In April 1971, University of California Santa Cruz students Eric Reynolds and Dave Huntley were in Alaska on the Juneau Icefields on a school project in Glaciology. It was here on the glacier, amongst these students, that the idea of a Marmot club began.
To become a Marmot, you had to climb a glaciated peak with another Marmot. One of the rules of the club was that everyone was president. Most of the other rules dealt with the collegiate fascination with bodily functions.
That summer and through the semesters until 1973, Eric and Dave made prototypes of down products in their dorm room in Santa Cruz. Their first products were a down vest, a sweater and a parka and, later, three down sleeping bags. The warmest bag, the PIKA (now known as the Cwm) was rated at -45 degrees F and retailed for $168.
Eric did a winter ascent of the Grand Teton in Wyoming with Tom Boyce of Grand Junction, Colorado in 1973. Eric and Dave joined Tom in Colorado that next Spring. There, the threesome rented a 100 year old stone building near downtown that used to be a grocery store, and opened a rental and retail shop under the name of Marmot Mountain Works. They taught cross-country skiing in the winter to get by. Thus, in the spring of 1974, Marmot the company was born.
That fall, Tom was climbing in Peru. There he met famed adventure filmmaker Mike Hoover. A few weeks after his return, Tom received a call from Mike. Mike explained he was calling on behalf of 20th Century Fox, was filming something called The Eiger Sanction with Clint Eastwood, and needed 108 very puffy jackets. "No problem", said Tom, "we were working on that when you called." Well, they weren't, but they then did. Within a week, the Marmots had designed the Golden Mantle (very puffy jacket). Marmot was now in the movies. It also had its biggest order to date.
Eric met Joe Tanner of W.L. Gore & Assoc., Inc. in Elkton, Maryland in 1976. Eric was one of the first in the US to see a new concept in outdoor performance fabrication: Gore-Tex. He was intrigued and, within a couple weeks, had sewn prototype sleeping bags in the new Gore-Tex fabric for field testing. He and Dave proceeded to spend the next seven nights in a commercial frozen meat locker comparing bags with and without the Gore-Tex fabric. Then they tested the bags sleeping under fire sprinklers. They liked what they saw. They ordered another 100 yards of fabric and were in business selling Gore-Tex fabric bags.
The Marmot team immediately changed everything in the line to Gore-Tex fabrications, including the down garments and all the sleeping bags. Marmot designed the first Gore-Tex bivy sack. Marmot designed a Gore-Tex, single fabric layer, mountaineering tent: the Taku. Marmot is the oldest customer of Gore in the world outdoor market.
Marmot grew from 7 dealers in 1974 to 11 in 1977. Specialized, knowledgeable, trained retailers were always part of the original equation.