Massif: Protecting our Heroes

October 29, 2019 E2E Meeting –

By Cynthia Scherr
October 31, 2019

“The most rewarding part of our business is receiving letters from soldiers thanking us for saving their lives,” explains Vice President and General Manager, Noelle Christensen, to members of Southern Oregon E2E.  E2E toured Massif’s Ashland headquarters to learn how the company designs, prototypes and manufactures high-performance flame resistant clothing to protect our nation’s military, search and rescue and wildland firefighters.

Founder and Jenny Lake Search and Rescue crew member Randy Benham understood what it was like to risk his own life to save someone else’s. What he didn’t understand is why his protective clothing didn’t feel or function like his North Face jacket.  Randy researched fabrics, flame resistant requirements and outdoor gear and sewed a better garment.  When he was in the field, other SAR crew noticed his clearly superior flight suit and started asking for it. 

Randy teamed up with entrepreneur Jeff Roberts to found Massif in 1999, determined to bring the same stretch, breathability, moisture management, and weather protection features to fire-resistant clothing. 

Randy and Jeff hatched their business plan during a rock climbing trip in the Himalayas.  When they returned, on a shoestring budget, they started the company and began selling to Wildland Firefighters and Search and Rescue crews throughout the country.

Massif’s new fabrics and designs caught on, well, like wildfire.  Search and Rescue often trains with the U.S. Coast Guard in Oregon which helped spread the word to the U.S. military. Today, Massif supplies flame resistant clothing to all branches of the US military. 

Garment design begins with military personnel.  Many injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are burn related. Massif designers meet with soldiers, try on body armor, helmets and anticipate where pockets, venting and belt loops need to be for the comfort and safety of the soldier.  Even the zippers need to be heat resistant. Garments not only need to be flame resistant, they have to be easy to take off after a flash fire event. 

Massif grew rapidly and successfully, transitioning from founder-owned to private equity ownership to the present, where it is a woman-owned small business.  The parent company supplies 95% of Massif’s highly technical fabric and they have relationships with suppliers and garment sewing contractors throughout the U.S and Puerto Rico.

Massif’s fierce dedication to quality and performance shows in every seam.  Garment designs go through rigorous testing, including being blasted with fire.  Massif pushes the limits of fabric as a protective covering.  Our heroes’ lives depend on it. 

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