George Lamb: Alp Sport and Camp 7
As the Holubars were winding down ownership of their business, another member of the group of Boulder outdoor pioneers of the ‘50s and ‘60s, designer and sewing ace George Lamb, was ramping up yet another new outdoor gear and apparel venture.
Lamb’s interest in design and manufacturing dated back to childhood when he made a pair of holsters for his new cap pistols. In the process of turning out his first product, he ruined his mother’s sewing machine but gained valuable experience.
From shooting cap pistols, Lamb progressed to dreaming about climbing, but there weren’t many climbing opportunities for a kid living in Indiana. That changed when his parents died and he went to live with an uncle in Oklahoma and attended summer school at the University of Colorado.
Eventually, he enrolled at the University in 1951. “After three or four years of rock climbing in Colorado. “ he noted in an interview 15 years ago, “I got more interested in mountaineering. There wasn’t any good gear available unless you waited months to get it from overseas, so I started building my own. That’s how the first Eiger pack came into being.”
Upon graduating from the university, he joined the Army’s Mountain Training Command (MTC), which replaced the 10th Mountain Division after the war. “1 skied, climbed, instructed.... It was terrific,’’ he told us.
Terrific, but the fun was cut short by a skiing accident that saw him reassigned first to run the craft shop at Fort Carson, Colorado, and then to the bigger MTC craft shop at Camp Hale, Colorado. At Camp Hale, Lamb used the large craft shop industrial sewing machine to make packs for the Holubars.
Discharged from the Army, he supervised the sewing line at Gerry, but soon became discontent and went back to school on the Gl Bill. In his spare time, he started Alp Sport.
“Alp Sport started in 1960, and when I graduated in 1964, I faced the choice of finding a job or making Alp Sport grow. So I gave myself $75 a week and opened an Alp Sport shop,” he said.
Alp Sport’s unique products, like the Normal parka, the first down-filled ski parka with no stitches in the smooth outer shell, were immediate successes.
The Normal parka’s success got the attention of Massachusetts-based Alps Sportswear, who asked Lamb to change his company name. He did. Alpine Designs became his apparel label, and Alp Sport remained as his hardgoods label.
After selling his company in 1969 to General Recreation, Lamb stayed on as a consultant but eventually left to form yet another company, Camp 7, in July 1971.
Camp 7 had a meteoric rise, netting $4 million in sales in its first year in business. Over half of the sales were to the Japanese market, but when that market suddenly dried up, it left Lamb in debt and forced him to close the company down.
Looking back at that time, Lamb noted in 1991 that he still saw a lot of people wearing Alp Sport and Camp 7 down jackets. “We produced great products designed to last a lifetime.”
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