From the October 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Forget those designated trails--back-country terrain is where real sports enthusiasts are trekking. And with natural occurrences such as avalanches, hail storms and bear attacks common on these untrodden paths, products and services geared toward safety and survival are in great demand. Safety courses, first-aid kits and avalanche safety equipment prove attractive to the "out-of-bounds" skiers, riders and climbers of the world.

Such demand has also enticed entrepreneurs to turn their rough drafts into realities. For instance, David Weiss, 60, a project director for Salinas, California's Monterey Bay Regional Partnership, a federally funded group providing work experience for students, designed and markets the Sierra Survival Scarf for Santa Cruz, California-based Pacific Venture Outdoor Products. The scarf lists life-saving information such as weather patterns and water-procurement techniques directly on the cloth. And Tom Crowley, 62, a psychiatry professor at the University of Colorado in Denver and a back-country skier, invented the AvaLung, distributed by Salt Lake City's Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., a vest equipped with a filtration device that draws fresh air directly from suffocating avalanche-caused snowpacks. "My state has the [country's] highest mortality rate from avalanches," says Crowley. "All of us here are concerned about it, so I [thought] of a way to help reduce the risk."

Just keep in mind, these items won't pre-vent disasters--in fact, any outdoor adventurer should know that the most important thing to bring on a back-country enterprise is common sense.

Hot Rocks

The sky is falling . . . and it's worth millions.

The ancient Greeks held meteorites as objects of veneration. The ancient Romans enshrined them in temples. And the council of 15th century Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian determined the fall of a meteorite was a good omen. Now present-day earth dwellers see them as the hottest thing since the Beanie Baby.

Once solely collected by scientists for study, meteorite fragments have recently experienced a surge in popularity among the collector species. Since the landing of the Mars Rover in 1997, consumer interest has placed Martian meteorites high on the wish lists of even the most amateur rock collectors, resulting in extraordinary price inflation. "The impetus behind collecting such interesting samples is that they're rare and often beautiful," says Stanford University geologist Jane Oglesby. "It's a wonderful feeling to be able to hold something extraterrestrial in your hand." With prices ranging from $20 all the way up to $5 million for slices of the space debris, it's becoming obvious we have a cosmic craze on our hands.

Flash

Efforts are now underway to build a truly unique luxury hotel. The good news: This new resort will be out of this world. The bad news: Week-long reservations will probably cost $20,000 or more--because this hotel will be in space, orbiting 3,000 miles above the earth. Space Island Group Inc. (http://www.spaceisland.com) estimates funding for its proposed holiday space station at a mere $10 billion and will be leasing shuttles from NASA. Currently looking for interns to assist in the megaproject, Space Island hopes to implement (temporary) colonization as early as 2006.

Flashback

A rehashing of the 1970s is occurring yet again with the licensing of characters from psychedelic children's TV shows H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos and Lidsville. Living Toys Inc., a Woodland Hills, California, toy manufacturer, has acquired licensing rights to the oh-so-trippy Sid and Marty Krofft characters, producing a line of action figures and bean bag plush toys called Krofft Superstars.

Contact Source

Living Toys Inc., (818) 227-5014

Pacific Venture Outdoor Products, (800) 277-8074