>> If you haven’t seen it yet, click on the following link (http://slate.msn.com/id/2085417/) to read a less than flattering piece reviewing Gore-Tex performance published online in Slate magazine on MSN. The piece starts off with, “I’ve seen people swear by Gore-Tex like it’s some kind of rainwear miracle. Yes, I know, in its day it was a fabric revolution. Waterproof and breathable, ooooooh. Never been done before, blah blah blah. Please. That was 1976, people. You’re still going all googly-eyed over expanded Teflon laminate membranes? Well, that’s sad! Plenty of new waterproof/breathable options are out on the shelves these days.” SNEWS View: While the writer does have a point about other options, and no matter what your personal opinion is about Gore-Tex or the company, it becomes evident very quickly that he went into this test with an agenda and that he’s an untrained gear tester who is writing for a high-circulation, non-vertical publication, who got hold of high-end gear and panned it for failing tests that border on the ludicrous. Standing in a bathroom shower is no way to test waterproof outerwear, unless you’re testing gear designed for sailing or, taking showers in. One SNEWS reader told us that this is similar to a piece in the WSJ not so long ago from yet another clueless journalist who panned CamelBak reservoirs because they were not suitable for holding boiling water.
>> And, in related “unflattering news” stories, REI recently got a dose of aggressive journalism the juggernaut retailer is not used to, from a hometown paper, the Seattle Weekly. The cover story in its June 18 issue is titled, “Who Owns REI?” with a subtitle that pretty much sums up the tone of the story, “It can’t be the members. They aren’t even privy to what the co-op’s executive team earns.” Click here to read the story. SNEWS View: The SNEWS team received several dozen email forwards pointing out this story, some from key vendors of REI which surprised us, and others from obvious competitors. While the story is not flattering, it is clear the writer did his homework, and for the first time we can remember, we can actually hear a little spit and sense a tad of frustration in CEO Dennis Madsen’s normally outwardly calm demeanor — which is exactly what the writer wanted. The bottom line is that the writer, Andy Ryan, attempts to equate a co-op with a moral imperative. Frankly, there are no regulations governing co-ops that state they must open their books completely to members. REI has become a very successful retail corporation. It is a co-op because it gives profits back to the membership. But in all other ways, it really does operate simply as a private corporate entity, with hard-to-pry-open books, secretive, competitive ways and, strong community philanthropy through volunteerism, donations, and in-kind support. Despite the aggresive angle, the article is a very well researched and interesting read. Lesson here is that when you are rising, you’re going to garner a lot more attention from folks who’d like to see you sweat and stumble a bit more. Get used to it.
>> Several retailers faxed the SNEWS team copies of a very special deal by the Watermark (Perception, Dagger and Islander) group. Seems it’s offering 20 percent off standard dealer pricing with a minimum order of six boats from the 2003 line with, get this, July 1, 2004, dating and no limit on the volume. This deal is limited to Watermark authorized dealers, so if you’re thinking of nabbing a few boats after reading this, sorry. SNEWS View: Wow! Our insiders have checked, and this deal is not a result of an overstock position it seems. And, since Watermark is telling dealers that 2003 models may come with some 2004 features and cosmetics as the company transitions into its new line production, that would indicate Watermark is making the boats to order. It’s aggressive, to be sure. The only question that remains is to see how Confluence or Johnson will, or will not react.
>> The highly regarded Afro-Cuban group, The Motet, will headline the Sept. 5 “Avalanche Jam” fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). The second annual Avalanche Jam will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, outside the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colo. In addition to The Motet, it will include a wild Alaskan salmon dinner, beer from New Belgium Brewery, an outdoor industry demo village and door prizes. Donors to the silent auction include Back Country Access, Lowe Alpine, Cloudveil, Marmot, Patagonia, Atomic, Burton, Tua, Suunto and K2 Snowboarding. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate. Last year’s first annual Avalanche Jam netted $10,000 for the CAIC, which provides avalanche education and forecasting for Colorado backcountry users.
>> Mountainsmith has signed on as the official pack and luggage supplier for Trek-Volkswagen Racing. Mountainsmith will outfit the high-visibility cycling team with fanny, lumbar and daypacks, as well as luggage. The team is made of world class competitors including two-time and reigning World Champion Roland Green, current UCI (International Cycle Union) number two and three-time World Champion Alison Sydor, 2001 STXC National Champion Sue Haywood, and 1999 XC National Champion and two-time and reigning World Single Speed Champion Travis Brown. Mountainsmith expects that the team’s travels to national and international events will give the company increased exposure around the globe.
>> Watermark’s Tijuana, Mexico, factory has been awarded ISO 14001 certification, with recognition of good environmental manufacturing practices for all materials and processes that meet the international standards of the ISO 14001 certification.
>> Omega Pacific has named Paul Dukich and Blaine Miller as the company’s new sales reps in the northwest region of the United States. Dukich and Miller are based in western Washington state and is the final rep group to be hired by Omega Pacific as the company overhauls its distribution program. Dukich and Miller can be reached at 425-831-5085 or 206-784-1447. The two also rep La Sportiva, Sterling Ropes, G3, Cloudveil and PUR/Katadyn.
>> Trail Runner magazine has added to its editorial staff by hiring long-time trail runner and writer Garett Graubins as its new associate editor. Graubins, a columnist for Ultrarunning magazine , will head up Trail Runner’s news, technique and equipment sections.
>> Atomic Snowboarding has hired industry veteran and Australian-native, Lance Meller. Meller’s primary duties will be to support Atomic’s growing dealer network, attend key dealer events with regional sales reps, facilitate major sales and assist with the overlapping shows during the sell-in period. The majority of Meller’s efforts will focus on the Northwest, Intermountain, Rockies and Mid-Atlantic regions. In addition to dealer sales support, Meller will also help guide Atomic’s snowboard equipment programs to ensure that the products meet the needs of the dealer.
>> Fischer is adding to its team. Peter Kennedy and assistant Brian Schiller will represent Fischer Alpine and Cross-Country in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Brian Sturgis has been appointed the Western Race/Competition rep. Sturgis was the head of J3 and assistant program director at Snowbird Ski Educational Foundation and brings 20 years racing and coaching experience to the position. Chris Hirsch joins the home office as credit manager, effective July 28. This new in-house credit manager position will help service Fischer dealers more efficiently. Other hires include Robbie Holland, former Race Coach at Pat’s Peak, who joins Fischer customer service staff, and Tim Witman, recent graduate of St. Lawrence University and captain of the SLU ski team, who will serve as Eastern Tech rep supporting the New England and Mid-Atlantic states.