Everything which is born has been destined to live.
The Snowfoot story came to life in 2009, when a young explorer from Texas fell in love with a small valley in the Italian Alps. The endless horizon of rugged peaks and snowy slopes was the kind of paradise he’d been searching for: a place where small villages of log houses and stone rooftops were built harmoniously into the mountainside and pure Nature envelops every thought and action.
Driven by a passion for ski-mountaineering, he teamed up with a local ski-bum and began to go deeper into the “hidden” valleys and higher onto the named and unnamed peaks. The daily drive to see something new quickly became an obsession for steep skiing and a continuous hunt for untracked powder snow.
Along the way, he began experimenting with a homemade “snowshoe” built from old mountaineering gear and materials from the hardware store. At first it was just a funny-looking accessory that would be used in steep snow situations. Later it became an essential piece of gear in the daily rucksack. In the end it was considered a full-on substitute for the skis in almost every uphill situation, and even a few downhill cases.
In 2012, he bought a house high up on the mountain and began living full-time in a place where there is no car access in the winter. This hand built snowshoe proved to a useful tool around the house, indispensable for outdoor chores and just getting around the snow-covered terrain. He made a few pairs for his neighbours, including an old woman who had objective difficulties moving around on the snow and ice.
Over the years he experimented in other ways, testing the snowshoe on avalanche fields and grass fields. Ice, snow, rock, earth, even in the summer time. Finally convinced that the idea wasn’t stupid and that his little tool solved a real problem of mountain mobility that many people already recognised, he decided that it was time for “Snowfoot” to have a name and meet the world.
However, he wasn’t convinced he was the right person for the job. In 2013-2014 he presented his prototype to two major mountaineering equipment companies in the region. They “liked” the idea, but were not interested in developing it. Their advice was to “build it yourself”.
Still not convinced he was the right person for the job, in mid-2014 he found some helpful people ready to develop the concept. The result was a functional first product and a patent for the technology. To pay the bills, this young team launched a successful crowdfunding campaign and sold the first 200 pairs to people all across the world. On a whim, they sent the first production model to the jury of the ISPO award. Snowfoot was selected as the winning product for 2015 in the Outdoor category.
But the team wasn’t successful and their problems were exacerbated by the hard realities of the business world. In the end, the team dissolved and the project stalled.
Only then did he realise he was the right person for the job. He had no choice but to accept responsibility and admit that Snowfoot lives because it was born, just like him. In 2017 he began to rebuild the product and finance the next production.
In 2018 Snowfoot Srl was finally incorporated as a company and immediately won third place at the Civil Protect Startup Award in Bolzen, Italy. Recognised for it’s highly innovative characteristics and practical application for the Alpine search and rescue sector, Snowfoot was back in business, this time for good.
Robert Behrens, Founder and CEO, graduated from Duke University in 2005.