Compass: Charting the Evolution of Outdoor Gear

Early Winters History

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Omnipotent 1151


Bill Nicolai nearly dies in North Cascades National Park (USA) when A frame tent collapses in a storm

spends a month designing a tunnel style alpine tent, which he begins selling at Seattle street markets for $165


Early Winters founded by Bill Nicolai (former Boeing computer programmer) and Ron Zimmerman

first product is the Omnipotent, an integrated double wall, mountaineering tunnel tent


first product brochure


shown a sample of prototype expanded Teflon Gore-Tex fabric, which REI, Eddie Bauer, and The North Face had rejected

sales of about $50-60,000 USD


release world’s first Gore-Tex outdoor product in the Light Dimension tent, co-designed by Bill Nicolai and William Edwards

sold 300+ Light Dimension tents "in a matter of weeks"

bought most of the 10,000 yards of Gore-Tex fabric that produced that year

US patent issued for the Omnipotent design

Ron Zimmerman developed Gore-Tex marketing tool of securing square of fabric to coffee cup of hot water

launch first catalog

annual sales shot up from $75,000 to $250,000 and beyond


World's first Gore-tex Parka and Anorak released, designed by William H. "Bill" Edwards


first colour catalog

introduce the three hoop, two door, Gore-Tex fabric tunnel tent, the Winterlight

introduce the Earth Station, a four person , Geodesic dome tent in Gore-Tex


introduce Omnipotent SL (Superlight) -  3 hoop tent, one pound lighter than original 4 hoop design

introduce one person Gore-Tex bivvy tent -- the Pocket Hotel

sales of $7.2 million USD


profiled and ranked 38th in Inc. Magazine's One Hundred Fastest Growing private companies in U.S.

profiled in Time magazine as a lead example of mail order catalog success

introduce Paradigm, a hybrid tent design - double walled body and single skin foot

sales have grown to $9 million USD

registered the 'old man blowing wind at cloud' logo as a trademark in the USA


Ron Zimmerman was named "America's best catalog copywriter" by the Direct Marketing Association

mails out 5 catalogs a year, with the smaller version going three times to a mailing list of over 1 million people

company has 160 employees

produce 10 year anniversary catalog with 34 page magazine section, not directly product related

ranked 96th in Inc. Magazine's Private 500 companies


sales grew to $16-20 million USD annually, with 200 staff


Early Winters sold to the Orvis Company


Orvis sell Early Winters to the White Group


then sold to the national catalog company, the Norm Thompson group


Norm Thompson group re-named the company, Sahalie - Chinook for "a high and lofty place"

Sahalie now