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:
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!!!
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!
With my stories from past skiing conquests, or events we have been to this season, or mountains I’m ripping for the first time- I try to capture the essence of the experience in each scenario. Every aspect of skiing has its own personality and writing it like you were there brings The Chronicles to life.
Telemark skiing is no different. The folks who free their heels are an all encompassing group who never let you forget and skiing is still fun. It has the color and attitude that scream character. It reminds us that skiing isn’t bland, doesn’t have any boundaries, and truly breaks the mold of boring.
This past weekend I was at Mad River Glen for their annual North American Telemark festival… and NEVER before had I had such a blast on the mountain. Imagine Woodstock meets the hill with a majestic display of lunging down the hill and the poetry in motion that only MRG can accommodate.
If you have never skied Mad River before just know it is the Mecca for the sticks. A skier only resort with all natural snow – it has the trees, powder, steeps, and single chair to the peak that you will find no where else. Untouched snow and powder stashes are the norm and the free heelers paradise hasn’t changed since its inception some 60 years ago. Not the mention that the lodge at MRG is the largest distributor of Magic Hat on tap in the United States; their motto – ‘Ski It If You Can’ gives it a legitimate testimonial on and off the slopes.
The tele fest last weekend is the largest of its kind. People come from all over to enjoy the wonderment of tele skiing. The WHIZ was there, the Ramapo Ski Club was in attendance, The Outdoor Gear Exchange from Burlington had a tent (thanks for picking up my line guys!), Jim from the San Fransisco Sock Company came all the way from Delaware, the crew from Hickory had quite a contingent, and Noah made his way from Wachusset to share in the glory.
The bottom line, this is what skiing was all about – people coming together from all over the place to shred it hard and party even harder. A true mantra of Ski Till I Die.
I can’t wait to get back there next season. Even in my fixed binding I didn’t feel out of place. Like I have said before – on the mountain we all zip up our jackets the same way. Only in this particular instance you are more likely to find Carhartt instead of Obermeyer and more Duct Tape than red tape… and that’s what makes it such a blast.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to head to Magic Mountain in Southern Vermont for the very first time. This mountain, like so many other storied tales, is one that is trying to get back on its feet and get skiers enjoying its slopes once again. After a short 6 year hiatus in the early 90’s, they came back from the abyss and within the last few seasons Magic has been working on putting together a cooperative ownership structure. That is where the story starts.
Whenever I get to a new mountain I like to talk to the locals, the lifties, and the people who call each mountain home. That is how you get a feel for someplace you’ve never been before. The people I chatted with last weekend took an ownership of their mountain, literally and figuratively.
The kids were either in ski school or training on the race hill, the parents were free to ski whatever they wanted, and everyone I saw wandering around had an expression of pride for the mountain they were skiing that day. That may be because they were skiing a mountain that they had a vested interest in.
Turning the mountain into one that everyone has an opportunity to consider theirs is the best way to create a sense of brand loyalty. If you owned stock in Johnson & Johnson, wouldn’t you be purchasing their products on a regular basis? Not to mention, if there was a chance your local mountain wasn’t going to make it to the next season, wouldn’t you want a chance to save it and have a say in the next glade run they cut out next summer at the same time?
With the investment capital Magic has been able to collect over the past 5 years they have made wonderful improvements to an already legendary mountain. From increased snow making, to the lifts improvements, to the facility upgrades, you can see the difference a rent check can make.
I anticipate Magic being open for some years to come. And if at any point in the near future I can come up with $3,000 to invest, i’d ask where do I sign?!
Good luck Magic!
This latest story comes courtesy from one of my loyal readers and long time ski buddies, Sean Shortell. As a contributing editor for the day Sean tells us about a time he ditched his friend who lost a ski on a powder day for the greater good of the sport. Oh, you’d do the same thing too… Enjoy!
There are certain phrases that have the ability to capture the ethos of an entire culture and summarize the very best moments of a given sport; perfect game, hole in one, two minute drill, the list goes on. There is one phrase however that really gets to the heart of what really matter for skiers; no friends on powder days.
Skiing, by nature, is an individual pursuit. Whether it’s man against the clock, man against the mountain and elements, man against his friends, the skier has sole control of his destiny. When bestowed with the gift of a powder dump, skiers aggressively cut out distractions and get after it.
We’ve all been there, you pull into the parking lot and the newbs you shared a ride/condo/dinner with last night are whining about the cold, stiff boots, or their hangovers. All you can think about is how fast you can get on the lift – powder day or not, these aren’t your friends and it’s time to cut dead weight and ski.
Sometimes, however, you are skiing some great pow with good friends and something beyond anyone’s control happens and you need to decide to help a fallen comrade or keep going to get as many fresh tracks before the other skiers descend like locusts on your hidden stash. This happened to me about a year ago on the last day of an annual pilgrimage to Colorado.
We hit Vail’s famous Back Bowls (Shangri-La for the uninitiated) at about 10am, which was just in time for first chair on the Skyline Express at Blue Sky Basin which opens a bit later. En route up the Skyline Express, we looked out over an ENTIRE mountain of untracked gnar. We were absolutely giddy going up the lift as thousands of acres of acres of virgin powder flew below our feet. To our left was a steep, but very open bowl that dipped into a thicket of trees, promising only more pow with even greater solitude. This was Skree Field, which would be our playground for the day.
We bounded off the lift with excitement and rushed past others, poked through a short band of trees to reach the lip of the Skree Field Bowl. Below us were only a handful of other skiers and untracked knee deep pow pow (I measured 15″ at one point). In the distance, we saw BSB high speed quad moving dozens of skiers every minute to the summit – they were all looking at us, and thinking the same thing… .get it and get it now. The game was on; ski as many damn runs as you can before this bowl is tracked out. When it gets too choppy, go looking in less obvious places (read trees). We figured three, four runs tops. It was 10:15. I knew by 11am this bowl would not be the same place.
With an equal sense of urgency and excitement we pushed off. One from my crew launched a short cliff and landed in a pillow of pow, others carved swooping arcs through an empty field of snow; I chose to let gravity do the work and made quick, short turns until my skis grew weightless and I floated down the hill in state of pure ecstasy.
When I reached the bottom, two of my friends were already there and in the midst of carrying out what can only be described at a touchdown dance – each of us knew that we had just had a run we would never forget. As we waited for our stragglers, we looked up and marveled at the shear expanse of Skree Field and the many untracked lines that awaited us. We simply could not wait to get on the chair and get back to the lip and do it again.
Soon, we realized that our comrade Brendan was not moving too quickly, in fact, his skis were off and he was walking around. From a distance it wasn’t clear the cause of the delay, but through the magic of cell phones (he was about 1/4 mile up the hill from us – beyond shouting distance due to the snow), we soon learned that Brendan had lost a ski. He told us to go on, he didn’t want to hold us up and he was certain he’d find it any minute now and knowing that we’d back on the same run in 10 minutes.
He was right about two things, we were coming back and weren’t about to let his missing ski hold us back – remember, the Skyline Express unloading dozens of skiers every minute to shred the lines we left behind. We pushed off, leaving Brendan to look for the missing ski.
Lover’s Leap, Steep and Deep and Skree Field all funnel their skiers through a set of trees which we yielded us more fresh snow all the way to the Skyline Express. As we loaded the lift, I ended up with a three grizzled veterans of Vail powder days. They carried themselves with an attitude that that said “I skipped work to be here,” or “Hi, my name is Mike and I shred gnar for a living,” it was hard to tell which was the case – maybe it was both?
En route up the lift, I looked to the left over Skree Field and saw dozens of skiers dropping in and taking the lines that we had left. They looked like ants in the distance – but one ant at the bottom wasn’t moving. He stood in one spot and even at a distance of half a mile I knew his body language said defeat. It was Brendan, and his ski was still missing. I pointed this out to the gnar vets, “Hey, check out my friend looking for his ski!” One of them turned to me and said,“Friend? There are no friends on powder days.” He turned and directed his gaze back up the hill, no doubt plotting his next run. The ride continued in silence.
Brendan never found his ski that day. We stopped and looked for about 15 minutes before I gave up and called Vail Patrol. Within minutes they brought us a loaner, a 185cm K2 from the late 1990s with rusty edges. Brendan skied the rest of the day with his brand new 170cm K2 Apache on his left foot and the loaner on his right. He never found the missing ski, even after the snow melted it has yet to turn up in lost and found.
So if you’re ever skiing Blue Sky Basin, keep an eye out for the K2 Apache, and if you ever experience the same dilemma, don’t waste a run, call Vail Patrol at (970) 479-4610 – they have a guy who brings loaner skis around to hacks from the East Coast on powder days. What a life.
Ever since the beginning of time, when the second skier dropped a line of fresh pow after their buddy, moguls have been in existence. They are older than any living person on this planet, so respect. And bumps are fun, plain and simple.
Earlier this season we sponsored the first organized mogul competition I had ever been to at Blue Mountain. We had such a blast we decided to come back for seconds. So I thought it might be nice for some of my ambitious readers to check out what it takes to put together a comp of their own. Take these rules to a mountain near you and I am sure that the events coordinator at your respective hill will have a hard time saying no.
The following write up is courtesy of the resident mogul director at Blue – Flying Johnny:
2011 2nd Annual Blue Mountain Bump N Jump
Times and Location: This years 2nd annual Blue Mountain Bump N Jump will take place on March 5th 2011. Sign ups for the event will be held at the Summit Lodge the morning of the event from 8:00am to 10:30am. The cost of the event is $15. You will need to purchase a separate lift ticket to participate. Each competitor will need to fill out a waiver form to compete. If you are under 18, you will need to have a guardian’s signature.
Practice for the event will take place from 11:00am to 11:45am. We will be having a competitors meeting at 11:45am at the finish line of the course. After the meeting you will be able to ask questions if needed. By 12:00 Noon, we will start the competition. There will be an awards ceremony following the competition in the Summit Lodge. There will be medals/prizes awarded to our top skiers.
Mogul Scoring and Judging: In this year’s mogul competition, we will be having 4 different age categories: 17 and under, 18 to 35, 36 to 49 and 50 and up. Men and women will be separated. Each competitor will have one run to impress the judges. The judges will be looking for good turns while staying in your line. This will consist of 50% of your score. The second thing they will be looking for is your aerial jump. This will be 25% of your score. There will be two aerial jumps in the course. And lastly, your time. Each competitor will be judged on how fast they ski the course from start to finish. Now remember all the categories come into effect so just because you finish with a fast time does not mean you will move on. There will be medals awarded to 1st,2nd and 3rd place competitors in each age group.
We will be choosing the top 8 women and the top 16 men to move on to our Dual Race. The dual race will consist of picking the top 8 highest scores for the women, and the top 16 highest scores for the men. In the dual races we will not be competing in any age categories, but we will be dual racing to find the best women and men bumper.
After every competitor is finished with their first run, we will then take a half hour intermission to calculate who the top 8 women and the top 16 men will be to move on to duals. Each competitor should meet at the finish line to see if they qualified for our dual event. We will then announce the names, and then you may proceed to the top of the course so we can start the duals.
The dual races will be judged by 5 judges. There will be two judges looking at turns/line. There will be one judge looking at your aerials. There will also be one judge watching to see who comes across the finish line first. And lastly there will be one overall judge. The winner will move on and the loser will be eliminated.
Rules for the competition: Each competitor must wear a helmet while competing. Remember this mogul competition is an amateur event, so there will be no inverted aerial jumps. You may perform single, double, triple, or even quad maneuvers when jumping. 360’s, 720, and corks are allowed. Competitors may NOT perform the same jump twice in a single run. Example: If on your first jump you do a daffy, the second jump may not be another daffy. It can be a double daffy, or a daffy spread eagle. Remember, you are being judged on your aerials, so be creative.
Disqualification: A skier will be disqualified if they: do not finish with at least one (1) ski. If they run into any part of the course netting. If you perform any inverted jumps. While dual racing you will be DQ if you leave your skiing line. All other rules apply. *If you false start in the dual event you will lose your points for speed*
Let me know if you put together a comp and we will be sure to be there!
Happy bumping to all, and to all a powder day.
What you see is what you get. All skiing, all the time. We will explore all the intracacies that make skiing so great. I will deconstruct everything from the decade old gear I rock, to the best Apres Ski Bars around, and even some non-ski jibber that will make you laugh on and off the hill.
No smoke, no mirrors, just true – in your face, what it really means to ski – content.
That’s my promise to you… so click in, and shred the gnar with me!