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Pete Frickland steps away from Cascade Designs after two decades

After 20 years with one company, Pete Frickland has decided to leave Cascade Designs and take some well deserved time off for himself. There is more to this story though, and SNEWS® digs deep to reveal the real Frickland -- former space scientist, stupid adventures, black eyes after a date, inventor of the RidgeRest....

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After 20 years with one company, Pete Frickland has decided to leave Cascade Designs and take some well deserved time off for himself.

“Pete has played an instrumental role in both the growth and success of our company and the outdoor industry,” Lee Fromson, president of Cascade Designs, told SNEWS®.

Cascade Designs hired Frickland in 1985 after he completed a stint at the Cal Tech Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif., conducting deep space research — to this day he denies working on the Hubble telescope mirrors.

For most of his 20-year stint at Cascade Designs, Frickland directed the company’s product development division and was the primary inventor of the RidgeRest.

“He managed a team of folks working on a bunch of different projects and product lines, and somehow managed to keep all of the balls in the air,” said Fromson.

SNEWS® remembers Frickland as the man who headed up the ASTM sleeping bag standards group for a number of years and mediated arguments between a room full of designers bickering about temperature ratings, how to test for them, not test for them, create standards for them, not create standards for them — it really was entertaining to witness.

Despite all the arguing, the group metamorphosed into one that embraced much greater standards involving the testing of tents, packs, sleeping bags and a litany of other outdoor products. And along the way, the group did manage to establish a thermal model for determining sleep comfort and a general purpose tool that designers for sleeping bags still use.

In recent years, Frickland became more involved with the acquisitions side of the business, and was one of the integral members of the team that put together the company’s acquisition of Mountain Safety Research from REI, and then oversaw the subsequent integration of MSR into Cascade Designs’ business model.

He also oversaw the acquisition and integration of the Tracks, Traveling Light/Platypus and Packtowl brands.

At the time of his announced resignation, Frickland was focusing on nothing but acquisitions, SNEWS® was told.

Fromson, a good friend of Frickland’s, told SNEWS®, “Pete also has a reputation of enjoying risking life and limb on many diverse adventures. We always knew there would be plenty to chuckle about when Pete would show up for a mountain bike ride in full body armor or wearing just a bathing suit and a toting a boogie board for a paddling trip down a Class 4 river.”

Frickland is also infamous for his annual “stupid adventures” trips he’s been taking with a climbing friend who will remain nameless out of respect for his reputation. SNEWS® confirmed with Frickland two notable “stupid adventures”: 1. Frickland and friend decided, for some reason, that it would be a good idea to paddle the Kern River in California from its source in inflatables. We’re talking Class V whitewater here, but it gets better. Frickland decided it would be even better to start the trip by hiking over the crest of the Sierra from the east side, descending to the mouth of the Kern on the west side, carrying the inflatables.

2. While river boarding (essentially riding the nastiest whitewater you can find wearing a helmet, swim fins and clinging to a boogie board) is wild enough for some, Frickland upped the ante by planning a trip down the Rogue River with his friend, unsupported, on river boards. Great idea until you realize that most folks do this in boats, loaded down with coolers of beer for the miles and miles of flat water in between what amounts to very periodic sections of whitewater lasting no more than two miles. Frickland and friend spent far more time swimming than even he cares to remember.

Needless to say, Frickland is not planning a new career as a guide or an outfitter.

However, the very best story we heard regarding Frickland, and one that is sure to reach iconic status involves a girl, a date and karate — in a restaurant. Apparently, Frickland showed up for work one Monday with a black eye. When asked what happened, he revealed he’d been on a fantastic first date (there wasn’t a second) with a woman who was also a second-degree black belt in karate. Suffice it to say, that after a few bottles of wine and some needling from the date for Frickland to show her what he had, a little impromptu sparing began, resulting in tables, chairs and silverware getting jostled around. While the guys in the bar had the temerity to actually throw Frickland and date out of the Duke’s restaurant, and Frickland never opted for a second date, his respect for his dance partner for the evening was off the scale.

We asked Frickland what he planned to do next (other than more stupid adventures and dates involving full contact), and he told us that, “I am going to take a couple of months off and then look to get back in the game in product development and acquisitions. We had a really good run. I look back on it and 20 years at one company is a great, great run.”

Asked as to his reasons for leaving, Frickland would only allow that, “The company was evolving and I was evolving and it was time to change.”

For those wishing to contact Frickland, he is reachable by email at

SNEWS® View:
Granted, most resignations don’t warrant a full story, but Pete Frickland is a bit of a legend and one that, if we are lucky, will remain an integral part of the outdoor industry for some time to come. No, we have little desire to share an outdoor adventure with Frickland, nor will we offer to double date anytime soon. However, we can assure you he’s a hoot to hang out with at a party, and party with him you can if you’re attending the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Word has it that either at end of day on the second or third day, Cascade Designs will pop a keg and refreshments in Pete’s honor and presence.

As for why Frickland is leaving, there is more to this than just a simple “evolution” of sorts. The fact of the matter is, as soon the company modified its Employee Stock Bonus Plan earlier this year, shifting direction from a long-term promise of offering majority ownership positions to employees to one of keeping majority ownership within the Burroughs family, SNEWS® had been wondering how many long-term executives, such as Frickland, would decide it was time to move on. Frickland was the first. Will there be others? Quite likely. When is the only question. We do know Fromson, as outlined in an internal memo leaked to SNEWS® earlier this year, is on board through 2008.