- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Mountain Characters
- Published: January 14, 2014
- Last Updated: January 14, 2014
When it comes to Mount Hood, skiing, snowboarding and the web, Zeb Yaklich is an idea machine. Every time we get together, I walk away with a notebook full of story ideas and contacts. So I was happy to see Zeb, his brother Ian and their company Off the Wall Media expanding into a sweet new space on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland.
Zeb grew up skiing Crested Butte, Colorado, where his family was one of the first to settle in the 1800s. He moved to Oregon when he was a kid. He didn't have a lot of money to go skiing on Mount Hood and he missed it a lot, so when he won $50 in an essay-writing contest at the age of 12, he knew exactly what to do with the money. He sprung for a ticket to Skibowl, and he had so much fun that night that he kept finding ways to come back. He worked a variety of low-wage jobs as a teenager, busing tables and washing dishes and so forth, and most of his money went to skiing on Mount Hood with his friends.
Here's how Zeb describes that night session at Skibowl that hooked him on shredding Hood with his friend Warren Howe: "My very first run resulted in an epic crash followed by a complete yard sale that sent a patroller rushing to see how I was, and although my gear had been scattered everywhere on the hill I got up with a huge smile. My response to his question of 'Are you alright?' was 'That was awesome, I want to do it again!' From that moment forward I was absolutely hooked!"
Zeb's mom Margaret Horn did everything possible to get the family onto the mountain, including driving Zeb and his brother to jobs and even to the mountain, even though she didn't ski downhill. She would fill her VW bus up with kids, drop them at Meadows and go cross country skiing with friends, then drive everyone home at the end of the day. Multi-day lift tickets were a common present in the Christmas morning stockings.
"We really didn't have the money to be up on the mountain," he recalls, "but we all managed to find ways to get there."
Zeb went back to Colorado for college and got into computer science at Western State Colorado University, with a strong interest in the then-nascent field of web marketing. "I knew that was going to be the future," he says.
He was right. In 1999 Zeb got into the business by launching Off the Wall Media with his brother Ian. They were pioneers in the electronic billboard industry, installing Internet-wired indoor billboards all around Portland and running ad campaigns for a variety of companies, including Mt. Hood Meadows. From there they morphed into web design, mobile development and social media. Today the company has five full-time employees, two part-timers and a variety of contract workers. They still have e-billboards at 17 locations in Metro Portland, and they do marketing for everyone from the Portland Marathon to Oregon Health & Science University.
Instead of getting less involved with skiing as the business and his family grew, Zeb has gotten more into it. He got his first pair of twin-tips at the age of 30 and he takes his three kids up to the mountain as often as possible. Here is a photo of Zeb enjoying some powder at Meadows:
With his background and love of skiing, Zeb is also pursuing opportunities in the snow sports industry. He is particularly interested in helping top-caliber athletes figure out creative ways to build their brands online and convert their talents into business success. He has collaborated with Ari DeLashmutt, Tommy Ellingson and Josh Larkin, and Solution Clothing - and he has also done some work for Sammy Carlson for SCI social media. And that's just the beginning.
"I love skiing, and I love the stories behind skiing," he says.
That makes two of us. Zeb wrote a very well-received article about cancer survivor Dan Kneip for Shred Hood, and with luck he will be writing more stories for us in the future. Assuming he can find time in his super-busy schedule.
In the meantime, you can learn more about Off the Wall Media here.