems"—saddlebags and panniers for ATVs and off-road motorbikes and, this winter, has expanded its product line to include gear for backcountry snowmobiling.
(Harold's middle name is from his grandfather, Olaf Skjersaa, whose difficult-to-pronounce last name is well known in Central Oregon. Olaf, along with his wife, Grace, started Bend's first ski shop. "The outdoors are in my blood," Cecil says.)
For his part, Cecil started his company as "one bag and a website," he explains. He's ridden motorbikes since age six, and recognized a need for soft-sided saddlebags to carry gear into the backwoods. "It filled a niche," he says modestly, describing the products as "super rugged." He says plainly, "This is what we hang our hat on: [Our products] are designed to take a beating."
Giant Loop's growth is particularly impressive because it started in September 2008, the very moment that the bottom fell out of the American economy—and during a time when motorcycle sales plummeted at a dizzying pace. Now, though, Giant Loop employs four full-time employees and continues to expand its market reach.
What he learned from producing and distributing saddlebags for what he calls "adventure motorcycling" has quickly transferred to snowmobiles, which falls in the larger category of "power sports."
For gift ideas for your "power sport guy/gal," check out GiantLoopMoto.com.