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 December 3, 1999

Crescent Moon snowshoe prototype came from old Volkswagen, tent poles

BOULDER — Crescent Moon literally blew the roof off the snowshoe industry this year.

Not only did Crescent Moon’s line of Permagrin snowshoes receive the coveted 1999 Sports Afield “Editor’s Choice Award,” but they swept up plenty of accolades at the Summer Outdoor Retail Show held in Salt Lake City by capturing the “Consumers Most Valuable Product” award from OutdoorReview.com.

To the average person hearing the kind of success showered on Crescent Moon at the outdoor retail show in Utah, one might think Crescent Moon’s President Jake Thamm was overcome with joy.

Well, think again.

“We lost everything,´ said Thamm of the booth he set up at the trade show. “I had built a 10-by-20-foot booth, and it was a very expensive presentation. In fact, I had one bolt left to attach when I went to the front of the booth to grab a wrench.”

The next thing Thamm recalls happening was hearing a freak rainstorm and the ventilation tube piping air into the pavilion trade show tent starting to make a shrieking noise. “Then five seconds later the tent top exploded, exposing this black sky filled with indescribable objects,” he said.

Before Thamm had a chance to dive for cover, he was struck in the back of the head and laid flat by unidentified debris that was part of what is now being hailed as one of the only documented tornadoes in Utah’s history.

“Needless to say, the (Summer Outdoor Retail) Show was not all it was cracked up to be. We were just grateful to be alive,” Thamm said of his family.

The Thamms are very much alive and living and working out of their east Boulder home, which is hard to miss with Permagrin snowshoes bordering their driveway. Above their garage, which has been renovated into Thamm’s office, rests a pair of 1950s wicker, old-school snowshoes. Thamm looked up at the old relics and grinned, saying, “Until about 1990, that was the typical snowshoe design.”

The story behind how the first Permagrin prototype was made is just as strange and fascinating as the Salt Lake City tornado. In 1994, Crescent Moon’s designer Bill Demarest followed his vision of the perfect snowshoe and began cutting up an abandoned Volkswagen in his backyard. Demarest used part of the Volkswagen’s back seat, its timing belt for straps, tent poles for the frames, hand-crafted claws out of aluminum and fastened the prototype all together with homemade rivets.

After turning a few of his Permagrin prototypes over to his Vail ski patrol and mountain rescue friends, word soon leaked out, and Colorado retailers began asking for his line of products.

To keep up with demand, Demarest had to hire his friends to help him manufacture a few hundred pairs, which were sold out before the 1996-1997 winter season.

In 1997, Crescent Moon, then known as a sports products manufacturing group, bought the assets of Permagrin. Within the first year of the new ownership, Crescent Moon grew 800 percent and landed retail accounts in a dozen states.

“We think we’re the fastest-growing snowshoe company in the world,” Thamm said. The Permagrin series of snowshoes, which range in price from $229 to $289, includes the “all-arounder” Permagrin 9 (three pounds and 8.5-by-27 inches); the “lightest for big packs” Permagrin 10 (three pounds and 9-by-32 inches); the “racer” Permagrin 12 (two pounds and 7.5-by-24 inches); and the “ladies or light individual” Permagrin 13 (35-ounce hypalon deck and 7.5-by-24 inches).

“The big snowshoe … we’re introducing this year, the one we’re calling Permagrin 11, will be for really big people who are well over 200 pounds, or spending a lot of time in deep powder,´ said Thamm.

All of the teardrop-shaped Permagrin snowshoes are made with tig welded aluminum frames and carry a lifetime warranty.

Although Thamm doesn’t divulge the company’s net profits, he says Crescent Moon sold several thousands of pairs of snowshoes and doubled sales last year. Crescent Moon’s success for the Permagrin legacy couldn’t have happened at a better time, since its two main competitors Atlas Snowshoe Co. and Tubbs Snowshoes merged last summer.

“We are in the next tier of manufacturers,” Thamm explained. “We have achieved whatever kind of success because we have designed our snowshoes so that they are engineered for the sport. It’s what we like to call a very Zen kind of sport.”

And, just like any sport, once an enthusiast gets hooked on snowshoeing they might be interested in knowing that Crescent Moon also markets waterproof Crescent Moon booties, T-shirts and embroidered baseball caps.

BOULDER — Crescent Moon literally blew the roof off the snowshoe industry this year.

Not only did Crescent Moon’s line of Permagrin snowshoes receive the coveted 1999 Sports Afield “Editor’s Choice Award,” but they swept up plenty of accolades at the Summer Outdoor Retail Show held in Salt Lake City by capturing the “Consumers Most Valuable Product” award from OutdoorReview.com.

To the average person hearing the kind of success showered on Crescent Moon at the outdoor retail show in Utah, one might think Crescent Moon’s President Jake Thamm was overcome with joy.

Well, think again.

“We lost everything,´ said Thamm of the booth…

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