HOW R.M.P. ATHLETIC HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
The story behind Ripzone, Powder Room and Eira
The Starting Block
Its funny how sometimes a passion project such a participating in sport or taking up a new hobby can lead you down a road you never quite expected. That was the case for two brothers from Ontario named Mike and Paul Dyon in the 1970s. Their love for running eventually led them to start a distribution company and become the founders of three Canadian outerwear brands.
“I started running in grade 9 as a way to stay in shape for wrestling,” said Mike. But things really set into motion during his university days. Mike vividly remembers being in Florida and attending a training camp to prepare for an upcoming 30 km race. “I went into a store to buy a pair of New Balance shoes…I was looking for shoes with more cushioning. They were sold out of New Balance and the store manager said to try on the number #2 brand rated by Runner’s World, which was Brooks. I loved them.”
Owning one pair of Brooks just wasn’t enough so Mike and Paul ended up buying $750 worth of running shoes and started selling them out of their car. “When I came back to University of Toronto, my fellow runners were interested in the shoes. We had no idea that we would become the distributor for the brand. I was hoping to have a part time job so I could increase my training time for the marathon,” said Mike.
In 1977, the Dyon’s started R.M.P. Athletic Locked Ltd. and became Brooks Canadian distributor. While running a start-up business is never easy, Mike and Paul were determined to make to make it happen. According to Mike their main challenge from the get-go was “financing the growth. We went from a $4 million to an $11 million business in a single year. We also went from buying shoes out of a factory in Puerto Rico on open terms, to buying with a letter of credit from Taiwan. That same year, Brooks USA had gone bankrupt so for a while we had to source and design the shoes on our own.”
Joe Schuster, Whistler backcountry, B.C. Photo: Ashley Barker
Turning The Corner
With the Brooks experience under their belts, R.M.P. went on to launch Ripzone a new snowboard outerwear and apparel brand in early 1990s. Paul McGrath, R.M.P.’s Creative Director says the idea to start the brand came about pretty organically. “R.M.P. already had some expertise in making outerwear and had some strong vendor relationships in Asia, so the ground work was there. We were in Hermosa Beach, California on a company trip…I had been riding for a year or so with friends and the idea of starting our own brand was thrown on the table. Our owners are big skiers so it seemed like a natural progression,” says McGrath. At that time there wasn’t any pressure from the U.S. market because snowboarding was still in its early stage.
“This was 1992. Snowboarding was just starting to kick-off. At the time, you couldn’t even ride at a lot of our local hills, snowboarding hadn’t been adopted.” Things progressed quickly. Within two years Ripzone was being sold in Canadian retailers and by 1997 Powder Room, the women’s outerwear brand was unveiled. “From what I can remember, the biggest challenge was convincing retailers that snowboarding was happening. It wasn’t a passing fad—it was legit and here to stay. The beginning was a fun time, watching the sport grow, the start of an industry and the style change was very exciting. We didn’t have to wait long for the retailers to want a piece of it,” says McGrath.
Kale Stephens, Whistler backcountry, B.C. Photo: Geoff Andruik
Owning the Podium
Over the past 15-plus years Ripzone and Powder Room have sponsored several Canadian athletes such as national halfpipe team riders and three-time Olympians Brad Martin and Mercedes Nicoll. Given R.M.P.’s strong ties with Canada Snowboard, the sport’s governing body, Ripzone and Powder Room also became the official outerwear sponsors for Canada’s snowboard team at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games. During these two Olympic games Canada earned a total of four medals (two golds, one silver and one bronze) in various snowboard events.
“Obviously this opportunity was a good fit for R.M.P. as our company has been involved in supporting athletes on an Olympic and National level since we started. In 2007, Mike and Paul Dyon even went so far as buying a house and inviting Canadian marathon hopefuls to live and train for free leading up to the London (2012) Olympic Games. Plus, R.M.P. is Canadian and we as a company love supporting anything Canadian. It’s our backyard and our heritage, and we are proud of it,” says McGrath.
A New Era
Seeing the potential for growth, R.M.P. launched Eira, their new ski outerwear brand in 2011. Given the success of Ripzone and Powder Room, branching out into the ski market was only natural.
“Both of our owners are big into skiing. Mike Dyon skied with the Canadian National Cross-Country team,” says McGrath. “EIRA also came about very organically. We would be working with our riders in Whistler, and would meet their ski friends and different people and start talking about creating a brand for skiers. We saw an opportunity in the market. We already knew a lot about outerwear and had the relationships to bring it to life. I love product and it was a great design challenge to work with our ski team and start creating something unique to the ski industry.”
Claudia Avon, Whistler backcountry, B.C. Photo: Geoff Andruik
The Next Race
In R.M.P.’s 37-year history the company has founded Ripzone, Powder Room and Eira and opened a few retail stores. R.M.P. is also the distributor or licence for sporting goods brands such as FILA, Umbro, Wilson, Teva and Ryder. When McGrath looks back on all that’s happened so far, he can easily recall many good memories. However, he’s just as excited to see what the coming years will bring. “For me it’s about continuing to create great product and grow internationally. We have a lot of plans for all three (outerwear) brands in the coming years. It’s funny, I’ve been working on these brands for a long time, but I feel like we are just now getting started.”
1977: R.M.P. Athletic is founded and becomes the Canadian distributor for Brooks.
1982: R.M.P.’s Mike Dyon represents Canada at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
1993: R.M.P. branches into the outerwear world with the launch of Ripzone.
1994: Ripzone product is now being sold in Canadian retailers.
1997: Powder Room, R.M.P’s female outerwear brand debuts.
2006: Ripzone and Powder Room are the outerwear sponsors for Canada’s snowboard team at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turino, Italy. The world watches Canada’s Dominique Maltais win the bronze medal in Women’s Snowboard Cross.
2010: Ripzone and Powder Room are back as the outerwear sponsors for the Canadian snowboard team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Jasey-Jay Anderson, Maëlle Ricker and Mike Robertson dominate the speed events winning two gold medals and one silver while competing on home soil.
2011: R.M.P. Athletic founds Eira, its new ski outerwear brand. The first team athletes include: Joe Schuster, Ian Cosco and Peter Olenick (the current Eira Team Manager).
2014: R.M.P. becomes the clothing sponsor for Team Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Mike Dyon also presented the medals for the Marathon ceremony.