How It All Began
A Word From The Chief
After finishing school like so many of our employees now,
I decided to take the winter off, move to Tahoe and ski.
I rented a closet, literally, in a house on the west shore of
Lake Tahoe and set out to find work. I really wanted to
work at Squaw Valley. I would have taken any position
available, fortunately I landed a job with lift maintenance.
I have always been good with my hands and seem to be a
natural with mechanics.
I loved being on the mountain before sunrise freeing up
frozen cables, climbing lift towers in ski boots with driving
snow and bitter cold wind at my face. In the three years
I worked on the mountain I realized it would be very hard
to ever leave this place. Every tree, every granite cliff,
and every coyote in a sense became my own. Those early
mornings when it was just a handful of us on the mountain,
I was gifted with the best first tracks of my life. I had
been skiing since I was a kid, driving five hours from my
home on the coast but those first years at Squaw is when
I really learned to ski. My favorite place to ski was just
outside the ski area boundary, Granite Chief, the highest
peak in the valley.
With mounting pressure from my parents to get serious
and get a "real job" the message was setting in, I needed
to move on but not far from the mountain that I had come
to love. The last season at Squaw I had started tuning
and repairing skis for my friends and co-workers. Like I
said I'm good with my hands and my tuning skills attracted
quite a following. The idea came to me to open a state of
the art tuning center. It was a great plan, tune all night
and ski all day. Mind you this is not what my parents had
in mind but eventually I talked them into financing my
start up business with a $4000 loan. I named my new
business what else but Granite Chief.
My first location was in Tahoe City in a run down,
condemned motel room. The room was so small that I
had to open the door to pass a ski over the sander.
Remember those were the days of long boards, if you were
caught skiing anything shorter than 210cm well you skied
Northstar not Squaw Valley. Those years were great fun,
business was pretty good but I really wanted to be in
Squaw. Wayne Poulsen was one of my first and most
loyal customers. When the Squaw Valley Laundry Mat
closed up Wayne being the owner/landlord offered me
the space, without hesitation I was an official Squaw Valley
business. That was thirty years ago. In that time much
has changed and remarkably a lot has stayed the same.
My passion for skiing and love of the mountain remains
the driving force behind our business.
Granite Chief has been the first on many fronts setting a
new and higher standard in the ski industry. The Chief
was the first to purchase a factory quality stonegrinder
for commercial use. We developed many of the boot
fitting techniques used in ski shops today. With ski presses
used by factories to build skis, we are able to reconstruct
the most severely delaminated and damaged skis. To this
day we are the only shop to own skis presses. Events
like Race Night, Spring Demo Days, and The Ski Service
Card were all introduced by Granite Chief and copied
I can't help but brag about our many awards along with
community and industry recognition for excellence. This
was all made possible through the hard work of individuals
that have made The Chief their home. Granite Chief has
always been among the "Top Shops" in the country as
voted on by Ski Magazine readers. We were voted the #1
Far West Ski Shop, the only ski shop in Northern California
to receive such an honor and one of only three in the
entire state. Recently we were award the KT award for
best small business in Squaw Valley, that one meant a lot.
Our skills as a service center have been tested time and
time again by skiing's greats like Tamara McKinney, Shane
McConkey, Julia Mancuso, and Terry Sternberg, (a diehard
weekend warrior from Mill Valley).
When I met my wife Treas our union seemed to be a natural
in more ways than one. Treas had worked as a regional
manager with a large retail clothing chain. She has a
great feel and understanding of merchandising, buying
and customer service. Together with our staff we have
prided ourselves on our ability to present the best product
lineup and continued reputation as the friendliest shop in
the country. It is our goal to make everyone that walks
through our doors feel welcome and not like an outsider.
There are no outsiders in the ski world we are all skiers
that is the common bond.
Ten years ago we opened a beautiful store in Truckee.
Truckee is where our young ski families are turning out
tomorrow's stars and we are proud to be a part of that
community. Recently we moved our Squaw store to a new
location in the Intrawest Village at Squaw Valley bringing
The Chief even closer to the bottom of the ski area.
Leaving our old building was rough, fond memories of
staff; friends and the Poulsen family are tied to the many
years in that location.
The last thirty years Granite Chief has evolved from a one
man tuning shop to a full service core ski shop with the
help and loyalty of staff like Gunner Wolf, Darren Padgett,
Lynne McRae, Sorin, and Gary Bishop, Emily Turner,
John Darby, Mark Featherstone, Susan Clark and the
many that have moved on but left a lasting impression on
today's Granite Chief. We now demo skis, sell skis, fit
boots, and we have a full lineup of functional skiwear for
the serious skier. We have two beautiful stores and we
have just launched a new website and we will be selling
online in the very near future. What will the next thirty
years bring? More friends, memories and yes more skiing,
may the Snow Gods be willing.
Herb and his father ready to hit the slopes,
Hans Standteiner, the Austrian purist,
forever critiquing Alice and Treas.
One of our employees, John Darby, on the
cover of Ski Magazine, in 1989.
Mark Featherstone's Ski Magazine crash,
Willie Wiltz, former world cup ski tech,
preaching the fine art of tuning.