Tahoelab is a grassroots snowboard company right here in South Lake Tahoe. The owners and operators are the two outstanding gentlemen - Abe and Lee. Both also happen to be "aficionados of KirkwoodMtn". These guys were nice enough to invite Coop and I down to thier shop and show us the operation. We were both super impressed, not just by their knowledge, but the product they are producing.
They answered a couple of questions for us as we shot photos. Here is what they had to say:
Where are you originally from?
Lee: I grew up in McHenry, MD which is in western Maryland. I grew up next to a little ski area called the Wisp and beside Deep Creek Lake, the largest lake in Maryland.
Abe: I grew up on the east side of Lake Tahoe. The sun never stops shining on that side of the Lake. I grew up skiing Heavenly but at a young age I knew I wanted to be a snowboarder. I started snowboarding at age 7 after skiing for three or 4 years.
Where did you go to school?
Lee: I went to high school in Maryland at Northern Garrett High School and went to college at Yale University
Abe: I went to high school at George Whittell High and went to college in Salt Lake City
How did you end up in Tahoe and how long have you been here?
Lee: I moved to Tahoe in 2000 with some friends from college and have been here ever since. I grew up skiing and snowboarding on the East Coast and moved to Tahoe to live and ride in some real mountains.
Abe: I had and still have the blessing of growing up and living in Tahoe. I grew up skiing Heavenly but at a young age I knew I wanted to be a snowboarder. I started snowboarding at age 7 after skiing for three or 4 years. I competed in the local USASA series all the way through grade school even winning a few national titles in my respected divisions throughout high school. I went to Westminster College on a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team scholarship and competed in events all around the world. Boardercross and Halfpipe were the events that suited me best. In the later years I began splitboarding and that is where I have found my real passion - Climbing Peaks and riding big lines! In turn that is what Tahoelab is all about.
Why did you start building snowboards? Why now?
We started building snowboards because we weren't satisfied with the current options available on the market. I am a big guy with big feet and there aren't very many options for me to ride, especially in a shape I like. Abe is a little guy and rides a real stiff short responsive board so he has similar problems. When I started splitboarding a few years ago the options got even smaller so I wanted to make a shape I liked in a size I liked, in both solid and splitboard configurations. I also tend to break my boards after 50-60 days riding and I wanted to make something that was more durable. I feel that right now is a good time to start making boards because the industry is controlled by a handful of large companies that try to pigeonhole all riders into either being a rail-sliding park rat or a mellow soul surfer that only wants to make turns in an open powder field. The current companies aren't interested in experimenting with their shapes or sizing so I decided to just make my own. With more people interested in buying locally produced products we saw a opportunity for the consumer to be able to know the people making their boards, and even come by the shop where they are being produced and give input into the process.
What are your goals for Tahoelab?
Our goal for Tahoelab is to create light, durable snowboards here in the Tahoe Basin that ride great. We want to be able to experiment with board shapes and layups, new splitboard hardware and continue to make boards that we want to ride.
Abe Cliff Droppin' @KirkwoodMtn
Where do you see yourselves (the company) in the next couple years? (Small/core? Growing into big markets? Changing the industry?)
We see Tahoelab continuing to grow but we're not looking to overleverage ourselves to the point where we aren't enjoying designing and making boards. If we start making too many boards we won't be able to control every aspect of production and we don't want the quality to suffer in the name of expansion. We want to make boards, not run a marketing company. One goal would be to start collaborating with some local artists to start doing some graphics for our boards. We would also like to come up with better hardware for splitboards that will improve the ride characteristics and incorporate more advanced materials into the boards.
How did you come to collaborate on Tahoelab?
Abe and I hatched the Tahoelab idea when we were splitboarding last year and both complaining about the poor shape and quality of the boards we were forced to ride due to lack of choices on the market. We decided that we could setup a shop to make exactly what we wanted to ride.
What differentiates The Lab from other companies?
Tahoelab is different from other snowboard companies in that we're both very passionate about snowboarding and splitboarding and are making boards for our style of riding, which is a little bit of everything but mainly going fast and making powerful turns in less-than-ideal conditions. We want to produce a board that will excel in all types of terrain, from a groomed resort run to an icy couloir in the backcountry. Both Lee and I have extensive training tuning skis and snowboards. The two of us come from race backgrounds. The finished product and overall look are so important to us. All of our boards and stone ground and hand tuned and waxed before they are available. Our goal is to sell the best product on the market.
Do either of you believe in Big Foot?
Bigfoot is my uncle