Today is our twenty-first birthday here at PEMBA. We’re now officially old enough to drink.
Think on that.
It’s been a long time since I stared at the ceiling of our base camp tent in Alaska as the snow buried it from outside, sketching out the idea that would become PEMBAserves. Those years, I spent four to six weeks every summer climbing, and for several consecutive summers we went to Alaska to go up anything and everything that was in condition. It was a good life.
In those days, I worked part-time at Erehwon in Chicago and Madison, and supplemented that income as a free-lancer for Outside Magazine, Climbing, Rock&Ice, and a number of other publications. For Erehwon, I ran their newsletter and their marketing out-reach projects. I originally thought that PEMBA would do this same thing for different stores across the country, but then the phone rang. Continue reading →
Skiing in support of the Big City Mountaineers, aprés Outdoor Retailer.
This OR Winter Market was my fortieth Outdoor Industry tradeshow. I began going to the shows in the summer of 1991 (that year it was in Reno), and I’ve been at almost every one since. I missed one after having a serious bike wreck on the day before I was supposed to leave for the show.
So this was number “40,” for me, or “quarante” as they say in French. That’s a nice round number that makes me think. Continue reading →
This past weekend I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. My wife and I packed up a big load of camping gear, grabbed the kids, and headed out to a nearby park to do some car-camping with some friends.
Only, we left the car at home. Yep, we went car-camping without the car.
Do me a favor: Look at this picture and strip out all that you know about who’s in it. Just for one second, look for WHAT is in the picture, and not WHO.
As a random individual, THIS is the face of the Outdoor Industry: He’s 45, male, makes a certain amount, has three kids, is married.
He’s our customer, he runs our companies, works in our retail stores. We see him at the crags, on the bike and running trails, on the slopes, and in the backcountry. He’s at the beach, in the mountains, and everywhere in between. As a slice of who and what we are, THIS is that guy.
What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you: This guy is too damn old to be the Average Active American.
I imagine that most of you have heard at least something about what’s been going on here in Wisconsin. I’ll spare you the details and the commentary. It’s a highly charged political situation, and we’re (trying hard to be) not about politics, here. If you’re interested in what’s really going on, friend me on Facebook for updates in real time. My posts have my own bias of course, but the national news isn’t covering what’s really happening.
I’ll just leave it at that.
Why I’m writing today: There’s something important happening here for us in #OIBIZ, too. We need to be very aware of how our industry can be caught up in similar challenges, very quickly. The situation here in Wisconsin could be repeated, and – I’m guessing – likely will be.
Shortly after I arrived in Salt Lake for the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last week, a friend of mine – Devaki Murch – handed me a magazine and said: “Read this.” For those of you who know Devaki – who has on more than one occasion been described as a “force of nature” – there’s really no other answer to this than,”Okay, I will.”
I mean, the alternative is just too frightening.
So I dutifully put the thick journal – the Stanford Social Innovation Review, of all things – in my bag and filed it away for later. As I put it in my bag, I noticed the title: “The Dragonfly Effect.” It was to be a busy week, and I wanted to give this article my full attention. I finally read it last night.
But more on that in a minute. Let’s talk about the #ORshow (as it’s hash-tagged on Twitter.) Many of you weren’t there, so let’s recap: Continue reading →
We’re starting out Monday morning here in Madison with an apology – and a shout-out – to our colleagues and friends out at the Ouray Ice Park.
First the shout-out: We heard great things about the 16th Annual Ouray Ice Fest. You folks work your butt off to pull off this massive event, and it’s appreciated by those who attend, and vicariously by those who don’t. Thank you, so much.
Now, the apology: We went off half-cocked late last week upset about something that we misunderstood about the Ouray Ice Fest Competition. We owe Bill Whitt and the rest of the crew in Ouray a sincere apology for not getting the facts before we dove in with both feet. We’re really sorry that we added stress, drama, and intrigue on the eve of an event that’s already stressful, drama-filled, and intriguing (in all the best ways – but that’s still challenging.) Y’all didn’t need that and we hope you’ll forgive us.
Well, that’s all right. Today is a holiday, tomorrow is Sunday, so you got a couple of days.
Today – on New Year’s Day – there are only two questions you need to answer:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Wait, wait, wait: There’s no need for an existential crisis, so put down the phone; your spiritual advisor will still be there on Monday.
We’re here today to talk about business. Specifically, business in the outdoor industry – #OIBIZ, for short – but some of what we’re going to talk about will probably have general application, also. And – come to think of it – you may want to book time with your spiritual advisor on Monday. We’re gonna go deep.
We took the family to see Madison’s production of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the musical adaptation of Frank Capra’s film of the same name. You know the one, that one with Jimmy Stewart. It’s probably on a TV channel near you, right now. Or was, at least until last Saturday.
George Bailey, the main character, is a man who has many things of value but has lost sight of this for the moment. With some divine intervention, he is shown what the world would be like without him, and it’s not a pretty picture. So with this insight George finds his value in all that he’s contributed to the world around him. Seeing this story again got me thinking: What would my world be – for me – if others weren’t here? I can tell you, it wouldn’t be a pretty picture.
I was in a cruddy mood yesterday, until I got on my bike.
It was snowing here in Madison, and while I was out running errands I was reminded of the simple joys of being outside. Normally, by this time of the season I’ve been out each day taking the kids to and from daycare, at least. But the youngest is in kindergarten, and that means he rides the bus along with his older sister. And their oldest sister can’t commute by bike from our house. (Or bus, for that matter, but that’s another story.)
And I’ve been traveling, a LOT. So today was my first time outside on the bike in the thick of winter weather. Here’s what I remembered:
Snow on my face makes me feel alive.
The sound of studded tires in the snow makes me smile.
No matter how cold it gets, it’s never all that cold.
Simple challenges – like staying upright on a moving bicycle in fresh snow and old ice – are engaging, and they bring focus by pushing all else out of the mind.
Winter cycling really is a better way to get around; just ask all the cars I left behind.
I stopped in a median to take a picture of the two-mile long traffic jam I rode beside. I was home a lot quicker than any of those poor suckers stuck in their cars.
And that made me feel better, too.
(Oh yeah, I’m not above feeling a little smug from time to time…)