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.
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.
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-
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!
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!
January was an interesting month. A lot of ‘it’s my first times’, some close calls, but for the most part – smooth sailing and open roads.
First stop was Bozeman, MT for a Montana State Rail Jam. Then 2 days before the trip I got a phone call telling me the event had been canceled. With the flight already booked I didn’t have much choice; plus there were worse places I could have been flying to (see: Bridger Bowl Mountain Review). I’m not going to lie, I definitely made the most of it and don’t regret spending $$$ on airfare to get there. Not to mention that I found our first sponsored skier in Ms. Bridgette LeBer.
Our first real even was the following weekend at Blue for the mogul comp. After a close call at the airport I made it just in time Friday to start packing the car and getting ready to head to PA. It was the first time we had seen the tent actually set up- not only did it look amazing, but it was an absolute in legitimizing the brand.
Every sale we made had a personal accomplishment attached to it and we actually saw our stuff start to sell! We were officially in business.
With the rest of the season dedicated to the mountains our next stop was just 45 minutes outside of NYC. The rail jam at Tuxedo went even better for us than Blue. Front and center at the base lodge with everyone taking note of who we were and stopping by to check it out the gear.
We started to see more traffic on the site, the blog was gaining notoriety, and I was starting to feel really good about the direction we were headed.
Other than that it was business as usual. I was trying to crank out at least 2 blogs a week, confirming with mountains about our attendance, and desperately looking for ways to spread the word about Ski Till I Die – through cross promoting, partnerships, or selling my body to get more exposure.
We had also begun stepping up our design game. Steve was a local Hoboken kid who I knew through reffing kickball. He had taken note of us when we started and asked if he could jump on board. Initially I was a little reluctant to bring on another person… until I saw the concepts he brought to the table. Truly this was going to redefine who we were – in a good way.
Stay tuned for Chapter 6 next week. Winter gets wild and so do the Ski Till I Die guys. Until next time!
It’s April 18th today… tax day actually (DAMMIT). Down in NYC there is no snow left. The only sign that winter was here are the jackets hanging in the closet and the potholes that haven’t been filled yet. The trees are starting to bud and we have already enjoyed half a dozen 70- degree days.
Now, I’d rather be skiing than be doing anything else… but spring has arrived and in a few weeks Memorial Day BBQs will be dominating everyones agenda. It’s time to trade in the roof racks for the top down and our goggles for aviators.
So, what then, is a skier supposed to do when summer hits? Forget all about the nasty lines we skied this past season – along with the winter brews, layered expeditions, and countless back country excursions? Doubtful, but here are some things I came up with that we can all look forward to.
Summer brews are great. They’re lighter, sweeter, and nothing tastes better when the summer sun beats you down than a cold one in a coozie. Some of my favorites include: Anchor Summer Pale Wheat Ale, Sam Summer, and Blue Point Summer Ale. I love beer.
Just because there is no snow doesn’t mean you can’t ride the waves. Not to mention that girls look way better in bikinis than they do covered under layers of down and gore-tex. Grab a cooler, a shovel, and your Sponge Bob beach towel and scour the beach babes with your sunnies on. Give Long Beach, LI a shot. It’s an hour train from Penn Station in NYC and drops you off 3 blocks from the boardwalk.
Biking – Mountain Style:
Probably my favorite summer activity. I don’t like to sweat or exercise but when it comes to mountain biking I can make the exception. It’s the best cross training you can do for skiing, you get to play in the mud, and you don’t need a lift ticket. If you live in Ohio give Alum Creek mountain bike trails a try- it’s the most vertical you’ll find in the heartland.
I like alliteration. I also like boating. Granted that gas will probably hit $5 a gallon this summer (which means it will be closer to $6-7 on the water) but there is no substitute to heading out to sea with a few buddies, fishing poles, and a few cases of America’s finest for the day. Try out Tices Shoals on the Jersey Shore for one of their famous bay days, give everyone the boaters wave, you won’t regret it.
There is no better feeling than throwing marinated meat on the grill, hearing it snap-crackle-pop, and serving up a course of your world famous ribs to a hungry party. Mean people don’t barbecue, it’s a well known fact. The more you grill the more fun you’re having. The smell of charcoal fills the air and all is right with the world. If by chance you haven’t achieved the status of Grill Master just yet then head to Memphis In May for their annual BBQ fest. I have been all over the world, and no one does barbecue like the local Memphis faithful.
That’s about all I have for now. But once everyone comes out of hibernation there is another season of fun just waiting for us to take advantage of it. If you get bored and decide to road trip it, you can find me down the Jersey Shore for the summer, flip flops on, and something cold in the Coleman at my feet.
This is how we started. Throughout this whole story you will be able to see one common theme. Without the help of friends and the support of those closest to us, we wouldn’t have had a prayer. From the numerous people who have offered their couch or my skiing network that pushed us along… It is because of our support base that we were able to actually put something together that has the potential to change all our lives, so from the bottom of my heart – thank you.
A lot of you guys know the story. For those of you who don’t, it started back in September 2010. I had enough of my job, I dreaded waking up in the morning. When I got home, if I wasn’t spending another sleepless night worrying about the next day at the office, I was polishing off a bottle of red to help the pain. When I was at work, I wasn’t really at work. I’d stare at the computer screen for hours wondering when it was going to change.
Then one day I had enough. I started watching Ski Patrol, the first smile on my face all week, and then the left side of my brain started cranking out ideas. I started gchatting Paul, he was doing the same thing. One idea led to another let to another and then it came to us. A ski apparel company. Why not?! Nothing like it really existed, not what we were planning on doing. And thats when Ski Till I Die was consummated.
This is when I decided to leave my job. It was time. I could work on Ski Till I Die full time and I didn’t have to force myself out of bed and onto the train to do it. I moved out of my apartment – everything was going towards this initiative and rent or having a full time address was an afterthought. My girlfriend at the time was headed to Germany for 3 months and it gave me peace of mind to know that I could head to Europe to spend some time with her once she left.
Paul got the LLC taken care of and all of the sudden we were legit. I remember when we got the official paperwork in the mail it came with our own notary. We ran around the bar for hours stamping anything we could get our hands on; napkins, posters, our bar tab.
We found a supplier in Jersey City, local guy who understood what we were trying to put together. Paul had a friend who was a graphic designer who offered to get us off the ground with our initial designs. Once we got our logo straightened out we had the trademark paperwork in to the U.S. Patent Office the next day. We were beginning to look like a real company.
I started working with our supplier. We went through a ton of samples. What was our initial product offering going to look like? We had to put together a collection. We decided to work with 3 initial designs on 3 separate bodies – beanies, zips, and hoodies. Keep things simple, see what would catch on. With the help of our friend Brian – who had 10 years of industry experience starting his own successful t-shirt company Solid Threads – we were getting there.
My parents came to town to check on me and we had just gotten the first samples of what we were going to start selling. It was nice to see the approval written across their expressions. That week Paul and I had bought some foam board to use as a background and borrowed a hi-res camera to shoot the merchandise. We were steps away from launching the site.
Paul had a friend who worked for Goodsie. An online platform that would host our storefront for free. Another key word – free. We had bought stickers from The Office in Hoboken who gave us a great deal as well. The problem, we would find out later, is that they weren’t water proof – a problem when you sell ski apparel. But making mistakes is just another part of the learning process when you decide to go rogue and call yourself an entrepreneur.
We launched the site the day before I left for Germany. A relief since I had already booked the ticket to Frankfurt and a benefit of having a local supplier who was able to work with us instead of against us. The day we launched I sent out an email to my whole ski network to let them know what was going on. We sold 2 hats, but it was a start.
I was excited to start sleeping in a bed again and even though I was 3,000 miles away from our home base – the internet allowed me to be able to run the business from anywhere in the world. That month, between traveling Europe, I had 2 missions: 1) Put out a 2 blogs a week and 2) start looking for events for us to sponsor at mountains up and down the East Coast.
The blog was easy, I had a ton of stories from the mountain. Finding locations who would take a no-name start up was impossible. I probably emailed / called 40-50 mountains that month. One no after the next. I got everything from – who are you guys? To I don’t think that lines up with our image. To flat out no’s. There were a few who wanted to charge us $1,000+ to set up our tent but then we couldn’t sell our merchandise. We didn’t have anywhere near the start up capital to throw it away like that; even if the exposure was clutch.
Then we got our first yes, Tuxedo Ridge. A little mountain :45 minutes north of New York City who said they would love to have us. Then we got our second yes, Blue Mountain. A mountain known for bumps in PA who wanted us to tent up at their annual mogul comp. From there it seemed to start clicking. We had booked up most of the season by the time I got home in December.
The first Ski Till I Die photo shoot. One of my old ski buddies from McBrine, Brent, was a professional photographer. He offered to shoot the line for free. Another buddy of mine from college, Scott, was a talent agent in New York City and found me the perfect model who would do the shoot for her portfolio. Now we had something.
I continued peddling to mountains, mogul comps, big air, tele fests, Winter Jam in NYC, you name it. I wasn’t going to be picky. By Christmas we were booked. And I was ready to get home and take a break. The online sales were slow, but trickling in. By mid-December we were already on snow. The season looked to be shaping up to be one for the ages… and it would be.
Look for chapter 5 & January next week – that’s when we really start cranking it out. Until then, cheers & keep shredding!