By Renee Huang
A hot idea born on a frigid ice field in Alaska more than 40 years ago has grown into a company with offices in half a dozen countries and a reputation as the global leader in the outdoor adventure market. Not bad for University of California Santa Cruz students Eric Reynolds and Dave Huntley, who sewed their first prototypes—a down vest, a sweater, a parka and three sleeping bags—in their college dorm room.
They joined forces with adventurer Tom Boyce in 1974, operating a rental and retail shop in a dilapidated old grocery store under the name Marmot Mountain Works, and teaching back country skiing.
A fated break with adventure filmmaker Mike Hoover and 20th Century Fox thrust the trio onto the main stage as veritable outdoor gear hounds when they were commissioned to produce 108 “very puffy jackets” for a Clint Eastwood project.
Then in 1976, another lucky connection led to the company becoming one of the first in the United States to learn about an innovative, new fabric that would change the face of outdoor performance textiles globally. It was called Gore-Tex. Eric and Dave sewed prototype sleeping bags and tested them in the field, spending seven nights in a commercial frozen meat locker and then sleeping under a sprinkler to compare their new Gore-Tex bags against regular bags. The results prompted them to change their entire Marmot line to Gore-Tex fabrications, down fabrics, sleeping bags, tents and all—to this day Marmot is still the oldest customer of Gore in the outdoor market. Along the way it has garnered a quiet respect by people in the industry as a trusted company built by legitimate adventurers for adventurers.
Today, Marmot boasts seven locations in the United States—among them San Francisco, Vail, Aspen, Greenwich, and Park City (the first concept store). Its products are distributed in more than 50 countries worldwide.