VAIL, Colorado - Julie Adams' feet led her to a new career as an entrepreneur.
Adams, a Vail condo owner and former corporate lawyer in the Denver area, had a chance to ski in Cortina, Italy, a couple of seasons ago. Enjoying an apres-ski drink on a deck one day, she savored the views - right about until the time she started wishing she had something more comfortable than ski boots on her feet.
Not long after that, Adams was skiing with her son, who, at the end of the day, just sat down, unwilling to take one more step in his boots.
Those experiences got Adams thinking about the idea of packable boots, something light and small enough to carry in a day pack, but sturdy enough to walk to or from the chairlift.
And that's how Pakems were born. After working on the design with some shoe industry pros, as well as skier Chris Anthony, Adams - who has made this her full-time job - rolled out the product website in February of this year. She also had a booth at the annual Snowsports Industries America Snow Show in Denver, where the packable boots made a big impression.
"People kept saying, 'These would be great for travel or climbing,'" Adams said. "They'd be a great camp shoe, or a shoe for commuting, when you don't want to have your dress shoes on."
The boots are clever - there's enough sole for a short walk, and some insulation, too - these are for winter sports, after all - but a pair of hightop Pakems will fold down into a package not much bigger than a pair of flip-flops. The boots also come in a bag that can be strapped onto a belt or the bottom of a day pack.
With just hightops and lowtops in one color available so far, Adams has still sold nearly 500 pairs of the boots, through the website and a few retail outlets, including the Ace hardware store in West Vail.
But 500 pairs of boots isn't enough to make a trend. That's why a big part of Adams' job right now is tracking down investors, so the company can roll out another four colors for the boots. She hopes a Kickstarter campaign later this year will help fuel even more growth at the fledgling company.
It's hard work. But, Adams said, the entrepreneur's life gives her more time to spend with her son in his elementary school years.
"It's been a blast," she said. "My job now is traveling to mountain towns in the winter to talk about these boots."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.