Staying safe, healthy and comfortably dressed from head to toe all ski season long.
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First Ascent and the Sun Valley Connection
Lexi DuPont—a local face and a gear tester for Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent. Courtesy Eddie Bauer First Ascent (Didier Gault)
First Ascent is all over the ski industry. The wares of the technical outdoor clothing company—an offshoot of Eddie Bauer—can be seen in skiing magazines, at competitions and on some of the world’s finest outdoor athletes. We chatted with Damien Huang, senior vice president of outerwear, active wear and gear at Eddie Bauer, about the company and its Sun Valley connection.
SVM: What is the inspiration behind First Ascent?
DH: While the First Ascent line is new, the concept behind it is not. Eddie Bauer was testing all his gear when he started in 1920. So when CEO Neil Fiske came on board his goal was to bring the company back to its rich outdoor and mountaineering roots. With Idahoan and Sun Valley local Peter Whittaker, they put together a plan for a line of authentic and practical expedition-quality outerwear and gear that would be designed and built by a group of elite mountain guides.
SVM: How important was it to get real athletes and guides involved?
DH: There would be no First Ascent without the guides and athletes. They are the ones that design and test the outerwear and gear all over the world. This helps us create a line that is both authentic and practical, whether you’re climbing Mt. Everest or just skiing on the weekend.
SVM: Your athletes and guides, like Peter Whittaker, Melissa Arnot, Ed Viesturs, Reggie and Zach Crist, Erik Leidecker, Wyatt Caldwell, Lexi DuPont and Lynsey Dyer, are all from Sun Valley. Is this a coincidence?
DH: American mountain and ski guiding has deep roots in Sun Valley. Averell Harriman recruited prodigal ski guides to help teach guests the skills required to climb and ski the surrounding mountains. These guides brought more than mountain savvy—they translated a romantic lifestyle that forever changed the way Americans thought of mountain culture. Sun Valley, undoubtedly, continues to be home to some incredible guides and athletes who are the best in their sport. Their experience makes them indispensable assets to the teams and the brand. It’s then no accident that so many First Ascent guides hail from Sun Valley—one of the first guide meccas. -Katie Matteson