History can be a wonderful thing. It carries with it the lessons of yesterday and the foundation for tomorrow. And no history is complete without a recounting and recognizing of the people and pioneers who helped forge the stories that fill those history books. Back in the early 1990s, outdoor industry veteran Larry Harrison decided it was time to ensure the stories of those pioneers who were integral in the establishment and growth of what we now know as the outdoor industry were not forgotten. So, he began to bestow an honor upon anyone who had been in the outdoor industry for 20 years or more and was willing to fill out a questionnaire ensuring the names and records were recorded for posterity. Each recipient of the honor received a pin, bearing the visage of the logo you see to the right. Wearers of this pin are members of a cadre of individuals proud to call themselves Woodchucks.
Why woodchuck? As Harrison recalls, the name came from the late 1970s and the ski show where the outdoor community was then little more than an annex. Ski show attendees would refer to the outdoor sect as "woodchucks." It was not a compliment, but the name stuck with Harrison and, appropriately, became the way to recognize history. The first Woodchuck board of directors included Dave Baker of the Summit Hut, Steve Barker of Eagle Creek, Tim Boyle of Columbia Sportswear, Kitty Bradley of Stonewear Designs, Bob Bryenton of Bryenton Enterprises, Fred DeBergh of Ramsey Outdoors, Wayne Gregory of Gregory Mountain Products, Larry Harrison now of Nuwa, Jim Thomsen now sailing captain, and Skip Yowell of JanSport.
There are now approximately 300 who have or continue to wear the pin proudly at outdoor industry functions -- trade shows, gatherings and more. However, both Harrison and SNEWS® president Michael Hodgson feel it is long past time to make the award something more significant and to realize the dream Harrison had when he first conceived of it -- to create a home for the stories and the legends and the history of this industry.
SNEWS started gathering this history with Bob Woodward's guidance (yes, he's a Woodchuck too and the co-founder of SNEWS) in our series of Outdoor Pioneers features that ran in the GearTrends® magazines until this year. Those stories will all soon find a place online as a collection, but Hodgson felt there was a need for more. Harrison recently bequeathed the Woodchuck files and awards to Hodgson for safe keeping, and he is honored by that. He plans to develop the Woodchuck community into a vibrant one full of stories and history, but needs your help.
The first step in pulling old and new Woodchucks out of the closet is underway, with an official Woodchuck's LinkedIn Group established by Harrison. In there, we hope to gather all the names and contact information of those who have and continue to make the outdoor industry so great.
If you already have a Woodchuck pin, welcome! We need you to enter the den and join your fellow Woodchucks -- click here.
If you are not yet recognized as an official Woodchuck and are willing to endure the initiation (no wood gnawing required!), we want to hear from you too. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll send an official Woodchuck application form your way. You fill that out, send it back, and a pin will be yours. We know -- painful initiation process!
Lastly, for the first five Woodchuck applicants responding to the email above who founded an outdoor industry company that is still in business, a limited-edition church key is coming your way -- perfect for popping the top off a cold one and toasting your fellow Chucks, assuming you still have the strength to lift the bottle. Talk about prestige!