by Aaron Ambuske July 01, 2020 5 min read

We're always looking for people who inspire us in different ways. Cassie has been an integral part of the launch of HEST through her role as PR maven. PR isn't her only claim to fame, however. She also successfully launched and continues to grow her own women's mountain apparel brand, Wild Rye, which was born out of a chasm she recognized in the industry. Innovative, hardworking, and all around awesome... Cassie is a modern day renaissance lady.

Where did you grow up? What were some formative experiences from your youth that have guided your career path/life as an adult?

I grew up on Vashon Island, WA but my parents relocated us to Sun Valley ID for my 3rd grade year. Ever since, Sun Valley has been where I wanted to end up. I lived in SV summers in college and did the typical college thing - worked at a bar, enjoyed the mountains and did too much socializing. At graduation from Colorado College I tried to convince my parents I should move back, wait tables and become a ski bum. They weren’t so sure about that idea so they cut me a deal: I was to get one year of “real” work experience to put on my resume in a city environment and then they’d fully support my move back to SV. They didn’t want me pigeonholed into waiting tables the rest of my life if I woke up one day and decided I was “over” being a ski bum. They knew better than me that once I landed back in SV I’d never leave. They were right. It took me closer to 8 years to get back here, but I was so glad to have career experience under my belt because when I did get back, it was for a “real” job as the Global Communications Manager at Smith Optics. Beyond that, my mom took me out of school in elementary school on Mondays for PE days to go skiing. My dad had me on bikes as soon as I could walk. I played every team sport out there including playing lacrosse through college. My life was outside and oriented towards community and teamwork. In all honesty, I didn’t actually realize I was “outdoorsy” until I started prioritizing trips to the mountains over social events during my city years.

What is your background with Mountain Biking, how did you get into the sport and what is it that you love about it? 

My dad is a cyclist. He had me on bikes so early. That said, I wouldn’t say I was smitten until close to age 30. I dabbled in riding bikes here and there but it wasn’t until I moved back to the mountains after years in San Francisco that I really found a love for mountain biking - though it wasn’t without my fair share of stitches. What do I love about mountain biking? That’s a tough one. So much! I love that it’s a way to get deep into the backcountry during the summer months. I love that it can be a very social activity. I love that there’s a mix of endurance exercise and an adrenaline rush. I love that it challenges me every damn day. And to make it extra special, Mike and I got engaged while MTB in Moab, somewhere in the middle of Captain Ahab!

How did you get into PR and what was the drive behind starting White Cloud?

Out of college I tried just about everything before landing in outdoor/active lifestyle PR and Marketing. I dabbled in investment banking, event production, I coached Division 1 lacrosse at UC Berkeley, I worked for a major marketing firm on the Visa Signature fine wine & food account, I did resort marketing for Grand Targhee in Wyoming. It was when I landed at Smith and made the move back to Sun Valley that I really dove into the Outdoor Industry PR & Marketing world. The special thing about PR is that it’s all about relationships. I love sharing experiences and getting to know new people, especially when outside on an adventure. At least that’s the glamorous side of outdoor industry PR :)

White Cloud was born when Smith relocated it’s HQ from Sun Valley to Portland, Or. I struggle with the decision to move with my dream job back to a city or remain in the mountains and take a risk to give it a go alone while staying in the town I love. I deliberated over this decision for months and it came down to the wire. Ultimately, I just couldn’t give up the mountains and I couldn’t be happier I stayed put in Sun Valley to forge my own career path! 

What was your inspiration behind starting Wild Rye?

My co-founder, Katy, and I were old acquaintances from my Bay Area and Tahoe Skiing days. When I launched White Cloud an industry friend reconnected us and thought “we might have something in common.” We did! Katy and I had both been in the outdoor/ski/cycling industries for numerous years and attended just about every industry event out there. We were equally frustrated that there weren’t technical apparel options that spoke to us aesthetically. As of 2015 (when we reconnected) there were very few brands making technical apparel actually designed for women. Most pieces were still adapted from a men’s form and then dumbed down and shrinked and pinked. We launched Wild Rye in August 2016 to bring women both beautiful AND technical apparel that fits, inspires confidence and gets more women outside. We look to the runway for colors and print inspiration and to the outdoor industry for technical fabrics and forms. In addition, we have been dedicated to changing the narrative around women in the outdoors. We didn’t want women to continue feeling like “if i’m not the best, I don’t belong.” We set out to celebrate every aspect of the outdoor experience - the snack breaks the summits, the spills and the thrills and most importantly the camaraderie.   

What does the newest iteration of your life as a mother (congratulations again!) look like and how has your perspective changed?

To be honest, I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m a mom! I’ve never seen myself as a “mom-type” but alas the fear of missing my biological opportunity caught up to me so here we are and I’m loving it! I don’t think it’s changed my perspective too much… though I’ve had to let go of all my plans because Saw-boss is 100% the boss of our household now. My needs and priorities are still the same, just bumped down one rung after Sawyer. I’m still passionate about my work. I still need to get outside. I still love sleep, though I have had trouble getting my fill of it. I love adventuring with my husband, friends and family...and now just I’m figuring out how to do that with Sawyer (5 months old).

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Here in Sun Valley, raising an active little boy who’s respectful of women and girls, growing Wild Rye, supporting other women in business, helping to inspire confidence and to get more women outside and enjoying fresh air and mountains myself.

Now that you have a baby how has your relationship with sleep changed? 

I don’t get enough of it! You better believe we’ll ONLY be camping with our Hest Sleep Systems this summer because we can’t sacrifice another minute of sleep due to a deflated air mattress. I slept on my SleepSystem through pregnancy and my husband even brought his to the hospital as it beat out the comfort of a hospital cot 100x over. 


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