We always love talking with fellow entrepreneurs, and this week's post comes from our good friend Jonathan Shambroom, serial-entrepreneur and COO at venture capital firm Launch Capital. When he's not working on building great companies, Jonathan is often found on the slopes of New England where he skied early and often. As he writes below, his father Rick, an early ski pioneer in the region, played a large role in his love for mountains. And Tuckerman has always had a special place in the family's adventures. We're delighted to share his story.
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By Jonathan Shambroom
I loved my father’s stories. And most of them were about skiing. My very favorites, the most special, sacred stories, were all about Tuckerman’s Ravine, in Pinkham Notch NH. What a great name for a company. But let me start at the beginning, and tell you about the guy pictured below on Tuckerman’s Ravine in 1949, and why that name is so special to me.
People can be lucky for many different reasons. I was lucky because of my parents. My dad will always be my hero, and skiing was woven into his very fiber, and thus woven into his stories, my childhood, and frankly the DNA of our family like finest quality fabric there could be – enduring, comfortable, a perfect fit, and full of favorite memories.
Skiing was the first language of our family. My father was passionate about skiing long before it was a mainstream sport. In the early 1940’s he sought out ski hills all over New England. During his undergraduate and graduate years at Dartmouth (’46) and Tuck (‘47), he was a regular on the Dartmouth Ski Way, a tiny local hill. In those days, skis were made of wood, they were long and straight, and your ski boots were simply leather hiking boots, attached to the skis with leather tongs that wrapped around your boots and were tied down. My dad told me that their equivalent of a safety binding – or a mechanism to allow your foot to release in a crash, was to take a razor blade and cut half way through the leather tong at one place so the strap would snap if it needed to.
Here’s a picture of my Dad on Tuckerman’s, wooden skis, excited about making turns:
By the late 40’s and early 50’s my dad had formed a wonderful group of friends that went up to Vermont every weekend to ski, and they were as close as family. He became a ski instructor, both PSIA and CSIA certified, and taught skiing at Mt. Snow, Haystack, Mt. Olympia where he ran his own ski school, and later Hunter Mountain, and then again at Mt. Snow. It was such a big part of his life, no wonder he had so many stories to tell.
Here's Dad on Tuckerman’s Headwall, in the early 1950’s:
My dad’s love of skiing was contagious. In fact, Skiing is how my parents met. My dad worked in advertising on Madison Avenue, and everyone knew he was a ski fanatic. My mom worked at Redbook Magazine in the art department, and had told her friends there that she really wanted to learn how to ski. The immediate and obvious answer they told her, was that she had to meet Rick Shambroom. The rest is history.
Every spring my dad and his ski friends would make their regular pilgrimage to Tuckerman’s, hike up the trail carrying skis and supplies on their back. They would camp at the cabins there, ski, and have all too much fun. My father’s face beamed with joy as he told me those stories over and over again.
Here he is with friends on a May 30 th in the early 50’s, with Lloyd Newman, Pablo Cohen, Al Epstein, with Tuckerman’s Headwall in the background.
My dad and his friends would bring a box of alphabet soup, uncooked, and use the letters to play word games by sticking them to the frosty windows inside, while a fire roared. His infectious laughter practically transported me to those rustic, innocent times.
Then, there was the lobster. The hike up the trail to the top is about a mile and a half If I remember it correctly. One weekend, as a gag, my father brought a live lobster with him hidden away in his back pack underneath his skis. He had lagged behind the whole group, so they could all be at the top, waiting and watching as he arrived. Right before the final turn still out of sight, my father took the lobster out of his pack, put it on a leash, and then proceeded to walk into view as if he’d had the lobster with him the whole way. That was a famous one.
But the primary joy of Tuckerman’s was the skiing. The “Headwall” and the “Left Gulley” were revered, larger than life. I marveled at my dad, my hero, regale tales of joy navigating the spring skiing on that hallowed bowl.
My father valued experiences over things, and he always wanted to share his joys with his family, his friends, and strangers alike. When I was in College, home for a spring break in 1987, my dad and I took our own trip to Tuckerman’s. It has a permanent place in my lifetime highlights reel.
Tuckerman’s strengthens friendships and breeds new ones. My Dad and I met and befriended a couple on the rocks at the base of the Wall, and shared lunch with them. One big ski community.
If the Tuckerman’s shirts possess even a fraction of the qualities that I associate with the name – adventure, fun, integrity, an occasion to deepen friendships, the good stuff in life – then everyone needs one!
I am so glad that my memories of Tuckerman’s can take on new life with these great shirts, and I know they would make my dad happy, from top to bottom: