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WNC Is Made By Mountains: New Regional Partnership Highlights Local Outdoor Industry

Bear Allison
Made X Mountains is a regional partnership to connect and promote the local outdoor industry.

The mountains and forests of Western North Carolina are some of the most visited in the country.  Thanks to that, the region is a hub for the outdoor recreation industry.  BPR’s reports on how a new partnership wants more awareness of the local industry:

Author Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle said mountain biking changed her life. She became an avid rider when the Fire Mountain Trails opened on the Qualla Boundary.  She said biking helped her finish her most recent novel ‘Even As We Breathe.’  

Credit Courtesy of Made X Mountains
Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle at the Fire Mountain Trail Inferno Race in 2021.

“I tell a lot of people that I write while I ride – which is probably why I wreck a lot. But it changes my thought process as a writer,” said Clapsaddle at the Made X Mountains Launch Party at Fire Mountain Outpost this month.  

These are the kinds of stories a new regional partnership wants to share.  It’s called Made X Mountains.  Noah Wilson is with Growing Outdoors Partnership and Mountain Bizworks.

“Made by mountains is telling that story of how the mountains have made our people, our places and our community what they are,” said Wilson. He spoke to BPR from his home in Asheville – you might hear his two-year-old daughter in the background.

Wilson traced this effort back to 2013.  He said the brand is a community partnership of more than 30 organizations from local governments and community colleges to local outdoor brands and stores with funding from groups like the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Western North Carolina is the biggest hub of outdoor gear industry east of Colorado, said Wilson.

Wilson explained the goal of Made X Mountains is to bring together the outdoor industry, the community, and Western North Carolina’s unique natural landscape.

“One of the saddest things about being a local here is it’s easy to think that the things here are for tourists and its not – it’s for us,” said Wilson.  

One of the businesses in the partnership is Bryson City Outdoors. Brett Hackshaw is its co-owner.   

“If there are other people that are making products that I can sell then I want to know about it. But it’s not that easy to know without someone bringing it all together,” said Hackshaw. He’s also a co-owner of Fire Mountain Outpost and Life Outside Sticker Company.

The outdoor supply store has grown exponentially in the six years it’s been open.  What started as a kayak and paddle board rental has become a bar and outdoor supply center.

Much like the rest of Western North Carolina, beer has been a part of that growth. In 2018, Bryson City Outdoors petitioned Bryson City government to remove the requirement that a bar needed to have a liquor license to sell beer and wine.

“They put it to a vote to the community and they overwhelmingly voted in favor. Basically, we drove to Raleigh to get our consumption license and then on the way back we stopped at Sam’s Club to buy a kegerator,” said Hackshaw. He explained the store was selling beer in time for the Christmas Parade that same weekend.

Hackshaw said this regional brand is an expansion of the local outdoor industry to bring in even more community members. 

“Having a network that you can tap into to know who in Western North Carolina makes X,Y and Z product and then knowing I can get that product in Western North Carolina,” said Hackshaw.

Made X Mountains next event will be in Boone next week.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.