Bryce Phillips is easily one of the most influential figures in the Northwest snow-riding scene. Founder of Seattle’s evo ski and snowboard shop and online retailer, he’s played a vital role in fostering a vibrant snow-sports community, cultivated largely through his entrepreneurial spirit, core company values and passionate staff. Read more
Posts from the ‘websites’ Category
How do you celebrate your 10th anniversary when you’re the premier ski and snowboard shop in Seattle and, thus, the anchor of the local snow-riding community in a city where worshiping winter is more a lifestyle than a sport?
You throw a party for the ages and honor your guests by ushering them into the center of that pulse. Via a red carpet.
I’ve long followed the gear review site FeedTheHabit.com for the honest opinions that Jason and his contributors put forth—on everything from mtb frames to running shorts to ski gloves. Based in Salt Lake, Jason’s got extensive knowledge of gear: the history of lines, the nuances between designs; what determines quality, what determines value. And for the most part, his reviews cut to the chase and ditch the PR. I appreciate that.
I’ve contributed a couple reviews now, most recently one on CamelBak’s The Capo (2011), a mid-sized all-mountain/freeride pack. Actually, Billy and I tag-teamed the review. He scored the pack, has ridden in it since early May, and gave me his critique; I scribbled out the write-up.
If you’re in the market for a new hydration hucker pack and want to get your money’s worth in excellent design features and quality, check out The Capo. It delivers. You can read our review here for all the deets.
In 1981, Ron Gregg, a mountaineer and doctor of physics, started a little company in Seattle called Outdoor Research. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Today, it’s an industry leader in technical outdoor gear—all of it “Designed by Adventure.” The story of its origins goes a bit something like this:
In 1980, Gregg was trekking up Denali when his friend suffered such horrible frostbite, due to poorly designed boot gaiters, that he was airlifted out and the expedition, called off. Frustrated, Gregg rattled his brain for a solution against such peril in future expeditions. The result was the revolutionizing X-Gaiter, an insulated gaiter designed to accommodate varying boot styles.
Over the years, the company has expanded its lines, producing everything from ski outerwear to summer hiking kits to dry-storage sacks and smartly crafted bivies. But in 2003, OR was struck by tragedy. While testing product in the B.C. backcountry, Gregg died in avalanche. His spirit lives on. Under Dan Nordstrom, an outdoor enthusiast himself who bought OR after Gregg’s death, the company trekked forward. This past Friday, OR celebrated its 30th birthday. And it’s apparent from the crew at its headquarters—who threw a block party and gave factory tours—that the ethos of the company remain—the products continued to be “Designed by Adventure.”
I’ve reviewed three pieces by OR (the Helium shell here; Swift Tee here; and Igneo ski jacket here). So I had to go down and check out the factory. The HQ are located on 1st ave just south of the stadium.
Our tour was led by OR’s Jeremy Park, hardgoods specialist and events manager, who began the talk in front of the employee climbing wall. Then it was up and through the seven floors which house the 210 employees who make OR turn.
I couldn’t take pictures inside the factory; I took notes. Here’s a summary:
Turns out, OR’s consumer products aren’t made here (they’re manufactured overseas). Instead, in this factory OR creates products for its military contracts: gloves, mitts, bivies, water bottle sleaves, hats. Park says such contracts help during a recession, when consumer buying wanes. (Interesting tidbit: all governmental products must be made in the U.S., with fabrics sourced also in the U.S. ) Seeing die cuts for gloves is interesting—think cookie cutters in the shape of hands and mitts.
The Seattle Sombrero above, a hallmark product of OR, is made with GoreTex and though it’s not made in this factory, the military products that OR makes with GoreTex, are. That’s unique, literally—this is only factory in North America licensed to make GoreTex products (outside of Gore). It’s kinda common knowledge that GoreTex is incredibly strict with their quality standards, making companies who use their waterproof membranes to go through rigorous testing by GoreTex, in fact. OR, therefore, has achieved a special level of approval with the notorious company. Even still, OR leases machines for their seam-sealed products from GoreTex. Finally, we cruised on up through marketing, customer service and product development. The company garners a lot of accolades for its operations overall, from product lines to customer service, so I needn’t gush. But if there’s proof of a proactive company it’s the gloves pictured above—the Endeavor Mitt (a shell glove). They’re an organic reaction to customer feedback. OR’s renowned Lab Rat program (see here) harvests consumer input which is pinged directly to product development, who then reacts either with tweaks to current products or innovative products altogether. Pretty cool, huh?
Check out OR’s website to explore the company more. There’s a lot to learn. What the site can’t do is vouch for their products. I can: The pieces are versatile, high-quality and technically trustworthy. That’s sayin’ a lot.
Not too many moons ago, Billy, Kris Wehage and I went for a pedal through the mountains near Bellingham. As I’ve mentioned before Wehage is a design engineer for FSA and a pretty smart fellow and all-around nice guy. He agreed to let me pick his brain about the process of designing a bike component from conception to retail product–I’m right-brained so anyone who wields numbers to their command, fascinates me. More interestingly is that Wehage isn’t just a quiet engineer sitting on a balance ball in front of two computer monitors at work. He also goes on insane riding missions–sometimes solo. He speaks several languages and he does effortless pop-a-wheelies while the rest of us are out of breath, pedaling hard, red in the face, heart about to explode, dying trying to get our steeds up that last little steep section before the trail head to drop in. Oh yeah, and without guys like him, you wouldn’t have bike components to put to the shred.
Check out Kris’ story and all his insight over at our interview at Pinkbike.com
http://www.nwbroweather.com: NW surf, snowboarding, and life
Washington may not boast the glamorous ski towns that other western states flaunt, nor the surf spots from the stories of lore, but that just gives the core community all the more reason to bond tightly and share the stoke. Chairlift chats or pub stops back from the coast can reveal stories about fellow riders ripping about this playground we share. And here, that can still mean industry folk, media, pros and bros. This season, I happened upon a lift with the creator of www.NWBroWeather.com. Drexnefex—as he goes by on his site—started NWBroWeather as a way to check all the relevant daily weather reports necessary to Washington shredders in one spot. But the site has become more than a gallery for weather cams and buoys. It’s a popular forum for the local snow/surf community to gather, rant, rave, talk smack and simply share the passion that binds us all, regardless of our physical locales in the NW. Here’s Drex’s story. Take a minute to stop and listen to a fellow’s tale.
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?
Seattle is homebase now. But I grew up in Everett.
What did you get into first? Surfing or snowboarding?
Skateboarding beget snowboarding. Snowboarding beget surfing. I was too poor to snowboard when I was younger. I used to take my old skate decks and staple-gun bike inner tubes to the top, slip my feet in and “snowboard” on the local hills when we got snow. One year, I got a Black Snow from Target. We didn’t get any snow that winter so we just rode the thing down big grassy hills when it rained. I didn’t start “real” shredding till I got to college and could use my student loan money to buy gear and get a job at Ski Acres for a seasons pass.
Where do you ride now?
I ride Snoqualmie Pass mostly, but get around a bit. I’ve been getting more hyped on Stevens Pass lately, but Alpental will always be the place I’d want to be on a mid-week pow day. Top-to-bottom, Upper International to Ropeline is my favorite run–no unstrappin’ and hikin’. Just charging, jumping, slashing and stoke. I’ve ridden quite a few places but Alpental definitely holds it down. It’s got some of the most gnarly steep terrain in the universe. There are jumps everywhere. When the pow is on, it’s like a powder park. There’s a ba-jillion lines—I keep finding new ones.
And surfing? When did you pick that up?
I always knew I’d surf. I went to Westport the first couple times with borrowed gear. I got my ass handed to me trying to paddle out but was completely hooked. I got my own gear shortly after. At first I remember paddling forever just trying to get outside, then finally making it, catching some junky wave in and being right back at paddling my ass off for an hour. It was a good two years of going almost every weekend before I was able to legitimately catch waves. Probably another two years before I was able to ride backhanded. Learning to surf in the Northwest is hard. The waves are fickle, the weather is shitty, the water is cold, it’s expensive at $3/gallon, and there are no girls on the beach.
What’s the surf scene in the NW ?
From the point of view of an avid weekend warrior, I think surfing in WA is still in its infancy. There’s a mix of core people, and then those who are still figuring it out. Those hold the majority. Even though I started surfing around 2001 or 2002 I’m still figuring it out—that’s one of the things that appeals to me. Surfing has blown up in Washington since then. When I started, summer weekends at Westport had a half-full parking lot. Now the lot fills up with cars parked down the road. As a result, the surf is full of beginners, which is a whole issue in itself. There’s a group of guys who’ve been surfing in Washington for a long time—locals. You will bump into them if you surf here.
Where have surfing and snowboarding taken you?
Surfing–I’ve been to Mexico a few times; Costa a few times; and Hawaii a few times. Snow—sheesh, all over, except Jackson. Gnarliest experience was definitely paddling out at Pipe, March 2008. Waves were 8-10 [feet] Hawaiian–double overhead. The reef is really shallow and the water is crystal clear. You can see plain as day below you. It’s scary as shit. I shouldn’t have paddled out. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get back in. A couple of my friends paddled out after I did. I felt better knowing at least a couple bros were going to die with me.
Glad you’re still with us. So tell us about NWBroWeather. How did the site come about? You built it yourself?
Built the thing myself. I have no formal experience with web-anything—all self-taught; any real web designer/developer could tell you that. Surfing and snowboarding are completely weather-dependent. Initially, I set out to create a website that had all the info I needed for weather forecasting/current conditions on one page: Snow forecast, winds, temps, swell direction, swell size, tides. I didn’t want a bunch of extra crap—just data. If you’re looking at the raw data from all the various sensors out there you can make your own conclusions.
You also write on your site. What are you scribing about?
We have so many amazing places around here: mountains and coast. I’m in constant awe of the things I see that I feel compelled to say something about it. Writing is another creative outlet for me. The challenge of putting together a clear, concise thought into a sentence is rewarding. I’m still practicing.
A lot of shit-talking goes down on NWBro. For real or for fun?
I know. I love it. Some is real, some is fake. All entertaining.
Do you have any plans for the future of the site? Anything you want it to become?
I’m planning on revamping the site—making the code more efficient and faster–something a web developer could puke out in five minutes but will take me weeks. I’m always tweaking something on the site.
You went to Central Washington University. What did you go to school for?
Maps! [And] Espanol.
You’re smart, then?
Eh, more of a smart ass. I like trivia night at bars though.
You started snowboarding in ’97. I was definitely still in California then. What was the scene like up here? How has it changed?
Let me just preload this answer with the fact that there were a lot of dudes riding way before me who’d probably give a completely different recount of shred back in ‘97. I caught the tail-end of the wide-stance, baggy-pants thing. People were still wearing Bat Wing mitts in the spring. A lot of Jamie Lynn Lib-Tech pro models; Soup Kitchen outerwear; Rodeo flips just came out; people were just starting to ride rails. There was a lot more hessian shreds back then, too: soul bros. Stank hippies posted up in Lot 3 at Alpental. That added some character for sure. Snowboard parks were non-existent around Washington, so snowboarding was still more of a freeride thing. We built jumps and wished we had a halfpipe.
Snowboarding is different in many ways from when I started. Probably the biggest thing is its mainstreamness. We’re not outcasts anymore. Aside from that, the gear is more expensive and brighter. A lot of kids wearing helmets. The park scene is huge. There are kids now who can annihilate rails and boxes but who can’t [free]ride for shit. But it comes down to fun, and I don’t think these goofy kids are having any less fun than I did when I was younger.
Krush [Kulesza] up at Snoqualmie has created a machine. He’s more or less singlehandedly put Snoqualmie Pass on the map. There’s a pre and post-Krush Washington snowboard scene. He’s been cultivating a core group of kids for a few years now. I’ve been lucky enough to watch a few come up and get some legit recognition. It’s really cool. The level kids are riding at these days is so far and above where kids were when I was younger.
During the winter you still surf. Which would get your love on day where both the mountains and the surf had the most epic conditions EVER, bro?
Surf. No question.
Goofy or regular?
I go both.
You have some issues with that?
Other people might.
Ever been caught in an avalanche or swam away from a fin?
I’ve never seen a shark up here in Washington but once at Ocean Shores I got the shit scared out of me by something really big in the water [http://nwbroweather.com/2009/08/sharks-in-ocean-shores-wa]. I got caught in a pretty bad avalanche one time and should have died. I’m still writing that one…look for that on NWBro.
In the scope of your life, what do surfing and snowboarding provide you?
They provide a lot for me. All of my good friends I have because of snowboarding and surfing. The relentless pursuit of perfection in both surf and snow provides a lifelong challenge and a goal. There’s something about watching the sunrise from a lineup, how powder sparkles after a fresh dump, or the shape of a barreling wave that is beautiful. Nature.
Who do you admire in life/surfing/snowboarding?
My friends. Progression. There’s nothing like seeing one of your friends come up–whether it be locking in a backside snap, shooting davey jones, dropping a 50-foot cliff over a waterfall [http://nwbroweather.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/img_3272.jpg], or something as simple as making it out to the lineup for the first time. It makes me feel warm inside.
Finally, from a veteran to the groms, words to the wise?
Be nice to everyone, work hard, do what you love and it’ll all come together in your 20s. Also, quit watching MTV—that shit’ll rot your brain.
The Summit-At-Snoqualimie revamped their website over the weekend. While it’s always hard at first to deal with new navigation on site that you visit every day (for the finicky Northwest snow report), I found this site easy to settle into. Not only is it more energized (read: hip), but it’s now a great resource for info on the resort. Each of the four mountains has its own tailored page. The weather report is much more thorough. For better or worse (probably the latter) Alpental’s still slightly arcane backcountry has its own Web page. And, probably what I like most, there’s a history page for the resort. I’m relatively new to this area, so I don’t know much about the history of the resort, which I usually find interesting, considering when the older resorts came to be and how they’ve grown.
Also, went moutain biking and snowboarding again this weekend. But more on my frigid escapades to come. It’s a busy day at the office.