Gear

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.

If you enjoyed the episode you are enjoying Colorado FM please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave 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 dot fm slash subscribe. Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time.

Romp Skis – Custom Skis Built in Crested Butte

Romp Skis

Caleb and Morgan Weinberg of Romp Skis on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast!

This episode is another from my recent tour of Colorado. While in Crested Butte I was able to catch up with Caleb and Morgan Weinberg of Romp Skis.  Romp builds custom, hand-crafted one-of a kind skis for a bunch of really happy clients, and it was a pleasure to have the chance to tour their factory and meet these guys.

Every company has a story, and we get into the history behind Romp and some really interesting twists in their entrepreneurial journey.  We also talk about what you can expect as a client as far as the process of buying custom skis and how they make sure you’re getting what you really want.

Finally, Morgan gets into some of the evolution of design and material and what new skis they are looking forward to this season.

Online, you can find Romp at rompskis.com and on instagram @rompskis.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find these guys and check out their amazing gear in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Caleb and Morgen Weinberg of Romp Skis.

 


Show Notes

[01:45] What brought Caleb and Morgan to Crested Butte

[02:50] Doing business in Crested Butte

[03:45] A ski company born out of the recession

[05:30] Journey from copy to innovation

[06:30] A custom factory for custom skis

[07:45] How it works from the client perspective

[09:30] Becoming a government contractor

[12:00] What’s new in the lineup

[14:45] Who would they like to hear

 


Relevant Links

Romp Skis

Line Skis

10th Group Special Forces

Gunnison Western University

Reactive Adaptations

 


Related Episodes

Venture Snowboards

Erica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Crested Butte Real Estate with Corey Dwan

 


Transcript

Morgan and Caleb thanks for having me over to the Romp ski factory here in Crested Butte. It’s really amazing to take a tour and see what your process is all about. And thanks for taking some time to talk to me. It’s always fun to show someone new around the factory.

So. You know why don’t you just start at the beginning like what brought you to Colorado and then specifically Crested Butte. And what made you kind of want to stay. And then you know then we’ll get into how romp skis kind of came to be.

Well I moved to Colorado in 92 after graduating from high school to go to school in Gunnison Western. I went to school there. By the time I was done going to school I had moved to Crested Butte. So really even as I moved here to go to school my plan was pretty much always to stay. So once I found Crested Butte this is where I want to be.

This is one of those things where you just using college as the chance to relocate and you are good.

Yeah I mean I came on a college tour of Colorado and by the time I had been to Crested Butte I knew that wherever I could be the closest to here is where I was going to stay.

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So as far as doing business in Crested Butte like what’s it like growing a business in this little town and you know how’s the community for that.

I mean having a business in Crested Butte is a challenge. There’s basically nothing available here that is involved with our business. There’s no going to the store to get something that we don’t have. So we end up making a lot of things on our own. It’s easier to get raw materials and it has to get finished products here. So we we build a lot of things that in other places you could go by.

And that’s kind of the case in a lot of small towns I guess.

But you have to get a little more creative first year where you know where the end of the road here so. But I mean it’s a challenge but in some ways it’s part of the fun and it’s fun to build things so that’s what we do.

You’re building things from scratch. That’s kind of what you guys wrote to anyway right. So when we talk about Romp Skis was kind of actually born out of the recession you know what were you doing at that time and what was the opportunity that kind of opened the door for this. And did you really ever see it getting when you started did you see it get into where you are today?

Well, no we definitely didn’t see it getting to where we are today because we really didn’t have a when we first started there wasn’t really a plan for the future it was only us doing something for fun because we had that winter off and I were both working in construction and we didn’t have a house to build that winter.

So we were skiing a lot and Morgan found online a few web sites that were describing ways of new ways that people could come up with to build skis in your garage with basic woodworking tools which were things that we had because of a construction company that I owned. So between our woodworking knowledge and then we had some fiberglass knowledge from doing things with boats when we were kids we were pretty well prepped for making skis. So we started that winter I think we made eight pairs in Morgan’s garage and they were they were ugly and most of them fell apart.

But when we gave them to our friends many of which are you know lifelong skiers or pro skiers or people who work in ski shops or people with a lot of experience people loved their skis they really had a good time on them. And that feedback from our friends prompted us by springtime to rent a space and start a business. And that’s where that’s where Romp Skis started.

Gotcha. Was there anything when you saw these videos online where you were there with your experience were you able to see like I what we can do this part better in this part. Differently is there something no secret sauce to the recipe or is it just you know kind of extra care and some skill.

That’s what I mean when we first started it was just you know can we do this at all you know we we basically took skis we took shapes that we liked from other companies. We were both working on line skis at that time and we love their shapes and some of their ideas.

So we I mean when we were first starting we were copying things that other people were doing it wasn’t. It was hard enough just to try and put the things together and say to not you know we weren’t designing anything brand new. We basically took a shape that we liked and we made a little fatter and that was our first ski.  But now I mean with a lot more experience we do believe that our shapes and our designs are really innovative and they’re fun. And that’s really the goal is to make cool skis that are fun.

And I mean you know you were able to give me a little tour around a place which I appreciate is really cool to see your process and you’ve had to even innovate the process in the sense that since you’re customizing them you know a lot of your equipment is kind of adjustable and you know it’s ready to accommodate. I guess all the different you know your kind of designs but all the different clientele customizations that you’re doing. So that was pretty interesting to see for sure.

I mean most ski factories are designed to build things on repetition. So you’re going to make the same thing until you’re done making it and then you get to make something else. But we press between four and seven pairs each day and every one of them is basically completely different from the one before it. So all of our equipment from beginning to end has to be designed to take that change and be able to continue moving the products to the factory.

So we’ve had to adjust what regular ski factory would do to accommodate that.

So what’s the view from the client and what’s the process. Kind of like if somebody decides they want a custom pair of skis.

So people find us normally either online or it’s someone who’s here in Crested Butte and they stop in the factory but either way the process is the same. It involves 15 minutes to half an hour interview with the skier. And that interview is really about them as a skier not about the skis because most clients don’t know exactly what they want. And even if they do they may not be right. So we really try and help them give us the right information and then we design the ski for them and with their input of course.

But sure that’s the way our process works and it’s very successful. We very rarely get a pair that isn’t you know if people don’t love it.

Right. And you know we were looking at some of the skis that you’re making right now. You know these orders kind of came in at the tail end of last season. People have those in time for for this one. But you were kind of saying the turnaround time that you try to keep is we really try to keep our turnaround time.

Less than about five weeks. We want people to be able to order their skis and get them while they’re still excited and not forget about them and then have them show up in a package so we do get we do get backed up around Christmas time and things get pushed out a little farther. But in general we try to keep it in that month the five week zone.

Right. Right. And so you said you’re doing about seven pairs a day like what’s that translating to a year. How many skis are you making.

We’re hoping this year to be somewhere in the mid 300 for custom skis. And then we have we did a large order for 10th group special forces. So that was an additional 350 pairs so this year we were hoping to be somewhere up around 700.

Can you tell us a little bit more about that what that relationship was like with the 10th Mountain guys?

So its 10th group special forces and they are their base down at Fort Carson and that started by us making some custom skis from. For some retired guys are from 10th group and they came up with a design that had a special graphic that was commemoratives to a lot of things that had to do with that group. And after we had made their skis they opened up that graphic to anyone who was a member of 10th crew could could order a pair of those skis from us.

So a year or two after that the 10th was ready to order new skis for themselves and they had heard of us obviously because some of them were risky on our skis so we got the opportunity to bid on the skis along with a bunch of other companies.  And we won that bid and we were able to make those skis last year.

Gotcha. Is that something you think is that like a one off type thing or is it become ongoing.

Who knows. We’re hoping it’s going to be ongoing we’re bidding on more military skis.

Now it’s a slow process dealing with the military and the Department of Defense so we don’t really know the answer. We’re hoping to do more. They’ve been great guys to work with. Even though their process is slow the individuals have been really helpful in making our little company into a military contractor which is not from what I’ve gathered speaking to other people it’s not a common thing to have a company this small b military contractor so their helpers has been we couldn’t have done it without it.

Well that’s definitely got to be one of those entrepreneurial twists that you never saw coming out.

We never had any idea that we would ever do anything like that. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who had become a military contractor right.

That’s crazy. So what do you think. What are you excited about for the next like you know a year or two for the company you just kind of hoping for steady growth do you see any cool new products coming along.

So we’ve had a we’re always developing new skis so we’ve got our new ski for this year. It’s one time under foot and it millimeters and it’s flat tails. He was not a twin tip it’s a little different from what we have done in the past as well it has a longer side cut in it. We designed it as like a back country specific ski for skiing back country powder.

So it’s made to tour well we can build it with our lightweight core which is paulownia and carbon reinforcement. So that’s going to be I think a really fun ski for a lot of people it’s light and it works well and it’s. And it powder really well it’s light and cuts through you know variable conditions and stuff like that. And then the other thing we’ve started to do a lot more of is counter veil which is a vibration damp and carbon fiber which we license a few years ago and have been you know incorporating it incorporating it more and more into our skis and it’s a really cool material.

And it started to catch on with more people now.

So new shapes and new materials are just kind of always evolving and I’m sure the back country basically is definitely driven by your Christodoulou crowd in location here because it’s definitely a playground for that.

Yeah it’s you know Crested Butte shs really good back country access. There’s basically you know four valleys that lead out of town and dead end the roads dead end or closed in the winter time. So you can hike personal bill from there and access tons of stuff. So backcountry has always been you know an important part of our products and development.

Was there anything else you guys wanted to kind of mention about your process or customers. I mean I really appreciate getting a chance to take a look inside and know I guess maybe people should know that it is a retail location they can kind of stop by and see what the the process is and know a lot of people who are order in the high end custom stuff. They kind of want to. See what’s going on for real. But. You know one last question I do like to ask people when I’ve talked to them is you know is there anyone else that they think you know they’d like to hear kind of their story on this podcast. Is there anyone you guys have in mind that you’d like to hear. Oh yeah.

I mean as far as local Crested Butte kind of builders.

There’s Jake O’Connor here in town. He builds custom hand cycles for disabled athletes and he’s really pushed to the development of them and made them you know their off road and he does fat and plus tired ones and really cool bikes and he’s really taught himself how to do it.

And while it sounds like a crazy story I’ll have to hunt him down for sure. Thanks for that. You know one of the fun parts of how this cast is kind of you know gone beyond people I know or can find is people give me the best recommendations in their local town of two to go track down next.

But will listen guys. I know. Best of luck with this company and everything you have going on it seems amazing. I’m actually a snowboarder so that my my brother is actually he comes across to be a lot and I was like oh you got to look at these rough guys. So I was like OK. And thanks for making the time. I really appreciate it.

Well thanks for stopping by.

OK. Thanks for listening and I hope you enjoy this conversation with the guys at rock. As we mentioned in the intro you can find the links to any related content in the show notes to this podcast episode. And if you enjoyed this episode please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and leave for review if you have a few moments if you prefer to get our updates via email or use the podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android. You can learn more and subscribe at Colorado.FM/subscribe. So thanks again. Hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.

 

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Venture Snowboards – Finding The Soul of a Snowboard Company with Klem and Lisa Branner

Venture Snowboards

Venture Snowboards on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast

 

Thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

So for this episode I made it out to Silverton, Colorado to visit Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards.  

First of all, I had never been to Silverton before so it was really exciting.  Not only was the drive from Ouray just spectacular, I also took the time the drive out to the infamous Silverton Mountain Ski Area, which of course is a double chair lift and a couple of old busses.  No lodge or anything like that.

It was super cool to have a chance to wander around Silverton.  It’s just everything an old western mountain town is supposed to be.

As far as meeting Lisa and Klem, the founders of Venture Snowboards, it was really just a highlight of my trip.  You just couldn’t meeting cooler people, really creating and living the dream out in Silverton.

We get into some history of Venture and how it grew from basically a garage operation to a factory in Silverton, but don’t let the word factory fool you.  These boards are completely hand made.  They have just been able to create a process to ensure a product of the absolutely highest quality – A fact that isn’t lost on guides all over the state.

We talk about new products and what they are riding this year as well as some awesome events to look forward to, notably a winter kickoff party with Ska brewing in Durango on November 4.

Online, you can find Venture at venturesnowboards.com and on instagram @venturesnow.

And, of course, 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 Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards..

 


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


 

Show Notes

[2:45] What brought you to Colorado / Silverton?

[6:10] Venture moved to Silverton in 2007, how that move has helped hone the brand

[9:30] Having a business in Silverton

[10:45] It’s all about the core

[12:45] Product development, backcountry testing

[14:00] Upcoming events – Demo days, Splitfest, Avy Level 1

[19:19] Partners speak to quality

[21:40] What’s new – Why they are riding the Paragon / Oracle this season

[24:50] Rough Cut Series – Showing the process

[27:00] Ska Brewing – Season kickoff party

 

Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Venture Snowboards:

On the Web: venturesnowboards.com

On Facebook or Instagram @venturesnow.

Youtube: Rough Cut Series

Events:

Season Kickoff Party with Ska Brewing – Nov 4, 2017

Avy 1 for Splitboarders – Feb 9-11 & March 9-11, 2018

Spring Fling – March 31, 2018

Splitfest Silverton – April 12-15, 2018

Beartooth Sessions – May 25-28, 2018

Demo Tour – Stay tuned!

 

Partners / References:

Ska Brewing

Silverton Mountain

Silverton Mountain Guides

Silverton Avalanche School

AIARE Level 1

Irwin Guides

Silverton, Colorado

Farmington Hill

 


Transcript

 

Lisa, Klem thank you so much for taking some time to sit down talk with me about Venture snowboards. But before we kind of get into the boards themselves in you know what people are actually right now and what they’re coming here for.

What brought you to Colorado? I’m not exactly sure where you are from. If you’re from Colorado but. And then specifically how do you get up in Silverton and what made you aside from the beautiful view. Like what made you want to kind of put some roots down in Silverton.

The beautiful view that’s definitely part of it. Yeah we’re we’re not from Colorado. We’ve been in Colorado for like 20 years now. I came originally to Fort Collins and then Denver after that and then Bayfield and finally Silverton then the excuse to come to Colorado we had met in New York.

The excuse to come here was grad school but really we came for the mountains. Clem’s been a diehard snowboarder since he was in his early teens and had been out here on family vacations and just had it in his head that this is where he wanted to be. And so officially the reason was grad school but unofficially it was to get into the mountains. And we’ve been here ever since.

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Yeah. Nice. Yeah. I mean I think you know the first conversation I’ve had this week for people that there’s another guy the guys from Romp. I think they started New Hampshire came out to Western and it was like I just wanted to get to the mountains.  So schools are a great opportunity to make that kind of move. And then once you’re in Silverton you know what is it about this town that made you want to stay because it sounds like you’re slowly like kind of making your way to this southwestern part of the state.

Yeah we had our eye on this part of the state for a while and it just took us a while to figure out how to actually make it happen even in the days when we were living up in Fort Collins and Denver area. We would watch the snow forecast and when we saw it was puking in southwest Colorado I’d call Klem from work and I’d be like load up the car we’re going and we’d come down and ride and Wolf Creek was actually the place that we would go the most.

At that point in time but as we started coming down here and getting more familiar with the other ski areas and learned about Silverton mountain opening up that was kind of the clincher that clam just latched on to that idea. You know getting to know these mountains better. And the idea of this untracked terrain and big mountain terrain that you could get to with just that single chairlift and lots of hiking that was that was the appeal.

And yeah we bounced from place to place until we could figure out how to make it work I had been working a day job for years and when we made the leap down to Bayfield because we couldn’t afford Durango. And prices have only gotten worse since then. We were you know scouting the area and trying to figure out if we could make Silverton actually happen. And when the company got to a point where it was sustaining itself enough that we could both work for it full time better when we took the plunge.

So and you can just look out the window and see why. And you know I appreciate you taking the time to just show me around and give me the tour and one of the things that we were talking about was that. Venture actually started in 1999 when you were still out in Fort Collins and you were. But really when you got here and this is when you were able to I guess kind of step it up and get the real manufacturing process in place.

Exactly.  That was kind of the jump from just being in the garage and basement and all that kind of stuff to being in a real industrial space and be able to have employees and make noise and turn you into or make more of a factory than a home workshop kind of thing. Right.

And that was like 2007. You said you’ve been here 10 years. It’s grown.

Yeah yeah. We’ve been in Silverton just about a decade now.

That’s awesome. So. You know is that the moment I had it written down here you know when you go through this entrepreneurial journey it’s you know high highs and lows and all sorts of things like that. Was that was that moment when you were scouting certain was that and I guess you had built Venture Snowboards up to a certain kind of capacity at that point or was that the moment where you were like yeah like this is really kind of happening we don’t need other jobs and things like that is this how it happened before that

It was when we moved from Denver to be a field that was kind of OK. We are doing this for real. But financially we weren’t there for it wasn’t really a viable business.

Want but not always when we really just said OK this is this is a great time and I had a you know a day job that was a real pill. I was working on this around the clock trying to make it all you know. Trying to figure it all out. So that was kind of when we really made the commitment. But I would say the move to Silverton and that was that was when it kind of became real. That really cemented it.

And that also shortly after we moved to Silverton is when we started building split boards. So I really I think that being here helped us hone the brand and really define ourselves a little bit more what it was that we were about. And for us for a long time now it’s been about powder riding. It’s been about big mountain riding in back country and Silverton being surrounded by public lands and you know some of the steepest terrain in Colorado some of the steepest terrain in the lower 48 that really helps shape the boards and shape the brand. And I think help it blossom I guess you know from what we we were feeling like it was but it wasn’t quite there. And that just cemented it and really crystallized it.

Yeah well I mean Silverton mountain has this mystique right. I mean it is just totally different than anything else that’s going on in Colorado. It’s basically just like lift access back country and riding that terrain all the time being associated with that mountain. And what’s going on here. Definitely like you said I can see how that hones your brand. You definitely getting a lot of that country product testing.

I’m assuming less about her days memories many years later. It’s never good.

So it has to work or a look. Well so. So how big is venture now like as far as like how many boards are you making at this point and also how how big is your team. We had kind of spoken about this a little bit and then I guess on on top of that you know what does it mean to have a real viable business and employ people in Silverton. I mean does that mean you guys.

Were not as big as probably a lot of people think. I’m going to blame Lisa for that.

Because she does really well with all of our marketing stuff like because we do things professionally think people just think our scale is way bigger than it is. And you having walked through this place you know you get an idea of our real size here but that is for us it’s not like we’re not going for world domination here. We’re not looking to be Burton or whatever. It’s so all about just living here and building boards we want and creating jobs for our employees and. That’s about it.

You know it’s a hand-built process. So I mean when I walked in you were crossing the top sheet on the board yourself. And so you know that’s still you know a big part of your process and actually when we first started emailing about getting together the first thing you sent me was a link to a blog post that you have that outlines you know the process of the hand-built core where like how important that is and that I mean the core is the central component of the snowboard.

That’s what’s going to give it its flex and its feel it really determines the way that the board rides. And that’s definitely a point of pride for us. I mean we do everything in-house but course that’s probably close to half of the amount of time that it takes to actually build a board and we start with a pile of raw lumber in the parking lot and then we take it all the way through to a finished core.

We do our own top sheets we I mean we do it all here and you know for us I think it’s about paying attention to detail and making sure that we’re putting out the best product that we possibly can because we’re going to ride those boards to our employees are going to ride those boards. And because of that everybody cares and everybody really pays attention.

And when you live in a place like this to be able to do that in spite of the fact that it’s so remote in spite of the fact that there’s only about 600 year round residents here in Silverton it’s pretty miraculous and it takes a lot of tenacity and you know as we alluded to earlier it hasn’t been an easy road we’ve had to work day jobs we’ve had to do other things to make ends meet and make it happen. But it’s all been in pursuit of that dream right. And and being able to live the lifestyle we all hear about the lifestyle but truly we’re doing it. You know we can walk out our front door and go snowboarding. So that’s what it all boils down to that.

And I think you know sharing that passion with other people.

So I mean you walk out not only right here and go snowboarding. You go snowboarding on something you built which is pretty sweet. I mean that’s got to be a pretty cool feeling.

Yeah especially when it’s something new that you just trying out and you get to you know go and ride it for the first time. Right.

What’s that look like like you know new products. Is that just kind of an organic constantly evolving. Hey I wish this board was you know we could tweak it a little bit. Is that kind of how you come up with that is cards.

Our advantage is that you know we do it all here like we saw this thing from scratch. So anything that we want to change we can you know we make all the tooling everything. So that’s that’s that’s often a big advantage for us.

Well it’s true. I mean I just walked in and you know the new line of yours is on the wall and it definitely they’re beautiful and it really made me want to get bindings on a pair. I went out so I didn’t have to come to one of your demo days or something like that. I saw on your website you have you know some cool events throughout the year. You’ve got quite the split first in the spring playing and you know some other things like the songs like really cool opportunities to come out here first

Sure. And we’re we’re going to be putting a demo tour dates up on our website shortly. We’re still working on that schedule but typically we hit a handful of resorts at least in Colorado as well as throughout the Rocky Mountain west hopefully we’re going to be able to expand our reach a little bit this year. Hoping to get out to the Pacific Northwest and possibly even the East Coast. We’ll see.

And then you mentioned split fast which is a really amazing event for anybody who’s into split boarding. There are a bunch of them that happen all over the country. They’re largely put on by volunteers who are just passionate about split boarding. And so they organize an event in their neck of the woods and invite people to come out and tour. And we’ve had an event here for the last several years that was organized by some volunteers who have become good friends and at a certain point they just said we’re kind of done with it.

They don’t want to deal with the organizing anymore. And so we took it on last year and we had about 130 split boarders descend on Silverton the second or third weekend and April I forget what it was. And just you know get out in the snow packs a little safer at that time of year so people are able to get out into some of the bigger lines and just a lot of camaraderie a lot of you know friendships built. You know in the skins track and then you know we do we invite other manufacturers to come and demo their product out.

So it’s really it’s kind of a gathering of the tribe and it’s a really cool thing. So nice. Yeah. Looking forward to hosting it again this year. I think the dates are the 12th through the 14th of April if I’m not mistaken.

That sounds very catchy. Yeah. By the way huge shout out to John and Jason are the guys that started that it was like six years ago. So they came to us when they first got it going Really. Yes of course we’ll do whatever to get this going. But they they really built this to what it is.

The got to a point where they just didn’t want to do it anymore they just wanted to come play and not be involved in or who can blame them.

Yeah. You find out when you get your hands dirty on projects like that how much it really takes to get them organized and set up and roll right. Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes pressure. You see you guys will take the reigns for a few years and then who knows.

Right. Exactly. Well speaking of the safety and the safe snowpack I saw that you also teamed up with the Silverton avalanche.

Yeah the silverton avalanche school that’s a partnership that’s been building over several years and last year we offered their first ever in conjunction with them a split board specific Avy one class and we’ll be doing two more of those with them this year seemed to really be a concept that people were interested in. I think a lot of skiers have been getting out into the back country for longer than snowboarders have just because the gear wasn’t quite up to par and with slip boarding really a lot of advances in slipway technology we’re seeing a lot more people taking up supporting a lot more snowboarders wanting to get into the back country but not necessarily having the education or the confidence to do that and even not really knowing how the gear works.

So the focus of that class was to help them get comfortable not only with their split boards set up but then also get them that ABC1 training so that they have some knowledge when they go out there and can be smart about it because the single most important piece of equipment you have is your brain when you’re in that country.

So yeah not to mention you know when you’re if you are mixed in a crowd and there’s guys on skis and you’ve got your board they kind you kind of move at a different pace. Right. And so it’s nice to be with a crowd of people I’m sure that’s everyone’s kind of similar gear. You’re moving along. Everyone’s kind of has to do this go through the same process.

So essentially when you’re just getting started I think that’s what it’s really nice to just be with fellow split boarders and it’s kind of part of the attraction with that class. Right. But I don’t know I mean I think as you go you know like there are more probably skiers and snowboarders in Silverton and here is just a mix. You know like you remember back in the day when there was a big conflict and all that kind of stuff. But these days I probably go with as many skiers and snowboarders when I go into the back country and it’s right.

Splitboards have come along to the point where it’s not like it takes that much longer to put our stuff back together at the top. And they’re complaining and waiting for us or whatever. Right. So it’s we all just kind of get along just get out there and if you enjoy sliding down snow and you know that’s it.

Right. It’s good to hear. I like that. I mean I kind of started. Most of my snowboard on the East Coast also and so I remember the days of not being allowed on the hill and you know having to have have.

Yeah take your support on the hill so you know I carry some of that with me. You know it kind of dates you when you start talking about things like that.

But you know I you know kind of just getting back to what we talked about with the corn. You know the real quality of the product.

You know what I think it shows in the partnerships that you have you know just speaking of being involved with the ivy training program you know they’re not going to want to go out there with a bunch of people who are new to it on junky gear.

And then and you know we had kind of been talking about how earlier in the trip when I was in Crested Butte I had a chance to interview Alan Bernholtz from Irwin guides and 11 experiences. Then when I said I was coming out to talk to you guys he was like oh we use their boards in our guiding programs so say hi I know those guys around the world and you know your relationship with the with the mountain here which is extremely technical difficult terrain guided experience you know so you must feel good at it.

It really talks to the quality of the product that you’re putting out. If people like that are going to use the the tool that you’re creating. Right. I mean so you must be kind of hitting what you want to. You must be creating what you want to create. If you’re getting that that kind of feedback

Well definitely I mean I think that both of the you know the groups that you’re talking about Erwin guides and Silverton mountain guides those guys are abusing their equipment. You know there they are putting it through its paces and so to have them say yeah this is our gear choice this is what we use is a pretty big statement because it does hold up and the terrain around here especially up in Crested Butte as well is really rocky and it can really do a fair amount of damage to a board and I can’t tell you how many times people have hit something and turn their board over expecting to see you know a giant course shot and we hear the story again and again they’re amazed that it’s maybe scratched just slightly. But durability has always been a big part of our focus as well. And so yeah having those guys on her equipment and having them be happy with it does speak volumes.

Yeah some good feedback right. Because the good guys have out there testing like you said it’s getting treated the worse so. So what about you. So for this year there’s. No what’s new with the lineup.

Is anything particular. You know you’re really excited about. The lineup of boards for the season.

I’m excited about my new board. which you is riding the Paragon which we introduced last year.

But we started out just doing it as a solid. And then it got really good feedback from everyone that was on it and I really personally enjoyed it and we decided to just throw that into the mix as a split as well. So that’s yeah I’m excited about the thing that is my go to board.

Nice. Yeah and that’s that particular model we also have a women’s version called the oracle. And both of those are designed to be a little bit more versatile than what we’ve offered in the past. We actually were designing it more with east coast riders in mind. Just trying to branch out a little bit and not be so you know specific to Rocky Mountains and big terrain but we found it rode so well in this terrain that both of us that’s kind of what we’re leaning toward righting ourselves now.

But the feedback’s been great from people on East Coast West Coast and up and down the Rockies so yeah. Super fun ride. And then the other thing I should mention is we have started focusing a little more on making some women’s specific stuff in the last couple of years which for many years we had taken the stance that there’s no such thing as women’s specific gear. It’s just gear designed for your height your weight your shoe size.

But there are some things that we’ve done with the women’s specific stuff that I think make it a little more approachable and ridable for ladies shortening up the stance tweaking the flex a little bit more. The assumption is it’s going to be a smaller lighter person on it. So to be able to flex the board personally we need to just soften it up a little bit more in the response to those has been great. This year we’ve got the tempest which is our freeride shape for women and the Oracle which is more all mountain and both are available solid or split.

And we also started playing with some different glass combinations this year and some of the boards that are half Klem you want to talk a little bit more about some of the tech around that gel we just used the same Tri-X fiberglas for many many years which is kind of just a workhorse of most snowboards built really but we just wanted to try to play around with just making them a little bit more for lack of a better word accessible just easy fun to write.

You know it’s not supposed to be something that is just going to buck you and it’s just you have to be a super tough guy to ride this board. Snowboarding is about fun so. We added some different and that’s actually in the paragon as well some different fiberglass which makes a little bit more torsional forgiving and so far so good. I really like that stuff. So that’s there’s going to be more of that stuff coming out to just playing with different materials.

Cool. And then you’re also launching this new video series this year the rough cut series. Tell us what’s going on.

Yeah that’s an idea that we’ve had for many years that we wanted to give people a window into what it’s like to work at Venture Snowboards right to actually see the boards being built. You know that’s something pretty unique most skis and snowboards are not handcrafted by snowboarders in the mountains right. So that’s one of those things that. I don’t know I just think it’s really cool for people to get to see. So

we’re going through our entire production process and videoing little clips of it and or have been releasing them on social media.

And ultimately the goal is going to be to put together a longer video. But right now it’s just little clips. And so you can you know watch the core kind of going through all its different stages and. And then the board you know coming into being I don’t know if you want to say more about that claim.

 


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Yeah. I mean it’s just not a it’s not a super organized like oh we’re going to show you from you know beginnings and how the snowboard is built or whatever. Just like when there is interesting parts of the process we just always looks from this this is kind of fun. Just to give people a little taste of all the different stuff and there are many building a snowboard.

Yeah it takes a long time when you build all of your components before anything even starts to look like a snowboard. Right.

Nice. And so I mean like you said when people are you know getting a home made her handmade product I think that’s you know people want to see what’s kind of going into it. And so that gives them some some insight in to really know why I think such a high quality piece of gear. So I look forward to seeing some more of those that will be fun.

Well I don’t know if there’s anything else that you specifically wanted to mention before we kind of wrap things up. You know I really enjoyed going to learn more about your company and meet you guys here in on your turf as I just stare out these huge windows. By the way I keep looking outside but we’re talking. It’s amazing. But you know the last thing I wanted to ask and this is what I ask all my guests you know who would you like to hear on this podcast.

Is there any recommendations you would give typical brewery folk. Yeah. So you have a nice fridge full of their stuff over here. Actually they have the new you know the euphoria. For me it just came out this year is this. Yeah. Last week for this coming year. But yeah it’s. And you have a board that euphoria right. That’s the origin of the name of the beer.

Yeah these Eurphoria’s are powder boards so they brewed a beer to kind of give you that euphoric feeling that you get a super deep day. And we’ve got a great partnership with Ska brewing. They’ve been super supportive ever since we got to this part of the state and there are good people.

Yes. And speaking of which we are planning our 13th annual season kickoff party with them getting going on November 4th Saturday November 4th at Ska brewing world headquarters in Durango. So anybody who’s in the southwest. Come on out for a good time. We’re going to have live music from Farmington Hill who is a longtime favorite playing if this event will be giving away a customs sky venture snowboard and raising funds for Colorado Avalanche Information Center and some other good causes so. A great way to start the season.

All right. And I can’t think of a better way to end this. It sounds like you know we’ll make sure we get this out before November 4th so people would know about it. But again thank you so much for taking some time. And you know I just really appreciate it. Great to meet you guys.

Our pleasure. Thanks for making the trip down to this part of the mountains. Thanks for coming in. Thank you.

Thanks for listening I hope you enjoyed this episode of Colorado.FM, the colorado podcast. As we mentioned in the intro you can find links to any related content in the show notes to this podcast episode and if you’ve enjoyed it.

Please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a moment. Of course if you want to share it I really appreciate it. If you prefer to get our updates via email or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher know you’re on Android. You can learn more about how to subscribe to these different services at Colorado.FM/Subscribe.

Thanks again. I hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.

 

 

 


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Fanny Toorenburg of Hill Road Merino

Hey everyone! Thank you for tuning in for this episode of Colorado.FM – the Colorado podcast.  In this episode I will be speaking with Fanny Toorenburg of Hill Road Merino, a merino clothing label based in Nederland, Colorado.

Our conversation covers how Fanny unexpectedly ended up in Colorado as an adult after dreaming about it as a kid.  We also get into the inspiration for starting Hill Road Merino, juggling life as an athlete, parent, and entrepreneur, and some current challenges facing the growing company.

Finally, Fanny talks about life in a small but supportive community like Nederland – both family and business wise.

You can find Hill Road Merino online at hillroadmerino.com and on Instagram also @hillroadmerino.

My favorite quote from the conversation:

Most of the things I learned in life wasn’t sitting behind a school bench, it was playing outside, riding my bike, running, thinking about how beautiful nature is.

So here we go, my conversation with Fanny Toorenburg of Hill Road Merino.

 


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Selected Links from the Episode

Hill Road Merino

Wild Bear Nature Center

Neptune Mountaineering

Durango Outdoor Exchange

Ned Ned 5K and Half Marathon

Eldora

SMBA – Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures

Tin Shed Sports

Salto Coffee Works

Born Wild Project

 


Show Notes

[1:30] How the love of outdoors brings Fanny from Montreal to New Zealand to Nederland

[10:00] Inspiration and evolution of Hill Road Merino

[17:10]  Made with remnants and maintaining authenticity through scale

[19:00] Current business challenges and juggling family with work

[22:00] The perfect Colorado business trip!

[25:00] Crushing the Ned Ned

[29:25] Favorite spots with the kids in Nederland, and who Fanny would love to hear on this podcast

 


 

Transcript:

Fanny Toorenburg of Hill Road Merino

Hello everyone and thank you for tuning in to this podcast episode of Colorado.fm – The Colorado Podcast. In this episode I’ll be speaking with Fanny Toorenburg of Hill Road Merino, a clothing label based in Nederland. Our conversation covers how Fanny unexpectedly ended up in Colorado as an adult after dreaming about it as a kid. We talk about the inspiration for starting Hill Road Merino, as well as juggling life as an athlete, a parent and an entrepreneur.

Finally, Fanny talked about life in a small but supportive community like Nederland, both family and business wise. And you can find Hill Road Merino online at HillRoadMerino.com and on Instagram at Hill Road Merino. So of course all these links that we discuss in a conversation as well as finding Fanny will be in the show notes. And I’m really excited to bring you this conversation.

So here we go. My conversation with Fanny Toorenburg of Hill Road Merino.

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Okay Fanny, thank you so much for taking the time to come down to the studio and talk to us a little bit about yourself and kind of how you ended up in Colorado and of course Hill Road Merino, your new company.

Fanny Toorenburg:             Thank you Doug, thanks for having me.

Doug:                                         I appreciate it. So as we got into in the introduction you are from New Zealand. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your journey, how you ended up not only in Colorado but actually in the really funky little town of Nederland. And what that journey was like for you and how that’s been, maybe some of the surprises along the way. What really brought you to Colorado?

Fanny Toorenburg:             Well firstly I’m French Canadian. From Montreal. So I spend half my life there. Grew up in a big city. And for me the outdoors was, it’s my thing. So it didn’t take me long to move from Montreal and go to New Zealand to study. So I was about in my early twenties when I did that. So in New Zealand I lived there for about 15 years and studying and bumming around. I only owned a car, I didn’t even own a car. I owned a bike and a bag. And that was about it until about I was 30. And living in New Zealand, I guess that’s where I met my husband which was a successful entrepreneur at the time. He started his own company there but it grew and it became international reasonably quickly. He had an office in Broomfield, so we got relocated to Broomfield in 2015, to Colorado in 2015.

After a year in Boulder, I don’t know, Boulder’s great but I love the mountains and I love small communities and so it didn’t take me long to say, “Hey the snow’s up, Nederland way, and that’s where they’ve got all the mountain bike trails and we can’t find a home in Boulder. Well I’m gonna look in Nederland and see what we can find.” And that’s how I ended up in Ned.

Doug:                                         Gotcha. So it wasn’t necessarily, so the company already had an office in Broomfield and so maybe that decision was made for you guys. But clearly Colorado wasn’t hard for you to accept as far as a nice outdoorsy place to live, it sounds like?

Fanny Toorenburg:             It’s kind of interesting because I’m a bit of a dreamer. I have these dreams. When I was a little girl I had my walls plastered in back country skiing pictures of Colorado. For me the outdoors was my main, my love I guess. I guess my journey goes this way, I love skiing and I wanted to go to Colorado but it was way too expensive for a 14 year old to afford a ski holiday in Colorado. It’s crazy, so I never made it here. I thought, “Well back country skiing, I need to be fit for that.” And I worked out how fit I needed to be so I started riding my bike and running and swimming. And I ended up becoming a top triathlete. I had a really successful sporting career in triathlon and cycling. Even handball, a team sport, so various sports.

When I was an elite triathlete I wanted to come to Boulder to train as a logical progression once you get to that point. But I saved all my pennies to come and train in Boulder but then I had also applied for scholarships to go to New Zealand and I got the scholarships. So I was like, “Oh, okay well I’ve got this little bit of pennies. Which one do I go to, New Zealand or Boulder?” And I guess New Zealand won because of the attraction of the outdoors and the mountains. I needed a bigger adventure. So I ended up there and never came back to Canada.

Now how I came to Boulder, the company was relocated here. There were a few options before that never really eventuated. It’s like, “Oh Boulder, if that’s the way I’m going to Boulder I guess I’m going to Boulder.”

Doug:                                         So the dream was already there it’s just something that happened maybe a little later. Later than you expected.

Fanny Toorenburg:             There’s no way I would have figured out how I was going to get here. In the very round about way. But that’s …

Doug:                                         That’s so interesting. What a great story. And then as far as, I hear this a lot, when we moved to this area as well, which is, but we look at it from the other side where a lot of people move down into Denver and Boulder, say when they have kids or for work reasons or things like that, but they say, “Well I used to live in the mountains, but now I live here.” Whereas when you’re like me and you have lived in New York City and out on the west coast, I thought we were moving to the mountains. The fact that there’s some mountains in the backyard, I can see them. But I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. It is interesting what a different community you get and also just a different setting, half an hour up the road. It’s such a different town, such a different setting, you’re up there, you’re getting a lot more snow than we are obviously. Your access to all those activities that you want to do is just even that much closer I guess.

Fanny Toorenburg:             For me living out in the mountains, life is not about the high pace highway that people perceive it to be. And people live in their little cocoon and they drive in and out of their garage. This is not life for me. I’d much rather step outside and there’s a trail and there’s a mountain and a view. Most of the things I learned in my life wasn’t sitting behind a school bench. It was playing outside, it was riding my bike, or running. Thinking about how beautiful nature is. I studied environmental science and surveying as well. You have, if you experience the outdoors and the way you’re in it, then you appreciate all the different ways in how you want to preserve it for generations to come. For me it’s a no brainer. I want my kids to experience it and to live in it if I could. I totally understand that it’s hard for a lot of people to actually have that chance. But because it was there and I could take it up.

Growing up outside is just the most wonderful thing. It’s priceless.

Doug:                                         Sure I agree. That’s why we’re raising our kids here. I want them to be outside just as much as possible. I think one of the reasons that I wanted to have these conversations with people is because I think that’s a common thread with the people I’ve spoken with is whether they moved here and have had that lifestyle. They realized very young that they wanted to just have that outdoors active lifestyle as a very core part of their whole life. Or if people wake up one day and just want to make changes, and there’s a lot of people moving to Colorado because that’s what they’ve got going on as well. They just want a different, they want to change their environment, they want to bring that into their life or bring that back into their life maybe if it’s been missing for a little while.

That’s just really one of the things I’m finding is very interesting about the conversations I’m having is how people are fitting, they love the outdoors or maybe experiencing and participating in sports at a very high level like yourself, with having businesses having families, all of these things and making them all work together. Speaking of that, let’s move on to Hill Road Merino and how that evolved. I was reading on your website that it started, so here you are, you’re living this outdoor lifestyle, and part of that is having the proper gear. So you were getting worn out other pieces of merino clothing as your blanks, and maybe starting with the kid’s clothes. I don’t know that’s what I read on your website, maybe you can elaborate on how merino, Hill Road Merino evolved?

Fanny Toorenburg:             Firstly, I believe that life is what you make it. So I guess I always had that entrepreneurial spirit in me. And always wanted to have my own business which was linked to something I loved. I tried different things and they worked but it wasn’t like a love inside me. Like a passion. So I ended those ventures. The merino, in New Zealand, merino is a staple in everybody’s wardrobe. That’s where Icebreaker started. Icebreaker started actually in Wellington more or less at the same time as I was there. It kind of evolved along the journey of Jeremy Moon at the time. I had three children, I wanted them to wear merino, I couldn’t afford it, cause it’s so bloody expensive it’s just for the top five percent income earners.

So I used my old merino to make them clothes. But in New Zealand a business like that is, everybody wears merino, so it was never going to be anything. When we found out we were relocating to the US, I thought, “Merino, the US hasn’t gone through that craze yet. So I wonder if I could do something with it.” So basically, we packed up the house and as I was driving to the airport I kept a spot in the airplane, luggage allocation, for one box of merino, and I drove past the merino factory, filled up the box, and took it on the plane with me, thinking maybe I’ll, we’ll test the waters and see what happens.

As I said I was making various clothes for my kids. Once I got to Boulder we were in the Shining Mountain Waldorf school community and wool is a big thing in the Waldorf philosophy. I was like, “All right, well I’ll sew up a few garments for the winter fair, and see how that goes.” So I spent the summer sewing up kids clothes with a lot of the remnants that I had. I had probably one of the worst spots for my booth. For the whole fair, I was at the end of the room. It was in an old two by two meters. I had just one rack, no advertising, all my clothes were jammed into a [inaudible 00:12:30] rack. It was totally not idea. And then I pretty much sold out of everything I’d made. Plus I had another one to two orders to fulfill for the Christmas break.

I was like, “Okay well that’s good. I guess that works.” Again I was in the Shining Mountain community so I already had an in on the wool stuff. People already sold on wool. But the moms were like, “Oh the kids love their merinos. Do you make any women’s garments?” Well maybe next year. So the following year, then I made women’s hoodies, so people knew. It wasn’t even, the week before the winter fair, everything I made was gone. Well I need something on the rack for the winter fair. So at that point I already had some sewing contractors that would help me, and they just kept working through the night to get enough garments to put on the shelf for the two Christmas markets I did.

Doug:                                         Oh interesting.

Fanny Toorenburg:             Again, all the women’s stuff sold out, no advertising, I didn’t even have a website. Nothing. And then I got the husbands to say, “My kids have merino and my wife’s got a merino hoodie. I want one too. They love it, they wear it all the time.” I was like, alright. So that December last year. So January 2017, just this past January, I thought, “Well maybe there’s a business in there, so I would just do the business,” and I started to be a bit more official. And I started making men’s hoodies, so I walk around with my bag of, “Hey what do you think of this?” “Oh, how much?” And I sold all my samples, just walking around the block. It’s like, “Alright, I think these men’s hoodies will work too.”

So now I’m producing men’s hoodies, and I guess that’s how the business grew.

Doug:                                         That’s the best way for it to grow, when it’s just, “Well, this stuff’s flying off the shelves, and people want it, and I know my kids have the woolies with the knee patches from I think maybe that first round of winter fair stuff that you did. So those are already popular ski garments in our house. So that’s amazing just to keep getting that feedback from your community. So now that you’ve got that, you’ve got the kids, you’ve got the women’s hoodies and the men’s hoodies. Where is this thing going now? Are you still distributing through little fairs and popups and things like that? Are you selling mainly through your website? Are people starting to, is this showing up in stores anywhere? What’s your next phase?

Fanny Toorenburg:             One of my things is, because when I started, merino wasn’t affordable, one of my things is to keep my prices below the big brands just to make it more affordable for people. And the fact that it’s made with remnants. Merino, everyone should have merino in their wardrobe, just it’s such a wonderful fabric. So by keeping my prices lower, I prefer selling direct to customers, cause my margins are a little bit smaller. But saying that, I prefer selling online, but selling online doesn’t work, I just put my stuff online, people see the pictures and they give me a call, so I don’t actually sell direct online. Just people come in to my house or they want to meet up with me and I just take the pictures off the website.

So it shows I don’t have any sales because everything’s sold, everything’s gone. But saying that though, I want people to know about what I’m making, just I don’t want to go beyond my circle of friends or my network. So I do have two stores in Nederland, one it’s called the Wild Bear Nature Center. Which have the kid’s garments. And there’s a women’s store next door, it’s called The Shop, have my women’s hoodies. And now just recently I’ve done a big push in outdoor store, and in the fall I’ve got some orders from a very big mountaineering store, Neptune Mountaineering will have my garments there in Boulder. And I’ve just partnered with the Durango Outdoor Exchange, so they have some of my garments there.

Plus other order pendings and some key small mountain towns. And it’s super easy. I walk in, and I toast the people, ten minutes later I come out with a purchase order. So you just have to show up basically.

 


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Doug:                                         That’s nice. It was funny, two questions, one are you still making it mainly from remnants? Is that what you mainly use as your product, first of all?

Fanny Toorenburg:             It’s a bit of a mix. End of rolls or smaller rolls. Now that I have to produce more like hundreds of garments I have to buy the rolls. What I do is I love the garments to be unique. So the inside of the hoods, they’re all different colors. That’s what people love, when I walk into a store, they don’t want to buy twenty blacks and twenty greens. They want blacks and blacks and greens, and green with an orange hood. They just like the variety because it’s different than what the big brands offer. That’s what they love, or stripy body, or orange arms, or whatever. That’s what they love, and that’s part of my brand, I guess it’s about having a unique garment that has a personality.

Doug:                                         That’s hard to find. That’s another thing people are looking for. I think that’s really interesting. Even if you get to the point, where because of the scale that you’re working at, you said you need to buy the rolls now for the main body of cloth. You’re still finding ways to keep pretty much each garment unique, whether it’s the inside of the hood or a random sleeve or something like that. You’re not just going to walk into a store and see twenty of the same thing sitting there which is really amazing. I’m sure that’s part of your success. I think a challenge might be in the future how do you hold onto that uniqueness when your numbers are growing. How about, so it sounds like this has been the dream entrepreneurial journey. You made something for yourself, for your kids, that other people want. It’s taking these steps.

Were there any other unforeseen challenges along this journey? Was there anything that you just didn’t expect? I think entrepreneurs, they always have to tackle problems and be creative, not just in their product, but in how they’re managing their business. Is there anything that stands out?

Fanny Toorenburg:             The main thing, which I actually identified earlier on was the merino supplies. Because I’m still small, I can’t buy 600 yards of one color. As a minimum from a supplier. So I really have to put a lot of time and energy to find the right supplier for the right price and I have a variety of colors. And now a lot of the merino is actually, the merino fabric, is made overseas. And the minimums have increased exponentially over the last year. So I’m at a cross point now. Everything’s been self funded so far. And in trying to stay cash positive and all that, but now I need some funding to grow to the next level. And oh, how am I going to afford 600 yards of one color, or even 200 of four colors. That’s a big … I guess it was foreseen but the scale of it was likely unforeseen. So I need to find some parlor tricks or grow exponentially over the following year.

I guess it’s hard to juggle and doing this business or growing this business, being a full time mom. And then the costs of childcare are enormous so I’m basically funding myself with the business but also if I want to grow the business I have to pay for childcare and it’s like a double whammy. That’s slightly unexpected right there. The amount it comes up to is, I don’t want to count.

Doug:                                         Right yeah. It’s really interesting, there’s only so many, you have limited resources, whether it’s money or time. When one starts pulling both of those things in your equation, you gotta figure out how to plug those holes. You’ve been super creative with your brand and everything so far so I’m sure your creativity is working on that as well. It’s really fascinating. I think it’s just unbelievable because a lot of people out there, when you speak to other entrepreneurs, you think about those brands where you’re constantly trying to push, push, push. You are being pulled along, almost. That’s just really, some people might think, that’s the best place to be, everyone wants my product, and I’m selling out every time but it does lead to other entrepreneurial challenges like you’ve said. From scaling and funding and things like that. Those are real challenges.

Fanny Toorenburg:             At the moment, my brand is me in some ways. So if I go in front of someone and I have a conversation with them, I’ll come out with a purchase order. So I can’t send somebody else to do it. So I need the time to be out networking and talking to people and being in front of people. And then I’m just overwhelmed by how much support I get. People love it for all sorts of different reasons so it motivates me to keep going. Then you have to go in front of people, so you have to have that time. Who’s going to look after the kids? But last week I had the chance to go away on I guess a business trip. Which I took my tent, my skis, my mountain bike and my car. That’s it, all my life, packed into my little car. And I just drove off in southwest Colorado. That’s for me, that’s life. You know?

You don’t need anything apart from that stuff. I just stop at all the mountain towns, talk to people in the stores, got some orders, talk to different companies, I just played outside all day. Tried all the trails, and worked in my tent that night. It’s life. I do what I love and I love what I do.

Doug:                                         The perfect Colorado business trip, right there.

Fanny Toorenburg:             Yeah perfect. I’ll do that anytime, I’ll be on the road like that anytime, all summer.

Doug:                                         You were telling me a funny story, actually, Jessica Beacom had relayed that story to me a little bit. Of course, Jessica Beacom is a friend of ours in common and the first person to help me by being on this podcast. So be sure to go check out her episode. Jessica Beacom is of the real food dietitians and you can find them at their website and they have an amazing food blog and just a really awesome community around healthy food and healthy living so be sure to go check that out. But anyway she was telling me a couple stories about you when I asked her at the end who she would love to hear on this podcast, you were the first person and you were the only person that came to her mind.

So she was telling me how you were listening to her podcast in your tent during a crazy storm in southwest Colorado and I was just thinking, “Wow I’ve only done like a few of these episodes, and I’m already getting these awesome stories.” I can only picture just listening to the podcast that we’re making in a tent during a storm. That sounds super funny to me considering this journey has just begun. She also relayed to me a really amazing story, it was how you were at a race. I guess you showed up at the finish line before the organizers were even expecting people to finish. So the finish line wasn’t even up yet. Is this a true?

Fanny Toorenburg:             Yeah pretty much.

Doug:                                         Alright, so let’s talk about this. Let’s just shift to this a little bit. Again we spoke about, you you’re running a business, you’re being the mom and you’re also an athlete. And I think that’s something people, especially in Boulder, but people in Colorado can identify with, trying to juggle all those things. So tell me a little bit about this race. What race was it and what happened?

Fanny Toorenburg:             I was at the Ned Ned last year. So basically I haven’t raced really for about ten years, having kids and other priorities in life during those years. When I came back to Boulder, it’s like, “Oh man I’m in Boulder and I’m not training, I don’t even own a pair of running shoes. I have to do something about this.” So I started running again about a year and a half ago. You know, just slowly getting back into it, not racing, really. It’s like, “Okay, I should probably enter some races.” So I entered some races. I entered Ned Ned, we just moved up to Ned, and no expectations. In my early years I wanted to win, I wanted to be selected for something or whatever. Now I’m just doing it for fun. I just show up and have a nice time.

Anyway, I show up to this local race. And it’s at altitude, it’s eight and a half thousand feet up there. Just started running, it’s like, “Oh I’m doing okay here,” but I wasn’t, I was juts in the front group, but nothing. It’s like, “Oh, okay three miles to go, I think I’ll just push it a little bit, see what happens.” It’s like, “Oh okay I’m first, oh whatever.” First I’m in overall in front of the boys too. And then I just turn up, “Oh it’s the finish line.” And then nobody said anything. And I walked in and it’s like, “Oh, you’re already there.” My support crew wasn’t there, my kids weren’t even there, they were not expecting me. Nobody was expecting me. And then other people started coming in, it’s like, “Oh we missed the first person.”

Doug:                                         That’s unbelievable. I love that. That’s just amazing. So what is your, so are you training really regularly? I know like you said, just being even prepared, not competitively, but in order to back country ski, and just really be functioning at a high level out in the mountains, what’s your training regimen look like?

Fanny Toorenburg:             Pretty much every morning I’m out the door by six. When the kids sleep it’s the only time I can go training. If I miss my 6 am spot that’s it for the day pretty much. For me it’s just going out training. It’s about having a balance in life. And just clearing my mind for the day. Because I know it’s pretty intense looking after three children for the whole day. There’s never a break, like never. If you think you’re having a break, somebody’s going to jump on you, that’s for sure. So I have to get out everyday, and I have found an amazing coach which is my friend as well. She lives in Neds so we train together sometimes. She’s a woman and having a woman’s coach is just so valuable. I suppose, her name is Kathy Butler. Back in Ned.

I don’t need to train twenty hours a week like I used to do. Maybe ten would be a big week. And then that’s all. I’ve got the background and I’m probably racing better than I did ten years ago. And I’m in the mountains, what else? The sun rise over the mountains, you think about, you dream, you solve all the world’s problems, and then when you finish, your mind’s clear and you start your day. And then if you’ve got time to go out and do a race or something, then I just do that.

Doug:                                         And how about, some favorite spots? If you’re heading out for a nice active day with the kids, do you have any go to favorite spots up there?

Fanny Toorenbur:             We live right next to the mountain biking trails so we can go hike out from our front door. And mountain biking just near Mud Lake. I can make the rides with the kids anywhere from five minutes to five hours. It’s just right there. I guess because we’re new to Nederland, all the places like [Brandon Lakes 00:29:57] and Long Lake up there, or up at Eldora, Lost Lake. They’re just so easy access. And I think because I still have a four year old I can’t stretch too far, the car ride has to stay pretty short, just to make sure the trip is successful, the longer I make it, the higher the chance of decreasing success. Or me having to carry everybody’s stuff, and then everybody’s … And then in winter, skiing is right there, ten minutes drive to go to Eldora. So with the boys, I would take them before school if they had afternoon kindergarten. I take the two boys for two hours of skiing and a hot chocolate and then drop them off at school.

In terms of the lifestyle as a kid, I wish I grew up in a place like that.

Doug:                                         Yeah, exactly. I know, I hope my kids maybe one day they’ll realize how lucky they all are. I feel lucky to be here as well. I guess, there’s one last question I like to ask people when they’re here. Who would you love to hear on this podcast? Is there some people in your community that people should know about, what they have going on?

Fanny Toorenburg:             I have to say, I don’t know the name exactly, but the organization, SMBA, S-M-B-A mountain biking, I know that David [Femmer 00:31:25] is quite involved up in Nederland. They are amazing. Taking the kids mountain biking, they’ve got the organization sorted out to the T. They take their kids after school, from the gym, they take them for a two hour ride, or in the summertime they’ve got vans, the kids ride all the trails in groups with their friends. In so far as getting kids into the outdoors and into mountain biking, just amazing. It’s all a community endeavor as well. It’s incredible, they get them to work on the trails, to build jumps, to maintain their bikes, to be super independent. I think it’s amazing. And they also partner with a local, the Tin Shed up in Nederland, which is next to the coffee shop Salto. And then the owners and the people that work in there. The owners are Marcus and Karina. Sorry I don’t know their last name.

But in so far as bringing community together and then an active community, because that shop is also a ski shop in the winter. Getting people to come and have coffee and tacos before and after. They do a lot for the Nederland community. And then to feed that outdoor lifestyle to people. I think those two would be my top, I think.

Doug:                                         That’s fantastic, I’ll definitely try to reach out to them and see if we can get any of them. But it really sounds like a fantastic community up there. I’m only familiar with Nederland mostly from going to Eldora or heading up to Caribou or some of those other places that you’ve mentioned. I tend to swing through the town and maybe stop to eat, but I don’t know everything that’s going on up there but it’s just an amazing community.

Let’s see. I think that’s really about it. Is there anything else you just really wanted to mention about what’s going on with your business? How about, where people can mostly find you?

Fanny Toorenburg:             I think at the moment online, Instagram and Facebook and my website would be the easiest place. Or contacting me directly. Although shops I mentioned before, people are interested in my gear, so there’s two shops in Nederland, is the Wild Bear and then The Shop. In the fall, like at Neptune Mountaineering, in terms of locally, would be the best place to find me. I guess one of the things that I would like to mention is that the Nederland community is just incredible. There’s just so many skills and so many entrepreneurs up there that work out of their cabins and just get together from time to time. There’s another hat maker up there which is called Ned Gear, and then we’ve been partnering to make hats out of my merino scraps. We want to put Nederland on the map as a cool place to be, and just do our part for the community. I think a lot of people in Nederland want to do that and there’s a lot of partnering and partnerships that happen there.

And I think that’s cool. If we could identify Nederland as a cool place to find cool merino gear, then that’s awesome. But also I want to mention the Born Wild project, which there are some people at the school, like Jason Spearling is involved with, to get the kids outside. Regardless of the weather, and wearing merino so you don’t have to carry a big pack full of gear. They’ve done some, they’re doing some amazing work, and some films to help people find easy ways to get their kids outside. It’s just so important. They’ve also done an interview with me, a bit of a story, which should be out soon on their website. So it’s called BornWildProject.com. And you’ll find out some other interesting facts about me. One of them is why Indiana Jones was my childhood hero and my role model. So I’m not going to give it away so you’re going to have to check it out.

Doug:                                         That’s fantastic. Thanks for mentioning that. We’ll be sure to put the links to all this stuff in the show notes for this podcast. We’ll make sure that we’re finding out resources when they become available, and everybody can find them on the website, for sure. Of course, all the links to your website and Instagram and Facebook, wherever else you are, wherever else people can find you, we’ll have the links to all that as well.

Fanny Toorenburg:             Perfect.

Doug:                                         Alright, well thank you so much. I really enjoyed having you here and just learning more about your journey. Both as an entrepreneur and just as your person coming into Colorado and I really appreciate you sharing that with me.

Fanny Toorenburg:             Thank you Doug, it was super fun.

Doug:                                         Alright thanks a lot.

Fanny Toorenburg:             Thank you.