colorado podcast

#021 Cured – Connecting People and Food with Will Frischkorn

 

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast for this episode with Will Frischkorn of Cured here in Boulder.

Cured is a small grocery and deli that is dedicated to reestablishing our connection with food.  Be sure to stop by when you’re in town to grab a sandwich or a curated picnic basket for your day enjoying the outdoors.

Online, you can find Cured at CuredBoulder.com  and on Instagram @CuredBoulder and Twitter also @CuredBoulder.

If you can leave a review on iTunes, that really helps get the word out about the show and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, apple podcast, Stitcher, or however you like to listen to podcasts and signup for our email list as well.

Thanks a lot.

 


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Show Notes

[05:00] Roommates – Boxcar Coffee Roasters

[06:00] From the Tour de France to food – bringing the European influence home

[10:45] Educating the customers – being the connector to the producer

[15:30] Why Boulder

[18:45] Managing growth – what’s working, what isn’t

[21:00] What’s from Colorado, what’s made in house

 


Relevant Links

Cured Boulder

Lady of the Sunshine Wines

Boxcar Coffee Roasters

Light Root Community Farm

Mountain Flower Goat Dairy

New Beet Foods

Chautauqua

Mt. Sanitas

Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Ward General Store

Frasca Food & Wine

Todd Reid

 


Related Episodes

Jessica Beacom- The Real Food Dietitians

Piante Pizzeria

 


Transcript

 

You’re listening to Colorado.FM, the Colorado Podcast. Now we’ve been talking a lot about gear lately and you know, that’s a big part of what we do here in Colorado. But another big part is after that day outside is we are so fortunate to be able to just eat and drink so well at the end of the day.

So that’s been something I’ve wanted to get into a little bit more the local food scene and were able to kind of kick that off and, and hopefully go down that wormhole a bit with this episode.

So in this episode I speak with Will Frischkorn of Cured here in Boulder and so they are a small shop of just hand curated items. They’ve got an amazing deli, charcuterie and cheese counter with really knowledgeable staff throughout. And so you go in there and it’s just an amazing experience to almost like a more European shopping experience to go in there and speak with the purveyors of these amazing foods they’ve teamed up and share a space with a Boxcar coffee.

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It’s the kind of store that you just like hanging out it. I’m now a lot of us in boulder do know this story already. It’s a real favorite for people in the area and you know, hopefully this information will help you if you were heading to town, if you’re coming up, you know, whether for a vacation or even just for the day, this is really the place to stock up whether before you’re heading out for hikes or you know, if you need food after you’ve spent the day outside. Now if you are going before you’re part of your plan to go outside, they’ve got amazing sandwiches. Go in there, just grab something really good and you know, forget about those bars that you’ve been carrying around for your hikes. Just go get a great sandwich. Um, and also they do curated picnic baskets and you know, so it can really be a nice part of your plan if you’re going to spend the day outside, you know, and again, the picnic baskets, you know, there are a good thing for locals to grab too.

So really cool people. I’m amazing story, low family owned business and will himself, uh, you know, it is him and his wife that run this place, but I only had a chance to meet and speak with will. His story’s really fascinating. He had actually written in the Tour de France at at one point and you know, so it was a professional cyclist and this is what he transitioned to and so you can kind of really get a feel for all that time that he spent in Europe. Um, you know, as a cyclist and that connection with food that you, you kind of have over there. But again, you know, this is a important part when we talk about having a perfect day here in Colorado. A lot of times it’s getting outside and then getting some good food and some good beers. And you know, we’re just really fortunate to have all of this farm fresh produce and amazing craft beer that’s being made right in town.

And so again, hopefully this is just the start of, you know, getting to know this, this side of life a little bit better here in Colorado if you want to find out more about cured, you can find their website@curedboulder.com. Um, they also are cured boulder on instagram and on twitter. And twitter’s kind of interesting for them because they post up, you know, their menu of sandwiches daily. So if that’s something you want to keep track of their twitter feeds, where to find it out. So anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Here’s my conversation with will frischkorn have cured boulder.

Um, thanks for taking the time to meet me. Like we’re having a chance to chat for a second. This is one of my favorite places in town. And so, uh, sitting here in your wine shop in the morning, uh, you know, it was really a pretty perfect way to start the day. We’ll happy to, happy to do it. And yeah, this is our one quiet place in here we can hide out for just a couple minutes surrounded by delicious bottles and things first. First thing in the morning. First Day of the week. Yeah. And eat breakfast wines. We actually, we have one lady that makes, it’s called Lady of the sunshine. It’s this beautiful bottle of California biodynamics something in and she actually calls her wines. Breakfast wines. We should open one. Let’s, let’s cut. Exactly whenever you’re ready. Man. I’ve, I’ve already got myself off to upon espressos from the boxcar sit out.

So now it’s time to. Exactly. They’re good roommates. Their boxcar. We’re lucky. Yeah. This place is killer. And so, uh, yeah. So people, um, you know, not in boulder, so we’re at the shop and you might hear some coffee being ground in the background and some, uh, you know, there’s a nice bustle in the, in the space. It’s just a comfortable place to hang out. We’re, we’re, we’re lucky. We’re two businesses that share space here. So sort of before a real collaborative spaces started going a handful of years ago. We did it out of necessity. We, uh, we’re looking at, you know, two businesses trying to figure out how we locate in the area of Pearl Street. We wanted to be in spaces were all either too big or too small and they were all expensive. And we go, well, we’re both looking for about half of what that one is.

Let’s, let’s do it together. Um, and it’s been an amazing synergy, mean we’re seven years in, two brand new businesses. Both husband and wife operated so unbelievably lucky. Looking back and my dad, he’s a business consultant. I was like, you guys are idiots on so many counts. This is like a ticking time bomb. What are you doing? Or like, I think it’s kind of work. It’s like, well, I’ll go, go for it. You guys will have fun. And we’ve been, we’ve been lucky. Oh, that’s hilarious. Nothing like the, uh, the old sage looking down and being like, I don’t know that this doesn’t really sound like much of a plan that you guys. Sure you’re gonna drink a lot of good wine, right? Yeah. How can you go wrong? Right? You got all the good vices like cheese, wine advice and essential it all. It all depends on perspective.

Right, right. Cool. Well, let’s, um, you know, you kind of mentioned getting started in, in finding like a perfect a roommate, so, you know, I was just doing a little research and so, I mean, in 2008 you’re riding the Tour de France. Yeah. So a pretty abrupt but exciting change. I finished my cycling career early, retired young. I’m kind of at that point where I went, yeah, this is, this is amazing. I got to do the races that dreamt of as a little kid. Um, I’ve managed to make a living for 10 years living all over the world, riding my bike and paid to do it. Um, and I was good. I wasn’t great, but I was good. Um, you know, I was talented but not gifted. Um, and found that point where I’m like, this is probably about where I’m going to go. I might get a little bit better.

I could probably do this for six, seven, eight years, but I’m never going to be one of those guys that make so much money that when I stopped I can just be done. There’s always going to be a next chapter. And I was kinda excited to just get on with that next chapter, um, while I still loved riding a bike and still love playing and still had spilled some years and could also do before kids. Um, I looking back especially, I feel so blessed that my wife and I who started cure together, um, we did it before kids because, because man, those first couple of years they were together. We were here 60, 70 hours a week and you can’t do that once a little people come at. Right? So it was kind of a fun. It was a fun transition and it was a transition into stuff we loved, you know, I grew up loving racing bikes and got into that, um, along the way, fell in love with food.

I’m pretty darn early. Um, and then, uh, you know, different part of the country. My wife did the same thing. Food was a big passion for her and when we kind of have that, uh, made the decision, let’s stop racing bikes. Um, you know, what’s next? I worked in this port for about a year. I’m on the management side of it. Team learned a little about that, learned it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Um, and we went to what, what is, what do we want to jump into and food was it, um, we, we almost did a restaurant. We’re kind of bouncing back and forth, these two business ideas in our heads and then looked around and said, you know, we’ve got a bunch of friends in the food world. I’m all over it and I don’t think we have a single couple that we know who are married, who have young kids and who have a restaurant and all those pieces still exist in the same circle.

Uh, so let’s not try to be the exception. Maybe we could be, but let’s still retail. Let’s do something that, that when we looked back at boulder and wanted to come back home here from living in Europe, we felt there was an, each, there was no know, more grocery stores here per capita than anywhere in the country. Um, but no specialty, nothing, nothing small. They were all big for whole foods. And three, king supers and s to Safeway. I mean it’s overwhelming, but they’re all big stores, so how do we do something? It feels like, you know, with an American spin that feels like the markets that we love shopping in in Spain, right? Yeah. And that’s like the reference, right? Like I’m cycling’s the type of sport that brings you to Europe, especially at elite levels and your relationship with food in Europe is just totally different. That’s not how we do it here in America. So I’m guessing that that a big part of that experience, living and living in that

environment is what rubbed off on them.

It was a big influencer. Yeah. No, I mean growing up both, both of us respectively had families that, that loves food and our own ways and enjoyed it and loved cooking together and eating and drinking and having, you know, having food. Be a, a social connector. I think rarely do you like to cook a great meal and sit there by yourself and just talk for a couple of hours. It’s like, no, you do it with friends, at least with a significant other or a good buddy. Um, and I think food is an amazing. It’s an amazing social lubricant. Um, alcohol of course helps too, but, but uh, but it’s something really magic about it and for us the opportunity to then live in Europe and get to go to all these places and see all these producers and the people that you might’ve even enjoyed here at home but not been able to connect with it gave us that opportunity and then almost as much as anything that the experience of shopping there, of, of cooking, of hunting your food on a daily basis, not going to a big grocery store and you know, cool, I’ve got what I need for the week, but you know, every day going out and what am I, what am I gonna eat today?

What looks fun? It looks great. What’s inspiring? That was something that really struck us as, as unique and special and that we wanted to play with.

Right? Yeah. No, and I think that some of that just way of life, that’s just the way it’s always been done over there. This is what’s starting to Kinda catch hold here, right? Like hugely satellite stop shopping, big box. You don’t need to stock up for the month. You can go out and then if there’s a person behind the counter is going to be an expert in that and that’s part of what the experience is here as well. I mean when you come here, I mean you go just go to the cheese counter and ask them what’s good and in the idea of being able to taste it, no one where it’s from the labels kind of explain it and it seems like you, a big part of that is making these adventurous type things a little more accessible.

Very much so. I mean we are in our core values, you know, education is a critical one of those and it’s educating obviously our team but, but especially our customers. How do we, how do we share a bit of knowledge about the food people are taking home and I think it’s a, we’re in a period right now that’s looking back. I think it’s one we’re actually going to look at is pretty pivotal in America’s sort of food scene and food systems, but people really want to know. They want to know about what they’re eating. And, and I, I honestly feel that when you know a little bit about what you’re eating, it tastes better. It’s more meaningful. Um, so if we can help almost as middleman is the wrong word, but as the connector between a person who’s making something awesome and we try, you know, every product in the shop is something that’s made by a person.

It’s not a, it’s not a company. I mean there’s, there’s a legal entity behind it, but we try to champion things that are, that are authentic, that are real, that are made by, by humans, but they’re probably pretty damn busy making that stuff. The reality is they’re not probably going to meet every person that eats their food, but we can be the connector between a great craftsperson and the end user, the theater. Um, and if we can share a little bit about story, know, hopefully it helps amplify what they’re doing and raise awareness and, and also people appreciate it a little bit more. It’s, it’s fun to do. And like you mentioned, it’s tons of work for these, like smaller batch producers. I know I live here in boulder as well. You know, I’m lucky enough to have been in an environment where you can connect with your food a little closer for example.

It’s incredible. Yeah. Yeah. A good friend of ours is one of these people making milk. They’ve got a dairy farm and we go over there and we take it up and we bring it home and it’s not even pasteurized and it’s the whole dynamic thing. It’s actually light route. Oh yeah. Yeah. And they’re amazing people and every time you go over there they’re working. Man. It’s crazy. And so, you know, the idea of marketing and selling and then connecting with the customers is like, you know, after you’ve already been up running a dairy farm is just insane. So yeah, like stores like this to support these brands are definitely a critical part of the. No, we do that as one of the most important things that we do is helping. Helping small producers make it. Um, and in our, in our introductory session, I’ve got a couple of new people starting today.

Okay. One of the first things I always share is like, none of us, anybody in here is going to get rich doing this. We’re not going to get rich on selling groceries that have incredibly slim margins. You’re not going to get rich working for us because, well, we have the margins and the producers that were, were selling product from there slaving away trying to make something awesome. But the reason we’re all doing this is not to get rich. It’s because it’s meaningful because it’s, it’s cool because it’s delicious because we get to surround ourselves by buy awesome products and awesome people. Um, and hopefully, you know, help help chug it all forward. Yeah. It’s funny, I was reading a book last night and I was this book that I’m in love with right now and not, and it was, you know, thinking about this meeting and they, and they were talking about, right, it’s about writers and art and really it’s, it’s way more about that kind of environment.

I mean, the people making these things are artists with their craft and narrative craft needs to be supported by an ecosystem and you know, it’s. And you’re an artist in your own right, like curating this thing. It must be incredibly fun to get. They’ll get me wrong, but it’s awesome. It’s awesome. That’s a lot of work. We taste a lot of product. That’s one of those fun things we get to do is choose what goes on the shelter because that also means we get to then steal it all and take it home. But yeah, I mean it’s, it’s an exciting time in the food world in America because there’s so much out there. Um, but there are a lot of people who are still figuring it out or it’s not quite there yet and it’s, it’s actually just as it’s cool to help those guys with, with positive, but real feedback, you know, here’s, here’s what you’re doing, right.

Here’s where I feel like there’s some shortcoming, like how do you help everybody, everybody do it better and rising tides. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get to, we get to eat and drink a lot. It’s, it’s pretty good. Exactly. I was thinking about that, like, you know, speaking of food at home, I mean your covers must look amazing. Are they just a microcosm of what’s going on here? That’s pretty much the selection of what’s here and then what’s just about to be here for you. We, we, well yeah. And your kids like lunchboxes must be unbelievable to have our two year old, literally like my wife will be like pick them up from school and driving, driving up the street. It’s like money cured cheese comes in and just like sits down at a table and is like a quarter pound of Cheddar. It’s amazing. Exactly.

That’s perfect. So, so in that transition, um, you know, we talked about kind of why the store, but why boulder was, were you already kind of home based here? Were you looking for places? I know you say cycling is huge here, so I don’t know if cycling kind of had cycling and brought me here when I was a kid. Yeah. Um, but we looked elsewhere. We kind of developed this model while we were still in Europe, the idea of it and business plan and went where, where’s this fit in America. Um, and tried to pull ourselves out of, like automatically coming back to boulder, which is where my wife was born, lived all over, but it was back here. I’d moved to Colorado when I was 16 to live at the Olympic training center down in the springs when I was 18, turned pro, came up to boulder and kind of always had a house here since I’m even living in Europe.

Was back and forth a couple of years that I wasn’t here, rented our house, but we had a home here and friends were here and it was kind of a logical. Um, and it was fun to go, you know, is it, is it borders at Santa Barbara as it bend? Is it, is it Santa Cruz? Like we’re all of these little places that kind of older size and demographics we thought this might fit and then in the end go, no, let’s just boulder folders, folders, home and, and it’s awesome there. Yeah. Yeah. And how has it, um, you know, this community, one of the interesting things and one of the things that this podcast is even really about is, you know, what is really behind the magic of not just bolted, like what’s going on in the front range has just blown up, you know, it’s so supportive.

It seems like, you know, what’s your experience been like? Just fits the business side. Starting wild to watch, you know, I’ve been here for 20 years now and I moved from, uh, moved from West Virginia, completely different world, amazing mountain biking, kayaking, outdoor recreation. Like crazy to the point where you’re like, it still undiscovered. You go back there and it’s, it’s epic and there’s no one there. Where here we have, you know, half the trails of my neighborhood park did when I was a kid, you know, but like 700 times the users, but it’s a place that attracts people that, that I think are similarly like minded and want to want to play. I want to get outside one, uh, one of value lifestyle as a part of life. Um, work hard but, but enjoy life. Um, but it’s been wild to watch the transformation of, of, you know, California especially sort of drifting this direction, but people from all over that have come from successful backgrounds and go, I want, I want to live there.

This place is cool. Um, and are excited about all the things that brought people here 40, 50 years ago. Um, it’s, it’s an amazingly supportive community. That’d be a small business then people will really, if you’re doing a good job, people want to champion that and then support it. I’m going to go out of their way to do so. Which is so meaningful for all of us that are, that are trying to make this happen. But people also excited. I’m excited to have, you know, something like this. We timed, luckily timed well I think 10 years earlier we would have been out of business in a year or five years earlier. We might have struggled for a couple and then been done and we uh, we got lucky to start at right around the time where I think they were just a lot of people here that, that had been living in San Francisco and New York and bigger cities and going whereas the small place, um, that you have in big cities. Um, but we didn’t have here yet.

Yeah. You know, I am one of those people. I mean, I, you know, I’ve lived in New York and out on the west coast as well. And, and yeah, there’s like that. I think it’s Marie’s like a cheese store in New York. Yeah, I mean there’s a line down the street to shop at this like cheesemonger. Right. Completely. It’s amazing. And so that’s the kind of environment that, you know, in a, in a lot of other places maybe you didn’t have that kind of support. Like people are literally waiting in line to get this one item on their grocery list and so

no, and we are, you know, coming here on the holidays and we get a little bit of energy, like, wow, imagine what it’d be like to be in a big city. Right. It’s already too much. We like, or like every day you come to the counter, let’s taste some stuff. We’ll hang out for a little while. We’re, we’re lucky here in that way.

Right. Yeah. That’s like the perfect balance. Yeah. And that’s what was I going to get at, you know, one of the things that, you know, part of that supportive environment is it’s allowed you to grow a bit. Like you did open a place in Denver, I believe. Right.

You know, we keep talking about Denver. We have, we opened it, we opened a second one here in boulder. Um, it was kind of our experiments, seeing what, like, what that might change. We did it for two years. We actually just closed it and it was a really good business lesson. It was a great lesson in how important location is. Um, I think everybody says that, I think we’d known that, um, and we tried, but it was a really fun exercise in scaling, but small scaling and then going, you know what, this isn’t right. We have all of these other things that are working, you know, what we’ve ended up doing is our, our catering operation has grown like crazy and that’s become a huge focus. Our gifting business, something that’s just organic now is something where, you know, I think by the end of this holiday season we’re going to be looking at warehouse space, which is shipping, shipping goodies of goody boxes of food all over the country to places that don’t have a cured.

Um, it was really fun. And we create these boxes and we send them, you know, often there are people that have visited the shop or lived here in boulder that aren’t here anymore. Um, and we can send a little slice of what we do here everywhere. Right. Um, and it’s been the realization with, with additional location was that’s not the wisest move, let’s focus on these things because. Because they’re working. Gotcha. Yeah. Which has been been cool. Denver’s pulled though. Denver is huge. I mean for people that aren’t in Boulder or Denver listening, boulder small, we’re 120,000 people at Denver is a couple million and just booming. Right. Um, and you walked down there every time we go to the city, this is just this, this energy. We, you’re like, oh, well you kind of want a piece of this. Sure. But uh, but boulder you said balance earlier, boulder has an amazing balance.

Um, and for us as a family business, um, you know, my wife and I still, we’re, we’re here more than we’re not, you know, it’s how do we, how do we strike a balance for a business that works, that can support us and our kids, um, but still be happy. Right. That’s cool. And I was curious, speaking of curating boxes and curating goods around here, like is it all or significantly domestic? The question then like, even within that slice, like how much is coming from like local Colorado guys, if you had to put a percentage on it, you know, if you, the wine shop since we’re sitting here right now, sorry to hear, not that much as Colorado. Um, almost all of our beers, almost all of our spirits are Colorado. Okay. We’d be idiots not to. I mean this is one of the hotbeds for both of those industries in America and it’s just, it’s just fun.

Um, champion, the guys that are here, we have a couple of Colorado wines, but we want to, we want to share the best stuff. Um, and while I think it’s fun to support local, local has to earn it on the merit of the product, not just by being within a radius of the shop. Um, and we, uh, we do the same thing upfront. I mean, our wines come from all over the world, but there’s, there’s a lot of biodynamic, a lot of natural, a lot of small producers, wherever they’re from, um, upfront, a lot more as Colorado. Um, the gluten free crackers that we champion new beat, she’s based here in boulder and I will handstand say they’re the best gluten free crackers in the world. And the fact that, you know, Trish, who bakes them, drops them off herself every week, is that much cooler.

Um, you know, every product from Colorado upfront earns a spot on the shelf because it’s a great product. Um, and it’s just awesome when it’s close to home. Um, and we’re lucky that because of sort of the hotbed that’s, that we’re a part of here, a lot of that stuff is here, you know, obviously all of our produce is here, a handful of cheeses, handful of Charcuterie, a lot of the crackers, the preserves, all of our honeys, chocolate, a lot of, a lot of those goodies are, are people that are, you know, just down the road. Yeah. And what are you making in house? We do, um, a lot of our, a lot of our business now is prepared foods. We do a huge sandwich business, um, a lot of those ingredients. That’s fun. I mean, we ran the numbers the other day. I think I’ve eaten 2,600 of them the six days a week, seven years plus or minus maybe a $1,500.

That’s about that. When my wife jokes, she’s like, you’re not at the shop today, why are you going to get a sandwich? I’m like, well, it’s there and they’re good. Sure. Um, why should a be different? But yeah, I mean it’s, it’s just fun. But a lot of the ingredients that go on those, a lot of our, in all of our salads, all of our dips and spreads and things in the cold case jams preserves. Parte is, um, a lot of that product comes out of the kitchen in the back that also does all of our, all of our catering operation. But it’s fun. We’re working on more and more stuff in there. Um, because it’s, it’s cool to be able to smack our, Our name on that as well as, you know, having products made by friends right in the, in speaking to the, you know, there’s a nice combination of those including like the sandwiches again, there, they, they’re awesome.

And in part of one of the ways that you get to enjoy some of those things are the picnic baskets that you guys do. And the big new vaccines are fun. Those, when we opened, we were like, like, we’re going to be a picnic shop. Um, and the first year we sold like two picnics. Damn, that was such a good idea. Let’s keep plugging in. The next year we sold like 20 and we’re like, well that’s still not work. In the next year it was like 100 and now I feel like every day a couple go out the door and she’s just so fun because it’s, we’re in Colorado. Yeah. This is 300 days a year where you should go sit and eat some, eat somewhere outside. Help helping people do it in one of the reasons. I mean, one of the whole reasons I even do this podcast is just to pick people’s brains and get local knowledge and share it, even if it’s just for myself.

Um, you know, if you were going to come into town, grab a picnic and go somewhere, like if, you know, when you have a day off, like what’s one of your favorite spots, like what’s one of the things that just kind of works for you and the family. And you know, like two years ago we had literally been assets enough. We made a map, my, like my wife illustrated, she’s like, here are like seven favorite picnic spots. Um, because a lot of people come to down and do just that, right? Um, and there are two places that I think are just quintessential boulder. One is Chautauqua. Um, it’s a turn of the century know early project where they created a cultural hub up on this hill above boulder. I’m sure you’ve been there. There’s hiking that’s endless. It’s red at the foot of the flat irons, you know, there, there are more pictures tag at Chautauqua from bolder than like anywhere on the interweb.

But it’s beautiful. You get up there and it’s this huge lawn and you look down on town and, and they’ll probably be 50 other people picnicking. Um, but you still have your own little slice and it’s amazing. And then the other thing we love doing is, is heading up into the mountains just a little bit. Um, and there are a number of different spots, but, but Mt. Sanitas is I think one of boulder’s like, no, it’s our benchmark hike. It’s we live right at the bottom of it. It’s an hour run from our house to it, probably five days a week. I’m at about halfway up there. The called the hobbit chairs. Um, you sneak off the side of the trail and there’s this little plateau. Um, and some people have built these stone chairs and you can sneak up there even with our kids. That’s a little bit of a hike, but, but they can do, it’s 20, 25 minutes from the house at their speed and you looked out on town and, and you’re, you’re up in the mountains right now.

That’s just perfect. Yeah. And just for reference, that speed is, is two and four year olds feed, right. So that’s. So that’s totally adult leak up there at any level. Exactly. And that’s um, you know, sometimes the things that work better, there’s the ones that are in your backyard completely because, you know, you’ve got an hour to do the whole lunch, not an hour to drive somewhere go, you know, whatever. And so, uh, so that’s really appreciated. And then you as a cyclist, what’s your, you know, if you’re, you know, it doesn’t even have to be cured related obviously, like if you’re going to do a day, you had some people coming into town and they were like, all right, let’s do a ride and then come into town and get some food. Like what’s a good routine that works for you on that one? You know, I love, I love our ability to access the high mountains from right here in town.

And if you’re a pretty fit cyclist, I think there are few better rides here than riding just north of town. You go up lefthand canyon, takes you up to a little town called ward great cookies at the word general store, and then you can continue up words that like 10,000 feet, you can keep going to brainerd lake, which is about 11 and a half. Uh, yeah, I think 11 slash 11 eight. Um, this gorgeous lake. If there are people that don’t want to ride, they can bring the picnics up. You can meet there, do that action. It’s an x. They can go for a hike. I mean it’s just, it’s stunning. You’re right. You look up at the continental divide, um, and then it’s all downhill back to town and it’s epic and they actually did some nice road improvements. You there? God, it’s amazing. New Climbing Lane, like.

Exactly. That’s going to make that ride like a little bit better. You’re beating the cars at the time because they’re like, they’re waiting to get in the gate and on a bike you just cruise right by. Yeah, exactly. I mean, yeah. So that’s amazing. Those are great suggestions. And you know, sometimes you should talk was one of those things, you know, when you drive by there, no matter how many times you do it, you’re just like, man, this is, I could just lay in the grass here and it’s like the Maroon bells up in Aspen and you’re like, how many times have been buying, how many times I’ve taken the same picture, but it’s still good. Exactly. And if you have a picnic basket, all the more, you know, you’re even more set. Um, yeah. Well, you know, I really appreciate you taking the time.

There’s just one last question I’d like to ask my guests in. Um, and I think since you’re so connected with a local Colorado businesses that, you know, you could probably send me a spreadsheet, but, um, who would you like to hear, um, you know, on this podcast if you could, you know, whose story do you think, uh, you know, people that are listening to this type of thing would really enjoy hearing. You know, there are a couple of people I think would be really countless people. It’d be fun, but there are two that are, that are both within a block of us here are cured. They both have small businesses that are booming. Um, one, uh, his name is bobby stuckey. He owns a restaurant called Frasca. It’s right across the street. It’s one of America’s best restaurants right now. Um, and bobby champions champions balance in a pretty amazing way of being a seriously lead athlete.

Couple of marathons a year while running, I think five businesses including Frasca, um, and just a level of hospitality that you just don’t experience. Um, he’s amazing. Super Charismatic and just that damn good guy. Um, and then the other, just down the street, the other direction. I’m an artist, a todd reed. He’s a jeweler. He was a climber a long time ago. Started playing with metal and now make some of the most amazing. I’m very like raw creative sculptural jewelry. He did our wedding bands for us a long time ago. Oh No. I’ve been to, to know him for a long time and have had some pieces of his that the coral gets to wear more than, more than I do. But, uh, but his stuff is just, it’s so unique. Raw, raw diamonds, rough goal, really pretty. Um, and also just a fascinating guy. He tells, tells a good story.

Oh Man, I would. Those are excellent suggestions. I mean, I’ve definitely, you know, I’ve had some good luck connecting with kind of the gear crowd and have really wanted to get in more with like you the food and drink crowd because it’s such a booming part of all of what’s going on here. And like you said, I mean the, the beer side of things, some of that is, uh, you know, it’s what’s going on in Colorado is, is the best of what’s going on really in that whole kind of market. And so it’s, thanks for the suggestions. I definitely will reach out. Um, and I don’t know if there’s anything else you wanted to mention about what’s going on here, but again, I really appreciate you taking the time. Um, you know, this truly is one of my favorite places in town to, to hang out in, in a, you know, it’s really great to meet you. Well thank you. No, thanks for having me on and you know, for people that aren’t in boulder and can’t just come by and say, hey, check out our website. It shares a bit about our story, what we get to do, um, you can find those, those boxes, send them to yourself or somebody else and we love, we just love sharing good stuff, however, however we can. Yeah. Excellent. Alright, I think we should go eat some cheese. Let’s do it for breakfast one. Exactly. Thank you man.

Okay. Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with will from cured. I certainly enjoyed meeting him and it’s just fun to hear these stories behind places that I personally frequent so often. And hopefully if you make your way up to boulder, you’ll uh, check it out. It’s definitely worthwhile. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please take the time to subscribe. You can do that either via our mailing subscription, our email subscription, or on itunes, stitcher, or however you enjoy listening to podcasts. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you soon.

 

#020 Iris Skis – Keeping Skis Functional Yet Elegant with Eric Hegreness

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast for this episode with Eric Hegreness of Iris Skis.

Iris Skis are a really unique and beautiful ski crafted by Eric right here in Boulder, CO.  It was great to meet Eric and have a chance to hear the story behind Iris Skis.

Online, you can find Iris Skis at IrisSkis.com  and on and Instagram @iris_skis.

If you can leave a review on iTunes, that really helps get the word out about the show and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, apple podcast, Stitcher, or however you like to listen to podcasts and signup for our email list as well.

Thanks a lot.

 


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Show Notes

[03:30] Building skis, building the tools to build skis

[05:00] Designed with Colorado conditions in mind

[09:30] Collaborative attitude among the Colorado ski makers

[12:00] Specifics: The models and what’s coming in the future

[13:45] Product ambassadors – From ski techs to Austin Porzak

[18:45] Where to find Iris Skis

 


Relevant Links

Iris Skis

Rocky Mountain Underground

Folsom Skis

Romp Skis

Austin Porzak

Ski RMNP

Wolf Creek Ski Area

 


Related Episodes

Romp Skis

Meier Skis

Venture Snowboards

Jessica Beacom

 


Transcript

 

So here we go. Hope you enjoy this, my conversation with Eric from Iris Skis.

All right, Eric, thanks for having me over in the shop, man. It’s really amazing to be here and see where you’re making these unbelievably beautiful skis, man.

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I’m a big fan of podcasts and I’ve listened to a lot of your podcast, so this is exciting.

Yeah, it’s awesome to connect with people in a, you know, one of the, I don’t always get to see a manufacturing type facility though, and that’s really, you know, the first thing that differentiates you from other people is you’re doing this all yourself and including first yet to build the place, to make it first you had to build the tools to make this stuff in the place before you can even make the, uh, the product. So what, you know, to me that’s probably a big differentiator for you.

What’s different about your skis?  So why don’t you just kinda walk us through what’s, you know, what’s different about them and why you know, why you’re doing this.

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Yeah, for sure. Like for me the biggest part is being hands on. Like I love doing what I do. I love building skis, I love building the tools to build skis. Um, so, you know, there’s a lot of other people that will build a brand and have someone else build their skis. I’m going at a much smaller rate because I want to be hands on as much as I can on, to be involved with every step. So when I build a ski I’m going to see it from start to finish. Um, and that’s been one of the biggest, you know, I guess priorities or goals I’ve had with building iris skis is that like, you know, to be hands on, to be a ski company that actually builds their skis.

Uh, so that’s. Yeah. And it ends up showing in the product, right? I mean it’s just a hand built literally from a start to finish. And we were talking a little bit about this, right. You know, when I kinda came in, not only is it hand built you’re really kind of tailor making it almost for, for our region, like the ski conditions that we have here in Colorado. Um, why don’t you kind of talk a little bit more about that, like the actual model itself and what’s inspired, you know, the shape, the construction and our performance. Yeah, definitely. So as you know, skiing Colorado, uh, our conditions are really unique. Um, you know, and so the first ski I really went after as I have the ski model called the [inaudible] or the crossover one. Oh five. And the idea of the name of that crossover, meaning that, you know, it can skeet in different, uh, you know, it can ski powder and he can ski hard pack.

I wanted to ski. That is perfect for our Colorado conditions. When you go up to the mountains here, oftentimes will be blessed with a foot of powder. You know, if you’re skiing inbounds two, three hours later, that powder is gone and it’s still a beautiful day. That’s a lot of fun to ride, but you don’t want to be stuck on your wide, your widest ski. So I built a ski to be really fun and playful in the powder. It’s got a lot of early rise to 100 and 500 foot, uh, which is good enough to get you up out of, out of powder, but it’s not too wide. You can still hit moguls. I actually take the ski and the Train Park, which is definitely a little bit bigger for most skis in the park, but it’s really flexible and fun. I came from like a freestyle background.

Uh, so my skis are really soft and playful. Um, so that’s Kinda the main model I have. And then I also have a front side ski which is kind of the park ski and Just Criminals Ski, uh, from when you go up there and you weren’t blessed with that foot of powder and just slowly working out different models. Right now I have two models with three sizes and working on a third model this year which will have three sizes as well as well. Awesome lightweight touring stuff. So. Oh Nice. And uh, you know, the construction itself, I mean the look of them is so unique because of that metal top sheet, but it’s functional as well. I mean, I was kinda reading some of the articles about it that you’ve, you’ve had out there and uh, you know, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that, like the, the combination of the wood and the metal.

I mean, it’s beautiful and it’s super unique and uh, but there’s functionality to it as well. Yeah, definitely. I appreciate that. Um, you know, one thing as working as a ski tech over the years, I’ve gotten to play with a lot of skis. I’ve gotten a ride on a lot of skis and uh, one thing I really liked was the Teton all layer a that goes in a lot of skis. And so I started playing with that. Originally I was doing all wood top sheets and I was finding they’re kind of getting chipped up and if people after a couple of seasons weren’t taking care of those skis, uh, the varnish would wear away and things like that. And I was like, well, why don’t I just bring that Teton a layer from the inside of the ski to the top of the ski? And it gave a lot of durability this gate and then it just out, you know, secondhand after building.

And I realized, wow, this actually looks really cool and unique. One thing kind of from the start of building whiskeys was I was like, I don’t want to look like everyone else out there. A lot of times when you go skiing, it’s, everything’s like fluorescent orange or neon green and you know, it’s like you’re out on the mountain and it’s beautiful and you’re in and then snow. And then we have it littered with just like caution tape look and skis. And so I really wanted, like, I was like, you know, I want something that’s simple and elegant and uh, you know, I think that would look beautiful itself. I don’t necessarily need to add a graphic to that. Uh, so, you know, that’s kind of the design behind it. It’s just bringing a kind of the metal and the wood and letting that simple characteristics make the ski look beautiful on their own.

And they, each ehr kind of individually when you get to ski, it’s going to look a little different than someone else’s ski because it’s going to have different woodgrain that’s interesting. So I didn’t realize that that material was actually common in skis. It’s just hidden. I mean, it’s not common in all the skis, but uh, yeah, for sure. Okay, cool. Another thing we kind of touched on a little bit was you’ve got this great space but it always hasn’t. It hasn’t always been this way. You’ve really kind of been through the ringer and you’ve been through a lot of different variations of where your shop was. Um, you want, we don’t have to get into like all of the war stories because I think that’s a common thing. Like, you know, you want to start a business, you don’t always stay in the same spot for 20 years.

But um, you did mention that it’s been really interesting your, your interactions with other kind of like small batch craft makers out there and you know, how supportive is that been like, what’s it been like to be kind of starting off in this space in Colorado? Yeah, it’s, it’s really amazing. Uh, you know, I thought building skis that, you know, when I reached out to other ski builders, they wouldn’t really be wanting to share too much information, uh, just because you know, they want to protect their product. But, you know, as I learned and as I, I kind of grew with the industry, I realized a lot of these guys are out there to see you do well to, you know, I want to see other small batch ski builders doing really well because that makes us all look good. And uh, I’ve had a time where I’ve talked with rocky mountain underground.

I’ve talked with fulsome and several other, just small. There’s some other ski builders who would just one guy building skis kinda like me, who through instagram will reach out, you know, right now I’m playing with a new material and playlists, plone and foam and I posted on instagram and then this guy messaged me and he was like, Oh, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, here’s what I’ve been doing and it’s great. Gives me a leg up or I can, you know, he’s prototype this 10, 15 times already, so now I can start playing with what he’s been doing and it’s been amazing and I’ve, you know, don’t have as much knowledge as some of these guys who have 10 years of experience. But it’s been cool for me to be able to give back to some other people too and help them with their CNC stuff, which is something I have a lot of knowledge with a and that’s been, it’s been really fun and I’d be like, I don’t know, really excited to be about a community that’s so supportive of each other.

Yeah. And it looks like, uh, you know, speaking of your CNC background and things like that, from what I saw, it looks like you started off with skateboards and now you’re making these, like the complexity level is through the roof. To be honest, it always started with skis. When I first started I was working in someone’s garage and they had, they wanted to start escape business and they just, it was a trust fund kid and he got an idea, I need this quit. He had all this material. So I was like, well, I can build skateboards easily while I’m learning the craft of building skis because building skis is a much more complex. So for the first two, three years I was building skateboards along with skis. And last year I was actually able to sell off all the skate stuff and just focus on, you know, what I love the most, you know, I used to skateboard a lot, but now I’m, you know, it’s all about skiing for me.

So. Yeah. Right. And you’re, um, you’re. One of the things that differentiates you, I’m a little bit is, you know, I had the chance to meet with and speak with the guys at Romp Skis and they’ve taken the approach of like the full custom, you know, and that’s what they’re trying to do and they’ve got the operation kind of built to support that and they were really awesome guys to speak with what you’re, you’re taking a little bit of a different approach, right? You’re, you’ve got your models. Yeah. A couple of two, three sizes and uh, and what’s, you know, what kind of drove that decision? Sure. Um, I, I don’t want to say that like skiers don’t know what they want, but sometimes skiers mill, they know really what they want their ski to do a and you know, I really wanted to focus on building a couple of ski that do really, really well at certain things.

So when someone comes to me who’s got a race background, I don’t have a race ski that I’ll be honest with them and also just other companies and be like, you know, I didn’t come from a race background, my skis and aren’t focused on that, but I have a couple models that are really great at x, you know, and for a lot of guys who came from a freestyle background or a lot of people who just go up and have fun on the mountain inbounds, my skis are perfect for that. They don’t, they’re not as aggressive of a ski, you know, it’s fun on the jumps, but it’s easy also to take just carving turns down the mountain on. So yeah. Well I think if you listened to that interview, you’ll find that they agree on how much the skiers is actually know what they want.

There’s a lot of guiding people through that process and it’s a hands on process. So it’s totally different than. Oh yeah. And I think it’s awesome. I think it’s great that they’re offering that totally. It’s a cool service. I think it’s, you know, I, I’m, I’m really behind, you know, people offering that custom option as well. Sure. Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. People are going to want different things, but that’s a, that’s really awesome men. And uh, one of the things that seems like a, you’ve been able to team up with some, some good guys who are putting these things through the ringer for you, including some amazing local skiers. And uh, let’s talk a little bit about that. Like what kind of fee, you know, who these guys are, what kind of feedback you’re able to get from guys who were doing this stuff in their skis.

And I’ll let you kind of elaborate. Sure. I mean, the, the first guys who were taking my skis out a lot was, you know, I was working a lot of ski shops in town and it’d be the skeet tax and ski tax. I have a great knowledge of skis because they see everything and they see every kind of dlm and every kind of edge issue and they can also get out on a ski and no, is it the tune that’s affecting how this is skiing or is it the, it’s itself. And so those guys put it through a lot of ringer the first couple years when I wasn’t actually selling to the public yet. And that was great. And then last year I brought on my first ski ambassador and that’s Austin Poor Zack who is just an awesome big mountain skier, a that’s local. He, he’s actually like the flat irons here in boulder that everyone’s familiar with.

And he was the first one to make a descent down one of the flat irons. He’s Al also all of the Colorado fourteeners. And uh, it’s awesome to have a guy like that who has so much back country experience who can kind of bring in extra knowledge and just really put the hours in on these skis. And he didn’t get to that level of skin by, you know, just starting off. I skied on every different kind of ski from a million different brands and so I’m sure like the feedback that you can offer as we’ve, we’ve spent time just waxing up skis in his garage looking at different models and I’d be like, I really like this about this scheme, but I wish it was a little less heavier, you know, and just go through different models and we’re like, okay, I think we can make that, let’s, let’s start focusing on getting there.

So we’re designing a really unique ski this year together, a really lightweight ski that hopefully it’ll be ready by end of season or next season as well as a really fat ski. That’s going to be a lot of fun. So Nice. Yeah. All right. So those were the ones to look forward to going to be to me. Exciting. Cool. And, uh, and, and while we’re on the subject, like not only is he skied the fort teenagers, he’s the current project is to ski all of the peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park, which is really. That was one thing that really got me excited when we first started talking that he came to me with a project he’s working on, he’s passionate about. And once he started talking about the project I was like, Hey, this is really cool. So there’s, I think there’s 50 peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park and I guess I think his grandpa was the first person to climb all of those peaks and he wants to be the first guy to ski all of those peaks, American Mountain National Park.

So he’s skeed now 40 of them, which it’s a big feat. Like some of those ones you have to hike. It might take you a day sometimes to get out to that where it is and then get up and ski and he’s had to work with the, you know, the ranges up there and get permission. And he’s only got, I think like six or eight left. Uh, you can and you can check it out at rocky or ski, Rocky Mountain National Park. And uh, he’s been doing these last mountains on the cx one. Oh, five. And our new version of the ski, he’ll be doing the last couple of peaks on, which will be really exciting. Yeah. That’s amazing. Should finish up this year. Weather permitting. Yeah. Yeah. And I think it says a lot, man, not to digress into, you know, the story is amazing. Um, but I’m, I’m sure, I mean he is not going to head out into the back country with a, like a day approach and with something that he’s not confident in.

And so I think it really speaks to the quality of your ski and what he’s experienced so far and uh, you know, it’s uh, it just really says a lot about what you’re putting out there, man. It’s really impressive. What about you man? What are your favorite a testing grounds around here? Sure. So, you know, I grew up in Ohio, which is not in, not in the mountain, you know, mountains at all and it’s like, it’s like slanted parking lots. And, uh, when I first started skiing I was really into the freestyle scene because in Ohio, you know, after a couple of years riding, you can ski everything backwards with your eyes closed practically because it ruins, it gets so easy. So I started hitting handrails, we’d gotten to the city and hit handrails, hit jumps. And that was a lot of fun. Did that all through college, did a lot of events.

Uh, and then coming out here, um, my perspective changed a lot because I’m like, wow, so much more is available to me. And uh, I really love getting into the powder. I’m definitely the last five, six years is just whenever I can find some patterns, get out into that. And I love skiing in the trees. That’s been like one of my, this has been my favorite ski to take into the trees. It’s pivots really well and that’s just like one of my favorite sections in the mountain to get on. So yeah. And, um, hopefully, you know, I’ve done a little bit of back country and I’m trying to get a lot more experience over the next two years. So yeah. Where’s a, where are you getting out normally? Like specifically, do you have any everywhere. It depends on which path. I guess so yeah, yeah, yeah.

No, that’s awesome. Well, where can people find you were working, they find your skis, how can they, you know, check them out and what’s the best way to get their hands on these things? Well, I’m super small so you know, I’m not available in a lot of locations, you know, uh, I have some skis down at Wolf Creek ski resort, which is where my wife actually grew up and I have my father in law actually is a ski instructor up there. He’s sometimes let people take, take skis up for me there. And then the best way is to go through me, you know, one advantage of me being small as you know, you can just reach out to me. The best way to contact me is rarely through instagram. You know, I’ll just, I’m willing to share any information and I’ve, I’ve met up with a lot of people either at the mountain if they live away and be like, Hey, you can take these out.

We’ll meet up at the end of the day, you know, maybe have a beer or whatever, talk about them. People also come right here into this shop and check stuff out and taking them out for a couple of days. So yeah. Gotcha. Yeah. Well that’s how I found you. So, uh, yeah, it seems to be working to try to share a lot of the experience of developing the skis, you know, through, through the story because to me that that’s my passion is building an excellent, you know, experienced building a ski that delivers an excellent experience. Yeah. Well it’s funny, I was talking to a friend of mine who actually was the first person I interviewed on this podcast and her name’s Jessica Pika and she’s a food blogger and 10 in any way. She’s a big skier and we were just chatting and she was asking me if I was doing the podcast, you know, I was like, yeah, she’s like, you gotta talk to this guy at Iris Skis.

Uh, she’s like a huge instagrammer, you know, and so I was like, you know, it’s funny that you say that because I’m going to go meet with them this week. So, uh, I mean it was totally random. It was really awesome. So you’re. So what you’re doing is standing out man, and I think it’s because like the product is just amazing and so unique. Man. It’s just really, really cool. Um, if, you know, you should think about making a snowboard. I don’t know how many. You don’t know how many times I’ve been told that especially because know miss skateboards before, you know, I’m very focused on skiing because that’s primarily what I do. I do. I go out and snowboard a couple of times a year and I do see like maybe some day down the road just for the fun of it building a couple of snowboards.

Probably split boards. Yeah, exactly. All right, well let me know when you’re, when you get like, so you’re busy and you’ve got the system all down to take on the side project, which I’m sure is the last thing you need right now. No more side project. Exactly. Well, awesome man. We’ll, you know, thanks for telling us your story. I uh, I really appreciate you making the time and it’s really awesome to finally meet you and uh, you know, one of the last things I like to ask people before, you know, we kind of let things go is, so who would you like to hear on this podcast? Like who’s inspiring you? Uh, you know, and it could be anywhere in Colorado like. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, I think, you know, Austin’s one I think is an awesome person to talk to you because he’s got so much knowledge of Colorado in Colorado skiing and I think that you’d have a lot of fun talking to him. Oh yeah, that’d be my suggestion. Also, Malala, I’ll definitely reach out to them or maybe have you, uh, put us in touch or something for sure if you don’t mind. Yeah, it will definitely make that happen. Cool. All right, well thanks a lot man. And um, you know, like I said, like, you know, the links to everything, you know, we’ll be able to find and we’ll, you know, we’ll make sure everybody knows exactly where to find a, find your stuff. But, uh, thanks for making the time. I appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for coming over.

All right, there we have it. Eric Hegreness of Iris Skis, know, cool guy making a great product and a, so as we mentioned, all the links to find Eric and get in touch with him, will be in the show notes and we’ll have the links to all the other partners other things that he kind of mentions in the episode in there as well. And so yeah, hope you enjoyed it.

Please subscribe on Itunes or stitcher or whatever you use to listen to podcasts. You can also sign up to be on our mailing list and please leave a review on itunes if you get a chance. It really helps us get found.

So thanks a lot and we’ll be talking to you soon.

 

#018 Meier Skis – Ted Eynon Talks Locally Crafted Skis

Ted Eynon Meier SkisHey everyone, thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast for this episode with Ted Eynon of Meier Skis.

Meier Skis got their start in a tiny garage in Glenwood Springs, but they have since relocated to Denver where they have been building an amazing community around the company.

Online, you can find Meier Skis at MeierSkis.com and on Facebook and Instagram @meierskis.

As always, if you can leave a review on iTunes, that really helps get the word out about the show and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, apple podcast, Stitcher, or however you like to listen to podcasts and signup for our email list as well.

Thanks a lot.

 


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Show Notes

[07:15] Come see how the skis are made

[8:50] Skiing is about the fun

[13:00] How they are different

[15:00] What the clear top sheet means to Meier

[17:00] Sustainability of a local supply chain – ‘Farm to table of skis’

[22:00] Pre-ski stop

[24:30] The product line-up

[29:00] Co-branding partners

[33:30] Idea behind locally harvested wood cores and clear top sheet

[34:00] Outdoor Retailer in Denver

[40:00] Working at Meier – Winter schedule and powder days

 


Relevant Links

Meier Skis

Loveland Ski Area

IKON Pass

Matador! Soul Sounds

Josh Blue

Rep Your Water

Leftover Salmon

Widespread Panic

 


Related Episodes

Venture Snowboards

Romp Skis

Protect Our Winters

 


Transcript

 

Let’s kick it off. Here’s my conversation with Ted from Meier Skis. Ted, thanks for having me. Thanks for the unbelievable tour of like the whole facility. I definitely did not expect that when we came in, I kind of expected like, art, this is where we make the skis. Thanks for making the time. I really appreciate you speaking with us today.

Yeah, of course. Happy to do it and I’m happy to have you here. And it’s always fun showing the building, showing the space and it’s always different than I think what most people are expecting. So.

Right. And now it’s a little bit more of what you guys are used to, probably than a lot of people having people around, even in the workspace because of the way you have the bar in the tours set up. I mean you’ve got, you can tell by walking through the shop. That is not the first time those guys had seen somebody like come in their workspace.

Yeah. It’s almost every day I’m there. Pretty well used to it and you know, our thing has been to really kind of open the Kimono, if you will, to the public to media, to whomever to come in and learn about the brand and make it really easy for them to see how skis and snowboards are made firsthand and learn about the materials and the techniques we use to, to produce them. And, and you know, most people have skied or snowboarded their whole life, 40 years or what have you and they have no clue how they’re made. I mean, you know, I had no clue how they were made until I got involved in Meier Skis. And so it’s, it’s genuinely fun to see people sign. I had no idea, didn’t, didn’t, didn’t know that’s how it was done and to learn about the process and she just kind of that immersive brand experience and that’s kind of what we’re about having a little fun and educating folks and putting out some, some grades, skis.

Yeah. And speaking of the fund side of things, it definitely looks like there’s a fair share of that going on around here too. I mean not only the workshop but this building that you guys are in and kind of the partners that are around here. I mean, you’re just telling me about a lot of the events and the kind of partnerships that you have locally. There’s the bar in the workshop if we didn’t mention that already. Um, are you hiring is kind of the question?

Yeah.

Places dislike. It looks like you guys are having a lot of fun and uh, you know, while you’re making.

Yeah. Well, you know, here’s how we look at it. You know, skiing is about the fun, right? Um, if out on the snow, you’re snowboarding, your skiing, what have you, you’re out sliding around. I mean, it’s about being out with your friends or maybe your by herself, just getting into it for a day on your own, but it’s about the fun, right? It’s that getting that, those Yucks, that big shitty grin on your face and you know, if you’re having a bad day on the snow, it’s your own damn fault, right? You need to snap out of it and uh, joined the program because really if you just stand around even at the base of any mountain and just look around and everyone’s having fun and so what we’ve tried to do is extend that, fallen into our brand and into the production process and, and just really kind of make things open and transparent to our consumer base, to our customers and to everybody.

And you know, part of it is to bring a little mayhem into the joint. So yeah, we definitely like to have fun. When you first come into our space as you saw, you walk right into a bar and the bar acts as our showroom and people can talk to the ski tender, learn about the brand, have a couple of cold beers or a glass of wine or water or whatever your poison is. And uh, behind that bar is this wall of glass. And right there is where you can see the guy’s laying up and pressing skis and snowboards and you know, people can watch every step and get the play by play, by the ski tender and they can touch and feel the materials and, and while having a couple of beers. So it’s Kinda like apres-ski, but it’s pre-ski before you head up the hill to the mountains.

And then, you know, part of what we like to do is bring some fun into here through events. So we have a ton of events here. They might be with partners of ours, breweries, distilleries, the IKON pass, you know, uh, we, we produce a icon skis and it’s been a great partnership. They just had an event here a week ago. They call them stoke events, um, and uh, I think we had 300 5,400 ikon pass holders in here with music and free beer and food trucks and it was a blast. And, and, and you know, when we have these events, depending on who we’re working with, we open up the production area and our guys are back there and kind of give them prompt to tours and it was packed back there the whole time pack back there. I can, I can imagine in a, you know, just, you know, you’re speaking to it like the story and the transparency and everything and, and that’s such a huge part of what people want to know, like behind their consumption these days. Right. And it’s, they want to know that it’s really, you know, a big.

When you log onto your website, I mean it says it right there. You’re striving to be the world’s most ECO friendly high performance skis and that’s, you know, awesome. Claiming it’s an amazing goal and people are going to shop because of that as much as anything else because they’re probably going to be like, well, I can expect a certain amount of performance out of skis, I expect them to work and then, uh, but you know, that’s a big differentiator for you and they can come here and really see what that means to you guys and what that means in the process and in the materials and um, and you really kind of see it right off the bat. Um, and, and what actually attracted me to even like get in touch with you guys was seeing your booth at the outdoor retailer show. And I went up to Matt and introduced myself. And because the skis themselves, I mean, first of all, there’s the product right before there’s all the other stuff. There’s the product and their product is so beautiful and unique with the wood cores that kind of shine through. So why don’t you speak a little bit to that, you know, the sustainability of the product, the materials and um, and how that differentiates you from, from what else is kind of going out there.

Yeah. And you know, I think part of why we do what we do and, and, and kind of open the doors to everyone is to allow people to see that we actually make the skis ourselves, which is really important. There are a lot of brands that don’t make anything right. And they may make whatever claims, um, they may be a Colorado based company and the skis are made in China, right? And a lot of people don’t know that skis and snowboards are made in China by even smaller craft brands based here in Colorado or other parts of the United States. And so, you know, we like to differentiate ourselves and demonstrate that yeah, no one else is making this for us. We’re making it right here, um, every step of the way. And so that’s a lot of why we do that. And, uh, um, and then as far as, you know, the aesthetics of the skis we get, I mean, I’ve heard it thousands and thousands of times.

Oh my God, they’re the most beautiful skis, which all that falls apart if they aren’t good students, right? They got to ski well to. So our typical retort is, you know, they ski as good, if not better than they look and they do. And you know, at this point where we’re at as far as kind of a maturing and evolving company, I’d put our skis up against any brand in the world. I don’t care who they are. Uh, and I think if, if people had a, a blind ski test, if you will, uh, I think we’d win more often than we’d lose against any major brand in the world. And, uh, you know, we have people coming over from Atomic Rozzie, K2, Salomon, these big brands coming to us all the time, all the time, every. And uh, once we get them, we don’t tend to lose them.

And because we’re going about things, you know differently. And you know, the clear top sheets are, are huge for us, it’s, it’s not easy with as long as skiing has been around and as long as there has been these older than dirt ski manufacturers out of Europe or wherever, um, to come up with a distinct look and aesthetics to the skis that separate us from everyone else where you can see the skis and you’re like, oh, those are Meiers, right? And that’s not easy to do. And so we’ve committed to the clear top sheet and you know, there’s, as you’ve seen, there’s all sorts of colorful graphics on there. I mean, it’s all over the place, right? We’ve got the standard product line, but then we’ve got limited editions and one off customs and licensing deals with different businesses and what had in. So through it all, you’re able to see the natural beauty of the wood and the craftsmanship.

When you cover up skis and snowboards, tip to tail with ink, you can, you can hide all your mistakes. For us, we’re kind of buck naked, burying our soul. And, you know, it’s funny because we’ll be at our, you mentioned outdoor retailer will be there and we’ll have engineers or someone coming over from one of the big brands looking at our stuff and they’re like, oh, easy clear top sheet, you know, and they start, you can tell what they’re doing when they’re looking at the skis, they’re looking for, you know, kind of separation in the, in the wood, they’re looking for mistakes. And I’m like, keep looking like we, we, we can’t afford to have mistakes, right? Because, uh, there’s a premium on making sure that everything is perfect, uh, and, and we strive for that. And, and so that distinctive look I think really separates us.

On the sustainability front of the bottom line is making skis and snowboards is not an environmentally friendly process. I mean, that’s just a fact. So we try and do our part to make a more sustainable ski and snowboard through certain practices such as using locally harvested wood, right? We’re closer to the source of the wood versus trying to ship would in from the east coast or from bamboo from Southeast Asia, which, you know, everyone talks about bamboo, so eco friendly and say, well, it actually takes a ton of water to produce the bamboo. Um, there’s a lot of processing that goes on, uh, in, in creating the final bamboo product that’s used in skis of which there is a real nasty byproduct from that. And then, you know, shipping would from Asia to here is, this is a big footprint as our shipping skis from China to here.

And uh, so, you know, using that locally harvested wood. And then, you know, the wood, we use the aspen. If you cut down on Aspen, you’ll get a bunch of aspen shoots that come up. And if you’ve ever had a yard with an aspen in it, the chutes always come up in the wrong place over. It’s right next to your home or up in the middle of your garden or wherever. And then we use the, uh, the pine beetle kill, which anyone that lives in the rockies and skis has seen the devastation on the mountain sides where everything is brown through the, um, you know, basically the forest becoming unhealthy, uh, becoming overgrown over time because we suppress forest fires because we lived there. And uh, um, so being able to utilize that pine beetle kill in skis is really cool. It’s a, it’s a nice story.

And, and it kind of reinforces what we’re about. And uh, uh, the combination of the Aspen and beetle kill makes for an amazing wood core light. You know, it’s dry here. Uh, so real poppy, if you ever been at an Aspen Grove and someone’s walking behind you, that branches got lots of life to it. And, uh, and, and funny enough, pine beetle kill, just like all wood is graded, it can actually be used for a frame construction in homes. So, you know, we get all the wood that we get is especially graded for Meyer. I’m making it more clear and ensuring that um, you know, it’s a strong and durable and they make for amazing wood cores and uh, and we use some other things. We do, we use a entropy, a boxy, um, again, epoxy is not inherently environmentally friendly, but it’s a bio base resin in it’s as environmentally friendly is, um, any epoxy uh, can be. So we use that which works fantastic. And then we use a lot less ink. Ink is not good stuff for the environment and we use a lot less ink because we like to show off the wood right there. Those are some of the things that we do. And then of course we’re right here in the United States in Denver, produce everything here. So, you know, at least shipping two locations in North America. It’s a short distance. We’re not shipping skis in from eastern Europe or China first.

Yeah. And it’s, you know, as, as a Colorado based podcast. I mean, it was really interesting to see that. I mean, you’re a local company that is physically and you know, not just a headquarter here but is producing, warehoused here. Everything you’re sourcing locally, I mean you got local guys, no girls working in the shop. You got everything going on. It’s um, is like. And then with the open a workshop area kind of reminds me how everyone’s got the open kitchen now you’re like the farm to table of a ski exit. I love that. He can we. Can we figure out that first one’s on me man? Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. I love it.

But at that, that is, that was the whole premise and that was the idea and um, you know, it’s, it’s amazing. Um, it’s definitely resonating with our audience and uh, when we have people that come in here from Japan, from Italy, from France, from Germany, from Toronto, from all over the United States, North America that literally get off the plane at the airport, go rent their car and they drive to Meijer to, to have a couple of beers, break bread with us, watch the guys making skis, learn about the process, learn about the brand before they head up the mountain on their ski vacation. I mean, it’s amazing to me. And, and you know, with destination, it’s on the label. Yeah, well we’re on tripadvisor and people, you know, people talk about the skis, but they’re also talking about just the vibe here and, and that they were actually able to see, go on a tour and see how skis are made and uh, you know, while having a beer or wine and have a  said the pre ski you get amped up and it’s a great environment and maybe you’ve been on the plane for a little while and it’s a great stop. It, it’s amazing.

You know, I imagine we’ll have a lot more of those people this year than we had last year. And she’s fun, uh, that, that the word has spread because, you know, it wasn’t that long ago, I think I was telling you earlier, if I’m at crested butte or I’m at Wolf Creek or wherever steamboat and I saw someone on our skis and be like, oh, that’s, that’s probably Joe, that’s a Sarah or whatever, you know. So now, now, I mean we’re shipping skis all over the world and um, you know, most whiskeys in the beginning were all sold right in Glenwood Springs and then kind of, you know, I’m starting to get to the front range in Colorado and, and now we ship more skis outside of Colorado than, than we have inside of Colorado. But all regions are growing well for us. I mean we doubled in size last year and you know, I think we’ll hopefully make a run at doubling topline growth this year if, if, uh, the season gets off on the right foot and you know, [inaudible] fourth quarter of the season is, you know, October, November, December is a important of the ski season is where it all goes down.

Right? Yeah. Right.

Oh good. Because I hope it keeps those, all those people busy in there, you know, keeps everything you can say they’re busy, they’re busy. Is focused and shit done. Yeah. There were some stacks of a laminated skis that you hit the bandsaw and somebody has got to get on it. Yeah, exactly. I must go faster. Let’s go faster. But it’s, but it’s a hands on process. I mean, that, that is like a hands on process from beginning to end. It is unbelievable. It really is a handmade product. Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, it’s hard to put too much automation into skis anyhow. I mean, even big brands, there’s a lot of hands on the skis. There’s just, there’s only so much automation you can do and you know, for us, we’re just trying to stay true to the brand and kind of core values where we started. Um, because we think, um, you know, doing handmade skis is pretty cool. Yeah. But even with that, I mean, your lineup is pretty impressive.

I mean 13 models or so plus 17 percent a control in potentially and you’re, you know, you can get a custom made set as well and um, and you’ve even got a snowboard in there. So it’s like a, I mean, for the, you know, the size of the shop that you’ve got going on over there. There’s a lot of variety and a lot of options and uh, you know, that’s kind of an interesting model.

Yeah. It’s, um, it’s alive and what we have, we were really good at coming up with new designs. We’re really bad at killing them off because once we have the tooling in place and we have a cult following for a certain model, it’s hard for us to just say, oh, we’re not going to make that anymore. You know, people would kill us. There’d be a revolt. So what, what we are now looking to do is kind of stratify things a little bit in a lineup where a certain skis were committing to have on the shelf, you know, so part of the standard product lineup, uh, the more popular skis, we’re going to keep those in inventory on the shelf, both for our direct consumer orders as well as for a backing up inventory in all of our ski shop partners that we have, you know, all around North America.

And, and that’s part of the uniqueness of our business model actually, is instead of forcing a ski shop to buy everything in February or March and take a wild ass guess at how many they’re going to sell next year, which is usually impacted by how much it snows. Whether shop. Yeah, exactly. We take a lot of that risk and mitigate it for them out of there because we’re here making skis right through the season. Gotcha. And were keeping standard product in inventory right through the season with kind of minimum levels. Once we have that, then we’re backfilling, um, you know, the inventory for that particular ship more out.

Exactly. And so, you know, for the ski shops we say why spend money and, and hope to have hit the right models and hope to have a good ski season. I mean, let’s face it, in the end, a ski shop is going to sell what they have, right? So if they bought this, even if it’s not the right length or not, the right model, they might try and um, um, forced that ski to that customer because that’s what they have. Right? And you know what, what we’re about is, you know, our ski shop partners have demo centers and a small number of display skis and they can take orders from a customer. So customer goes out and skis, it comes back, it loves it, you know, oh my God, that was amazing. I want to buy it. If they don’t have that ski and inventory, they still take the order.

If it’s a local, we just shipped the ski, it’s on the shelf here. We ship it to the shop or if it’s a tourist going back to Atlanta or Boston or Texas or whatever, it just goes to their home address. And we actually have a, um, a, a piece of software that runs on top of our e-commerce that kind of directs traffic on protecting territories for retailers that, that ties orders to a discount code that’s tied to that ski shop. And we have all these kind of techniques that automatically manage all this and notifies, um, our ski shop partner, our licensing partner, a co branded partner that they have an order that they’re going to receive compensation on. Nice. Yeah. So it’s, it’s an industry first and it allows us to continue to sell direct while simultaneously selling indirect through our are a retailer network.

Yeah. And those brandings and all those partnerships like seem pretty unique. Maybe we’ll have a Colorado.FM. I’m working towards it. Um, but, uh, you know, that’s like a really unique part of your business it seems like. And uh, we didn’t really talked about this earlier. I mean we talked about the partnerships, but like it seems like, you know, again, just looking right on your homepage and also in the, a showroom there, this rep, your water, one’s a pretty big one and you’ve got some cool music ones coming up to that. I’ll get to talk to.

Yeah. So it’s, it’s, uh, again, we don’t think we can succeed as a ski manufacturer ski brand here in the states without going about things uniquely and differently. I think if we followed the same path that I’m, all the large ski brands did once upon a time. I mean it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s not a path that’s likely to lead in, in a commercially viable business. So we try and go about things differently and a big part of our growth and our marketing and our promotions is working with co branded partners, be them breweries, distilleries, and we worked with cabot cheese up in Vermont. You know, we work with a AC golden that makes Colorado native bear here work with Tivoli that’s right around the corner in downtown Denver on the Cu Denver campus, metro state campus. We work with universities, university of New Hampshire. Uh, we’re about ready to release the, a cu, a, a bus ski.

Yeah, a metro state right here in town. Uh, yeah, we’ve got a skew with them and they actually had a happy hour here last Friday. Um, so, you know, you get people over here that are skiers having a little fun and, and, uh, they had music here for that as well. Um, we, we work with, um, uh, yeah, distilleries like Milagro Tequila where it’s a Tequila and we have a bunch of others that were close to getting in the shoot. And then music is just a big part of what we do here. So we’ve done, um, past partnerships with bands like a Big Head Todd and the Monsters, String Cheese Incident. Um, we, we have a great partnership with Leftover Salmon, uh, which is ongoing. And uh, you know, they actually kicked off their, uh, something higher album tour and album release. I’m here, uh, in the spring in May. They actually did the album signing right here at this table we’re sitting at right now.

Yeah. And I mean, so it was kind of a closed event, but we had probably 300 people in here and salmon had all their partners in here, some great companies. And uh, you know, it was, it was awesome. It was so much sounds. And uh, we, we, we just sign and we’re just ready to launch a partnership with a band, Widespread Panic and it’s going to be so much fun. So we’re, we’re kind of a time in the launch around their Milwaukee shows that are coming up and uh, I think they’re like October 20, 21, something like that. And uh, so we’re going to have a base ski with a widespread panic graphic on the quick draw. And then we’re going to have a five other graphics and people can pick the model, pick the length pictographic and they’ll have that in four weeks. I can or should have it informally.

Um, it always gets tough around the holidays, you know, because so many people are ordering skis and they all want by Christmas. That gets to be a little challenging, but start seeing some snowflakes in the air and all of a sudden the phone starts ringing. But, but the, the, the co-branded partnerships, the licensing partnerships allows us to grow into their passionate customer base. And conversely, you know, were these brands and these businesses want to be relevant in the snow industry to be able to have skis and snowboards with your branding and you know, whatever kind of theme and messaging you want to have on there. Done tastefully. We weigh in heavily on, uh, what goes on there. A is a lot of fun. We’ve got nike coming in next week. They have an off site meeting here in Denver and they were looking for some smaller brands that actually manufacture things to go to visit. And somehow they decided to come to my rescue, so I mean we’ve got, we’re going to be doing some Nike Skis and they’re doing a tour here and they said that they’re coming here to try and learn from us. So that go.

That’s unbelievable. I mean, and that’s a, like you said it all coming from something that started in garaging. Glenwood Springs, right? Yeah.

Matt, Matt Cudmore. And he’s the one who started it all and uh, started it in the, in the tiniest little one car garage you’ve ever seen. And um, yeah. And, and the whole idea of using locally harvested wood came from his brother who worked, uh, lived in crested butte and worked for the Colorado state forest service at the time. And he’s the one who kind of inspired matt to investigate using locally harvested wood from Colorado. And that’s what put us on that path. And then Matt had the idea of showing off the natural beauty of the wood using the clear top sheet. And yeah, that’s kind of, you know, the routes and where we evolved out of.

Yeah. And uh, like I mentioned, I, I met Matt and that’s who I first spoke to and then he put us in touch since you’re the actual onsite guy, but, and we met at the outdoor retailer show and you know, that was the first year that it had moved to Denver from I guess Salt Lake City and uh, you know, that was a big thing for local brands and I’m curious, you know, what, what that was like to, I don’t know if you attended that show in the past or if it was one of those things where it opened the door for you now that’s in town, but what was it like having that big show right in, you know, a mile down the road or is handy?

Handy? It’s convenient, but it did lead to us being very efficient, you know, so, so we’ve always done the Sia, the snow show, and then our outdoor retailer acquire the Sia trade show. So instead of there being two shows that kind of competed, they consolidate it into one. Yeah, just a mile and a half down the road from here. So there’s people all over the world coming in for this and I think at this point, I may be wrong, but I think we’re the longest standing, um, ski brand that produces their own skis, exhibiting at that show. Um, which is pretty cool. Yeah. And um, uh, yeah, the inefficient part was we’re like, we’re so close. So we kinda haphazardly loaded up and ended up having to make about eight trips back and forth to get all the shit that we forgot. It’s like when you move next door, you still got to pack everything up and move again.

Lined is like, I’ll just take it one bucket at a time. It’s easy. Exactly. And then we take advantage of it. We do a couple things. I mean we um, so we have our vehicle are immobile, is kind of on call so people can meet at our booth if they’re interested, I’m pick them up right out in front of the Convention Center. We have a meeting point and uh, bring them over here. You know, they have a couple of quick beers, do a tour and uh, these retail shops can or other partners of potential partners can learn about our brand and see what we do right here and we can do that all within, you know, about an hour and a half. Right. So we’d pick them up right in front buzz them over here, stuff a couple of beers and I’m doing a tour and bring them right back and they’re back on the show floor.

They must have loved that because I mean I had never been to this thing before and I mean it’s massive and I only had to go. I went for one day just to, you know, see some people I know and see what was going on out there. But when you have to work those trade shows and you’re there for like four days, you would kill to get out of there for like an hour and a half and just come hang out somewhere else. Exactly. And yet you’re still part of, you know, the show part of business. And then we also, we have a big music event here where we’ll have, you know, nationally known musicians play here and that kind of goes back to, I think an earlier question, I guess I skimmed over that, but you know, we have a lot of events here that, that are music centric as well.

So we’ll often have it built around a, uh, a charitable organization and do kind of a fundraiser around that. And we’ve had musicians here, I think almost everyone for the motet has played here. I’m Eddie Roberts from the new master sounds, um, and now, uh, uh, the matadors a, he’s an amazing musician and had a good friend of mine. And so he’s really woven into the music scene here. So He’s brought in a jeff, the drummer from thievery corporation. A bar on the keyboard is for pretty lights. Um, we’ve had a DJ Williams, a lead guitarist for a Karl Denson and the tiny universe. We’ve had the trumpet player from the Stevie wonder band. We’ve had like these crazy, you know, allstar collab bands in here with a few hundred people all just having a blast. And it’s crazy and yeah, I, I mentioned leftover salmon plan in here earlier and, and that just is going to continue. And, and so when there’s, when you hear there’s, we’re having a music based event, if you like music, you won’t see these artists in a smaller fund or cooler, more unique thing.

Yeah. Now I’m a, I want to be on the list. Well then like, uh, it’s really amazing and you again, I really appreciate you just taking the time to share the story and show me around and uh, you, it’s so unique and it’s like one of the fun things about, about doing this. Um, I do have a couple of last questions for you. First, like, so when you’re not here with all the music and the fun, where’s your favorite, uh, like testing grounds for these skis you’re making anyway, it depends what snow we want to test on. So, um, and usually, you know, we kind of chased the snow a little bit when the time allows for it. So, you know, for doing a demo somewhere and um, we’re at Alta Utah and we see a big front blown in and they’re predicting, you know, two to four feet and up their testing powder skis. But you know, a lot of the skis we have are narrower into foot or front side carbon skis, you know, designed for the northeast, designed for, you know, those like last season here, right where you have a lot of firms snow days and actually are getting some ice here, which people in Colorado aren’t really easy. Whereas in the northeast Michigan, uh, yeah, it’s pretty common, right? So if we’re looking to test honestly, we go to loveland a lot and you know, we have a great partnership with them and uh, you know, we’ve got some corporate passes, we trade for skis up there and they’re just so easy to work with and they get great snow grade powder and you can get powder their days after it snows and if it hasn’t snowed for a bit, you know, you can get some great from snow to test as well.

Um, but yeah, it just kinda depends, you know, how the schedule works out where you are and what you have for skis, how much time you have, right? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Of course you would think being in the ski industry and being a ski manufacturing ski brand that were on the snow all the time and as most people that are in this business will tell you it doesn’t quite work out that way because you’re just busy as shit doing a million different things. But you know, we’re, we’re getting to the point, um, you know, maturing and growing as a company where, you know, we can get out on the snowboard more every year. Yeah, yeah. We also do a couple of unique things. So we have a will shift once, once the terrain starts opening up, will shift the work week for production to Tuesday through Saturday so that the guys can take Sunday and Monday, you know, have a day where they’re heading up to the mountains when traffic is coming down and can have a Monday there when there’s no one on the slopes.

And you know, that works out really well because most everyone that works here, um, skis or snowboards, sure. And, uh, then the other thing we have is a powder day rule. If you give ’em I think it’s 24 hours notice you can take that day off. Um, and the only caveat is that you have to work the next available day that you weren’t going to work and do a full day’s work, regular expected productivity. And if you don’t do that then the powder day rule is not available to anyone anymore. So there’s a little pressure, self policing, self policing, madden mayhem would break out, it may break breakout, there would be an angry mob. So we find that that works out pretty well actually, but people can go take their powder day, just go play hard and then come back and work hard.

Yeah. Well I hope you, I hope you’re ready for the flood of resumes, man. Like if like I said, this place is pretty amazing. And, uh, the last thing I’d like to ask people in a, you know, you’ve given me a million great ideas already, but, um, but who would you like to hear on this podcast? Like if, you know, who would you like to learn more about or do you think that people would enjoy kind of learning about their story? And obviously we’re just Colorado based, but it’s not a scheme base.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, um, it’s a good question. And so if it’s not ski based, I’m going to go outside of the ski industry, um, because you seem to cover that really well. He has some great podcasts out there. Listen to some of woman and hope to listen to some more. Thanks. We had talked briefly earlier, um, you said your wife’s really into comedians and stuff. So there’s a guy by the name of Josh Blue who’s here locally in Denver and he’s just blown up nationally and he is funny as shit. He’s really, he’s pretty twisted, demented, but like in a good way. And uh, uh, so I think josh would be a great one. And then I’m on the music front. Uh, Eddie Roberts from the new mastersounds, the sky is, he’s unbelievable. I mean, he’s played with so many amazing musicians around the world and, you know, he’s, he’s just traveled the world over and he musicians just gravitate to him. I’m just one of those guys that people like to play with, like to hang out with, like likes to have fun with. And uh, so Eddie’s a based here in Denver. I’ve been here a few years now, but he’s originally from uh, uh, from England and uh, he’s a Welshman and uh, and he loves to ski and he, he’s like a crazy son of a bitch. He’s a, he’s, he’s funny to ski with. So, um, I think they’d be two good ones.

Oh man, I appreciate that. I, uh, you know, like he’s, I’ve talked to a lot of gear guys, but we were kind of talking about this earlier, like, you know, the outdoor sports where they’re skiing or snowboarding and a lot of the things that the music and the beer, these things are all part of, you know, what we enjoy and what’s going on here in Colorado. And it’s really part of maybe you get to go snowboarding or skin have a couple of years ago, see some music, man, it doesn’t get much better than that. That’s day.

That’s kind of the idea that’s Kinda covering the basis for most skiers and that’s what we try and bring here. Yeah.

And you’re bringing it all the way here too. And I appreciate that heads up because that’s something I would like to bring to, uh, to this audience as well. So, uh, so thanks a lot, man. I really enjoyed this and um,

you know, I hope we can stay in touch and I appreciate you taking the time. I really do. Well, likewise. Thanks for taking the time and coming down and chatting with us. And uh, yeah, wish you wish you the best with your podcast. Seems like you’re killing it. All right. Thanks man. All right, art, everyone. Thanks for listening. It’s great to be back in the saddle over here as we mentioned. As always, you’ll be able to find any links to things we’ve spoken about in the show notes.

 

Man, I gotta tell you ever since I had a chance to speak to Ted, these guys, The New Mastersounds, you got to check them out. I’ve been really, really enjoying that recommendation, so, uh, hopefully we’ll be able to talk to those guys at some point. But for now I’m just jamming their music all the time. It’s great.

As always, if you can leave a review on itunes, that really helps get the word out about the show and be sure to subscribe on Itunes, apple podcast, stitcher, or however you like to listen to podcasts and signup for our email list as well. Thanks a lot.

 

 

 

#017 Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge With Lauren Steele of Motherboard

Hey everyone, Doug Stetzer here. Thanks for tuning into Colorado.FM the Colorado podcast.

So I’ve spoken a lot about how this project has already taken me down paths that I couldn’t foresee and this is another one of those kinds of episodes. It all started when I received an email from Vice Media. Yes the Vice Media found the podcast and reached out to us, and you content creators out there would know that that was a pretty exciting moment.

But what does that have to do with Colorado?

Well, Vice has sponsored an article by freelance writer Lauren Steele titled “Reclaimed Land: Inside Colorado’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge a former Superfund site that embodies the painful past an uncertain future of nuclear cleanup in America.”

Now most people here in the Denver Boulder area know all about Rocky Flats, but in case you’re not familiar, Rocky Flats is a superfund site located pretty much within eyesight of these two major metropolitan areas where during the Cold War plutonium triggers among other things were made for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, and I think you can see where this is going, let’s just say the waste was handled inappropriately.  I’ll leave the details for Lauren and her really amazing article.  But be warned you’re going to get angry it’s just really maddening.

Now despite this history and a half life of plutonium of 25000 years or so the area around Rocky Flats is already being redeveloped. Those of us who drive down Colorado 93 are on our way to Denver or shoot out to 70 are familiar with the Candelas housing development that’s right there. Additionally over 5000 acres of Rocky Flats is about to be reopened to recreation under the supervision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

So is a former Superfund site ever really clean and is the government data trustworthy?

As far as the safety of living conditions in the area there are two sides to this story and I think Lauren does a really great job of making sure that they’re both represented. I also really want to give kudos to Vice Media for sponsoring this type of long form investigative journalism in our world of 140 character tweets and 30 second videos. This article really stood out.

About Lauren Steele.

Lauren is a freelance journalist who has contributed to publications such as Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine, Men’s Fitness and more.

he has held the title of director of toughness for Columbia Sportswear and aside from writing this article that is relevant to all of us in Colorado. When she’s not traveling for work she spends a lot of time specially in the summers here in Carbondale area training for ultra-marathons and things like that.

And this actually is where she stumbled upon this story which is no she gets into which is a cool story in and of itself. Online you can find Vice Media at vice.com and on Instagram and Facebook also @vice.

And of course we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find vice, Lauren’s writing or anything else we mention in the show.

So here we go. My conversation with Lauren Steele, contributing journalist to Vice Media.

 


Show Notes

[02:30] Who is Lauren Steele and what led to this story?

[08:30] Rocky Flats will be a place to play.  Should it be?

[11:35] Why push this on US Fish and Wildlife Service?

[19:00] Description of Rocky Flats; What is the Central Operable Unit.

[24:30] Touring the area; A sneak peek.

[30:00] Making choices – Why save this site instead of something pristine?

[35:30] Conversations with people in the area – what that reveals.

[41:00] Site meets current standards, but standards change over time.

[43:20] What would you ask Dominick Sanchini?

[41:00] What’s next for Lauren.

 


Relevant Links

Reclaimed Land:  Inside Colorado’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, a former Superfund site that embodies the painful past and uncertain future of nuclear cleanup in America.  – Vice Motherboard

Vice Motherboard

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge – US Fish & Wildlife Service

Dept. of Energy Office of Legacy Management

EPA Superfund Record of Decision

CaldelasLife.com

CandelasConcerns.com

Carbondale, CO

 


Transcript

 

Hey Lauren. You know I really appreciate you taking the time to join us on this show and you know reach out and to talk about this amazing story that you did.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about this article. It is called Reclaim Land. It’s on Vices Motherboard and it’s you know the subtitle is Inside Colorado’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Now this really hits home. I’m in Boulder. It’s right down the road. And when I moved here people told me about that very casually. Oh yeah that place over there used to be a toll toxic waste dump. So you know what I’m really curious about is is this what led you to this story what you know were you assigned this story or did you teach it. Did you seek it out. Like what. You know it really brought your attention to Rocky Flats?.

Read More...

So the genesis of a story is usually a very interesting one.

I’m freelance reporter so I am constantly seeking out things that interest me and I also happen to be a very active outdoors person and I usually come out to Colorado specifically Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley area to train during the summers for ultra-marathons and different races but I’m doing throughout the year.

I have just fallen in love with the valley and this area and wherever I’m traveling rather I’m going just because I happen to be and insatiably curious person. I always tap into the local news and like all refresh the local page on my phone for news and kind of read bulletin board the coffee shop and see what’s going on because you never know what you’re going to find out and you never know what is going to come across.

And actually while I was here last summer it was and was actually in late June I found a news story about a new lawsuit I come home about this Rocky Flats place.

I had never heard of Rocky Flats. I live in York City. I grew up in rural Missouri. And Rocky Flats was meaningless to me. But there was the headline from my local Denver outlet and it was talking about this huge lawsuit about this nuclear waste land. And this former Superfund site. And the fact that it was becoming a national wildlife refuge.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

How can some place that used to have plutonium on it be a national wildlife refuge especially in Colorado especially in Boulder?

I have a lot of friends.  I very much know the community there and the values that they hold in the belief system there. And so I was intrigued from the very get go are diving in a little bit more about it that a lot of google searching. Like I think that there’s something more here. I don’t know what it is. I don’t even know what a Superfund site is. But there’s something here and I’m curious. I’m curious and I am kind of afraid and I’m kind of just completely swept off my feet by this and I know other people will be too. And that’s usually the guiding light for me with stories as if this is intriguing to me if this is mysterious to me.

This is like inflaming some sort of passion in me that I know that it will mean something to other people.  And just like keeping that human thread running through stories like whether they’re environmental or they’re you know athletically driven or whatever. Whenever I’m working on, if it makes me curious and I’m like there’s something here that when I heard of Rocky Flats I was always like wow.

After a quick google search I realized that there were there was really no national coverage of Rocky Flats, which is also shocking to me especially with like the state of our current political climate regarding the EPA.

How can we just be ignoring on such a national level?

With funding being cut and all the Superfund sites after Hurricane Harvey leaking and not getting the funding that they need. How can we just be ignoring on such a national level?

These places that could cause huge issues for decades or centuries to come we don’t really know. So for me like thank god my love for Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley and running and being in these mountains and just playing out here actually led me to the story. Which is a really intriguing angle because you know the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is going to be a place where people can play and run and bike and all these things.

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is going to be a place where people can play and run and bike and all these things. But should it be?

But should it be. And those are the especially whenever we have all this land out here to enjoy. And that was kind of the thing that piqued my interest the most was like in this place that I love so much and have given so much to me as an athlete and outdoors person.

How can our wild lands and our public lands, the kind of give us our human rights, you know it’s like there’s all this contention around being there and publicly and in general and it’s like what about when the land isn’t serving the public well what when public lands are hurting the public and why are we trying to protect the land that could help the public.

So those kinds of questions are really what led me to writing the story into really pursuing it and it was actually after a few days of going over who I should bring the story to who would be the best fit. I actually had taken it to a different publication prior but they didn’t want to run it as a feature and I didn’t want anybody to have to google Rocky Flats like I did after reading my story.

I wanted to really talk about the issues here and really talk about the issues on a national scale not just on the Colorado scale because Rocky Flats has been a huge source of contention in the Denver metro area for decades. And I wanted to talk about that for everybody in this country and how it affects all of us. So I finally ended up selling the story to Vice motherboard.

And in September and they were full throttle, let’s do this let’s make it happen in as many words that it need to tell a story less inform people, and I am beyond privilege that I had an editorial team in a publication that was so supportive of us telling the story as thoroughly as we could.

Right. Well you know as you know there’s a lot of things in there that are super interesting. First one when I got the e-mail from you guys about you covering the story and talking to you. You know I was wondering what your angle might have been on that. So it’s really interesting to hear that you spend so much time out in Colorado and it was really a personal find for you.

And there was a couple of things that I was thinking when you said that that that triggered some thoughts my mind.  First of all, I live right here and I didn’t know that this park was opening up in the next year. It’s just kind of taken for granted story like everyone kind of knows about it. But like you said there’s not a whole lot of coverage and conversation about what’s going on over there probably because it’s been like that for so long.

You know and in your story you see how some of the most active opponents of opening up this refuge and everything like that you know they’ve been at it for decades so I can only imagine the energy that is as taken to just kind of maintain that fire, right. So that just came across as really interesting.

And then you know the other thing about this idea that it really does affect everybody and not just people in Denver because of not just the site. And you know what might happen environmentally but because of how it reflects on the process what’s going on with the Superfund program. Who are these sites are getting dumped on. You know your article really was super informative and like you said I mean these long form articles are kind of a rarity these days as you know really special for Vice to just encourage that because you know.

I just thought it was amazing. And so you know one of the things speaking of that process is how these sites. You know I’m speaking of the budgetary process and everything like that so Superfund itself is being defunded and then they’re pushing these sites on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And when you hear that you’re just like well how does that make any sense. And then of course I mean there is not one park type service. You know a Department of Interior group that’s not just being axed as far as budget. So how are you. You know how are they defining superfund and then pushing it to the Fish and Wildlife Service that just blew my mind.

Yeah yeah. So kind of jumping and right there I mean that is the meat of the story. And I think that’s the meat of a problem. And because the story I wrote it not to talk about the controversy of the site. I wasn’t trying to say the government strong activists arrived the activists are right. The government is wrong.

There has been such a state of contention around who’s right and who’s wrong for so many decades with the story and the way I saw it is that the only reason that there there is controversy is because there’s bureaucratic red tape. You know I don’t want to talk about this controversy I want to talk about the bureaucratic red tape that causes controversy at all Superfund sites.

But my mission with the story and the coverage is to make Rocky Flats a microcosmic example of a larger issue that we have nationally because what’s going on there is going on and a lot of other places and we need to reignite the passion about you know asking for answers having definitive information having these safety standards that mean something to people you know you’re kind of going back to just the U.S. Fish and Wildlife sampling of all of this.

It’s incredibly, incredibly astonishing to me that a sector of the Department of Interior whose actual mission statement reads and I’m reading quote unquote their mission statement.

“Our mission is to work with others to conserve protect and enhance wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

That is a mission statement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So how can the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency say you know what a former Superfund site a site that is absolutely needing an imperative imperatively seeking continuing remediation and treatment for nuclear and radioactive contamination. Yeah that goes you guys. You guys know what to do with you know deer and prairie dogs and I think there are some deer prairie dogs here so take care of it.

We’ve already cleaned it up that mindset.

I mean everybody’s of law and that’s the issue here is the Department of Energy doesn’t want to have to deal with grasslands and the EPA is getting their funds cut. Day after day and the Department of Energy doesn’t want to have to deal with grasslands.

And then there’s the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and they’re forced to put on a good face and say we’re taking care of this. We are monitoring it we’re working on it. And the thing is that they don’t have the tools to deal with land that has been contaminated with radioactive and nuclear waste. And that’s a hard part is that we don’t have a plan that mitigates on a national level these Superfund sites because once they’re cleaned up the EPA kind of dust their hand off and says OK we did our job.

We spend our money we spend our time. But the thing is is this land will never be the same the half life of plutonium 239 which was the most rampant contaminant at Rocky Flats the half life of 24000 years. So no matter which way you like that’s not going to disappear right where the going how are we continuing to monitor it.

Like maybe there maybe there is no plutonium right now at Rocky Flats. But the thing is how do we prove that to the public how can we give them the assurance that it is safe. How can the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service be confident in their testing.

There’s a lot of kind of secular conflict of interest throughout all of this because the EPA is one of the government agencies along with the FBI who initially raided Rocky Flats whenever they were found in you know in the very beginning back and let me see what year it was. I think it was 89 whenever the raid actually happened. They were the ones who raided Rocky Flats and then you guys are doing a lot of stuff that is not OK. You’re dumping plutonium you’re spraying radioactive waste unpeeled there is toxic waste being dumped into water drainage is like this isn’t OK.

And then later on the Department of Energy is the one who’s tasked with running the central operable unit now and the EPA is the one tasked with testing the central operable unit. And there is no independent testing happening at any Superfund sites across the country right now. And I think that’s definitely something that citizens and people and government officials should be questioning of every single agency that was allowed to test Superfund sites and residually monitor them after their deemed clean has to be certified by the EPA.

And I and that’s not independent testing that’s not conflict of interest free. You know the houses. How can we prove that the system is good enough to protect us. Because the fact of the matter is plutonium of their radioactive waste hasn’t spelt and it’s not going anywhere. So how can we be sure that it’s safe. How can we be sure that the process is working great.

And just to kind of back up and clarify in case people haven’t really read the whole article one of the things that really makes you think about what’s going on out there is this central operable unit the structure of it.

 

And so why don’t you kind of explain a little bit about what that is inside the refuge for people who haven’t read the article yet.

Right. So Rocky Flats excuse me Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a newly designated wildlife refuge that’s opening in June 2018 so set to open next summer to the public.

It is over 5000 acres of public recreational land. It is also the site of a former plutonium and nuclear weapons production facility and one of the biggest in the U.S. ever.

Rocky Flats had a hand in producing at least one component of all 70000 nuclear weapons that have ever been produced in the United States.

So it was running full throttle during the Cold War and after it was closed down due to an FBI and EPA raid it was people can start to discover how bad it really was and the place where it was the worst is at the very center of this actual site.

Now so that entire site is a little over 6000 acres. The acreage of the part is going to be open to the public at a little over 5000. But that leaves 1000 acres still not going to be open to the public and that is known as the central operable unit.

So that is the area of the site where the main production facility was and still is. And that’s a very shocking realization to people is all of the foundational structure of the original production facility is buried the concrete foundation is buried right now underneath the central operable unit. And that was the site of the most contaminated areas Rocky Flats where it was in production.

So during the time of production and shortly after closing the EPA and now Rocky Flats was home to five of the 10 most contaminated buildings in America. This is not a thing to really be proud of and that those buildings and their foundations are still buried underneath that site and are required to continually be monitored for the next half century.  So that central operable unit as it’s now known is fenced off. Locals like to call it the doughnut hole doughnut hole in the middle of it is going to be off limits to the public.

Nobody’s going to be allowed to say that it’s still being monitored and that is the only area of the entire site that right now is still owned by the Department of Energy because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can not monitor and cannot operate something that still has unsafe levels of contamination and a need for continued monitoring treatment.

So huge question there is if there is still a 1000 acre area of the site that people cannot be on then why can they be on the rest of the 5000 acres.

One great quote from this story.

One of one of the most vigorous activists in this entire process for the past 35 years is Paula Alaafin guardian and she’s kind of been leading the charge for quite some time now she’s been on this since the Sunday she grew up in an armada. And she looked at me one day and she just goes you know plutonium doesn’t care about fantasy.

And we like to believe that if the government tells us that something is safe that it is but nuclear production is only 65 years old and these contaminants have a half life of 24000 years old 24000 years excuse me.

And so it’s just this idea that how can we be sure that this is safe. We haven’t even had enough time to figure out that it’s not it’s only 65 years old. So what about the next 50 years. What about the next hundred years what about the next 200. So why choose to have people on this say whenever there is a large swath of land that is still incredibly unsafe for people to be on like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t even allowed to be honest and proper operable unit.

So it’s just those kinds of questions that poke their head and say you know is this may not be wrong. This may not be illegal because it’s all falling within the standards of the government that the EPA has said that the Department of Energy has said. And just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean that it’s right.

Right. Well and also it raises the question you know right now 50 years away seems like a long time. What happens if 50 years if they just go in there they pull that fence out and then the lines blurred even more. than we still really know very well was for a long time frame of what any repercussions might be.

Right. And your memories were kind of short. So it’s. Just you know really interesting that definitely stood out now. Now you had a chance actually to go into their refuge with the U.S. most of us guys and trying to tour it ahead of time I guess you’ve had the early preview so.

An Early Look At Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge

So what did it feel like to kind of walk around next that that fence I mean was it kind of eerie was it you know of any new toes started on your feet since you visited it?

When I was going near the site I was actually with my dear friend and a photographer for the project Forest Woodward who is beyond qualified to be asking questions and telling these environmental stories and these large scale stories.

We had a mini van during our time here while we were reporting and we were sitting in his minivan getting ready to drive to the site of a bike. So you think this is going to be OK. And you obviously have reservations –  like plutonium is scary and cancer is scary and the idea that may be unsafe is really scary.

But there are these men and women working there every single day. There are these people that are living there every single day.

And so there’s just a very desperate like attitude toward how you should feel about that land. And I’m we’re like an outsider you know I was flying in from New York City.

I obviously had researched the heck out of all of this. But I don’t have this childhood history of being told that this place is unsafe and will give me cancer. I also don’t have this experience of seeing a sick by being deemed clean and being so proud of the work that’s been done and excited about the opportunity to share it with other people.

No those are the two attitudes that are being directly applied to the opening of the site. So I just try I I as a reporter and as a conveyor of information I will going in here to be like let’s see what happens. I am I want to tell a story about my ability. I want to ask questions. I want to find out information. I want to hear what the to say like I’m not the expert here. I never have been.

I never will be but my my strength and my skills for this story really live and the ability to be curious and just to listen and to convey all the information to the best of my ability. And so while we are in there you know like I’m with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guys and I’m with David Abel and who is the head of the Rocky Fire Stewardship Council and these are people who are so proud of what’s going on here and are excited about the opening and have really like pioneered and championed the opening of this place.

And talking to them and seeing them come upon the site you know you kind of have a hard time not allowing for that.

But at the same time they’re sitting here saying you know we are scared for the next year that we don’t know what the next hundred years will be like and that was my final question to able and was you know what.

What is your biggest regret with Rocky if you like what is your biggest fear. Where with Rocky Flats. And he said not knowing what’s going to happen in 100 years. And and that’s that’s something that no matter how you feel about the site today that doesn’t give you a great feeling about tomorrow because we can’t answer those questions. We literally don’t know because like I said earlier please.

Nuclear development is a new thing worldwide and I think we need it instead of questioning what’s happened that day we really do need to focus on tomorrow and the next day and the next and next year and next century because nuclear isn’t going away. Obviously we see the headlines every single day about North Korea, and Donald Trump and all this scary stuff.

Superfund site than the EPA and budget cuts and all these things.

Whether you’re in Colorado or you’re in Missouri or you’re in New York or you’re in Washington say all of these places have Superfund sites.

This is something that’s affecting everybody like. And we need to be aware there are you know over there right now there are over thirteen hundred Superfund sites on a national priority list of all across our backyard of the country and we’re probably coming into contact more often than we even know. And for me walking on that land and like driving through it and being around it like it doesn’t look special.

And sorry for all you front rangers out there, gorgeous but the plains are the plains. You know Colorado have the Rocky Mountains and have just gorgeous terrain all the way across the state but probably the least impressive part of the entire state is the plains.

And that’s where Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is. It’s 5000 acres of Great Plains sandwiched in between Denver and Boulder.

And so after we left that night for the photographer and I we were on a run in Boulder on one of the trails and as we were running along he jumped at me. He called behind himself and asked me, “why out of all the land in Colorado are they trying to save this for recreation. This place that’s flat that’s nearly urban.”

You can see Denver and you can see boulder from sight. So why. Why funnel your U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service money and budget into this place. And I think those are the great questions like What land are we trying to save here. You know what land are we trying to maintain and advocate for.

You know the former Superfund sites are not pristine in any way shape or form like that that’s not I mean that can be argued.

So why are we trying to save the land that is tainted.

It’s like a piece of paper. You know you can. You can take a piece of paper and the minute that I get crumpled the minute that I get crazy you can never take that creep. You can still write a story on it but that paper is never going to be perfect again. So why are we trying to write a beautiful story on a piece of crumpled paper.

That kind of attitude I took towards is what is the point of making U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service answer to that. This piece of paper that the Department of Energy crumbled. And so I think that question that we need to be answering and acting right now and the hard part is that there are no answers because there is no there is no agency within the Department of Energy that or the Department of Interior that is specifically tasked with maintenance of former Superfund site.

So there’s no actual plan on how to maintain the site once they’re deemed clean. But the fact is is that are they ever really clean. They may be more safe to be on but are they ever clean. And I think that’s the question that Rocky Flats has presented. Better than any other city in America. And I think that’s what really drew me to it and I think that that’s what’s going to continue to allow rocky but to be an example or even like an anti example of how we need to approach that because like I said earlier nuclear isn’t going anywhere.

So how can we how can we handle that process from a to z as a country?

Yeah like you’re saying and there the option there is just why didn’t they just put a fence around all 5000 acres and be done with it. Right. And they can monitor the whole area and give you another forest service or fish and wildlife. Just keep working on either new land or whatever are already huge portfolio of stuff is that they can barely cover.

You know I think the answer there and like the really hard part is it’s money like they answer there is money.

So why would you and the government agency that getting funds cut every single year. Why would you send something off and have to spend the money to monitor it whenever it’s not bringing you any money whenever you can open up the public and have recreation fees and bring more.

Urban center and urban commercialism to the area because of its faith that people can be on it and they can build around it in the community. They knew that it increased the land value of the houses that are being built around it and in turn the houses that are being built around it increased the value of that national wildlife refuge because it is the only land that isn’t commercialized in that area.

So it’s you know hate it or love it money really is the answer here.

And it’s how we kind of use money in the right way and ask the right questions that I can be allotted and the correct way. But you know whenever we prioritize money which as a country we obviously do whenever you prioritize them and do what is most monetarily beneficial and putting a fence around it especially when the EPA and the DOJ tells you it’s safe putting up and saying I am going to cost them money.

As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but you know we’re just not sure where it is going to slash our money down the toilet. And and do do some testing every year and kids keep not getting anything back for them. They’re not going to do that whenever they campaigned over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife arrest. And this is clean because they tell us it is. So we’re going to make the money because we’re not going to slash our budget down the drain here. And that’s a really hard position to be in.

And it is in. But at the same time your economic benefit you also comes from people’s willingness to you know accept what you know they’re being told as far as being safe and everything like that.

And so you know like you mentioned that when you went into this article that there are two sides to this story including you know that the people who have cleaned it up are the people who are monitoring the land and the people who have chosen to live right there and say look I’ve got this amazing space in my backyard you know I’m I’m comfortable with what I’m being told and being presented and the evidence that’s being brought forth and I’m comfortable living here. And you did.

You make sure you spoke to those people as well which is you agree for the article. What was it like to you. You have those conversations with people where did they feel the need to lie, were they defense were they you were they just like look you know we’re being told it’s safe and you know so I’m here.

Yeah. So. That’s a really great question and kind of pulling the lens back in a little bit like I went to the University of Missouri School of Journalism and I am very proud of the education that I received there and my characteristics and the skills that they taught me when being a reporter.

The thing is that I knew I had to talk to everybody. I knew I had to talk to people who are opening it, I needed to talk to people who are protesting, if I knew to people who are living on the other side of the fence of the Rocky Flats. I knew that as government officials I needed to talk to whoever I could to get any information that was available. And my job really is to listen and everybody we have free will and everybody who is a part of the story has their own story that has led them there and for people who live around the site in the Candelas community.

So there’s a 2000 home suburban development of going up all around Rocky Flats and I was able to speak with Kim Griffiths who has been living in the Calndelas community now for two years and you know Kim has her own story and I know I never come into an interview thinking that I need to lean one way or another.

I’m like hey I’m here to listen. Like why are you here. Do you like your home life. Tell me about your story your past like your experience or at least hear your experience. And then I kind of just shut up and let people talk to me because that’s my job and the talk in a can was so incredibly enlightening because whenever you think about a story like this you don’t really think about the people you think about the people who have been negatively impacted who have gotten sick.

You think about the government you think about protesters don’t really think about the people who are just going about their day to day lives in this environment and can have that voice I’m sorry.

And we’re speaking with her. You know it’s been a very rollercoaster like very much a roller coaster ride for her to be in the Kandos community because at first she wants to live. Kim is a highly educated very smart with smart woman. And while we were talking she had a lot to say and one of the biggest ones she wanted to get across is I’m not misinformed I’m not some government lackey. I’m not I’m not a dumb woman who wanted to live in a big house when I had so much respect flashy.

Absolutely conveyed to me that she felt very informed that the government had been transparent with her that she had signed an affidavit saying I know about the land I’m about to live on.

I’ve been informed that I’m making this choice and I’m making it feel like I’m able to make an educated choice. And she worked and the health field for a very long time. So this is not a woman who doesn’t know the facts of plutonium contamination and radioactive contamination on a human body. So walk with her. I just wanted to hear her speak her speak her piece.

And I think that she honestly believe in what she’s doing actually. Kim recently emailed me to tell me in full transparency that she’s become a member of the board of the Rockies Stewardship Committee. So there’s little woman who really does believe with all her heart that she’s will in the place that she wants to live and she’s got a great set up and she’s excited about the land she lives on.

All that being said she is very much putting her face into the facts and the test x and the testing that is being presented to her from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Department of Energy and from the EPA who have you know for decades now been very upfront with providing public information to the testing of the site the levels and the management plans of Rocky Flats.

But you have to look a little bit deeper you know and that’s what I attempted to do is say OK that’s all fair like you feel that it’s safe that you feel out of place based on this fact that was provided to you it’s not just a feeling you have like you have done your research but what is beyond that research and that’s never I started to learn a little bit more about the fact that the standard for the tests have been by the upper and lower limits of these these contaminated levels have been moved by the DOJ and EPA over the years.

You know we have changed as a country are entered for with acceptable contamination as Superfund sites and former Superfund sites. So even though this is testing within safe limits. Now is that really a safe limit. Is that going to be in five years that I can be away from it in 20 years. It’s already been moved around.

We’ve already changed what our standards are because we don’t have all the information about what these contaminants will do over the course of many many years just because we can’t they’re not even that old yet. So I think it’s about allowing people to be informed but allow them to be informed the utmost level and that’s what I was trying to do with my story specifically was like I said earlier not talk about the controversy of a site not talk about who is right or who’s wrong.

But talk about that bureaucratic red tape. The shifting standards the lack of information the information presented why the information presented. Who’s running the show. Who got the money. You know talking about that and allowing ourselves as a country to talk about the larger issue of our management of former Superfund site is a microcosmic example that everybody within Rocky Flats who has experience living on a site working on a site advocating for a site processing site. They all have a vital voice in talking about the larger national conversation of how ship me change this moving forward. Let’s not do Rocky Flats again.

Right. Well you know I think that you know it’s complicated. And the article really shows those you know the various constituents really wealth from from each of their angles and so. You know it’s it’s worth a read. I think you know obviously we’ll put the links to everything in the shown us the podcast where everybody can find your story and everything like that.

One last question.

My last question is you know right at the beginning you mentioned you know so the manager in charge of this facility at the time when it got right in everything was a guy named Dominick Sanchini, who has since passed.

What would you ask that guy if he was still alive when you were able to do this story.

Are you scared of what could happen? I think that’s the only question I have. Because America America as a country we have this rhetoric that has got us through so much as a young country. You know like the American dream the classic rhetoric. It works. We prosper and we’re going to deal with the consequences later.

You know like we’re but we’re going to make it work right now. And I think we just have stamps that onto an issue that we should have never stamp it onto.

Nuclear consequences aren’t consequences that you can deal with later. So prospering now what is that going to mean for every generation after this. This rhetoric does not apply to nuclear waste and contamination. And I think that we just need to flip the script on ourselves and ask these questions.

Now like I’m very much for living in the present. I very much about having a good time and not having to worry. I think that worrying about the future is one of the worst things a person can do honestly like I try not to think about it too much myself but as a government.

You have to look forward and you have to think about the future of your nation. And so I think that like my challenge to Dominick Sanchini and the Department of Energy back in 1989 would have been are you thinking about what is going to happen later. And I want to pose that same question to the government now.

Right. Right. Well you know I think that’s a great place to leave it. And you know I just have to say you know I really appreciate you writing the story and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and experience on you know on investigating this story with my audience. So thank you so much again for being on the podcast. And so so what’s next for you is there. You know you’re you’re spending more time out in Colorado are you still. Are you looking for the next big story or do you know what you’re going with this next.

Yeah. So Colorado man I love you guys stay and surprisingly are not surprisingly enough my summers spent in this beautiful place has morphed into a winter spent in this beautiful place. Surprise. I actually just moved and to a nice little townhouse in Carbondale and I am madly looking forward to spending a season out here in the valley on the slopes skiing in Aspen with all my buddies and just really making the most of it now from a place as far as stories I am always looking for the next thing like Rocky Flats was a very big surprise for me and I’m sure the next story will be a very big surprise.

I think there are a million things happening every single second of every single day that are worthy of a story and if you just listen and pay attention there they are. I think there’s a lot going on in the middle of our country right now.

That’s really worth paying attention to. You know I’m from the Midwest. And what recently sparked my interest is the opiate crisis and the U.S. and it causing orphans and grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

The financial and economical stress of low income families in the Midwest having to raise their grandchildren. And that’s another big one. But at the same time I’m sitting here you know pitching ideas. All my editors about you know the snow forecast went there.

So I’m all over the place. And that’s what gets me excited. And you know Colorado is a place that excited me for quite some time now so I don’t see that changing and I’m really looking forward to continuing to dive into local news here in the education system and in Colorado is incredible.

You know there are some really amazing education programs right now that are preparing kids for the future in ways that other places across the country are not doing you know in the work field is changing rapidly and more people are working remotely by you. Me. And you know that the skills that we’re going to need in the future as workers and employees are rapidly changing and the schools across the state are focusing on focusing on thinking and emotional intelligence.

And it’s amazing to see you know such a beautiful place creating beautiful people and beautiful mind. And so I’m just super excited to be here and say what kind of stories and the impulse to me and I’m going to do my best to continue listening and watching and paying attention to this place because there’s a lot of amazing and interesting and worthy stuff here obviously.

Well you know I sincerely hope you’ll come back and be on the show again when you find that next one and share it with us.

It’s been such a privilege to talk to you. I’m so excited to be on the show talking about this beautiful place and to have the opportunity to enjoy it from her and I’m really glad that this story has created some conversations.

And I’m so so honored to be able to be a part of this conversation and hopefully we all keep talking about it because I think it’s important stuff. But thank you so much for having me on.

Anytime. All right well thank you very much Lauren and no I hope to talk to you soon.

Alright thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation.  As we mentioned in the intro and as always you can find links to any related content in the show notes to this podcast episode.

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Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time.

 

 

#016 Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters Talks Education and Advocacy

Hey everyone, Doug Stetzer here, and thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

Well the journey down the climate science wormhole continues.

This episode was again inspired by my earlier conversation with Eric Larsen the polar explorer whose last trip to the North Pole is likely to be the last.

Eric is a member of Protect Our Winters, an environmental activist and awareness organization founded by legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones.  In fact, when Eric came over to record his podcast, he had literally just returned from a trip to Washington DC with Protect Our Winters where he was rooming with Jeremy as they spent a few days meeting with representatives and talking about climate change.

Of course, all of us who are passionate about our winter sports need to be very concerned with what’s going on relative to the climate, and POW takes a very interesting approach by talking about the financial implications of this change on the outdoor industry, tourism, and livelihoods that are produced by these industries.

Unfortunately, our government really listens better when it comes to talking dollars and cents, so this approach can be effective at opening doors and ears.

So I reached out to POW who recently relocated their headquarters to Boulder, right down the street from me actually, and was able to sit down to talk with Lindsay Bourgoine, their Manager of Advocacy and Campaigns.

Lindsay joined POW in 2016 and has a real solid background in environmental advocacy and conservation.

We get into what inspired Jeremy Jones to start POW, some of their key initiatives and where they are seeing success, upcoming leadership changes, and of course a really amazing story of how Lindsay came to be part of the organization.

Online, you can find POW at protectourwinters.org and on Facebook and Instagram @protectourwinters.

 


Subscribe to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast – on iTunes


Show Notes

[02:45] Visiting the POW offices in Boulder

[03:25] What inspired Jeremy Jones to start Protect Our Winters

[06:00] Aligning with industry; The $887 billion outdoor recreation industry throws its weight

[09:00] After 10 years, what’s working

[11:45]  Politics: A wake up call in 2016 – Colorado votes for new Gov in 2018

[15:40] New Executive Director

[17:00] How Lindsay joined POW (Read: How ski bumming can be good for your career!)

[22:00] Why POW relocated to Boulder

[25:00] Making climate science wonkery accessible

[27:45] Helping people get involved

 


Relevant Links

Protect Our Winters

Jones Snowboards

Eric Larsen

Outdoor Industry Association

Climate Reality Project

Alliance for Climate Education

Appalachian Mountain Club

Jim White – CU Boulder

Luis Benitez

Burton Sustainability

 


Related Episodes

A Life of Adventure and Polar Exploration with Eric Larsen

Jon Miller of Backcountry United Educates About Public Land Access

 


Transcript

 

Lindsay thank you so much for having me over to Protect Our Winters office to do this talk and take a little time to tell us what you’re all about.

Absolutely welcome.

As people are starting to get used to the format that I use I like to ask people at the end of the show who they like to have on the podcast. And you know one of my previous guests Eric Larsen, who had just returned from a Protect Our Winters event or campaign up in D.C. He really kind of turned me on to you guys so I really appreciate that we were able to connect.

Absolutely we’re excited that Eric was on the guest as well as he’s one of our favorite athletes don’t tell the rest of them.

So let’s just talk a little bit I guess historically about Protect Our Winters. Founded in 2007 by Jeremy Jones as many of us know and are fans of. So ten years like ten year anniversary. I know you’ve been here since like 2016 but historically do you know what was kind of in his mind at that time. What was lacking in, you know the kind of the .org world as far as climate change that really made him want to start his own.

Yeah for sure. So Jeremy actually took a trip snowboarding. Obviously that’s what he does and when he came back he was really feeling like he saw a lot of different changes in the mountains. You know whether it’s glacial recession or reduced snowpack and he was really concerned about that as an athlete obviously that’s really changing the game in his sport and changing the lives of many of his friends.

And so when he came back from that trip he really wanted to give a financial donation to an organization that would fight climate change on behalf of outdoor enthusiasts so he did a bunch of research he was online. To make a really long story short he didn’t find one and realized pretty quickly that if you know we needed a single issue organization to represent outdoor enthusiasts and this snow sports industry to fight climate that he was going to have to found one.

So that’s exactly what he did. And you know he worked with our first Executive Director Chris Duncamp to start 501c3 and follows paperworks through the IRS and get everything going and then obviously ten years later we have five full time staff in the offices to Boulder and have a lot of success stories under our belts.

Yeah. So it’s definitely one of those kind of scratch your own itch.

Yes foundation stories exactly like if there isn’t anyone doing this. Yes. I mean has taken on and I really commend him for doing that because I think a lot of professional athletes might just say hey that’s really scary starting a nonprofit or a cause. And you know he just attacked it head on.

Well not all professional athletes also kind of have his business side of his experience and usually that’s where people tend to start getting hung up. Hey let’s do this idea. Oh I have to register with the state. Oh I’ve got to get separate bank accounts. Oh I forgot to do that and the organisational side is what kills you.

The experience running Jones snowboards and having a little experience there as a CEO.

Well that’s interesting. You mentioned there in what I read on the web site about not only just having a desire to find an organization about climate change but about representing the outdoor athlete enthusiasts. You know that’s a really much narrower and a very clear mission statement and having an idea crystallize like that in your mind really makes it a little bit easier also.

Sometimes one is too broad it’s hard. But at the same time the more I started researching this the more it made sense to me because there’s a lot of power in speaking for and aligning with industry. As opposed to just saying hey I’m a snowboarder and I’m worried about the snow. Right. When you start bringing on Burton, North Face other corporations that are organized. So from your experience you know is that what makes this organization either different or is that’s what’s leading to success. Because we all know that when you go in and you speak to government in terms of impact on industry your voices may be heard a little bit louder.

Yeah for sure. I think the way I like to explain it is I’m definitely come from a background of you know wonky environmental non-profit world. And you know we talk about organizing and organizing people. We talk about grassroots so you know regular everyday citizens have me organize their voices and have them be heard and then kind of the opposite side of the is grass tops.

So who are those business leaders who are those professional athletes and I think that’s where POW really excels and that’s kind of our formula is how do we use a grass tops voice to lead our grassroots community. So how do we have Jeremy Jones speak on behalf of snowboarders everywhere and I think when you saw it right after the 2016 presidential election he did a Facebook Live about how he was feeling and saying you know I’m going to stand up and and you know continue to go to D.C. and voice my opinion and when we post a picture of him in D.C. it’s like that’s our most liked image because people feel that he’s representing them.

You know, he’s their voice on this issue.

And so I think by bringing CEOs in ski resorts those are other grass top leaders obviously have more of a sway with their political leaders. But you’re absolutely right about business bottom line like if we compare this to every other industry the outdoor industry is huge it’s in $887 billion dollar industry. And so when we look at oil and gas you know it’s bigger than that. And when you think about how many lobbyists they have in D.C. working on their special interests you know no wonder they are succeeding and so we have this really cool opportunity to leverage that.

But I think a lot of groups in the past few years have been really good at bringing that out and talking about the size of the industry. And I think we’re just at the beginning of seeing that power like when you look at the public lands fight it’s like oh there’s a lot of force behind our industry and it’s only just beginning.

And like you said that voice maybe there was there before but maybe it wasn’t just organized and organization is just such a big part of having success.

So you referenced 10 years and a lot of successes. What are some of your favorite successes the success stories are real good campaigns and then you know what are your goals for the next 10 years. What are you guys talking about saying hey this is where we’d like to be.

Yeah absolutely. So I think in terms of successes you know I think about POWs mission in terms of engaging sports in the broader outdoor community in climate change. It’s really we do it through two things – education and advocacy.  So I think when we look back at our successes one of our key programs is called hot planet cool athletes. And basically what we do is we work with our professional athletes and we bring them into schools and to talk about climate change to kids and to give a better perspective.

So or I shouldn’t say a better a different perspective than maybe their science teacher you know says when they’re talking about climate change and it’s a way to say hey this is what I’m seeing in the field and this is what I’m concerned about and if you love winter and if you love outdoor recreation you should really be concerned too.

You know we’ve reached so many kids through schools and bringing professional athletes and I think you know obviously many of our athletes are incredible public speakers and so it’s just been a really fun way to engage. And you know obviously that’s that’s kids are impressionable and that’s when we have you know some of the best conversations.

And I think also the exciting part to me is a lot of kids get it. You know it makes sense it’s about the changes that they’re seeing in the world like when Eric Larsen just went with us to D.C.

When we got to D.C. It’s like OK we’ve just had two major hurricanes we have you know the West is on fire. It’s raining ash in Seattle and Portland it’s kind of hard to ignore what’s happening in the world right now.

So I think that’s been a big successive on the education side. And then in terms of advocacy I think POW has just really perfected this you know niche in the specialty of making climate action cool. We joke about that all the time around the office. But the reality is like that’s what we want to do is figure out how to take this like really wonky complicated stuff that feels intangible right because it’s like OK as is happening down the road I don’t you know I don’t feel the impacts day to day.

So how do you encourage them to take action on that. If it doesn’t feel real and I think that’s something Protect Our Winter really perfected and in the last couple of years we did a partnership with Ben and Jerry’s in New Belgium Brewing. So we would go to places and have people write letters about the Clean Power Plan and about where their power is coming from.

But they’re at a happy hour. They’re drinking beer they’re eating ice cream and they’re writing their you know elected officials at the same time. And so it’s like OK that’s that’s fun. That’s cool. And that’s not you know this really you’re not getting 20 e-mails a day being like write this letter to your senator you have to do this give us money.

It’s just kind of a different niche and I think that’s why we’ve been effective in advocacy. And I think to your question about where are we headed. I think we’ve realized you know 2016 was a wake up call to us. You know we put somebody in the White House who thinks that climate change is B.S. and that’s obviously not going to farewell for our agenda in terms of trying to get solutions passed.

I think the good thing is that even though that feels like a really big roadblock there are things like clean energy that just make economic sense. And so I think there are a lot of ways. You know you see that the Trump administration really working on promoting coal you know coal plants are being shut down regardless of what the new administration is doing it isn’t cost efficient.

He saw and you know coal plants are closing in Michigan in Texas. It doesn’t matter kind of you know political aspect of where those places are so you know that’s the good news. But I think the bad news is you know we have a lot of elected officials that think climate change is a hoax and it’s really sad to us because you know they US Republican Party is one of the it actually is the only conservative party in the world that thinks climate change is real.

So it’s not it’s not just this conservative ideal it’s it’s really tied back to the fossil fuel industry and how much money is going into that. And so I think we realized that we need to step up politically and we’re really want to play significantly more in the 2014 midterm elections. And yeah really talk to people about the fact that there is really low voter turnout in midterm years especially among millennials which is our kind of consumer base and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get people to really think about climate change when they vote.

Yeah and you know it’s interesting that you brought that up. I knew it was going to be something that’s a big part of your strategy for the next year. Not only the midterms in Congress as a huge event and then just to kind of tie it back in to Colorado. We have gubernatorial race and the incumbent is up for his term limit so he will be changing. And you’re up there already forecasting that this is going to be one of the biggest most heavily spent state elections ever. Yeah and you’re already starting to see the people line up and there’s actually quite a few candidates I’m not first enough to know if there’s any favorites really at this point but I’m sure that’s something locally that will be interesting.

And that’s definitely something we’ve been watching and I think it will be an election that we play pay close attention to. In addition we’re also really interested in Maine and Michigan and Nevada also have the same situation as Colorado where they have an open seat election.

Governor that’s termed out and we feel like those four states are really crucial in terms of having climate leaders and maybe in the past some of those states have had you know people that have not been great on crime at all and so it’s an opportunity to elect somebody that’s really going to step up and obviously for Colorado.

You know we think about our outdoor industry and think about the importance of climates like we need somebody in Denver that’s really going to pay attention to that. And this seems like.

If anywhere is a place where this message of tying the advocacy with the industry where that is very powerful. You would think that Colorado is the place right.

Yeah we especially when talk about the ski industry it’s such a focus of the economy here and not only that but also the outer RECA economy. You know you think about we have the outdoor industry association right here in Boulder. We have Luis Benítez in the governor’s office focusing on outdoor recreation and we have so many incredible you know from Australia’s smart will become businesses all over the state that are huge and depend on this and you know that’s that’s one of the best allies we have in terms of folks like that that are like this is a business bottom line issue. You know if there aren’t places to play you know if wildfires are burning down our forests that then our products don’t sell it’s kind of like thinking of it like why would you sell a tent if there’s no place to camp, or you know same with skis obviously there’s no snow that it’s it’s pretty easy to tie back to business bottom line.

Sure and 2018 will be interesting for you guys also with this new executive director coming in. Yeah. And so know what’s exciting about having kind of a new a new person coming like that.

How you he and you director his name is Mario Molina and he starts with us November 1st so we’re looking forward to that just around the corner and he comes from the Climate Reality Project which is another national climate nonprofit. I think his passion for the topic and his you know lifelong commitment that he’s really made to effecting change in climate I think will be immensely helpful for us.

Before that he worked at a group called the Alliance for Climate Education are really thinking about how we talk about climate. And I think one of the benefits that he’ll bring to power there is you know how do we effectively message climate change and how do we talk about it in these complex situations where we have people of all different political parties. And I think his background in terms of education will help with that.

And then beyond that he’s spent a lot of time abroad and has done a lot of work internationally and I think that will also really help us think for 2018 2017. We’re really focusing on on U.S. elections and we have a lot of incredible international chapters and people that are doing great work and I think we wish we had more time and energy to help but we’re also like Look who’s in the White House. We have a lot of work to do here in the U.S. So that’s kind of where we’re focusing but I think over the long term Mario will bring a much more international scope to power to you.

Well that makes sense.

And he lives in Nederland and he’s a snowboarder so.

Well welcome to the only player that holds the check boxes are all being ticked off.

And speaking of coming to work for power let’s hear a little bit about your story and your background because you’re manager of advocacy and campaigns in the you know that will play into all of these efforts significantly in in the coming year as well and motivating.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you know of all the organizations that are out there and how you ended up with Protect our Winters and what you’re focusing on for the day.

Yeah I started so I grew up in Maine and I worked for my first environmental policy group a group called the Appalachian Mountain Club in the state of Maine. And while I was there I worked in the state house and I had this this bill that just wasn’t getting through and it was on state park funding and I was super frustrated I was meeting with you know grassroots folks and trying to get them to come and testify at the State House and working with businesses. And just really couldn’t get anything done and started to really think about OK how do we get you know a large business to say something in this.

And so I started working with L.L. Bean and they decided to speak out on the issue and say hey you know we need state parks and L.L. Bean is one of the largest employers in Maine.

And after they spoke up the issue was moot.

And I said that’s exactly what I to do is work for for that because as we talked about the beginning of this show it’s businesses have immense power when it comes to political clout and you know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing that people listen to business in terms of you know obviously they have economic weight to throw around.

That’s the reality. And I’m a realist and a pragmatist and I’m like OK that’s you know it was exciting so I kind of ventured down this path of you know what is this balance between environmental advocacy and our industry. And with that ended up at the Outdoor Industry Association here in Boulder. Get a job with them in 2013 and road trip down from Maine a little U-Haul and moved to Boulder at the weekend of the floods.

So I showed up at my house and signed a lease on Craigslist and my roommate who I wasn’t actually sure if he was my roommate or not because are like 12 people camping out there were like grab this shovel like this trench is about to burst your neighborhood and we’re going to dig it. And it was like OK here we are.

Welcome to Boulder so wow. It was funny though. People say it wasn’t that awful time to move but I actually think you know what an incredible time to see a community come together and you know from day one to be a part of something so yes spend time here working for the Outdoor Industry Association went to grad school after that just decided that it was time to study up a little bit and worked on a Masters of environmental law and policy to kind of really curtail this whole policy thing.

My undergrad degree is in geology. So you know I think at some point you’re like I haven’t actually learned what I’m doing in an academic setting. I think that’s important as much as experience too. So did that wrapped up and didn’t have a job and decided you know if there was one thing that I wanted to do when I didn’t have a real job it was ski bum.

And so I moved from grad school to Lake Tahoe and they coached alpine racing at Squaw Valley and I met this guy there named Jeremy Jones and some point on the lift. I actually did some kind of behind the scenes networking and was able to connect with Protect Our Winters and start in in Boulder shortly after.

And it’s kind of funny now because if I think about going back and you know being unemployed and if anybody had told me that working at Squaw would actually help me in the long run with my resume to get to power that would have been kind of funny because here I was taking a minimum wage job just for fun.

But yeah and obviously for me this was a dream. I mean I work on really wonky environmental policy stuff that I love. But I also do it in an industry that I love to and it’s kind of you know this really there are few of us I think that are that lucky to tie our professional passion with our personal ones.

Right. It’s an honor. Now that’s super fun. One of the things that I’m noticing about this podcast by reaching out to people is I’m starting to meet a lot of people like you who are able to tell you their passion with their profession and it’s absolutely inspiring.

And that’s something new with Colorado to just kind of the people that it draws we’re talking about this earlier about just people that love the outdoors and spend time outdoors and maybe there’s a everybody here works harder to connect that to their day job too.

Sure. Well we’re also talking about how I haven’t posted this yet but I did have a chance to honor Erik Larson’s recommendation go meet with Dr. Mark Serreze who’s the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center here in Boulder. And we were kind of talking about this earlier but in his interview. He talks about how Boulder basically is the ground zero for global climate research. And you know we get into a lot of the technical aspects of of why that’s the case and some of the other organizations in town.

But I was curious is that what brought you guys to Boulder or was it other things? why boulder of all places?

Yeah it was definitely an aspect of that we have about a 12 person board and seven of our board members are from Colorado so there were certainly a push to move from California to be like hey this is this is this day and this is the place. But you know obviously there’s a lot of organizations here that are connected in one of the ways that we work with the science community is through a program that we have called our science alliance and basically we have scientific advisers within the university community around the country and around the globe actually.

And our goal is to really communicate the research that they’re doing out to our constituency because we know they’re seeing incredible things in the field and you know some very unfortunate changes in the field and a lot of times you know it can be hard to distill that information from a scientific report.

So how can we do interviews with athletes and scientists and so we work a lot with Jim White who’s actually now the dean C.U. but he was formerly the director of instar the Alpine and Arctic Research Program at C.U. and a very well respected scientist. I really think you know how having that accessibility to just walk down the block and interview Jim is incredible.

I’m sure you talked about NCAR and Kevin Trenberth is another one of our advisers there you know and it’s a pretty cool opportunity to be able to take those folks to ski resorts or to you know some of our riders athletes training programs and have those people present. But I think I think you’re absolutely right. Like the front range is full of you know all kinds of different institutions that are looking at this.

One of the ones I actually was going to recommend if you want to know who I would love to hear from is the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden. I don’t really know much about them. I think you know I’d be really cool for the Protect our Winters community to connect with the research that they’re doing because I think it’s you know obviously on the front lines of where’s renewable energy technology going.

But that’s right down the road to you can see the windmills kind of turning in the distance up on the hill over there. I’ll definitely look them up. That would be a great conversation for sure. Now that’s Boulder’s just like really interesting it’s you know it’s got all the outdoorsy stuff but it’s got so much science and technology in town here that it’s you that that’s part of really what makes it pretty special. So.

You spoke about the science alliance and you know I was looking on your Web site it’s just really very clear. We are also speaking about how the NSIDC they’re doing the same thing they’re trying to make the data and all of the you know all this really wonky terminology more accessible because part of it is just flying over people’s heads and you’re trying to address a younger audience.

So I think that that’s you know really resonates as far as a really concerted effort to make that you know information and kind of really you know educational aspect available and I saw that on your website a lot love it it’s just the way it’s laid out.

If you click on any topic it’s kind of got you know here’s the purpose here is that people who are involved in here’s if you want to learn more. And it was labeled like like a ski slopes like a green dot or something he really like the blues or if you really want to dive deep there’s like a double black diamond. I guess if you can’t sleep at night that that’ll that’ll take care of that. I thought that was really interesting how you know education is such a part of it. You speak about influencers these days and a lot of times it’s just you know how many Instagram followers you have or something like that.

But I love the Riders Alliance. In the guys going out and speaking in schools and you know these these athletes they really do have a lot of influence over young kids. You know when one of these explorers or athletes shows up at a junior high or high school I’m sure you know kids are actually paying attention.

Yes definitely a different way to communicate and I think you know it’s kind of funny because you see the same like awe inspiring look on a kid’s face in whatever educational programs that you do when you walk into a congressional office and it’s like at the end of the day we’re all inspired by people that you know that push the limits and push the boundaries and do these incredible physical feats.

And you know we had a few of our athletes on our lobby trip in September were Olympians and brought their medals and you know we joke again about how that opens doors but it really does like people are so excited to hear about you know experience and I think the other thing that power really tries to do as your team to effectively communicate is talk about it in terms of experience like we don’t have a climate scientist on staff and I don’t like when people say well I’m not a scientist but because that’s like way over used but the reality is we connect through experience.

It’s like I testified at a hearing in Denver earlier this year and there was a senator on the panel who was a climate denier and kind of you know talked about how carbon dioxide is really good for plants and went off on that tangent and I just said him whats different than when you were a kid and he’s like oh yeah. And you know just dives right into it and it’s like it’s not about talking about that experience and we don’t have to you know get into.

I think we really do a disservice when we start debating science because there isn’t science to debate. We have a consensus like End of story let’s move on and just kind of you know talk about experience right.

And a big part of that experience with her organization is advocacy and really speaking of education really walking people through how to get involved including Hey click here. Here’s a script for what to say to your local representative. Here’s some of these ideas. Here’s how to get a hold of these people it’s really he was pretty impressed because I think there’s plenty of roadblocks in between saying hey call your representative and that message actually getting across including who is my representative.

Like where do I find this person. Can I really just call these people and you know there’s just a lot of hesitancy there and so your Web site is really amazing and you can see where the priorities are because when you look at the. When you log on to the Web site there’s only like four tabs at the top and the first one is take action. And here’s how. Yes. So that seems really important.

Yeah and we definitely try to break down those barriers because you’re right it is. I think you know a lot of nonprofits do say you know call your senators it’s like OK great. Where do I find their number. Who are they like what do I say.

And that’s been one of our goals is to kind of break down those barriers and you know we do assume that with our constituency in terms of sports industry and the outdoor industry you know not necessarily everybody is members of 20 nonprofits and has gone through that process before and so how do we break that down for the beginner and even the expert to to make sure that it’s easy and clear and we felt really fortunate because we have an awesome advocacy tool that we use called phone to action but it’s actually gotten it’s so precise that we can actually have people text a keyword to a number and it will send them a link that will connect them with all of this information.

So we just really think about how do you break down these barriers so if you’re if you said the burned us open this winter and we want you to send a letter to your senator you can literally just text a number and take care of it right on the spot and not have you know this big barrier. And that actually kind of reminds me of another one of our favorite success stories is we actually built a phone booth. I’m not sure if you saw outside of her office down there.

But we take that to ski areas and you know literally while people are waiting in line to go skiing to help the chairlift you can actually just make a quick call your senator and you have a list of what you should stay in there and in kind of you know how this issue relates to climate change in their number.

And it’s like just take three minutes make a call hop the left and I think a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is and I think a lot of people also think that someone’s going to pick up the phone and maybe debate them back. And the reality is it’s like a message machine you call in there say OK what would you like to pass on to the senator. And it’s really you know it’s OK to read one of those scripts and no one’s going to say what you think that like. Take that back. This is wrong. It’s you know it’s really it’s a message machine. And so it’s really cool to be able to teach people that it’s not that complicated and it feels pretty good afterwards to be like OK I’m an active citizen.

And it is a bit of a numbers game right. We all know that we have these really low rates of turnout in elections and has really skewed towards older generations and. It has no effect. I mean the numbers are skewed in a lot of different ways but a lot of it’s just getting people to kind of show up. I mean that’s just historically that’s where you know the retired associations are great at getting people to show up and the people who know the 18 enough crowd they 18 to 30 or whatever. You know there we just don’t show up.

Right. And it’s all the organization I think a lot of people get you know not to get into something too political. People get frustrated about gun control and why isn’t legislation changing or passing in the NRA is an incredible organizing entity and they’ve done an incredible job at that. And you know we’ve heard things like ratios of people that care about gun control.

You know call about that ten times to as to one call of somebody else’s and it’s like that’s you know there is a staffer sitting in that congressional office taking a toll of how many calls are about this and how many calls her about that. And the reality is we have a lot of work to do to get to a place where you know people are like OK there were you know 50 calls today about climate change.

Right. But like you said it is just about making that call it’s not you’re not going to be have to put up a PowerPoint presentation and argue the science.

Yes exactly. And it’s also again counting backward to what we said earlier just your experience like hey I’m a skier and I’m really concerned about the future and you know we always say to that if we don’t have powder days that’s that’s the least of our concerns. We obviously know there are going to be significant impacts and a lot of you know pretty terrible human suffering and you know with the expense of climate change and I think you know we definitely know that and it’s you know you don’t need to go into the depths of that you can talk about the changes that you’re seeing in your backyard and what your concern is going to bring on.

Right. Well you know I think if there’s is there anything else that you want to make sure that we’re mentioning to the audience before we sign off that. No I say I really appreciate the time tonight. Like I said I always ask who you want on there. And you know we’ll go to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to see we can find unless you can also think of somebody else.

But yeah I would also just say you know you know join us. Check us out at protector Winters dot org and also you know as we talked about we really do break down the barriers to take action. And so if that’s something that you’re you know as a listener interested in doing you know will help you figure that out.

And I think the other thing is you know in the past when Jeremy started POW you know we are protect our winters and we have traditionally been about snow sports in the last few years we’ve really moved to the broader outer industry and are starting to get a lot of outreach from from five fishermen from climber’s saying hey this is impacting me too.

It’s not just about our winter sports it’s about you know how much snowpack was there that led into our streams and our streams navigable by kayaks or boats or are these rivers too hot to fly fish or is it a rock too hot to go rock climbing like these are actually all real issues so it’s not we’re not just a skier and snowboarding club where we’re all of the above and actually stay tuned for some pretty cool research that will talk about impacts of each kind of sport that we think of when we think about spending time outside.

Oh so there’s some good stuff coming in. You’ll have to definitely share it with me when you get it. Absolutely. Please. You know I’m happy to come back anytime. If you if you guys ever want to talk about what’s kind of the latest and greatest for sure. Yeah

I would also recommend Jim White who is on our Science Alliance but he’s just an incredibly well-spoken scientist and have been really impressed by his ability to communicate with the masses about what he’s seeing in the field and is obviously spent a ton of time and in the Arctic and traveling so he’ll be a good.

He’s right here in Boulder and these guys can literally talk about what they’ve seen with their own eyes it’s it’s amazing. So Lindsay thanks again so much. I really appreciate it. Great to learn more about what you guys are up to and kind of connect with you guys and hope we can do it again sometime. All right thank you. Thanks.

Hard everyone. Thanks for listening. And I hope you enjoyed this conversation. As we mentioned in the intro you can find the links to any related content in the show. Note to this podcast episode. If you’re enjoying this podcast.

Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time.

Please subscribe over on iTunes or Apple podcasts at it is now known as leave a review. If you have a few moments if you prefer to get our updates via e-mail or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android you can learn more at Colorado.FM/subscribe on how to hook up with these services.

 

#015 Jon Miller of Backcountry United Educates About Public Land Access

Backcountry United - Jon Miller

Hey everyone, Doug Stetzer here, and thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.  

For this episode, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jon Miller, founder of Backcountry United.

Backcountry United is a really interesting organization in that its real mission is to open and enable dialogue about access to our national lands between different constituents with a focus on the human-powered vs motorized camps.

In this conversation, Backcountry United represents the motorized side, particularly snowmobilers who use these machines to access the backcountry.  

However, on the business side they offer some amazing products inspired by the needs of people who play on these toys, such as ski and snowboard racks for the back of your sled and avalanche safety gear.  What you’ll find out from this conversation is that while these products pay the bills and allow them to keep going, the true mission is education and collaboration.

In fact, I need to mention these products here since Jon completely forgot to plug them until the very end of our conversation when we were wrapping up!  He is just really into what is going on with our public lands, and it shows.

I hope you learn a lot from this conversation, I know I did.  The intricacies of our public spaces are something I just am not that informed about, yet it is of vital importance to so many things we Coloradoans enjoy doing.

This is a pretty long and winding conversation, but if you’re into using our public lands and are curious about how they work, you’re about to get an education.

Online, you can find Backcountry United at backcountryunited.com and on both Facebook and Instagram @backcountryunited.  

As always, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find these guys or anyone else we talk about in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Jon Miller of Backcountry United.

 

**Update: Jon forgot to mention Spin, a creative agency in Denver, as one of his really strong supporters.  He wanted to make sure they were recognized!  

 


Show Notes

[03:45] What is Backcountry United / Roots in Colorado

[14:00] Human powered vs Motorized: Bringing different sport cultures together

[18:00] Why is backcountry access an issue

[26:30] ‘You should talk to Jon Miller’ – Being at the center of the conversation

[31:00] An education in public land designations

[42:00] Conflict is happening in the parking lot; An ‘I hate snowmobilers’ conversation

[50:00] Colorado’s growing pains

[1:03:00] Some key supporters

[1:12:00] A future in politics?

[1:16:00] Craig, Colorado

[1:24:00] The products that support the mission

 


Relevant Links

Backcountry United

Spin

US Forest Service

Bureau of Land Management

National Parks Service

National Forest Foundation

American Institute for Avalance Research and Education – AIARE

Outdoor Retailer / Snowsports Industries America

Weston Snowboards

The Public Works

ToBe Outerwear

Hay Days

Mountain Skillz

Book: History of skiing in Colorado

Craig, CO

Todd Williams – Photographer

 


Related Episodes

Venture Snowboards

Romp Skis

Irwin Guides / Eleven Experience

Polar Adventure with Eric Larsen

Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters

 


Transcript

 

 

Hey everyone thanks for tuning back in to Colorado.FM, the Colorado podcast today.

I am sitting down with Jon Miller of Backcountry United. And you know I’m really looking forward to really learning more about what this organization.

Jon and I got connected through a mutual friend and I can’t believe I’m giving this plug actually to Todd Williams. Exactly. Exactly. Great photographer amazing amazing guy ToddWilliamsUSA.com. There you go man. Don’t say I never did anything for you.  One of the best photographers I’ve ever worked with. Exactly.

So he is out of the Jackson Hole so not a Colorado but they’re like a you know we all kind of drink from the same water.  Kindred spirits.

Well Jon man I really appreciate you taking the trip and coming over to the studio. I’m just going to read a blurb from your website to kind of get this thing going.

All right I hope it still rings true.

Exactly. So Backcountry United. Promoting balanced mixed use public land access avalanche awareness education and social responsibility through collaborative efforts between backountry users influencers and brands.

You know that’s still sounds good.

Read More...

You know when you look at your web site backcountryunited.com. You know three things kind of jump out at you. There’s this awareness education. You know the back country respect respect that’s your word. So why don’t we.

Why don’t we just get into that part because honestly you know we talked earlier in a lot of the issues that you’re dealing with as a back country snowmobiler predominantly and motorized back country access you know person and I just don’t know too much about it and so it’s really great to learn to wound in your words man. What’s what’s happening with backcountry united.

Yeah you know it’s. Well thanks for having me. First of all it’s really good to be here. I’m also a guy that lived in Colorado pretty much all my life and you know and I set out on this mission. A big part of it was promoting other people that do things that I care about. And one of those things I think is supporting Colorado based companies as well. So I really believe what you’re doing and stoked to be a part of it.

Thanks.

And so yeah you know again grew up in northwest Colorado in a small kind of a coal mining ranch town and we are surrounded by mountains.

My dad has probably hiked me you know hundreds if not thousands of miles all over northwest Colorado when I was a kid hunting and fishing and camping and you know Arrowhead hunting and hiking and just all sorts of you know kind of a traditional Colorado outdoors sportsman kind of upbringing and you know grew up near Steamboat so snowboarding I guess I started snowboarding at about maybe 9 or 10 years old and you know snowboarding kind of became the religion for me so to speak and there were a lot of people who rode snowmobiles.

I mean Colorado sorry Craig where I grew up is kind of like a little Minnesota and Colorado just a lot of working class people and you know it stays pretty cold typically year round and you know so people would ride snowmobiles around town and friends with sleds and you know you typically see them at the snow like the sledding hill and so I’ve been exposed to snowmobiles all my life and you know just living in the mountains.

Most of my life. So yeah. You know all these things are kind of happening in little ways around me. Back to my childhood. You know it didn’t really crystallize until 30 40 years later. But you know we’re all kind of a product of our own environment I suppose. And then the other thing is I’m I’m an artist. I always aspire to be an artist when I was a kid.

You know so those were kind of the big things like snowboarding and art kind of led me down a career path that ended up working in advertising and I got to work on a piece of business a snowmobile manufacturer and spent the next ten years working to to build this brand and my passion was always like man I want to bring snowboarding and skiing into the sled industry and a was kind of looking at it more of a market opportunity like an untapped segment of a market that nobody had really paid a lot of attention to historically.

So that was kind of my my passion and then it just evolved from there I started you know getting out and writing a lot with professional athletes and you know producing media with some pretty incredible people out there and Todd Williams being one of them. And you know so became very passionate about snowmobiling and got to travel a little bit and get up to Jackson Hole and.

Alaska and sort of at this point I’ve you know been snowmobiling for as far as owning my own snowmobile and being out there you know doing it for I guess about maybe 12 years now maybe a little longer but you know just fell in love with the freedom of being able to just go out into spaces that you know you think about how few people get to experience just how vast and magical it really is like when you get way out there especially when it’s a snow covered just Dreamland the city is unbelievable.

I mean if you know for somebody who’s not only like newer to Colorado and you know really more of you know definitely outdoors my whole life but just like that kind of access where you have this machine that can get you miles into the back country like I had until I went snowmobiling one time like up in Jackson like I had never experienced anything like that you know in my travels because it was mostly human powered or kind of like side country I guess more often than not.

Yeah. It’s incredible.

Yeah. Well it’s funny because that’s kind of where it all started for me was.

You know I grew up skiing steamboat and snowboarding and my grandparents actually had a house. You know my grandfather just passed away this last summer. So but the house is still in the family it’s at the base of the Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City. And so you know up until I was about 18 years old I only knew of Snowbird Brighton and steamboat that was my my ski area experience was a little bit of a powder snob.

And you know when I got into when I moved to Denver and was an art school and stuff like you know Vail Resorts started putting out the Epic pass and I was you know just blown away by you know the Back Bowls of Vail and you know places like Aspen Highlands like you know just experiencing wide open steep untracked snow. And you know it’s almost like a drug addiction.

The more I got the more I wanted the less I thought like I could get in. And that’s what pushed me into the side country as well. You know and of course Colorado’s just been growing you know phenomenally over the last 15 years. So you know it’s kind of like becomes this competition to go out and get a powder day.

You have to be there. You know an hour before the lift opens at at least like on a powder day to get that first hour of untracked turns and then the mountains just beat by 10:00 you know. Sure. So you know all these things kind of came together in me getting into snowmobiling and kind of combining those two sports so that I could you know access that that untracked experience all day long.

But then of course the snowmobile humbled me very quickly and it became clear that I had to learn the skills required you know not only the skills but have the equipment and you know some experience and training and you start getting invested in a lot of ways you know beyond financially and just with your time and relationships.

And I was really blown away by the snowmobile community the people that you would meet and this was kind of before right before social media was really happening and so you’d meet people on the sled forums and you know typically it’d be like OK I don’t know how to why my snowmobile won’t run or why my shock is broken or somebody please help.

And you know some pretty awesome people would show up and be like yeah you know I live in Empire stopped by my place and you know I’ll fix your sled for you and you’re just like wow. Who are these people. And that’s so awesome. And they take you out show you around and show you. You know there stashes.

And I started to realize like the incredible personalities that would kind of you know you’d meet like on this wavelength so to speak. So yeah I totally fell in love with the snowmobile community the people I was meeting I was working in the snowmobile industry. I was still snowboarder at heart. But I wanted to bring it all together.

And initially I just wanted to know if truth be told I wanted to bring my snowboard and ski heroes into the sled industry so that we could shoot content and you know basically be in the mountains and make cool stuff together.

And then that obviously evolved and so yeah basically in the corporate marketing world working for you know a global snowmobile manufacturer building brands making cool content meeting amazing people.

And you know at some point wanted to just push it and take it to the next level.

And really bring that that snowboard culture mountain culture element into the snowmobile community and industry.

Interesting yes interesting that those when you look at them you would think they were kind of historically more integrated than as an outsider myself. You know that they always are kind of symbiotic but it’s interesting to learn that there was room for those two communities to kind of be talking to each other a little bit more and maybe realizing how they can work together. You know things like that. And there’s kind of trying to share some of the same resources I guess.

Yeah absolutely. Well you know it’s funny even when you look back historically at skiing and snowboarding as cultures and industries.

You know also culturally siloed and even from a retail perspective you know a snowboard shop was really like the impetus of a snowboard shop was really a skate shop that sold snowboards in the winter time right.

So you know culturally we were more born out of kind of the Southern California surf so you know and where skiing is a much older sport and you know Skewes.

I mean you could I really geek out on like the anthropology of it all because you know skiing has this rich history that dates back to you know especially in Colorado around you know World War II and what was going on up at Camp Hale 10th Mountain Division.

I’ve read a cool book about that like the history of skiing in Colorado actually if people want to learn how these towns came to be what they are and how they got started they’ve got these amazing photographs of people on like 20 foot long two by fours basically in stories of guys who were taking the mail from the Crested Butte in the winter kind of thing.

And of course like one out of ten of them actually made it or whatever but they were in like was out everywhere. So if you’re into that it’s a good book it’s super fun to read. But yeah I know.

I mean it’s funny because I can kind of go off on a lot of different tangents and you know I don’t I don’t experience any of this in a linear way. It’s like a geek out on the history on the culture. How. How we’ve all kind of evolved as human beings in the mountains like over the last half century and you know so it’s interesting it’s kind of fun to be you know I’m I’m a skateboard kid snowboarder you know action sports oriented Gen X or you know. And whereas like I’d say the snowmobile culture and the industries that that serve them tend to be more Midwestern.

And so you know even there like there’s a cultural gap just like there’s a cultural gap between skiing and snowboarding there’s also a cultural gap between you know the Midwestern kind of Lake racing like NASCAR kind of sensibility as opposed to you know more of the mountain town type of culture that has grown up around ski areas and you know getting into the side country and you know of course accessing the back country around you know the different ski towns well.

And we kind of touched on something already and which was that you know Colorado is is blowing up. Absolutely. And to a degree you know mountain towns are all growing. These industries have been growing really fast. The idea of going into the back country that was super foreign and fringe not even 10 years ago is becoming way more popular. You know it’s really stressing the infrastructure and kind of the rules that were in place. So why don’t we kind of get into that and what you’re seeing and what you’re trying to do about it. As far as you know why is bad country access such an issue. And maybe one that’s not being addressed properly. And I think you’re one of the things we just touched on also is a cultural divide. Great day skiers versus snowboarders. The No. So Cal versus Midwest. I mean these are natural phenomenon. Totally. And anyone that you’re trying to have identified and are trying to create a conversation between is human powered versus motorized. Right. And so like how you know what. What

made you recognize that this conversation needed to be had and was being ignored or that we have more these people have more in common than they they know. I mean does that make it a little bit of an assumption. No

absolutely.

Like how it inspired you to kind of get organized around this.

And I use the word organize kind of leave I guess as time progresses we get more and more organized.

But yeah I mean I would say the short answer to that is just experience being out in the mountains.

You know I’ve been in most snowy western states in the United States and have access you know at least side country or back country or have snowmobile you know in a lot of different places and I’ve seen some of the different dynamics. You know you’ve got places like Jackson Hole. You know I grew up near Steamboat Springs Salt Lake.

I’ve been up to Valdez and Idaho you know and there’s all some very subtle differences depending on you know the economy the people the the terrain the ski area how they like. It’s kind of crazy how intertwined it all is. But you know some places are different than others like you know Valdez is an interesting situation because you’ve got these just ginormous.

I mean you can’t even explain how vast and huge the mountains are in the Chugach. And you know the cultures around that area around Valdez it’s like you know oil and gas and then a lot of fishery and you know so there’s a there’s a grit to the Alaskan people you know and they don’t have a lot of ski areas up there. So the mountains are huge. There’s no ski areas there’s not really a lot of lake left accessed terrain. And you know you like in the early 80s they started accessing those mountains using Bush planes which became then helicopters and that’s kind of where the the big mountain heli access skiing was born and a lot of ways.

But a lot of the people that were going there to do that came from Jackson Hole and you know Jackson has its terrain and these these crazy craggy mountains and you know it’s funny Jackson has a sign at the bottom of the trance like this mountain will kill you. You know that’s that’s lift accessed. Right.

And then you know you come down to Colorado and we’re more like rolling hills and a lot more meadows and you know trees and you know Valdez has like almost no trees on their mountains down here in Colorado like there’s trees everywhere. You know the snowpack is different from whether you’re on the coast or intercontinental you know. So you’ve got the warm wet dense snow that sticks to steeper slopes the closer you get to the ocean.

But intercontinental we get a lot more dry high pressure a lot of sunshine in-between our storm cycles. So you’ve got different avalanche dynamics cultural dynamics social economic dynamics. You know blue collar white collar dynamics. You know a place like Aspen there’s not a whole lot of blue collar people that are accessing the mountains around there is a lot more tightly condensed so there’s there’s actually a lot less snowmobile access around there as well.

And I think that’s a reflection of how gnarly the mountains are around Aspen. Avalanche Terrain and then obviously there’s a lot more money as well so people can buy you know swaths of land and so I know I’m kind of like jumping around in a lot of different ways but I guess the more I would travel to different mountain communities I noticed Lake you know like I was attacked by an older woman with who was snowshoeing up groom trail up Independence Pass in Aspen.

I had slowed down to you know stop and wave and you know try to keep space between me and her dogs. No no I was being respectful in my mind. But she just saw a robot on a snow machine and she came at me with her poll and you know I’m wearing a helmet and body armor and stuff so it didn’t hurt me.

Except it just kind of hurt my feelings that had you know that that that kind of a thing would happen or you know so it just you see a lot of people and how they relate to each other and I just I became almost obsessed with this like gap of understanding between you know a lot of the times between the the blue collar kind of hardworking entrepreneurial you know business owners who can afford things like snowmobiles and diesel trucks and you know there’s a grit to the way that you know that they can access the back country with their resources.

And then you know there’s those who have crazy money who could just go anywhere like they’d go to the Alps or they could go heli skiing and B.C. right. But when they come back to Aspen like they want a quiet kind of experience and you know so it’s funny like you just start to kind of see that there’s this gap of understanding between these different types of people who really want to go to the same places.

Right. And then you add to it like avalanche dynamics to that kind of a thing and the more people you get into the places that are mixed use you know it you can have situations such as you know groups getting up you know they woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning and they’ve been you know skinning all morning long and they get up onto a slope and four hours later the sun comes out and you know a group of snowmobilers comes into the valley and you know one snowmobiler breaks off and starts high marking on a slope next to the people who are have been skinning all morning and neither of them understand each other.

The snowmobiler might not even have any avalanche education. And he’s putting those people at risk. The people who are skinning up are just frustrated because he’s putting them in danger but they can’t have a conversation because he’s on a machine he’s got a helmet on. He doesn’t look like a human you know so you don’t have like a human dialogue an in person kind of connection going on as well.

So I use that example because that’s one of quite a few situations that have happened out there that you know when it gets laddered up people are like well what should we do. Oh you should talk to that John Miller guy. He’s trying to solve stuff like this and then I get the call and I’m like OK well let’s let’s think about this thought about it.

And you know and I think that’s where I’ve had the opportunity to start to get myself out there more because a lot of people are either on one side or the other and they can’t speak to the different perspectives.

And so I find myself in a lot of like you like arbitrarily and it happens in more ways than I ever would have imagined. Because I’m looking at it almost from a U.S. perspective. You

know like thinking about how one group you know sees the terrain and like the dynamics of there the realities of you know how they pack and how they travel and how they their group dynamics work and what happens if something goes wrong and you know thinking about it from that perspective but then also to be able to think about the same thing from a motorized perspective and to think that they’re all out there they’re all human beings that want to be in nature.

And you know the at the end of the day there’s so much that they can benefit one another. You know and I try to tell a lot of snowmobilers this that you know people are frustrated with the noise and you know just misunderstanding of what we’re out there to do on the machines. And I try to help the motor as people realize like Hey you’ve got actually a very valuable tool and resource that can be helpful and beneficial in so many ways to people who probably don’t understand that about you.

Right.

It’s like an avalanche forecasters use snowmobiles to get to their snow sticks or you know if if I see somebody out in the middle of nowhere what is it going to hurt for me to you know go up to them and take off my helmet and say hey I’m everything.

Killer day is good can I you know haul your your pack you know up the hill for you. Is there anything I can do to assist. And it’s funny how it changes the conversation and when people start using their their tools and their resources like in a positive way it starts to undermine those negative perceptions.

So you know I’ve been trying to find ways to get that conversation out there as well.

Interesting. What are some of the like. Are there any like real forums where this conversation is like what are your like.

You know I see you know I follow you on Facebook and I just kind of see some of the things you’re up to and and enjoy following your posts and your voice always you put out your good educational and awareness stuff as well. But I like to see like you know these events that you’re always like go to this event or I’m going to this event. And you know it helps me kind of get it again and a new perspective on different things that are happening around here that just aren’t really part of my normal kind of sphere. And so what are some of your like. Where are some of these conversations happening. Are there any a favorite or most.

Yeah. You know I think involved I think the thing where I’ve really been developing this brand over the last three years is by creating my own sort of social channels and building my own audience that has these people mixed together. And I’ve been doing it through mixing content that’s relevant to these different perspectives all in the one place.

So I think that’s probably the biggest way that I’ve been building this conversation as far as under the banner of my awareness.

 

What I didn’t do because your community will have snowmobilers but also just any other examples dirtying things mountain biking you know taking my family camping and simply focus on that we talk about the winter sports a lot but it really is more than that.

Yeah. And so you know one of the things I learned even from you is some of the rules are of how our food service works and how our know the designation between wilderness and forest land and parks and I’m just again I’m just not that familiar with the of different access that’s I call on a whole bunch of other things that it’s like a whole different thing. You have to educate yourself about it in order to really just to use utilize to to its fullest extent all these amazing resources that we have around here.

Well I think that’s probably become probably my my biggest passion that’s emerged out of you know when I started back country united I was thinking about stewardship education respect stewardship being in relation to the land education you know being mostly focused on avalanche awareness respect being more about people relating to one another respecting one another even if they might not be using the land in a way that you think is appropriate.

And then innovation I’ll get to that. Like toward the end of our product line you run away is that I’m trying to find ways to capitalize to fund me to continue to work on you know the first three tenors.

But yes so the public land piece I guess I kind of became aware of it about what years 2018 is now.

So it was 2014 that I became started becoming aware of some of the public land issues. And I think they were happening but it was still kind of people weren’t as aware of it. When I first started tuning into it the general public still isn’t really aware of it. And you know I started. And so basically I left the corporate world working for you know one of the leading snowmobile manufacturers for decade and then found myself sitting at a table in a boardroom with a bunch of Forest Service and National Forest Foundation leadership and I had the opportunity to work with them on another.

You know I’m a creative I’m an advertising creative director so as brought in for a project to get people aware that we had a media opportunity at Beaver Creek for the FIA World Ski Championships in 2015. And you know it’s kind of like it’s crazy it’s like they build a freaking Super Bowl stadium at the bottom of birds of prey for this event and you know draws a crowd from all over the country and the world really.

And you know so as all of these people were coming to these races they saw a media opportunity in partnership with Vail resorts to just educate people.

Hey did you know that you’re standing on your national forest right and you know so I have a lot of passion for that and I knew that you know our national forests are really the only place that’s still left for motorized use. A lot of sportsmen’s group I mean really it’s it’s our greatest.

As far as you know winter access goes especially winter access. From my perspective that the Forest Service lands were really the only place where we could you know experience freedom the way that we do out there.

And so it instantly like connected with my passion. I had already started back country united as a Facebook page a year and a half prior to that. And so my mind was already kind of working toward the idea of stewardship and. But yeah I started to become aware of bigger you know kind of public lands problems that these land managers were thinking of and that we had to kind of figure out how to create messaging communications that would represent you know the the the mission of you know like the Forest Service as a land management agency.

But then also just where society is trending right.

You know like Colorado was a great example because people are coming from all over the country right now. The Front Range of Colorado is I think the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the country right now. And I mean we’re seeing it pretty painfully. You know our infrastructure can barely handle the traffic that’s showing up and you know people are coming here for the Colorado lifestyle.

Sure the powder days the sunshine the mountains that are just right there out your back door. And you know it’s starting to feel like we’re reaching critical mass already.

And you know I’ve seen some some data projections that look like the Front Range of Colorado will be the largest megalopolis in North America by 2050 right.

So these are like issues like gas so the stuff we all came here for.

Absolutely.

Everybody came here for it.

And you know luckily that you know we have things like National Park Service and BLM lands and you know Forest Service and there’s a lot of wilderness you know.

And I started to become pretty you know I wouldn’t say that I can recite to you like what the Wilderness Act says word but I know.

But there’s differences and subtleties in what the definitions of all those different lands are and it’s very important that the American public knows and we really most people don’t know.

Yeah I certainly don’t. And let me ask you a question. Oh here we go. What’s your favorite national forest. My favorite national forest. Don’t

be afraid that something I’m going to go ahead and say just because I’ve driven through there are a couple of times I believe. How do you pronounce it the one where you like when you’re on your way to tell you right and come on think about that a national forest.

You can work. You pass it pass that you like.

You know it’s funny a lot of people when you ask that question What’s your favorite National Forest. They’ll just blurt out Yosemite. Right. Yellowstone Johnson you know like well that’s National Park Service. They said under the Department of Interior totally different department of the government.

And so these things don’t even sit in the same silo.

Now they have to work together because a lot of the lands are adjacent to one another. And when you’re talking about Lake Watershed and you know forestry and stuff like that like you know it I’m sure there’s a lot of gray areas. I can’t speak to the shore millions of intricate technicalities that you know the land managers of all their different roles could say. But you know there’s absolutely a difference between like Rocky Mountain National Park for instance which has some wilderness attached to it. I think it’s mostly wilderness. We may have to edit this out because I can’t speak specifically. But then like you know Indian Peaks Wilderness just right here in our backyard like most of these front range mountains are not motorized. Right. Frankly we wouldn’t want to ride snowmobiles on them anyway because the snow pack just typically isn’t isn’t there. He’s over. So that’s a convenient human powered corridor that you know there’s not a lot of conflict there.

But they have even had to regulate like cycling. I mean like the. Yeah.

And then you get the you know the crazy people who hate the mountain bikers that put spikes you know in the trails and you know are literally endangering people’s lives over you know selfish ideal that you know the way they perceived that land is more righteous than the way those people perceive that land right now.

And really all we’re trying to do is get some exercise and enjoy the clean air and you know the scenery and the challenge the physical challenge the mental challenge. You know a lot of the human power people say will tell you that the snowmobilers are just fat and lazy and you know they don’t you know anybody can just sit on a snowmobile and go up the mountain.

Well I I’ve tried it once and I can tell you is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You’re not going to be fat lazy by in that 400 pound thing around or how much it weighs you. Like you said earlier even the humbling way to put it silly.

I mean these cultures you know is such a good word that like these different cultures and so you know if you break down and that’s like the conversation that I guess you’re trying to have which makes so much sense which is that. No it’s not. It’s not hard to draw a similar line between human powered and motor powered when they’re having the same conversation within human powered between hikers and bikers.

And so it’s like well they may be like well take a bike or over a snowmobile. It’s like you’re still having that same conversation. There’s there’s space out there that has limited access. I mean there’s tons of space out there but most of it is hard to reach.

And and thankfully I think it’s good that some terrain manages itself that way that you know we almost couldn’t conquer it right.

You know and you’re predominantly probably going to reach land that’s out of reach of a hiker or snowshoe or generally you’re late for a little while you’re in the same place.

Yeah and that’s and it’s typically where a lot of the conflicts happen at the parking lot right. I went to a South Lake Tahoe a year ago for my level one instructor training course with every American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education.

And we had a couple of days out in the field and you know I was blown away by how many people of all use we’re sharing the same parking lots and and that that to me and a little bit to some of the dynamics of you know the Tahoe area. As far as the human powered motorized. And then a few weeks later I was at S.A with a snowmobile on display for our products with our partners Westend snowboards. And it was pretty interesting the conversations I had with people for four days at that event was just a real quick snow sports industries of America. So it’s you know the largest ski snowboard retailer here show OK which is in Denver now.

And yes you know it.

I clearly remember an older gentleman probably you know late 50s came up to me checking out the snowmobile and you know it took for for whatever reason he felt it necessary to tell me how much he hates snowmobilers. Right. You know total stranger walking up to me to say I hate you. Right.

And then it’s like oh OK well let’s talk about that you know and he’s like Yeah you guys are just you stink your smoking up the place. You

know you’re so loud you’re driving every you know wild land creature away. You guys are just trashing the place like I hate snowmobilers.

And I was like well you know.

Have you ever talked to snowblowers it’s like Yeah there’s just just so inconsiderate they’re rude.

You know they litter in the parking lot you know. I mean he just he couldn’t say anything good. And I was like well you know I would challenge you to to realize that most snowmobilers are family oriented community oriented like you know that trail that you skin effortlessly up you know who pays for that Snowmobile registrations. You know who grooms that trail. Probably a snowmobiler is probably paid for by a snowmobile club.

You know who gives you your avalanche forecasts. Probably a guy on a snowmobile. You get lost out there. Guess who’s gonna come and save you in the middle of night in a blizzard of search and rescue can’t get in there with a helicopter. It’s going to be a group of local snowmobilers that will gladly you know put themselves in harm’s way to rescue you. And I was just like you know you got to understand how much value the snowmobilers bring to your back country experience.

And the second that you need them are going to be there. And and I hope that you can see that you know by the end of the conversation I mean we probably talked for you know 45 minutes and he was shaking my hand and he was you know just super grateful and we just had this really amazing conversation and I didn’t even I wasn’t there for that conversation. I was there to you know hopefully get people’s eyes on my product line right.

But while I was doing you know just got to have a really powerful conversation that I think you know I would imagine probably changed his perception a lot of ways.

Surely you know at least opened his eyes and he was he didn’t. Didn’t sound like he approached you he was really open to really having conversations there’s no way that he wanted to invite in the beginning. But you know and then you never know where that guy takes that conversation.

Absolutely. And so because he goes up in the mountains with his friends and you know they’ve probably been grumbling about it for years every day when they get to the parking lot or whatever but you know maybe it maybe changed things a little bit.

It’s funny even in you know in Colorado I have the conversation quite a bit where if I start getting into it with somebody who hates snowmobiles in Colorado especially in the front range especially people from Boulder I don’t know what it is. You know I can very easily say you know you probably drove past 100 trailheads where snowmobiles weren’t allowed before you got to this place that you’re so angry about snowmobiles right.

You know you know everybody goes to El Paso like when it like Vail passes like the you know I think actually I learned that Vail passes the most utilized mixed use. Winter

back country recreation area in North America maybe not North America. But in the United States it’s interesting to see the conflict that exists there right. You know when on the you know the Eagle’s Nest area the Gore range that’s all human powered. You can’t get a machine in there.

There’s plenty of terrain all day long if you don’t want to smell snowmobile smoke you’re only going to smell it when you’re in the parking lot at the parking lot. And you know the the trail network is all funded by snowmobilers you know. And then there’s you know snowcat operator there who does power guides. You know he’s frustrated now because skiers and snowboarders are now realizing that the snowmobile can take them to where he’s been taking his clients for 20 years.

Right. You know and I mean it just and there’s now there’s you know speed flyers you know skiers with parachutes they go there to learn that.

And there’s there’s timber sleds now so snow bikes motorcycles that are getting converted into snowmobiles basically. And you know you don’t even have any skills you can just go anywhere you want to go on those things. Really. Yeah.

And then there is you know the guys who have been going up Vail Pass for 30 40 plus years who truly believe that the people who have aftermarket exhaust on their snowmobiles did it purposefully just to piss that person off and so you just got all these different people that don’t realize that like OK if you’ve got a problem there’s a thousand other places you could go within 20 minutes of here where you wouldn’t even have to deal with that problem.

You know and there’s far more options. Yeah. Like you said like you’re have limited options.

Yeah I mean it probably seems like we have a lot of areas to ride but you know each year goes by and it gets cut down less and less. There’s there’s a lot of groups that their sole nonprofit groups that their sole mission of their organizations which have become very well funded very well organized have a lot of political influence.

Their sole mission is to create more wilderness which closes off even more and more riding areas. And you know and then in a place like Colorado where more and more wealthy people are moving you know they’re buying plots of land that that border you know national forests as well. So you know it’s literally like closing in on us while our population is exploding.

Well the ski resorts have become so crowded that more and more people are going to the side country when more and more people are going inside country.

More and more of the people who used to go inside country are now going into the back country. And you know you can see how this thing is just growing and you know now we’re seeing a lot of these public land issues really coming to fruition. Maybe I wouldn’t call it fruition.

It’s more of a say a negative history of reaching kind of a tipping point like under the surface a little bit.

Yeah I mean you know in a few weeks we’re going to have the outdoor retailer an essay. So S.A was its own show before. Now they’re combining the two and I mean it’s going to be the largest outdoor industry retailer show. I mean I think the only one bigger is ASPO in Germany. But yeah I mean it’s a big deal and it’s going to bring a lot of business. Colorado Malatya startups in the outdoor space are going to start happening more and more in Colorado.

You know the state of Colorado is very focused on growing the outdoor industry. And as you know as a giant right there with aerospace and you know M-M J. Yeah. So you know I think we’re going to see a lot more of that industry growth in Colorado and the political weight behind it is significant.

You know the the Outdoor Industry Association I believe they’re based in Boulder. They have and I haven’t seen the actual itemized breakdown of numbers but you know they’ve basically come to the conclusion that the outdoor industry is eight hundred eighty seven billion dollar industry. The third largest economic driver in the American economy twice that of oil and gas. Right.

And you know you can see why that organization of statistics makes so much political sense because it gives state governments like Colorado a lot more clout weight to swing around in attracting that type of industry here and you know outdoor retailer has moved Colorado because of how the state of Utah was handling public lands issues.

And so it was that the May I read about that move being made. I didn’t understand I did. I’m just not knowledgeable about that industry enough to understand. I figure is more like population or economically based but I wasn’t sure like that.

It’s not the short of it is basically you know the people who are running Eutaw government are predominantly fighting for state management of their public lands. And what that has done historically from what I’ve heard is that the states can’t afford to manage that kind of resource.

Yeah.

And you know and I mean you could take use the metaphorical example on a more micro level of like what happens if I can’t afford to pay my mortgage right. I have to sell my house or I have to find a way to subsidize the cost of my house by renting out the basement or something. Right. It’s like that except you know if they can’t afford to manage those lands you know they’re going to put in extractive industry in there where they can make money off of it. Profit off of it.

And you know so it’s just too tempting like the day if you know if there there’s a budget gap or there’s you know there’s things you want to pay for and you know there’s always people whispering and you’re like well if you we just do this then yeah we’ll get this like rent you know basically absolutely you know.

And then once you start like opening the Pandora’s Box of public land issues you start realizing You know the snow that we ride on in the winter is the water that in under served community in Detroit.

Yeah. That’s their clean water. You know the air we breathe that we take advantage take for granted. You know the thing about like China where there’s so much air pollution right. You know they just wear masks and they assume it’s normal. All right we have a brown day in Denver and you know it’s like it’s noticeable you know we. So we take our clean air and our clean water for granted.

I mean those are like the two most elemental you know life support systems of our our way of life our lifestyle our quality of life as Americans. And yet had another thought. But I’m kind of going down the list.

I mean well this public lands thing like you said it’s such a big issue and it’s super complex. You’re dealing with national level issues state level issues all these different bureaus. The land is in all these different groups there aren’t even in one spot.

It’s all in the lands literally serve everyone right in some way that’s vital to the very life that we take for granted you know and then you get into like you know native tribe issues. Yeah you know and it’s just I mean the rabbit hole is endless on this stuff and you start going historical as well. And you know there’s a lot of different perspectives clamoring for access right when it comes down to it.

And well I think one of the things it sounds like you’re saying is like you and people need to be open to the fact that there’s a lot of different ways to access and enjoy this land this not doing like any permanent damage to it or anything like that. And you know. No. No one is right. And a lot of communication just respect kind of needs to be had there. And you know this kind of sounds like what.

Well yeah there’s something for everybody already without having to like by just staying status quo. And that’s my wish. I wish the you know the wilderness that exists.

It doesn’t change the multiuse that exists doesn’t change the way over snow vehicles travel in the winter doesn’t change national parks they don’t change like you know of course private property. That’s a whole different conversation that I had. I mean I don’t even have the bandwidth to think about those implications. But there’s just the more that it changes the crazier it’s going to get.

You know it’s going to become just another one of the many political divides that are going on in our culture right now. You know spiritually energetically you know this divide between people that you know and and that’s when it starts getting political and you know it’s just you know it’s funny because recreation was kind of an accident. When you look at it like when you know the U.S. Forest Service started the reason why the Forest Service sits under the USDA is because trees grow their crop.

You know General like I’m generally speaking there’s a lot of intricacies beyond that. And BLM is about what’s under the ground. So it’s more about mineral rights and you know I’m sure there’s BLM lands that you know worry about forestry and I’m sure there’s Forest Service lands I worry about mineral rights but you know generally speaking I think that’s why they were designated the way that they were.

And it was a totally different business model profit center that was set up under the Department of Interior. You know and if you kind of compare the differences you know again it’s like if you want to understand anything you follow the money right. Yeah and you know it operates because like you go to Rocky Mountain National Park. What do you have to do before you even enter. Yeah we have to pay you know U.S. Forest Service lands what pays for that water usage timber.

You know probably some mining in certain places certain states probably some natural gas extraction in certain places a whole lot of outfitter like guiding permits you know hunting fishing and this is where it starts getting back into the recreation space right. You know OHV trail permits.

You know Vail Resorts for instance is the largest I think they’re the largest per Mitie hike in the recreation space. National Forest land.

So you don’t have to imagine when you think about like how much terrain they they use. Right.

Right. So how do you all well and how do you compare the dollars coming in through permits and stuff like that.

And the dollars that come in through the traffic jam at Yellowstone right that you know two totally different models. You know and and you know I think like Utah has a lot of BLM lands. You know it’s it’s I think more BLM than Forest Service but you know you think about how much mining is going on in Utah and I think that’s a big. Another big reason why there’s so much turmoil in Utah is because there’s so many minerals under the ground there.

Then when they go extract in those in that context I mean they’re changing the landscape right now in Colorado like I mean we actually need more trees cut down because of the beetle kill problem here you know. Right. Whereas like in the Pacific Northwest you know they’re cutting trees down and then they grow so fast you know they just re vegetate the area. Right. You know 20 years there’s a new forest that looks like more like a grid. It’s less organic but right you know.

So there are all those differences but when it comes down to it there’s skiers and snowboarders and snowmobilers and dirt bikers and mountain bikers and kayakers and rock climbers mountaineers and families that want to take their Airstream.

It’s crazy. I took a trip to Moab recently and if you want to just see like motorized access in the country and just go out there you get to your hotel the parking lot is a little out of control. Just full of rigs with huge trailers with like 10 side by sides on the back of dirt bikes and driver and you go to breakfast and everyone’s there at 6:00 in the morning and that like 7 o’clock in the morning that parking lots empty like they all scatter all over.

And you know that just goes to show like that. That’s you know that’s kind of what. That’s one of the freedoms we have right there. This land is paid for and a lot of different ways including all of our taxes. And things like that.

You know that’s part of the picture in which we should actually be grateful for any form of way that preserves our freedom. You know. Yeah. Like yeah we don’t want to change the landscape.

But maybe there’s some crappy flatlands. You know it’s OK if we drill that stuff you know.

But let’s not destroy the Rocky Mountains or the road you know Escalante Canyon. Right.

And you know and just to you know it’s complex man. It is like the Organization of the land. Is complex. The issues are complex. The cultures are complex and varied. The demographics of all of these things are complex and so I think it just gets back to what you’ve started here as a method of communication. And usually that’s where things need to start. And that’s where problems get solved. So

you know you’re like if I have solved any problems you’ve brought you’ve had that conversation with one guy that show.

Like that’s one that’s how grassroots things happen.

And especially if it’s you know in your particular your main focus which is you know keeping access for motorized access is you know it’s just you know is under represented and so you know I’m curious. You know you said you’ve come across some really good supporters as you’ve a view as you’ve started. You know this thing kind of organically grew from a Facebook page today to what it is now which is really interesting you know when to go check it out. You know again back country united ICOM.

You see the focus like there’s this you know we spent most of our time talking about these issues because that’s what you really mainly talk about. There’s avalanche awareness stuff on there as the most. It’s like a resource page for other really good resources that are out there. You’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that.

And then there’s your products that help support this effort also. But you know we were speaking just briefly before we started here. And you really wanted to make sure you had a chance to kind of pay for and get some.

Just like shout to some people because I guess you know why you’ve been having these conversations and as you’ve been on this journey you know you’re coming across a lot of headwinds and so anybody who’s ever started a new project or new business or knows what that journey is like. And people who get behind you like really make all the difference in the world. So let’s talk about some of the people have got behind you on this. Oh

man. I could take another hour knocking about people you know. I got to get to know some of the legends of the snowmobile sport guys like Randy Sherman Chris Brandt Dan Adams Keith Curtis gosh Jeremy Mercier there’s just so many great snowmobiler professional athletes snowmobiler personalities out there that have all just been so awesome I’ve gotten to work with people like that.

You know again Todd Williams. You know photographers tend to get together with a lot of athletes and media producer type of people so no one would know what you guys were doing back there.

Yeah they were part of our own problems.

I really like all you see is the parking lot you know you and you want to go see you like what these guys are doing snowmobiles in the back country.

Yeah the mystique is gone.

But as it continues to you know rapidly evolve as well. You know there’s a lot of people in Colorado as well the guys over at the public works Mike arts Ian Foreman both those guys are photographer phenomenal photographers they shoot a lot of stuff and like Warren Miller and you know Red Bull and Levis and do some cool stuff out there. The guys from and snowboards Mason Davey and Leo.

You know their grassroots snowboard brand that’s focused on split boarding. I connected with them because they got into snowmobiling and now so they’re they’re kind of more on the human powered side and I think that I’ve been like the snowmobile guru in their network.

And you know we we really value our relationships with one another. I worked on the Vail Pass taskforce which is a nonprofit that supports the bill past winter recreation area. So you know they were a human powered motorized committee that got together in the 80s when same things were going on back then.

I mean people were stringing up barbwire to you know decapitate snowmobilers and choose guns getting drawn in. So you know we’ll pass taskforce kind of came up as a way to bring people together to solve some of those same issues. You know this was 30 years ago. Right. And let’s see. To be outerwear there a Swedish company I met the founder I guess about 10 years ago at an event called heydays in Minnesota. It’s a big snowmobile it’s like the Sturgis of snowmobile.

I only imagine what that’s like. Oh man it’s pretty rowdy. But we hit it off. He

came out to Colorado. I took him to Wolf Creek Pass you know for a few days in late spring. We had one year let him use one of my sleds and you know made a lifelong friend and actually met another guy named Matt ense who’s has a company called Mountain skills with Matt ense.

He’s pretty phenomenal snowmobile athlete down in South Fork. He does avalanche training and also guides a lot of people. Man I could just go on I think I’m like forgetting a thousand people. Yeah there’s just a lot of really incredible people and you know and then in the last few years I’ve been working with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation.

As you know this is like Creative Director side work it’s not even really under technically under the banner of backcountry united,  backcountry united it has kind of created my my voice and my my thinking and my relationships. And so it’s been a natural tie and to you know be working on my passion project. But then also working toward conservation efforts for the forests that we enjoy got to work on. You know I was talking about a little bit about that campaign.

It’s called. It’s all yours. And you know it’s really special for me to be a part of that voice creating that message. You know that can relate to every user every American you know whether you’re you know that inner city kid to the you know somebody at a ski area a snowmobile or to a hunter to you know whatever walk of life you come from the public lands belong every one of us.

They don’t just belong to one group who happens to be hiking into it more than other people. Right. We just all have access to it and some are more privy to it than others. But you know it’s really important for me to get involved and work like that. And you know and so it’s informing back country united and back country united is informing that work and you know I’ve been I’ve got a wife and three kids I’ve been very blessed to have survived.

You know four years out on my own since I left the corporate world you don’t do work that I really am passionate about. And you know I got to go to D.C. last summer and got to meet with some of the you know top leadership from all sorts of different perspectives with the United States Forest Service the agency and the Forest Foundation and you know it’s interesting for me as a small town kid from a coal mining town in northwest Colorado who’s passionate about snowmobiling to sit in a room with people who are coming from all over the country you know really they’re the ones steering the ship and guiding how these lands are managed and all their infinite ways. Right.

You know I’m probably I’ve probably seen more places that they manage in person as far as you know winter back country goes than I think a lot had. So I think just my experience and my background I know even those on the ground. I mean these people I mean these people are just so brilliant and they’re like on a on a level that you know super humbled in their presence to even be having conversations you know.

And I realized that I have a great perspective that wasn’t really especially represented and right in a collaborative conversation like that now and I think a lot of the snowmobile you know advocacy groups and other motorized advocacy groups you know they’re so focused on fighting lawsuits at the federal level that at that point there’s no collaboration. It’s just everybody is on the defense and they’re just two forces fighting against one another.

Where I’ve got this really cool opportunity to kind of bridge the gap and be able to like sometimes like like a spy a secret spy that you know relate to two different sides of the issue and it’s kind of funny I was actually speaking with a pro skier this girl Lindsey DYAR pro skier up in Jackson doctor yesterday actually and she was saying you know you really should think about getting into politics and I’m like yeah you know quite a few people have been saying that to me lately.

And she’s like No seriously dude you get off your ass and go step up and I’m like oh yeah OK I guess I’ve come so far down this path.

Right.

You know again I don’t know where any of it’s going but just gaining like this collective knowledge is a start because it’s so complex.

Having conversations with a bunch of dick constituents in a debate is another huge leg up because that’s where movements happen. And that’s really where progress happens. And you’ve got to have passion for it because you know it’s so much energy and it’s so much commitment.

So not everyone you know everyone’s just so much easier just to go into defense mode and protect your interest. And then just not. It takes energy to look at things from all the different angles it takes energy to go like twisted down and have a collaborative discussion and try to like let’s get to know each other you know and so live in it. I

mean there’s a lot of situations I’m really uncomfortable in because I feel like I’m strongly advocating one side more than the other. And so I get tested in ways that I didn’t even see coming and you know and it applies to all facets of life. You

know it forces me into a lot of uncomfortable situations that I have to just take a breath and have faith and you know come into it feeling positive that the other people I’m talking to have good intentions to write you know and you know I certainly have a lot of things that I’m still working through.

You know just from a personal growth standpoint. And we didn’t even talk about the business entrepreneurial side.

You know so you’ll have men I think you know when you come back when you’re you know running for office and you want to talk to the audience you know. We’ll see. You know we’re all those things live it. I mean it sounds like you know again you put yourself out there and you know that’s kind of part of what this podcast was about. You

put yourself out there and you start meeting really interesting people and having conversations about what they’re passionate about it really. You know you learned so much I learn so much from from talking to my guests and people like you and I get to just tap into your wisdom and just get a little bit of the cliff notes version and record it so I can listen to it again because if we are I’ll have a few beers and had this conversation going like what was that thing you mention go down all sorts of different tangents in so you don’t so if you have to do it again some time you know we will.

And I’d love to Yeah. And so. So you mentioned a couple things I just want to ask and these are quick ones. And at the same time they can be very difficult. First you said you have spent so much time actually out there in the land and you know different access points different you know recreational areas and things like that.

We’ll keep it to Colorado and Colorado focus your favorites are hard man is there is there a favorite. Do you have like a. Sometimes it’s like it’s my favorite because it’s where I can go one step at a time. You’re turning around on me.

I am getting your local knowledge man and you mislead me you know but that’s also. Yeah. And so Kansas is great the city of Kansas snowmobiling though you know again like I don’t know a lot of hikes.

But at the end of the day my favorite ones like the one that’s in my backyard because it’s what I do when I have limited time but if I have a week drink that’s that’s a different thing. But anyway like anything out there what you’re just like man or maybe a surprise where you’re just like wow like I didn’t think this is going to be something that sticks out for me.

It’s funny.

And I never thought I would have answered the question this way when I was younger but the place I grew up is kind of has become this like really special place that you know I spent my whole life trying to get out of Colorado. Now that I have you know a family three kids and two dogs and you know it’s some slides of your own.

Yeah there’s a part of me that wants to go back and there’s still so much land unexplored out there and you know and now that my my dad he’s not really in the health to go to a lot of the places he used to you know give me piggyback rides ride to get me the last you know three miles back to the truck you know.

Now I kind of want to take my kids to those places and kind of backtrack and figure out you know oh that was that was that place that you know I caught that one fish or that place where I’d lost my shoe in the Green River and had to wrap my T-shirt around my foot to hiked for ten miles.

No. Yes.

You know northwest Colorado Moffat County Browns Park Dinosaur National Monument. You know these aren’t even places where you snowmobile. There really places where you know I wish I had a big RV camper and you know a couple of dirt bikes and a side by side and some mountain bikes and you know take my family and camp out for a couple of weeks.

I mean there’s still wildlife wild horses running free out there and I mean just I mean you can get lost you know. A lot of it’s sagebrush country. But you know it’s kind of the last frontier of Colorado and a lot of ways and you know and it’s also a kind of a depressed town because you know the hit that the coal industry has taken. So you know there’s a part of me also that that cares a lot about the community that I grew up in and you know I’m wondering if maybe that’s where I get into politics or right. You know there’s ways that I can help them from a marketing standpoint to drive more tourism if you know Colorado is growing in the tourism segment and you know maybe there’s other ways to boost their economy and help a lot of the people that I grew up with.

And you know so and it’s funny because you know as much as the state has changed you know especially in the last five years. But I mean I left Craig Colorado in 94. And it really hasn’t changed that much. And I like that right now. So yeah I think that’s kind of like full circle you know.

Yeah and that’s fun.

I think I want to you know move to Alaska or Idaho before you know those are kind of like bucketlist things but I could see myself going back to northwest Colorado.

Gacha that’s awesome. And then you know and then the last thing I know you gave me a when we talked about some of these supporters you know to make sure we dig up resources and put links to make you can find it. You know all that kind of stuff. But if you could pick one or couple for different reasons that you’d like to hear their story on this podcast man who would you like to hear on this or who do you think the audience would really benefit. You

know I’m going to just throw a dart in my head and it’s going to land on Mason Davey of West and snowboards.

They’re great little grassroots snowboard and split Ward brand focused on back country travel. You know they’ve they’ve really grown a lot in the last couple of years and you know I’d say Mason is probably my biggest champion out there. Nice you know one of my biggest supporters and so you know I’m I’m calling you out Maysam.

Maybe you can help put us in touch fit. We’ll definitely love to meet those guys. I definitely feel like I’m seeing their stuff around more.

Yeah they’re doing great.

They’re just really special people and you know they’ve figured out a way to make you know their following is their family. It’s less about like hey we’re the cool snowboard company like you wished you could hang out with us. It’s more like oh hey you want to come along. Absolutely. We got a Snowcat Yeah. You know we’ve got sleds like let’s go split boards. You’ve never done it before. No problem like we’ll teach you everything you know. It’s just that sense of community that you know you can see how that’s a reflection of all the energy that I’m putting out as well and you know I think the further down the rabbit hole I go you know the more people like that that I tend to attract to what I’m doing and again those are those are the kind of people that I want to be around too.

Yeah for sure not. That’s a powerful powerful thing. So you know and I just I know we could go on. These

are again you know this is just the tip of the iceberg. You

know a lot of times when you know you’re talking to somebody about their company and they your or their you when I talked to the people more about at a nonprofit or some like that tends to be super complex.

You know and people’s stories buying companies are are really amazing. But you’re really in a complex space and so it’s harder Les educate all of that and in this span of time and you know I just appreciate having these conversations because when we spoke on the phone we were just calling just to like catch up and touch base again after you know we had met a couple of years ago. And I ended up just getting just like you know education about you know what you’re up to. And I was I again I was I wish I was just running a tape recorder then because it’s something that really impacts us all. Like you said we were you know I I’m pretty new to Colorado three years or so and you know there’s a lot of people like me move in here and a lot of people say well like we’re part of the problem. But we’re all moving here. It’s happening and there’s a lot of issues that affect us all and that we don’t know about. And

that’s why it’s so important to make connections like this because you know had you never met me or if you didn’t know Todd Williams you know you might also think that snowmobilers were you know the devil incarnate in the back country and you know now that you’ve got those relationships and you know that there is a community out there that cares about the land despite what you know the political divide says crime. You know it’s just it just continues to spread that way you know.

It’s all we can do. Like just keep talking totally man. Again I appreciate you taking the time to come over and sit down and talk about what back country united is up to. We’ll be sure to put all the links to everything Backcountry United at backcountry united on Facebook and Instagram.

And we also have some products for your snowmobile accessories for the skier and snowboarder and then we’re trying to expand our branded merchandise because not everybody owns a snowmobile. You know so. Sure. And I’m you know creative art director background so you know my big strength and all this has just been I can design logos tagline.

So that’s probably been the coolest part of you know all of this from the beginning and have an outlet for your creative juices.

Yeah. So you know if you if you have a snowmobile or you’re getting into snowmobiling and you want to learn about how to access that way and you know curious about some of the tools and equipment to enable those adventures hit me up I love making new friends I love sharing this this amazing life. And you know these amazing places with. With other people who are stoked to.

You know go on an adventure. And yeah that’s you know probably the biggest reason why I’m doing all this.

Hey that’s a good reason to get outside right. Absolutely. Awesome. Thanks again. I appreciate it. I look forward to just like fall on this journey. More and we’ll talk again sometime soon. Thanks so much.

Thank you.

All right everyone thanks for listening. I hope you join this conversation. I know it was a long one. But again it’s a complex topic and you know but it’s really an important one to us. As we mentioned in the intro you can find links to any related content that we talk about in the show notes to this podcast episode.

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