Summer Reading From the Desk of Alps & Meters Founder Lou Joseph
Like summer elsewhere, the period of June through August on the East Coast is shaped by sun, warmth, and relaxation. During my school days, the warmest months of the year were full of mandatory reading assigned by teachers and professors eager to prepare young minds for days in a classroom. As an adult and Founder of Alps & Meters, my habits during the summer months have not changed. Reading remains a positive outlet, although I’m now thankfully without a strict syllabus.
As a boy, during those summer months I would often drift away from some of the stale reading fare assigned to me, and daydream about skiing, travel, and other adventures. Now, able to pursue topics and works of keen interest, much of my reading has married with those boyhood thoughts of snow and the mountains to include a blend of my passions which make the books on my shelf, sources of inspiration, shear fun, and, dare I say learning.
This summer, in-between glances at Instagram pictures from the snow fields of Portillo, Las Lenas, Treble Cone, and other Southern Hemisphere destinations, I’ve placed four books in reading rotation with another three assigned to my “to-do-list.” As it was in my childhood, the books within my Alps & Meters Library will occupy the time from now until the coming winter, when the first flakes fall and I’m back on top of a snow filled mountain.
At Alps & Meters we believe in simple, timeless, alpine traditions. Thus, much of my “work-related” reading is driven by an interest and passion for skiing’s past; the people, places, memories, equipment, and garments that have helped shape the sport which has, in turn, shaped much of my life. POWDER Magazine’s 40th Anniversary Issue is a consistent re-read within my library. The content inside delivers a walk down memory lane through the eyes of current and former editors whose coverage and perspective on the sport and its many milestones relays the thoughtfulness and passion, which gave life to “POWDER” in 1972 when Jake and Dave Moe founded a publication by skiers, for skiers.
While reading and re-reading the 40th Anniversary issue remains wonderful experience, treating the magazine as a picture book reveals artful photography, an archival review of POWDER’s coverage of the sport over 44 years. In particular, the powerfully nostalgic cover shot of the 40th Anniversary issue conveys the classic values of fun and freedom, which “POWDER” has distributed since its inception. Overall, the simplicity and rips and tears of the photograph along with the skier himself (Jim Biebel) bounding joyfully down the mountain, denim jacket open, with headband and hair flowing, truly depicts the freedom of skiing.
If POWDER’s 40th Anniversary Issue is a pleasure read then the next books have might be considered work-related. They’ve helped to inspire our creative direction at Alps & Meters.
Vintage Menswear, by Josh Sims, Roy Luckett & Douglas Gunn, and A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing by Stan Cohen are two woks that provide a visual expression of menswear and winterwear that is tailored, technical, and timeless. Vintage Menswear is composed of 300 pages of thoughtfully and purposefully constructed sportswear, workwear, and military related garments, each with uniquely designed features that provide the pieces with a one-of-a-kind persona. The book is full of rich photography delving into the point of origin and functionality of each product. The pages are presented with thoughtful citations describing how and why elements of cut, style, and material were applied. The products featured remain just as exciting today as they were when they were first conceived.
As an influence on Alps & Meters’ Forged Performance product creation philosophy, A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing illustrates the evolution of skiing, its wardrobes, clubs and associations, lift service developments from the rope tow to the gondola, resort inception, and other key moments of alpine sport history depicted in a photographic anthology. From the skiing pioneers of Scandinavia to the impact of the United States 10th Mountain Division skiers and the resorts that they founded, A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing is an important reference and research guide helping to provide and educate Alps & Meters about the sport for which we are so deeply passionate. When coupled with Vintage Menswear, Cohen’s book consistently helps to inspire the future creative direction of the Alps & Meters brand by upholding the classic traditions and influences of the past.
If A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing is a Cliff’s Notes of sorts, then Roland Huntford’s Two Planks and A Passion represents the full written word of the advent of skiing as a method of hunting, gathering, method of survival, and its transition from a means of mountain mobility and exploration to its final destination as a recreational sport. Given to me by a long-time passionate skier and family friend, what has intrigued me about this particular book on my summer syllabus is the rich, fact-based penmanship of the work which delivers the realization that skiing is as old as man’s first forays into, up, and down hills, fields, and mountains filled with snow. Sliding across snow on wooden planks is transcendent, cross-cultural, and, while it has taken many different forms over thousands of years, is a timeless and unchanged endeavor that bounds alpinists together from one generation to the next.
At the beginning of Two Planks and A Passion skiing nomads searched for food. Skipping ahead to late 20th and early 21st centuries, skiers are now locked in the search for freedom and adventure. Author, photographer, writer, and Alps & Meters Alpinist, Robert Cocuzzo is just such an individual. Due from publishers on August 1st, Robert’s book Tracking the Wild Coomba is a wonderful account of the life and legacy of freeskiing legend Doug Coombs.
Drawn to Coombs’ character, integrity, and warmth of soul as much as his world renowned skiing ability, Cocuzzo follows Coombs’ unique story as a childhood skier at local town hill Nashoba Valley in Westford, Massachusetts to Doug’s inspiration and ignition of the freeskiing movement in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and in Europe where the open terrain and the endless expanse of the Alps makes the mountains as beautiful as they are dangerous. As Robert has expressed to me and other Alpinists associated with the Alps & Meters brand, those who only knew Coombs by name stood in awe at his worldwide acclaim, flawless technique, and his many first descents in areas previously thought unskieable. However, for those who were close to Doug, as expressed so eloquently within Robert’s forthcoming book, while Doug sought the ultimate freedom offered by Europe’s off-piste, out-of-bounds adventures, he is admired for those whom he touched throughout his life as a father, husband, heli-guide, mountaineering partner, and friend as well as his infectious passion and enthusiasm which helped those around him push past their own personal boundaries to achieve what they originally thought was impossible. This was Doug’s greatest gift; an optimism in others and the ability to help his fellow man enjoy the freedoms of skiing and life in ways once thought out of reach.
However, with Coombs present, all of those out of reach dreams were drawn all the closer through a gravity of personality that made those within his orbit better than they thought they could be. Tracking the Wild Coomba is available on August 1st, 2016, and is available for pre-order now.
Last on my list, and a book that I have recently picked up but cannot put down, is author and friend to Alps & Meters, Craig Wilson’s, insightful and intelligent work The Compass & the Nail. Craig, a former Patagonia category director and architect of the brand’s first e-commerce and user experience platform, presents an innovative view of how companies create and nurture loyalty. Less a business book than a sage distillation of wisdom regarding values based brand building, Craig shares learnings gathered during the early stages of Patagonia’s development, which have transformed the company into the one of world’s most beloved and purpose-driven organizations.
Presenting methods, models, and rich examples from the consumer products, services, and not-for-profit sectors, Craig unravels the mysteries of loyalty in a thoughtful and richly illustrated manner. Despite having officially founded Alps & Meters 2 years ago, as a new brand aiming to properly convey our belief in simple, timeless, alpine traditions, Craig’s book has proven a smart and thought-provoking guide that has helped me maintain a focus on what is most important about our brand and company; our love of tradition and deep passion for alpine sport. Building a brand with integrity, a sturdy core purpose, and staying true to our long-lasting values is a foundational concept of The Compass & the Nail. All founders, creative directors, and brand architects, will find this a pleasant and knowledge-packed read.