Dennis Founder Story
When Dennis Leedom was twelve years old, he told his dad, “When I grow up, I’m gonna move out West and be a ski bum.” He said it the way some kids say they’re going to be firemen or astronauts.
Dennis practiced his downhill game with every free moment he had, and even transferred to a high school with a dedicated ski program. Post-college, he moved out West and took a job as a ski instructor at Squaw Valley.
His ski bum dreams were within arms reach.
That is, until a friend told him that the ski bums in Italy were doing something wild: they were wearing helmets.
This was 1989. People thought helmets were for motorcycle riders and racecar drivers, not weekend warriors on ski slopes.
But Dennis and his friend figured: there might be a business in this. They convinced Boeri Sport to send them a thousand helmets. And Dennis got to work.
Boeri sent kids’ helmets, so that’s where he started. Setting up his card table with a banner that said “Use Your Head!” at ski lifts all over his state, Dennis got kids to think that helmets were cool—and got their parents to understand that they were important. From there, he criss-crossed the Northeast, cold calling sports equipment stores. It wasn’t long until Boeri had made an adult helmet specifically for Dennis to sell.
But Dennis knew the WWII-looking helmet needed an upgrade. It needed something cooler, something sleeker. Something more in line with the ski bum lifestyle. He needed his own brand.
Flash forward to 1998: Dennis is designing, manufacturing, and selling helmets at a fevered pitch under the label of “Leedom Helmets”. And then in July of 2004, Dennis, along with Adam Godwin and Josh Walker, started Bern Helmets in a barn behind his house in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Their first iconic helmet style, the Baker, was still in prototype in 2005 when Olympic snowboarder Seth Westcott walked into the barn, saw the original skate-style, low-profile lid with a built-in visor and said, “I’m going to win the gold medal in this.” He did exactly that at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics a few months later.
The Baker put Bern on the map, but the story doesn’t end there. Over 16 years later and countless medals have been won in a Bern helmet. But Dennis is more proud of the thousands of everyday people who wear their Bern lids while biking, skating, skiing—whatever it is they do to stay out there.
When Dennis Leedom was twelve years old, he told his dad he was going to be a ski bum. It’s now TK years later, and, well, he’s not. Or, more accurately: he’s not only a ski bum. He’s a father, a husband, the founder of the most authentic helmet company on the planet.
Oh yeah…and sometimes, he skis.