If you're like me you don't go anywhere without a lip balm, one in the bag (sometimes two) and one in my snowboarding pants at all times. Life in the mountains can be hard on your smackers; the dry, cold air, double-kisses for everyone you meet in France (3 if you go to Switzerland), drinking Pelforth, red wine and Jaegermeister, eating crusty baguettes, it all takes it's toll...
If you're up the mountain a lot, or if you just like having well-cared-for lips, what would you do if you're not satisfied with the standard lip-balms on the market? Go and create your own of course!
That's what Matt Whale & his chemist friend did. They decided to bring a non-petrochemical and preservative free lip balm to the market, launching their new product right here in Meribel. Matt spared us a few minutes in between selling batches of serum to tell us what set him off on this new venture and what he gets up to when he's not saving us all from having chapped lips...
You've got quite a different business to most in Meribel, tell us a little bit about how it started out and where you're based?
After last season, I went back to Brighton to reconnect with an old uni friend that I used to live with. He was working with a chemist on various projects and wanted to create a new lip care product. I said that we needed something better for the mountains as I hated the petroleum based products available on the market. A month later I pitched a business plan to some investors and they loved it. We then set up in an office in Soho, London, to be close to the investors and get valuable advice from them. It’s been a crazy journey so far and I’ve loved every moment of it.
How long have you been in your current role and how long have you been with the company?
We met up in May and I pitched the plan to investors in June 2013, things have moved pretty quickly since then. A very busy summer indeed but it’s fun working on something you love and believe in. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you love what you do!
What makes Meribel a special place to be for someone in your profession?
Meribel is such a special place for anyone who gets the chance to experience this great resort, it really is one of the best places to ride in the Alps. With other resorts in close proximity it seemed like the perfect place to make our base for our launch season. Our brand is all about being fully part of the mountain culture and that culture is so strong here, so it’s perfect.
What are the best bits about your job?
One of the best parts of my job is meeting so many like-minded people. It’s a great place of the world to be in and promoting and selling our products to so many great people is just awesome. I am also really enjoying organizing our music events and rail jams and kicker comps. Doing something different and receiving such great feedback on the product from so many people is the most satisfying thing for me.
And the worst bits?
The worst part is hard to pick, I guess it’s just the stress of investing so much of yourself into something you really want to be successful, there is always more work ahead but I’m ready for it so it’s not that bad.
What is in store for the future with your business, any exciting projects in the pipelines that you can share with us?
We are launching a sister product for the Surf season this summer which is exciting. I think I’ll be back in Meribel next season though with more traveling to other resorts, then Austria, New Zealand and Japan, USA and Canada... The sky is the limit!
What are you personal and professional goals for the future?
My goal is to replace all petroleum based brands made for the mountain use. It’s amazing how long we have had to put up with products that are a byproduct of oil refinery. We deserve better and my goal is to provide something better.
What's your favourite piste or off-piste area & top tip to go skiing?
Ohhhh, great question! When conditions are good there are some great faces on Mount Valon. I probably wouldn’t recommend doing any hikes this season with the snow pack how it is. I’d say get in the DC park and the moon park, lots of boxes and kickers for all abilities. For a change though, the Val T park is out of this world.
Where would send someone who was after that something 'something special' in resort, to stay, eat or drink?
Well, you are really spoilt for choice here with so many great bars around. If I had to choose one place I’d have to be Jack’s Bar just by the Chaudanne. They have great drinks deals, lovely staff and they stock On The Lip, you’ll always be onto a winner in Jack’s :-)
Your favourite place for lunch or dinner?
If you’re down the mountain I’d go to Evolution, they serve great food at a fair price and they’ve always got a great plat de jour too. If you’re on the mountain I’d get to Mottaret and get a mountain burger, so good, to experience it is the only way you’ll understand.
Where will we find the best coffee or hot chocolate?
For either I’d go to Rond Point. It's a delicious treat on a cold day.
What has been your best ever day in Meribel?
Wow that is hard to say. Last season we were blessed with so many powder days it’s hard to choose one! There is a sneaky little tree run off to the right after Tougnet 1. That was pretty special at times last season. Not to say I haven’t had lots of fun this season though, riding with lots of different crews this year has been great. I love seeing all the different styles people have and riding with them, lots of fun! There was an après at Rond Point with the Dominos recently that has to be up there too! It’s impossible to pick when Meribel has the potential to provide you the time of your life every day..
Do you remember your first trip to this resort?
I came with a school friend and his family when I was 13, I don’t remember much but I do remember that I wanted to come back!
What's your favourite thing to do in resort when not skiing or snowboarding?
When not on the mountain or working, it’s difficult not enjoy the buzzing nightlife of Meribel. We have been promotion our events by putting on music events over the season, so-branding Mountain Movers nights on Thursday at O’Sullivan, bringing in some truly amazing DJ’s and bands from around the world
What do you do in the summer?
In summer I am going to be working, launching our sister product "On The Lip Surf" in Hossagor, France. It's got a different formula created to help to protect against the salt and the sun. Then also getting ready to make the 2014/15 season the biggest ever for everyone and for us.
Which is your favourite shop in resort?
If you’re a skier I’d say Bootlab is by far the best. Those guys have a scientific knowledge of ski boots and you are guaranteed to get a great fit for a boot that suits you. If you’re snowboarder, both Avalon or Oxygene are great.
Where are we most likely to find you for après-ski?
Skiing or snowboarding? What's your preference & why?
I really enjoy both but I think snowboarding is the love of my life now! I think I just love being in the powder and park with a board under me, just right for me I think, I do appreciate the beauty in both though..
Thanks Matt. You're obviously really passionate about what you do both in & out of work!
On The Lip has recently been launched in a number of places in resort, and you can also buy the products on line from their shop.
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