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The View From Above: Perspective From 10,000 Feet

The last blog I wrote was February 1 of last season. Since then I’ve probably started about a dozen or so posts but haven’t been inspired enough to finish them. I like to take pride in what I write, finding meaning in what I have to say, and relevance in how it relates back to skiing.

Right now I am sitting at 40,000 feet on my way to Boston from Memphis as no flights were headed back to NYC today
and everything leaving the south, headed north, was canceled last night. A good ski buddy of mine from college is renting a car as we speak, on his way to pick me up from Rhode Island and then on our way to Killington to take advantage of this epic pre-New Year’s Eve blizzard.

I was privileged enough to be able to spend Christmas with my family. My brothers were in town from Ohio, Noni & Papa J arriving from Florida, and mom and dad just as I left them. I’m blessed…

But last night, after getting back home from the first canceled flight, my folks had a talk with me about priorities.

See, I was breaking my neck to do anything in my power to get back east and in whatever capacity available- trying to figure out a way to get to the mountain. Not even questioning my motives; their discussion got me thinking even more.

I didn’t sleep last night. It could have been a combination of just getting over the flu, that giddy feeling you get when you know a powder day is waiting for you in the AM, or just not being able to comprehend that I might be wrong…

See, this is the 5th straight year that I have welcomed a new year and a new beginning in Vermont. An annual trip I organize with 20 of my nearest and dearest friends to celebrate the year that was and the season that will be.

And after half a day of reflection I realized… Neither one of us is right or wrong- not me or my parents. That I have a responsibility to my ski family to make this trip happen. Whether you realize it or not, if you are as passionate about skiing as I hope you are… Your skiing companions, your friends, want to share moments like this together the way you want to spend Christmas with your family. But when you’re an outsider looking in, sometimes it’s hard to understand that concept.

When I look back at what it took and the support I needed for Ski Till I Die- my ski family was just as important as my parents, and grandparents, and brothers- to give it a shot. It was guidance and motivation from both sides that made me think it could even happen in the first place.

But even I had almost given up with this whole Ski Till I Die thing… too much time and money and effort- and for what?? And maybe Mom and Dad were right; my priorities werent where they needed to be aligned… But for what??

And that brings this story back full circle. Because in the last 6 weeks I have gotten more emails, and messages, and phone calls from people who want this, from my ski family who keeps pushing me along, to ever let it go!

It brought a whole new meaning back to making IT happen; whether its getting back to your roots, or your passion, or your life! It’s skiing!

And trust me when I tell you that Ski Till I Die isn’t going anywhere, it’s here to stay, and it’s about time we got back on this band wagon and started getting to it!

So lets rip this and make it happen!!!

Happy New Year everyone- see you on the mountain!!!

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The Chronicles: What It Means To Get Away

Everyone deserves a second chance. At work, in relationships, in life.

The saying goes; fool me once, shame on me , fool me twice, I’m an @sshole. But in this case the second chance happens to be a ski house. And that house happens to be a sanctuary to call home.

When I was growing up my family had a house on Mt. Cranmore in New Hampshire. In the summertime we would head up there and catch tree frogs in the pool. Hike up to Diana’s Bath, and catch lightning bugs at night. When my grandparents passed away we were already living in Ohio and just couldn’t keep it. I never realized how much I missed, or took it for granted, until this season.

My one goal when I walked off the beach after Labor Day was to make this winter ski season better than summer. I was single, Ski Till I Die was starting to get big, and life was about as wonderful as it gets. What better way to perpetuate that than by getting a ski house with 10 friends for 6 months.

Paradise.

Things suck at work? Your significant other isn’t what you had hoped? Life in general, wherever you are, just sucks huh? Well… on the mountain, everything is alright. It’s your getaway. Time to think. Time to relax.

The skiing has been awful this season. Really. terrible. I can’t even tell you about a memorable dump so far this season. Oh, there has been some? Yea, not anywhere I’ve been so far. Don’t let that disappoint you. Find yourself a mountain cabin somewhere – someplace – because what’s made it alright has been this house.

Everyone gives me a lot of flack; and deservingly so. I own a ski company and I don’t ski. So what?! I ski when it means something. When there is a foot of fresh pow on the ground, believe I make first tracks. But right now? I’ve been to the house… Le Bon Apres as we call it… probably 10 times since November. And I’ve been on snow 3 days. That’s right, 3. And I’ll still ski circles around you. I find that when I get up to the cabin I am just as happy lounging in the hot tub, Apres-ing it at the bar, and relaxing by the fire as I am on the mountain.

Ski Till I Die is an idea. It’s a lifestyle. So if you cant live the life, then what’s the point? The point is… enjoy yourself. You have a chance to get away? Do it. You have an opportunity to relax and forget about all the bullsh*t that’s waiting for you back in Manhattan? Then do it! You want to shred some gnar in the meantime… then click in and put down those tracks.

Every single time I’m up there I think about my family house in Conway. It brings me back to the glory days with Grandma and Grandpa “O”. It helps me forget about anything that matters besides how many snowflakes are gonna fall through the ski and land on my face and get me cold again. Then I dunk in the hot tub and come back up with the smile on my face that says – yea, this is my home… I’ll be here until the snow melts and nothing else matters.

Getting away is important. Enjoying what you do is even more relevant. But doing both? Now that’s finding paradise. Away from anything else that matters. Because on the mountain, everything’s alright.

I’ll shred the gnar this season… but getting away to Le Bon Apres is just as important.

 

Fresh Pow: The Must Shred List of 2012

Now a day’s everyone has their must do lists… bucket list, Christmas list, people I need to hook up with before they get married list. Lot’s of lists, all of them different, each one important to whoever came up with it. But not every one needs to be followed, addressed, and obeyed. This one isn’t the rule, but it is the exception… and before you start your hate-a-thon – the West Coast version is coming.

Without further delay… The Ski Till I Die Must Shred List of 2012:

10. Holiday Valley, NY

This was the first real mountain I ever skied. It was the ski trip I ever went on. And it gave me some of the best memories on skis I can ever remember. From   their signature double black diamond run, The Wall, to the late night tree skiing under the lights on Tannenbaum… Holiday Valley is legit – and I hear the apres ski is some of the best you’ll find. If you ever stumble into Western New York give it a shot for the weekend. My brother from Cleveland will even meet you out for a run or two.

9. Middlebury Snow Bowl, VT

Home mountain for Middlebury College. 3 lifts, 18 runs, and one day of fun. Meet some of the Middlebury College co-eds, have them give you a look around, and if that doesn’t work out – check out the Blue Spruce for nightly accommodations.

8. Mt. Cranmore, NH

This was the first mountain I ever should have skied. I got bronchitous and my parents made me stay home. I was 7. 20 years later it’s a personal vendetta.

7. Jay Peak, VT

You want to hear a silly number? 400… 400 inches of natural snowfall a season. And they have a tram. The mile high club has NOTHING on Jay.

6. Tuckerman Ravine, NH

I was supposed to ski Tuckerman last season. Life got in the way and I never made it. Come this spring if you want to strap up with us, hike up for one glorious run, and then party like we’re living on borrowed time (because after you take off from the piste of this mountain you might be) then stay tuned. 2012 is the year of The Ravine.

5. Magic Mountain, VT

Love this mountain. Never say die attitude, friendly is an understatement, great back country, and awesome tree skiing.

4. Mad River Glen, VT

Ski It If You Can… over the gap, around the bend, into the lot, and up the single chair – only to come down again (and again and again) to enjoy a different kind of single chair. The base lodge is the #1 distributor of Magic Hat Single Chair in the country. Cheers!

3. Urban Jungle

Sometimes you get dumped on and don’t have any other choice but to stay home. Thinking you can’t shred in your urban homeland is ridiculous. Find a cliff, climb your roof, and get a camera.

2. Lift Line

Woods. Pico. No regrets. Ski it if you can find it. And after you do, find me at Casey’s Caboose for some wings and a few cold ones. Killington apres is second to none.

1. Hickory Ski Center

Hickory is one of those places you don’t want to tell your friends about. It’s like the middle school relationship you had to keep quiet otherwise your after school make outs behind the candy store would vanish faster than you found yourself getting home late every day. But if you never say anything about it; who else are you going to enjoy it with…

If you find yourself skiing one mountain this year, pick Hickory – you won’t regret it.

See you fools on the hill, or at the bar. Most likely the bar but who’s counting. Cheers!

How To Make It In America, On Skis: Season 2

WE’RE BACK BABY!

I love the HBO series How To Make It In America. Obsessed. When I watch the show I feel like the plot follows the last year of my life almost to a T. But that’s not what really turns me on to it. Besides the theme song; no matter what they deal with, in the end it always works out. Look past the Hollywood / Entourage / fairy tale BS and it’s still there.

I haven’t updated the blog since we failed to hit our goal with the Kickstarter Project. At that point I had kind of given up… I wasn’t inspired the same way I had been prior to the summer. No job, playing Sherlock Homeless at the beach, betrayed by friends… I wasn’t in the best place 6 months ago.

But now I’m here. Back on top might be presumptuous, but here is the rundown. Thanks to true friends I got back on track and got a job. Moved into Manhattan with a buddy of mine, and really started to push Ski Till I Die back in the right direction. Got in the shops, made our buy and we were off. Then life got in the way.

Work. Dating. Work. New York. Work.

Bottom line is I didn’t have any time, I needed an investor badly, and I hadn’t heard from any of the shops since they got the first delivery… bleak outlook, but we decided to follow up before Thanksgiving.

First shop – High Country Ski & Sport in NJ… great selling, wanted to collaborate on a lifestyle website, wanted a reorder.

Second shop – Skier Shop in Stowe VT… almost sold out, loved our gear, wanted a reorder.

Third shop – Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington… 100% SOLD OUT, WANTING A REORDER.

I was floored. Couldn’t believe it. After all the ups, downs, forwards, and backwards… it finally felt like we made it. Shortly after that I got an email from a friend of mine from New York City:

“Hey Boner-

My little sister (don’t get any pervey thoughts) came home from college in one of your Ski Till I Die shirts! I asked her about it and she says all the kids at her college (St. Michaels in VT) LOVE the brand. She was really excited when I told her you had started it. She said she’d be happy to sell them for you in her student center, I don’t know if you guys do that kind of thing but her school is a big skiing school. Hope you’re doing well- Kate”

Validation. We’re back… and we aren’t going anywhere. And it feels good. SKI TILL I DIE BABY!!!

Fresh Pow: Kickstarter

The Beatles had it right when they wrote the song – St. Peppers’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / I Get By With A Little help From My Friends…

That’s why I am posting this.

Recently we got accepted as a project on Kickstarter – a website designed to help fund projects like ours and similar in concept to venture capitalism without sacrificing any equity in the company.

It’s a great way to help us get additional funding, give us more exposure, and provide another excuse to show off some of our custom designs. Not to mention that trade organization membership fees are expensive and for some reason cotton has almost doubled in price over the last 6 months. Check out the project here and let me know what you think! 

If you have any questions you know where to find me! Until next time, cheers-

Ryan

Chapter 7 & 8 – Heartbreak, Homelessness, and Ocean Front Property

Ups and downs are the theme for this part of the story – ups, downs, and extremes. I don’t think that I deserve any type of credit for doing what I am doing – it’s what I love and believe in. But I like to think that being able to overcome adversity as it is presented to you not only defines you as a person but leads to success in the end.

March started off with the EWSRA Expo in Edison, NJ. It was nice to finally have something close to home and mid-week to occupy our time. Before we got there I’m not going to lie, I was a bit intimidated. All the major players where there presenting their lines for next season – North Face, Mountain Hardware, Shred – all had something to offer… just not anything like what we were putting on the market. We walked out with a new sense of – we can really do this – we were up.

We still had events to sponsor too with the entire month being booked up in Pennsylvania and Vermont. We started out up at the second mogul comp at Blue Mountain. It was a good test because Blue saw us before we really had a collection. This time around we had our catalog and tshirts to present and it was well received, very well received. After that we took a road trip up through Vermont and hit every ski shop we could find along the way. We came home gas poor (literally ran out of gas on the Mass Pike on the way back to NJ – thank you AAA) and with 5 new shops – bitter sweet.

After that though we started to tumble, well – I started to tumble.

I had been living with my girlfriend at the time and thought things were great. She obviously did not. I guess I didn’t see it. I’m sorry for the cliche but love is blind isn’t it? And I was unable to see what was right in front of me. She came home one night from work – and after a fight we had over dinner she told me she wanted me to move out. I was too exhausted to fight for it anymore. I guess she got tired of me, tired of my dream, and tired of waiting for my bank account to have more than a 3 digit sum in it – just tired.

I moved my stuff out the next day before she got home. It was over, and I was once again houseless. My lack of an address or key to an apartment was overshadowed by the fact that I had just lost the girl I loved. I moved onto my best friends couch, again, and proceeded to go on a 2 week bender paying no attention to anything else other than my bar tab and trying to forget about her.

Why is it that whenever you go through a break up everyone wants to take you out and feed you shots? Maybe the next one will take the hurt away? In my case the next one only made it hurt worse.

I was at a cross roads. My parents wanted me to move home to Memphis, I did not want to leave my business back in New Jersey, overseeing operations from 1,000 miles away. I booked a ticket to Cleveland to stay with my brother. Half way home and back to some normalcy. Then out of the blue I got a phone call from my buddy Mike: “Hey Ryan, I was talking about it with Christina and we wanted to know if you wanted to move in with us for the summer. We know how much this business means to you and we don’t want to see all the work you’ve put in go to waste.”

It was done – 3 days later I had all my stuff in the back of the truck and I was off to live on a beach for the next 4 months. It was the first time since September that I could settle in, sit on a bed that was mine, take a deep breath, and just experience a sense of relief.

Back to stability, back to focus, back to business… I had left a career, lost a girlfriend I loved, and had $27 to my name. But I had gained new perspective on friendship, sacrifice, and life in general.

I was ready to get back to the Ryan who started Ski Till I Die with the passion and energy and intensity that makes even the most pessimistic individuals believe. Losing my girlfriend hurt more than anything else – everything up to that point was easy for me, That wasn’t. But sometimes you have to define the moment before it defines you… this was one of those circumstances and that’s exactly what I did.

See: Journey – Don’t Stop Believing – The summer chapters come next week just in time for the 4th of July weekend. Until then, cheers!

Ryan

Chapter 6 – February Made Me Shiver

We were in the meat of the season. The snow never stopped falling and storm after storm kept pounding the East Coast like it was Mother Nature’s prerogative – and she was doing a really  good job at it.

The month started at Winter Jam NYC with me literally looking for cover. It was supposed to be a huge event held in Prospect Park, BK with ski companies from all over the place looking to have a good time and give away $5,000 worth of free tees. I was just happy that it was close to home and I could sleep in my own bed for the weekend.

We sure did give away a lot – and I have never been so miserable standing under a tent for 6 hours in my life. It was 30 degrees and POURING. Everything was soaked, no one bought a thing, and when people came to the booth looking for free stuff they actually got angry at us for not having any tees left. Hey man, they were FREE in the FIRST place… and you don’t even ski! I am the last person in the world to get mad when someone decides we aren’t for them, but instead of looking for a hand out how about you buy a hat and help me pay rent this month – then we can talk.

But I digress… I probably stayed in the shower for a good 40 minutes when I got home praying that I didn’t end up with ammonia.

The line up after that was significantly more pleasant. We had the Telefest at Hickory Ski Center (favorite mountain of the year, no question), the Big Air event back at Tuxedo, and my favorite weekend of the season – the alumni race for McBrine. It was nice to get to the mountain and have everyone know who we were that weekend. Not to mention that Brandeis was there sporting their custom hoodies we had done up for them – hey Jaimee & Erica, I love you guys.

My recently signed pro skier, Bridgette, entered her first extreme skiing competition & did great! “Now skiing, bib #42, Bridgette LeBear, sponsored by Ski Till I Die”… it was sweet to hear. We had new stickers, new designs thanks to Steve, and had begun work on our 2011 / 2012 catalog. All was well with the world.

We started having weekly meetings at a local spot in Hoboken, Duffys – $2 beers, cheese balls, and no one ever went there so it was a perfect dive for us to get down to business.

I keep looking for some turmoil during February because every good story has a triumph from tragedy plot line (or is you’re a Bill Shakespeare fan – a tragedy to tragedy one) but everything seemed to be going according to plan. Little did I know that this was the calm before the storm and the ephemeral sense of security I was engaged in would soon come to an end.

March & April come next… and if you’re looking for the triumph from tragedy storyline, that’s where you can find it.

Until next week- Cheers!

Ryan