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

Backcountry United - Jon Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Show Notes

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

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

[18:00] Why is backcountry access an issue

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

[31:00] An education in public land designations

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

[50:00] Colorado’s growing pains

[1:03:00] Some key supporters

[1:12:00] A future in politics?

[1:16:00] Craig, Colorado

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


Relevant Links

Backcountry United


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





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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

#014 Alan Bernholtz – Former Mayor of Crested Butte and Minister of Fun for Eleven Experience

Alan Bernholtz on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast

So this is a really awesome episode, if i do say so myself!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Alan Bernholtz, former mayor of Crested Butte, fire jumping aficionado, and currently Senior Guide and Global Activities Director at Irwin Guides and Eleven Experience, also dubbed with the envious title of Minister of Fun.

This is one of those times where I wish I had hit record as soon as I sat down in the basement and live music venue of Public House, a relatively new establishment right on Elk Ave in CB.  We talked as much before I hit record as after.

First off, there are some f bombs, so be warned…

Next, despite being exposed as the resort riding Boulderite that I am, meeting Alan was one of the real highlights of doing this podcast to this point.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to take a ride in Tucker the snow cat up to Irwin with him at some point.

We get into Alan’s history from arriving in Crested Butte and living in his van to being the mayor of town and owner of the largest guide service in the area.  We then get into Irwin Guides and Eleven Experience, the services they offer and what makes them unique.

Online, you can find Irwin Guides at irwinguides.com and on instagram @irwinguides and Eleven Experience at elevenexperience.com and on instagram @elevenexperience.

Be warned, don’t follow them unless you want to see lots of enviable powder shots.

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 Alan Bernholtz of Irwin Guides and Eleven Experience.


Show Notes

[02:30] Public House, a great new establishment in Crested Butte

[04:00] Being mayor and jumping fire

[11:45] Why Crested Butte?

[14:00] Growth of a guide

[17:20] Lee Ervin – “The most authentic person I’ve ever met”

[21:30] Heading to France

[26:00] Running a global guide service out of Crested Butte

[30:00] More parades!!!

[35:00] What sets Eleven Experience apart


Relevant Links

Irwin Guides

Eleven Experience

Public House

Wagner Custom: Skiing with Alan Bernholtz

Flaushink Festival

Jean Pavillard

Remembering Lee Ervin – The Crested Butte News

Karl Denson


Related Episodes

Venture Snowboards




Alan thanks fan for taking some time to come out and meet with me. Where are we now we’re in the public house.

Yep we’re in the Public House the music venue in the basement downtown Crested Butte. So you’re saying they just put this place in. Yeah we just opened up on July 3rd. Are you part of the public house. No. Now we are like any new place that’s also been has music in town. No it’s not we have everything. This is just the newest latest bar in our town and it’s been a really nice addition to have a music venue and a place that’s no different unique and got a good vibe. Nice now and we were just talking about how some of the acts that they’re already attracting seems like.

The word’s getting out and the owner here was making. You were saying the sound here is amazing.

So yeah you know we didn’t have a large venue so I think he was more of like let’s make it really sound really good. So I think he’s hoping that it’s something is talked about amongst small musicians like Karl Denson came and played and we want him to go back to his hometown and be like Man you should have heard it. The sound is incredible and we want people to seek us out. But you know with 150 seats we’re not going to bring in huge bands so we want we want titan musicians is what we want right now I say I keep saying we I have nothing to do with it.


You have to live with it because because you benefit from it when something comes up. So let me I was I was looking into your background a little bit. You know I was doing some kind of internet stalking I guess and I came across a page that was put up by the Wagner Skis guys. Yeah. And I guess they had like your quiver of just beautiful skis that they’ve made for you. But the article started with this sense I’m literally quoting you says ‘if you ever have if you’re ever lucky enough to meet Alan ask him about jumping over fire at the Mardi Gras parade when you are mayor of Crested Butte.’

So. That’s we’re going to start. That’s where I was. I saw that and I was like that kind of ticks off a couple of boxes just like Mayor? Jumping over fire?

I want to hear all that stuff.

Well thank you Wagner custom for putting that quote in there I guess. But yeah you know we have a lot of parades in town and we do a lot of you know local kooky grassroots fun festivals and so we have one that didn’t just watch. It’s not true I have jumped.

First of all. Who doesn’t love fire?

like when they go out and you’re a pyro. But let’s face it if there’s a big fire and someone has a five gallon bucket of gas and throws it on there who doesn’t like that. Everyone cheers. Yeah it’s the same thing. I love fire just as much as anybody else. I love fireworks a little skiing. So put all that together and we have like I said these kooky little. Festivals and parades and we had a Mardi Gras parade one year and I was like yeah I’m going to jump over fire as my skis.

And so I jumped over like tiny little like trash can fire and of the back of a suburban. And then I got better at it and got bigger bigger and it got bigger and then we started doing all kinds of floats and once you kind of you know once you kind of get the idea of how to do fire safely and you know how to do like a big water feature.

You can kind of do a bunch of different stuff in a parade with those things you know in a moving float. So it just became a challenge like what can we do every year different and different and then it got to be like well you know damn this is hard to come up with some different time and then I kind of picked up the for Mardi Gras.

I always just jumped over fire. It was the simplest thing for me to do as winter right. And it was simple and it was a couple of years it was like super dangerous like the jump and like people come with my wife me like What the fuck. Like how could you let Alan do that. Like that’s dangerous. Like he’s in to hurt himself.

And I never have. By the way right. And I got lucky. And then it got to be where we got it was really kind of safe. I’d almost say boring.

And so then I got to stop doing it because you mastered it.

So when say master anything I’ve mastered nothing in my life but I moved it to from the Mardi Gras parade. I moved it to another parade that we have called flouncing which is the ski season and that was like a five person parade. Mardi Gras was like maybe a 10 person pretend float parade. OK. So but everyone’s here it’s like spring Mardi Gras party. And show us your you know killer flower. It’s like end of the season you can’t give sking away. We tried that. No one came. So I was like I’ll jump fire in the Flaushink parade just kind of breathe life into that one and flossing is one of my favorite parades because it’s still doing some flowers.

Still happens and it’s been going on a long time. Long before I ever got here. And it is like this. It’s the flushing of of the winter and you’re it’s spring and it’s totally made up and it’s like supposed to be Slovakian or whatever the fuck it’s supposed to be and it’s not. It’s just like this. We’re going to party we’re in a polka dance. And the old timers all come out. They do like these old slide shows and they talk about the old times like you know before the left right when the skier was just beginning. And like the roots of Crested Butte as it is today not as a mining town. So right.

I just love it because it’s like really authentic little festival or little festival. Right. So and I did there and then I kind of stopped doing it. I remember the first year I didn’t do the Mardi Gras parade. I was just sitting there in the crowd I was all dressed up in costume and then the parade went by and someone like oh you know that wasn’t that great of a parade and someone says no no eight hours is going to come by with his flow.

And I’m like I’m not I’m not going by this year.

So yeah it goes on like the whole jumping over fire thing could go on forever. And the mayor so that’s pretty much how I was elected. I’d like to say that like everyone was like oh Alan’s got these great values and we want a mayor that’s going to. But really it was just like they knew me because I jumped over fire. Right. And so when I got elected mayor and then I went to Washington D.C. and testified and from the United States Senate to try to you know reform hard rock mining in our country because there’s a mine that threatens to be in our town. It’s only a few miles away that they’ve been fighting for you know four or five decades and there is you know they’ve been trying to reform this bill from 1872. And so we were the poster child Crested Butte as the poster child of mining reform.

He brought the mayor from Juneau who is like we love mines like yes. And then there was some some environmentalists and then there was some mine experts and so we all sat in this panel and like I had giant tanlines it was middle of winter you know and like I’ve just been skiing every day and I was like I went to D.C. It’s like LA. Better suit you know like I need a suit. So I went and bought a suit. And like every senator came and look who’s been skiing. Where would you go. Would be out in the sun because the giant tanlines. But I feel like it represented pretty well. I was on C-SPAN which is you know a big deal for me and I was like wow that was so cool what an honor like. And if you’re in D.C. as a mayor you can like you know you get the you get the key to the VIP bathroom you know it’s pretty sweet like you could do stuff.

And they’re like What are you on the mayor. OK come on in. You know like wow like this is great. I mean you can get free drinks or anything. You like. You know you walk down the hall and meet a congressman. Can knock on their door and I’m them to me and they say hold on. No I hear you because you’re an elected official even if it’s a town of 50 200 people. It was cool. Especially the local Colorado people senators and congressmen were always all ears. So then they came back and I was like walking down the street and a lot of you know there’s a lot of young people in our town a lot of parents visit.

And there’s this girl and she’s like oh hey. Mom this is our mayor. And I’m like fresh from back from D.C. I’m like Hell yeah I’m the mayor. Like this is great. And she’s like I’m like I just represent in our town on a national level and she just goes ‘he jumps over fire.’

I was like That’s it. You know perfectly clear to me right then like we elect people because we don’t want to do that stuff right we don’t want to sit through boring meetings and talk about policies and talk about expansions and we go to certain means that we’re interested in. But basically what we want somebody who represents us and abroad level sure and jumping over Feierstein to represent a lot of people maybe more than just in Crested Butte. And so that’s how I got elected.

What year was that like. What years were you married.

I was mayor. Well I got elected the town council 1999. And then I was on to serve for six years to two elections and then I ran for mayor in. 2005. OK. Right on.

So for years I didn’t make it through two elections there as well and you know I never lost I never I don’t believe in career politicians I don’t think someone should be. I don’t think our forefathers were like Yeah this is going to be your career some day. You know we were they were farmers and they were they were people that were like hardworking people that represented our country. They didn’t think that a senator was going to be in office for 35 years and be making like a ton of money doing it.

And so after 10 years in office I was like if I haven’t done what I’m going to do I’m probably not going to do it. So I step down. Right

And unfortunately you didn’t bring your fire jumping to the steps of the Capitol that might have made a step. Maybe. I think probably me. Yeah probably yeah. So after so you would come across to be.

From what I kind of read you had kind of hopped around you had looked all over place. What was it about. Crested Butte at that time that that made you kind of stop. And did you think at that time you were like This is the place for me or. Is it. Are you surprised that you’ve been here for nearly 30 years.

Well let me answer a couple of questions in there but the reason I came here and the reason not the reason I came. The reason I stayed here is the same reason I’m here now. Like it hasn’t changed that much which is the people the community here and the values that they have here are just in line with the way I think. Not all the way all the time and I mean you and I were chatting earlier and it’s not not the same as it was.

But you know I came here from Aspen and I lived and grew up in Southern California I moved to aspirin looking for like a ski town. I thought it was cool and then I realized that wasn’t the community that I wanted to be and I wanted to be in a smaller community of people that really took care of each other a little bit more although when I was living in Aspen it was great we had potlucks and you know there was it wasn’t it wasn’t all like ritzy and it was.

But there was still an underground community that’s still there today. But when we’re here and everyone would just say hi to me. And I was like walking on the street like take a second look like he’s talking to me like you don’t even know me. Right. And so I was like well this is really cool inviting town and I’ll go check it out. I do not think I was going to stay at all. I just thought I’d be here for a little bit at that time I thought I was maybe a farmer.

Gotcha. All right. But you ended up at the mountain. And.

I don’t know how many years like skipping forward to but after kind of putting in some time here and working on the mountain. You got into guiding and you actually did you start.

Crossing the mountain guides. I did. When you see on the mountain what do you what do you mean you know where you were. I think you were working out and mean the ski area. The scary mountains. So you realize there’s a lot now in the mountains.

Yeah right. That’s hilarious.

So well no I came here and you know I got a job like cooking at that cafeteria lied about the job a lot about my experience I was 20 years old. I came in. I was kind of late in the season late in the hiring process. Like we’re done come back on Wednesday we’ll see we got came on Wednesday. Guys like you have a good breakfast. You know I get my breakfast. So he hired me. I got a pass. I was super psyched. Started work and he’s like you’ve never cooked breakfast day in your life. And the guy was super pissed. For like a week and then he just like taught me to be a breakfast cook. And I just did that and then worked. There was like a mountain guide program they had. It was like a ski school kind of thing.

And the school director was a Swiss mountain guide you know like certified non guide and he kindof took me under his wing I was just getting back interested and I just learned about snow and avalanches and really kind of becoming interested in that getting a little away from the crowds a little bit I get into softer snow and kind of that that freedom kind of feeling. And he took me under his wing as my mentor and just like taught me kind of pushed me down that guide path and then worked on ski patrol for a while until. I resigned. Forced resignation from Steve Mitchell and started working for him full time as a guide and then. Starting my own guide service Crested Butte Guides 1998 while it was like meeting that guy really sent me down a path absolutely yeah.

Jean Pavillard, yeah.

Great dude it’s amazing how one encounter can do that.

Yeah he uses an incredible guy still is. I mean he’s still ready. We don’t we’re not really that close and not in touch really. Right. But he had a huge effect in my career and my life. So when you’re guiding back in.

I guess. So is this like mid 90s this kind of thing. You know this. Like what was the crowd like in Crested Butte at that time. Because I know there’s you know obviously like we all know about the growth that’s going on now. We talk about this morbid but what’s crested like you know at that point is it still feeling growing pains or is it you know or is it still pretty small.

It was still pretty small you know and I think in 1988 when I got here it was 700 people living here and I bet in 1995 there was you know 900 people living here. Got to know there was a couple experts that seemed like a lot of my friends that I have now kind of moved in these different little chunks of time but it seemed like 93 and 96 97 a lot of people moved here. But I wouldn’t say that there was any kind of like.

A gold rush going on and the same problems we’re having now. We were having then I mean housing was tough. The wages were low the expenses were high and you know you get paid more and then rents more and then you get paid more and then rents more and so there’s still there wasn’t that many places to live then. And there’s not that many places to live now so it’s always been kind of you know typical kind of skis last resort town problems that we have just trying to keep housing force workforce keep everyone happy and you know when I first moved here I lived in my car lived in a van for four years. So it was easy easy for me to just go wherever I wanted to go. Right. That was great right.

Yeah. We were talking a little bit about the editor of the local paper who just who just passed away and how by go into that. Service that they had for him which was just last night or two nights ago two nights ago you were able to see how you know there are still people here who. Are. Chris history dates back in Crested Butte to when it was miners versus ranchers and you know the ski industry wasn’t even the dominant kind of force in the town or anything like that. What was it like to just kind of get in the room with some of these folks. Well you know and also like Who is this Who is this guy that passed away like that. Was such an influence. Yeah Willie Irving I think as the editor of the paper I think he was I think he was the most real.

Authentic person I’ve ever met. Like he did not there was not fake news. You know there was not there was a bunch of quotes and what they called it but it wasn’t regurgitated news it was all original. He was an original person and he influenced everyone around him by being original and he was very accepting of everyone. It didn’t matter if you were a Republican or a Democrat you know and we said this all night long and at this memorial service. But he brought the community together and he taught people community values and he didn’t make those community values up. He believed in what was going on here. And he just was kind of like the guy who just kept going and spread it because he was an influential position as editor of the paper. And so he was able to really affect the town.

And at that time you know being so small I mean back then used to come to town and they would say Doug what do you do. And then you’d be in the paper. That’s what you did. And then if you’d said I’m an auto mechanic and you weren’t it didn’t matter that’s what you were going to be in town. And so people would come to town and say I’m a sign builder. Even though the last thing he did was sign bill but they didn’t have any training at building signs and then that guy you know built in Terra build signs for 15 years because that’s what the newspaper labeled him as we know small town back then and that’s what Lee kind of kept that going in and spread that onto the next Ed. And then the next editor and the editor of the paper that we have right now as a mayor you know you have to hate the editor of the paper because they’re assholes and they’re just trying to get a story.

And I love the guy you know. I mean he he made my life miserable but he kept me honest he kept me on the line. He asked good questions. He still didn’t today. He loves doing it. And then you know there was an editor before him that was like one of my best friends was at the paper I ran for mayor and the guy didn’t even endorse me. Right. You know that’s right. Eddie

I’m bringing it up. I have not forgot. He

knows every time I talk to him I bring it up but you know and so I think that that shows what kind of people we have in this community. It’s like just because you’re my friend. He thought someone else would do a better job at that position. And that’s what he did. He did his job and for this community not for himself not for any benefit. You know by voting for me because he’s my buddy endorsing me I should say. That would have been him just not toeing the line right. Right. And so I think our community still does that. I don’t know a lot of people here. You know there’s a lot of young people here a lot of new faces but I kind of feel like everyone’s still kind of toeing the line and like pulling out their best colors and that’s why I still live here. That’s why I haven’t left. Right

. Yeah.

You were actually mentioning how you did actually end up leaving with your job for a couple of years to help start some operations overseas. And then you came back to Crested Butte and. You kind of it gives you some perspective right. Step away from something you come back like the rate of change and what kind of started happening around this town and even just like a couple of years gone recently.

Yeah for sure and to be clear you know like we moved overseas start operation like I’m a ski bomb. I moved. They sent me to France to started a risky operation. You know I still ski bombs during the time that the place is skied as many days. I passed through the year and I don’t want to die I went corporate or anything like that because I didn’t. I just never. Maybe I should try that. But I just never gone down that road you know I just try to follow the path of what I love and what I think I’m capable of doing. But going away for two years and I didn’t want to go. I was like super reluctant. Like no I’m not leaving my town this is where I this is my roots this is where I live now. And you know I fought it and fought it and my boss met me on a business trip one time.

Higgins sounds corporate and he’s just like shut the fuck up and go to France like shut up this in November and he’s like I want you there by Christmas. And so I dragged my feet. I was like come on and he’s like it’s going to be a great experience like you little baby right. Sack up and go there. And so I brought my family over there very supportive of the family. We all lived over there. And after like one year to go there for one year and get it going after one year I was like Hey man is it cool if I stay for another year because it was awesome. Right. And he’s like yes. If you want to years differently or so coming back Chris I mean the town or the lodges over there the Chalet is 50 people and has like one restaurant sorta.

Oh OK. And then the town I lived in which is about you know 10 15 minutes away was 350 people that had the bar and had the restaurant you know. And so it was very small. And not only that like their French you know I was in France and so like the like oh Bernholz is that German I’m like yeah you know my dad was German my mom was Polish and there’s some Russian in there and they’re like oh that’s cool. Yeah my dad was French his dad was French and his dad was French or French. So like super hardcore you know roots the values you know about the French that’s why they speak French because they’re like we don’t want to learn English our language is the best we’re French.

And weather is known globally or not. We speak French. This is where we’re from totally and in the Savoi where we lived in the Terran days you know where the lodges and where we skied it vowed there and stand for like even being French isn’t good enough you know. It’s like this Savoi right. So I be like what about this guy you know he’s a guy. I know he lives down there. Oh no he’s not Savoi. You know I was like OK that’s cool man whatever like hardcore.

I came back here and to go back to your question which was after being gone for a couple of years you come back to town and you know it wasn’t it wasn’t. It

hadn’t crested at that point but you could feel the wave moving you know you can feel the number of people increasing in the area maybe not in the town the town numbers may have stayed relatively the same.

But outside unincorporated Gunnison County you could feel it is growing and swelling and it just you know changing sure but the like I said the great thing about it was that in underneath all that minutia the core was still like all these people that are fucking awesome people that have these great values that toe the line and follow their path. And so I came back and it was different but it wasn’t a bad place to be. It was different and if you don’t expect things to stay the same then you should just watch. You know Mayberry RFD because that’s only TV’s only thing doesn’t change right.

It just changes and if you just if you try to help and try to you know be part of what’s changing. Then I think you can affect the way it changes and if you want to be an asshole and if you want to be some stubborn you know crotchety old guy back in the day you know then you’re not then that sucks you know. But if you want to be like hey you know we used to do it. What about this and someone some millennial guys like well what about we could do it like this to be even more effective and you know like great let’s do that. And I think that’s what our town’s all about. Because when I got here it was just a whole another layer of guys that were crotched who didn’t want to see it change now and then before they got here it was the same and you know I mean in the 70s the hippies came in and took it over.

And you think all those guys from like the 60s were like No thug all these hippies are moving into our town. So I think it’s all and it’s all an attitude. Attitude is everything.

Right. And from my. Youth so.

I’m going to be real careful not to sound corporate. But you know as you’re guiding businesses you kind of grew and they evolved into a few different things including the wing guides. You know what I could just imagine that.

Makes a really amazing group of people. And that is it must be a spectacular place to work. But. What do you think about. Crystal beauty or even Colorado. Around the world you know started you’ve looked at operations in different places. What is it about Colorado and then in general that that makes even an international operation want to be based here. Like what you know the people there getting the the lifestyle that they get to kind of have the people you attract and also just you know just the awesomeness of you’ll be your guide in this area I guess.

Yeah well I mean we’re not you know we’re not you know we’re not going to be on a stamp. You

know we’re not Yosemite we’re not grand teton we’re not Rainier.

All these beautiful wonderful national parks and just areas that are just really well known for some of the guiding senses. You

know we’re not we’re not that spa we’re the we’re in the shadow of all those places and I think that when people want to get kind of down to what the activity is really about and not necessarily a feather in the cap because we’ve got no feathers you know we’re checking this feather that’s a Krispy Kreme.

I mean a featherless chickens were taken with feathers.

You know just the place it’s like we love doing what we’re doing and you know comes back to the community a community thing. I don’t know why our boss was like I want to make our global headquarters in Crested Butte. You know I mean this is the first operation that he started up guyed operation hospitality brand and he just kept it here you know our insurance this year insurance people here are our directors here like our headquarters this year and you know we are a company that has properties in different countries around the world and so it’s a bitch to travel to them and this is where we all start from and we’ve never really looked at anywhere else.

We’ve never been like let’s move our place. You know some you know some corporate land like Boulder.

Yeah because logistically would be closer to probably international airport or something like that.

So I think I mean the skiing here is phenomenal. The climb in here is really good you know we’re near the Black cane and but we don’t climb in the black rain much. We’re just we’re just another guide service that’s in in the state of Colorado you know people come out they will horseback riding they go rafting they go rock climbing. Now they go mountain biking. And I think that people come here and they they do all those activities that you can do in countless towns around Colorado but they don’t have crested butte you know and they come here and the town is very nice and it’s welcoming and you know you can just be yourself. You don’t have to. Doesn’t matter how you dress I don’t care if you drive a Porsche or if you drive a truck or whatever I don’t care.

You know sometimes I care if you have a really nice bike like a townie right. Not a mountain bike but if you townies supersonic that’s going on a little envious but that’s about it. I mean I think that that part of things that part of the whole package I think is what people really like. They come here they can just be themself they can wear whatever they want to wear whether it’s a T-shirt or collared shirt or baseball cap or slicked back hair like we don’t care. And I hope that never changes that we’re always accepting of people because it doesn’t matter what you look like it matters how you act.

Right. So are you ever going to jump fire and run for mayor again don’t you. I don’t know.

All right Mayor again but I’d love to jump over far. Yeah fuck yeah yeah fire is good fire is good. I mean last year I came out what happened. I was all poised. And something happened you know because where I work at Irwin guides and 11 that we have this snow cat that has rubber tracks that we drive into town we pick the guests up at our lodge and then we drive them into the mountains we go cat scan. And so once we started using that vehicle superhigh off the ground and it’s got this giant flat top that just made my life so much easier and safer. That was great. Without that I need to really think about how to jump over the fire because it’s just got to be so simple because I can catch big air. Enough air. And so yeah I’d like to jump over fire. I’d like to do all kinds of stuff. I’d like to have more parades so we can do because Fourth of July’s has gotten out of control. You know the parade.

Control you hear about that one from everybody.

And so we used to do one every year called the bizarro world float because we just didn’t want to be any part because it just became like every business just goes down the street and they’re promoting their business which is totally fine. But I was like You know it’s about having a good time. Right.

And so we do these floats like what are you guys and we’re like we’re bizarre or like you representing them like fun. We’re just doing something for fun like there’s an advertiser you know. Yeah.

So actually we do where there’s no like no 4th of July paraphernalia. You know it’s all Halloween costumes you know and we just do crazy. We used to do crazy kooky stuff. So it’s like he watch Richard Nixon slide down a water slide into a pool or you watched the Easter Bunny go through a fire breathing dragon and get spit out the other end you know or Tinkerbell go across a zip line over fire wear her tutu you know burned a little and then into a pool. So that’s the kind of stuff that I thought was you know what was I was attracted to this town about and before the I totally working. Like

people love it. And the businesses like it and the community seems to like it. I mean a lot of us stay away. Next it’s so crowded but we’ve got a lot of flow. We get a lot of parades going on and we just need more. Yeah. Which does have one a month for a month you’re like a big for a guy like that it brings it brings out people you know and it’s like fun and like you know one you’re the talker that that’s that’s OK. That can drive in the street and that and that that I want to hear more about that after this. OK. The flower show you like I was telling you earlier you know the Flushing. So like when you’re on back that’s on our story. But Tucker we just drove tuckered out. It’s all squared out.

You know it’s just like a giant vehicle. And we we just pick kids up hey you want to get on the. Yeah. Just get on. So by the time we went down and the parades here you know they usually go up and back because they’re so small you can’t sure you can’t do it just one time would be really boring. So and then we just had all these kids like hanging out and riding on top of this Tucker and I was just like you know how fine like these kids get to be in a parade. Like it’s awesome. Yeah that’s great yeah.

I’ve lived in you know big places in small places and when you get towns that still hold onto that almost like Norman Rockwell Americana thing you really connect with it because it’s awesome and it’s kind of pure right like you get there and you get like little kids or you’re not worried about the permit or you know whatever. Like people are just having fun and jumping on the roof and doing that.

That’s the same because the permit thing and it’s really it’s really changing. I think that they don’t want to do a parade once a month. I think they don’t want to close off the main street. I think a lot of businesses are like it hurts my business a lot. But I think that if you think a little bit bigger than you and of your nose you realize that if you have a cool town that you shut this street down once a month we only have one main street in one street in town that has any kind of real commerce. Now I’m not taken away from the other zones that sell you know weed and an auto mechanic like there are other businesses but like our main tourist street is one street. And if people are coming in they love it they’re going to keep coming back and not come in for one day.

If we close down for one day. Honestly I do not think that we’re going to put anybody out of business. I haven’t seen it. I think it’s just that business owners are complaining because they’re having a bad. I think it’s unrealistic. I think it’s an irrational to think that way. And I think that when someone opens up another business in town they’re not your competition. The next are neighbors not your competition. It’s the next town it’s the other ski town that’s that we’re competing with. How can we be a better ski town than those those places so we have good restaurants then what people want to come here. And we have a good product. We have a good town to be in. We have a good everything and we win.

If you just have one really good restaurant. Everything else sucks then no one’s going to come back here. No one’s going to want to be here. They’re going to go to these other ski towns around the country. Right. So I think. I think it’s important to like think bigger than your own business and to think bigger than your own four walls when it comes to community. Right. And like the business owners these aren’t people that just got here. These are people who have been here for a long time so I try to respect that. Like hey man maybe this guy knows Eli’s been in business for 40 years. Sure. But I just don’t see it. I got Sandy earlier. I think we need to make decisions on how can we make this community a good place. Right. And then tourists and community members will benefit. Yeah and I mean. The general just like is that.

This is a crowd favorite manlike. I mean it is a. People. One of people’s favorite places to come visit.

Everyone I speak to but it’s competitive in Boulder. Yeah. Yeah. There are a lot I don’t mean to. It’s a great place.

As long as you don’t go from there and wants to live there. Exactly. Everyone from like half the people in this town.

No but. Yeah. No I don’t know. I mean I think. We talk about the living guys for a little bit 11 11. So you know. You started actually a couple other guy companies and it evolved into some other like we want to get in every step. But like you’re there’s urban guides is a town of Fastrack.

Through it all she works for a company. When I first started on Pavier adventure The Edge started my own business when I saw the opportunity to get a Forsters permit called Cresta Amoun guides.

There was a few other guides services in the valley. I ended up purchasing a few of them and then to buy an adventure. My mentors business and then became like the largest guide service in the area. Did that for a while. And you know I always wanted to try something new and also just getting kind of I kind of ran into where I could had kids. Was

the mayor I was like holy shit I’m really busy. I got to give something up. Mom sold the business to one of the guys a few months later. Back then it was called. Irwin back country guides hoga which is our which is our current operation now that I worked for. They started up cat Irwin Lodge was a Keskin operation that went out of business in 2002 and 2008. You know they bought it in 2006. We started back up in 2008. They asked me to come and work there. I worked there and eventually we bought Irwin guides. We bought crest mountain guides back and started a company called Irwin guides and so then Irwin guides is like the guide service. And 11 is the adventure travel brand. So 11 is where you stay the lodges the properties and then Irwin guides in Colorado is the activities guide service gacha and within them. I

mean you’ve got a pretty sweet job it seems like a fun time in your job is to help them establish you’re in charge of the experience and making sure the people who come in. Have a great time and I was curious like you when people show up and the flights went smoothly and there’s tons of powder and then there’s a bluebird the next day it’s pretty easy like everyone’s happy. How do you manage when when things start getting difficult. Right. Like what. What is the the approach and what do you guys do when can you get there and it’s kind of raining or no ceilings like too slow to go up in a helicopter or things like that. What

  1. That’s a great question you come up on your own. Yeah you know that’s actually a really good question because I think a lot of a lot of guide companies a lot of guides services and a lot of guides kind of missed that. That little piece there and I think that’s great. As

someone who once traveled I’m sure a lot of people listening there if they travel for sports that are weather based. Whether it’s surfing or snowboarding or skiing or whatever. We’ve all been skunked. We’ve all traveled halfway around the world to get there and spent a bunch of money that we just saved up for this supposedly once in a lifetime trip and there was no snow. There was no waves. It was raining or.

Well you know like I was saying about the community here. Like why are you here. What kept you here. You know it’s the people right. And so like 11.

It’s the same. It’s the people the guides and beyond it’s the whole staff that really make this thing incredible and like why you come here and have a great time and so I could go off on this tangent for a long ass time. But you know when we started I got hired by this woman Missy ox’s she’s phenomenal still in town. She’s she doesn’t work for us anymore she left and went on to bigger and better things but she hired me and then a couple months later shy this is getting Billy Rankin. So it was just us and then really close after that we hired this woman named Clare Martin. So Billy Keira and myself all still work here and we were able. Three people you can make any attitude you want you can be all this socks or this and that. But you know Billy’s like I would I would classify him as like the Jewish Santa Claus.

And he sat on town council with me and you know curas has got a really bright spirit but a realistic goal. So she kind of like we all would help each other out we had a we had an office all three of us instead of having our office faced a desk we faced inward. So we all looked at each other and we just play the grateful that grateful that Grateful Dead Grateful Dead and she would just sit there you know some headphones and stuff and I’m like Hey Gary you know what do you listen to. And she’s like why even ask her to the Grateful Dead. And I was like I’m not asking what band you listen to him asked me what year a Grateful Dead you I’ll listen. And so it’s like being the big joke and Billy he’s still you know he’s still our director snow safety director and beyond you know his title is Business Card isn’t big enough to what he does for the Colorado operation and where I kind of spread out and started doing things around the world.

He focused on here and he taught me so much about. I mean no bad days what a cliche but like just having a good time no matter what we’re doing. And so skean might suck. We can’t guarantee the skiing is going to be good. You said you know you go to Mexico and it’s flat you can’t go surfing but you know we taught it very early on that it’s about the attitude of having a good time. So you know what the schemes are not good let’s where a bunch of costumes. Let’s go back country skiing let’s blow something up. I mean the ATF isn’t listening but you know within our regulations you know let’s go do this some advice control work and let people witness it from a safe distance you know and like let’s do something that’s not just hey this sucks like having know if you’ve ever been guided but if you have a guy who’s psyched to be what he’s doing like authentic real really excited like fake not being like cool good the I’m getting paid for like.

He doesn’t care because he’s not working a corporate job. And I say he but she them you know they’re just out there because we have a we have a girl that works for us too like if you’re having a bad day you want her to be your guide like it’s super fun. And all of them are like that all the guys like super pumped men so sometimes it’s really tricky.

You know I take my wife to Irwin I never take her up there when it sucks. I always take her up there when it’s good. So she’s like I come home from work and I got exhausted. She’s like Oh yeah I bet she really I would ski which Baroda and when you Fazl but like sometimes it’s just really tricky skiing. And so you know Billy was always like it doesn’t matter what the skins like. It all matters what we do and how we have fun doing whatever we’re going to do. And so we started just doing that from the very beginning and it is just it is just something that’s our mantra and our ethos of what we are. And so all the guides come on and you know guides are we can be a little you know egotistical and like we’re cooler than most and you know now that I’m so old I’m not cool or the most and I’m not stronger than everyone so it’s kind of like been really humbling.

And what we do is we can enjoy what we’re doing and really enjoy it we’re doing like waking up and you know people say like I never feel like I’m going to work because I love my job so much like that’s true about my job. My

job actually kicks ass. You know I’m not a real estate real estate broker who loves selling real estate. You know I’m somebody who just loves to go skiing and biking and climbing and I think that’s what makes 11 different is that it’s the people and it’s not just in Colorado it’s like wherever you go. And then. So this is Yealands all low. My last example because I don’t know if I’m rambling on I might ramble.

You can it this.

I don’t care so I’m we’re in we’re nice and you know it was like on my last trips I did last year. And these guys have been skiing together for 15 years. You know they knew the Queen program. They had been all over the world. They knew what was going on and we had really just crappy weather you know just couldn’t we’ve got like a half a day and then we got another half a day.

And so I mean it sucked it was like sliding sideways and this is like in May so it’s not like when it’s it’s like almost raining. You know it’s warm it’s light out all the time and so like fuck it and let’s just have like Olympics and so we had this giant Olympic event where we rode bikes and we rode bikes. We shot ski. We felt Pong and it got to be the end like you know and I’m not I’m not saying that you have to get drunk to have a good time but like it start off during the day no one drink or any of that and it moved into a party at night and no one gave a shit anymore about the Olympics. And we just had the best time and then they’re just to leave and I was like hey what about you know laser tag.

And I think it’s you know it’s it’s all cold and blowing sideways outside and you know it’s over. And I was like. Let’s let’s just play urban laser tag and play inside and so we play laser tag and they were like crying. Leaving and the guy said to me. I skied for two half days at a six and this is maybe the best skiing ship I’ve ever had. And they just had a great time. And I tell people this a lot like we’re having a good time. You know we’re having a good time. It’s created there there a lot of times they make our good times happen because without them we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing. Sure. And their energy of having a good time makes us have a good time too and maybe it sounds crappy on a podcast like these guys when I scanned they went play laser tag and that was such a good time. But it’s more than that. It’s hard to describe it but it’s like super fun. Right

. Well that’s why it’s called experiences not 11 guaranteed days are. I mean and travelers know that right. The unexpected part of your trip is is usually the part you remember. I mean you go out to go see some country and you think you’re going to like this architecture museum or whatever you went there to see but you found something walking down the street or some person or whatever and that’s just kind of what it’s all about. And so you know you probably do get to benefit from your clients being adventurous people that are open to it but you’ve got to still make it happen. And I think that’s a lot of motivation. Like

I said Attitude is Everything is something I’ve been living by since I found this sticker when I was on tour. You know attitude is everything and there was a guy I was working with them and I was a crappy day and everyone else was Skeeter and he’s like oh man I’m like a skeeter and I’m like what you gonna do. It’s like I’m going to go back to my room and work. I was like well we should go do something like to do my going horseback riding on horseback riding my you want to drive the buggy or Nylander while you’re like OK I’ll go skeet shooting he’s like Yeah skeet shooting. That sounds great went out there and the guy was a dead shot. He was super good at it. And his daughter got back from skiing and so he’s like you always go skeet shooting and I think it made his day from being super Borensztein in a beautiful lodge.

I mean it’s beautiful in there. But you know kind of something you can do at your own house to have a day that he had a great time like teaching his daughter to shoot a gun better than she was shooting. And so those kinds of things. Yes it is experiences and I think 11 really are bosses. Vision has always been whatever you guys are doing. I wanted to keep doing what you’re doing. You know is this this guy that is like. He makes decisions I’m like wow is was going to work and it always works. He’s very intelligent but he’s very visionary about having a good time. He likes to have a good time right. He likes to go out and do activities.

He stays fit and you know he’s a real person that likes to have real fun. And so if I’m going to go to Mexico to go surfing and it’s flat what am I going to do. That’s not evidence. What else can I do. And I think that’s been the whole behind the scenes with 11 that’s really kept us one unique to all of us energize to keep doing our jobs because it’s so great. And like what can we do better. What can we do different.

Well that sounds amazing man and I don’t know if that’s a good place to leave it. I mean unless there’s something else you wanted to mention I I really appreciate you taking the time. And thanks to the public house people for letting us use their their stage. People have been walking around here. What are these guys doing. People are just curious about.

I didn’t ramble too much and hopefully you get some help. It was interesting I was trying to make it interesting. You

know I think I think so and you know it really says a lot about you know I think people in Colorado are you know they’re curious about towns they’re curious about people and they’re curious about lifestyle and I think and also like the history of the town so I really think we gave a little bit of everything on that. So cool. Thanks a lot man Doug Narong appreciate it. And you know if anything comes up feel free to have you on any time. All

right. We’ll be all right and soon. No no. Exactly. Thanks.

All right.

Thanks for listening and hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. As we mentioned in the intro you can find any links related to the content we mention in the show notes to this episode. If you enjoy this podcast please subscribe to follow us on iTunes and leave a review if you have a few moments if you prefer to get our updates via e-mail or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android. You can learn more at Colorado.fm/subscribe. Thanks again. Hope you enjoyed this podcast of so and we will see you next time.



#013 Romp Skis – Custom Skis Built in Crested Butte

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



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.




#012 Crested Butte Real Estate with Corey Dwan

Corey Dwan Talks Crested Butte Real Estate on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast

Corey Dwan Crested ButteFor this episode I was able to sit down with Crested Butte real estate expert and local realtor Corey Dwan.

While most of my podcasts to date have dealt more with the Colorado lifestyle, as real estate values continue to soar this aspect of life in Colorado isn’t far from most people’s minds.

Whether it is the on-going conversation of affordable housing in resort communities, rising rents across the state, how to nail down your first home or whether now’s the time to buy that dream ski house, the current economic environment and growing popularity of Colorado affects everyone.

Of course, as is usually the case, the story behind the story is super interesting as Corey explains how his seven-year climbing odyssey eventually landed him in Colorado.  And I think everyone trying to achieve that lifestyle will appreciate his explanation of how real estate investments helped make it happen – and he did it with his money from being a checkout guy at Safeway!

So, just a really interesting tale of adventure mixed with business, which adds to the perspective he brings to his real estate practice.

And as far as real estate goes, Corey offers his insights into what’s going on in Crested Butte as someone who has seen both the ups and downs of the last few cycles.

Online, you can find Corey at crestedbuttecollection.com and on twitter @coreydwan.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find Corey or anything else we talk about in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Corey Dwan of Crested Butte Sotheby’s International Realty.


Show Notes

[03:30] A 7-year climbing odyssey brings Corey to Colorado

[06:50] From Denver to Crested Butte

[09:15] Historical perspective – How the economic downturn played out in Crested Butte real estate

[11:30] How remote workers and families are changing the local economy

[15:30] Growing pains, the challenges for Crested Butte going forward

[19:00] Current market conditions in Crested Butte

[21:30] Summer visitors exceed skier visits


Relevant Links

Crested Butte Collection

Crested Butte Community School

CrestedButte.gov – Affordable/Work Force Housing

Tommy Caldwell


Related Episodes

Erica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort




All right. Hey Corey thanks for having me over man. It’s been a great tour of Crested Butte. I was really glad to catch up with you and thanks for being on the show because as much as the other kind of entrepreneurial stories that I’ve been getting into are you it was super fun. You know what’s going on in the real estate market is really on top of mind for everybody I think who’s either in Colorado or is potentially thinking about moving here.

We’ve got the dogs.

They say hey maybe it’s my soothing radio voice.

But you know so it’s super relevant. And you know I appreciate your insights. You know Crested Butte just it’s kind of a crowd favorite. So your perspectives. Thanks for having me appreciate. Awesome. But before we kind of get into that I love learning more about what brought people to Colorado because whether it was 30 years ago or 10 years ago where you know I moved here about three years ago where if you’re thinking about it you know there’s some common things that go on with it you know that pursuit of lifestyle and you know things that make Colorado really special. So what brought you here.

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Well that would have been that would have started in 91 but I was working for Safeway out in California. I started rock climbing back then and man over the course of a few years and some long trips I got frustrated with my job that I had there and quit. And that evolved into seven year climbing trip basically traveling all over the world and living off some investments that I was smart enough to do as a 21 year old kid. So that brought me to bend Oregon to run a climbing company afterward. You know and I kind of felt like I needed to settle down somewhere and from there I moved out to Denver. The front range.

Who came. Was there anything in particular that brought you to Denver. Was it work or just Colorado or climbing the mountains and being outdoors and actually real estate prices were pretty low in 99. Gotcha. And you know I bought my first fourplex out there for a hundred and seventy eight thousand dollars you know for four apartments. And that was the thing I talked to my real estate agent I said you know I’ve been traveling for seven years.

I don’t want to have a mortgage or be stuck just like why don’t you look into duplexes. I worked in some duplexes and it was still cost me a thousand bucks a month. I can’t afford a thousand bucks a month if I’m on the road for a year. So I said What’s the biggest thing I could buy and she said fourplex So we started looking for those. My first one I bought moved into and I was making 200 bucks a month living there. Catcha and I gave me the freedom to keep traveling.

Right. All right. So. So before you even really got into real estate from the brokerage side you were an investor. I was then. So you lived in one of the units were not the other three in that kind of bankroll your your lifestyle. Correct. How long did that kind of go on and did it just stay with that or did you end up growing into something that beyond what you even thought it would be.

Well it definitely grew into something I didn’t ever expect. But over the course of six seven years and I had a job at Safeway again it was a simple phone call from my old manager to out here and that just gave me health benefits and a paycheck. But that first fourplex turned into I don’t know 22 places eventually. Gotcha. So just through the course of learning what was a good investment. I kept buying and buying right.

And that in that perspective has got to be useful when you’re talking to people whether here or anywhere else of course.

Second Homes are a big part of the market and investments and not to mention you know that kind of advice to say somebody looking to achieve that lifestyle here. I mean I don’t know what kind of multifamily is available and how much different it is totally a free market. It’s a different world.

But you know you bring it sounds like you bring a lot of different perspective to the table than somebody who maybe has just been working as a broker their whole life you know. Yeah. That’s super interesting So how long do you stay in Denver. And what brought you the move to Crested Butte.

Well I was I was in Denver for almost seven years. And what brought me here was actually a phone call from some friends. We were on a 10 month climbing trip. Australia New Zealand and Thailand and they came back early and I kind of got them into the Denver market to invest in properties when they moved out here.

So they called me up and they say Crested Butte was going off you got to see this place. Check it out. I never heard of it. So when is this. This was. Oh for Oka when they bought their first places up here right after the million but the resort in March of 0 4. So when I got back from my climbing trip I came up here and absolutely fell in love of the place. I mean what is there to fall in love with.


It’s pretty amazing.

So I got really emotional did a bunch of investment’s speculation of the Muellers buy the resort definitely help spur my interest. Because I already was an investor and yeah that’s how I settled down here we started installing tile when I first moved here. He even installed a tile in the back room have to call it tamale.

Oh there you go. Do you still get tamales out of that or will it do for at least a year. I think he hooked me up big time. You got it. Dobbins gone now and new owners own it. So no more discounts. Gotcha.

I think doesn’t transfer. So I think you know it’s really interesting to hear that wall you always had this other stuff going on you are still kind of a side hustlin and doing other things and you know taking the chance to invest in you know it just really.

Sometimes people forget when you look back and like all these properties or this business didn’t just arrive here you know like really hard for it and you know make some smart and sometimes lucky decisions you’re in the right place or bad ones or bad ones. And that’s where I want to get to next so you’ll get in here in 2005. I mean you know we were just talking about this before. You know you saw the peak of the cycle and then you know the financial crisis and everything that happened in basically every part of the economy after that. And on top of that you’re like in a really small market of you know second homes and vacation homes. I mean what was that.

And you know what was Crested Butte real estate going through in 2008 well into in 2005 when I moved up here it was it was just starting in rock and roll obviously because smaller but the resort No 4. And our market lags behind the rest of the real estate market a couple of years. I remember phone calls with my dad warning me what are you doing buy in real estate there you know you may be at the top of the market. I said no we’re own own little bubble and so forth and talked myself out of his advice which I should listen to that point. So in 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 I mean the market was going absolutely insane. Right. Whereas in the rest of the country it was going down and it takes a while for people to realize they can hold on to their second third fourth fifth homes.

So by the time it got up here a couple of years after the crash elsewhere we started to play in the market with properties that people couldn’t hold on to anymore. Right. Yeah. And unfortunately I just bought at the top so I made some poor investments.

Right. And what what happened as far as the ski. Vacation economy at that time as well. Like we’re skier days way down way down. I mean this is not a cheap hobby.

No. I’m back in the day before the Mueller’s. You know they they obtained 500000 skier visits a year. Right. And shortly after. They purchased the resort we were down into the 200. Oh ok. Yeah. Well we’re still recovering from that and they don’t really they haven’t broadcasted really what they’re skier visits were last year even. But I know they are getting close to 400000 if not more.

Yeah I thought it was like around there. From research I did yeah. So what you’re saying is like that’s just getting back to where it was previously. Pre-Muellers Yeah. Gotcha. And so that’s hard you know these are hard businesses and these smaller economies are dependent on you know tourism and things like that. There’s not that there’s other not other companies here and other things going on but they’re dominant. And you know it’s a big number of jobs and a big driver.

And one and one thing we have now is a multitude of families that have moved up here with people being able to work from home. That’s changed our economy. Sure. Because even if we go into another decline we have families here that are working remotely and they’ll sustain our restaurants a lot better than they have in the past. Sure. Because we were we depended on skeer visit Solway back then or summer visitors right. Sure. But like you said like year round residents people who come work from anywhere like they’re starting to become a reality of the last 10 years I guess. Yeah. In Crested Butte in other towns.

When I moved here I believe there is less than 300 kids in school in 0 5 and now we’re up to over 700. Wow. So it just goes to show that winners a long haired drapery and I get a lot of people who moved here with their kids because it’s the most amazing place to raise a child that can ride the bus when they’re five years old.

And I was I was just talking to somebody else last night and he was he was talking about how adding the high school changes that whole dynamic because before that you may move here for this little sweet spot when your kids are certain ages. Right. But you had to go somewhere else. Or you had to commute to Gunnison. Right. Which would be horrible. Right.

Not because as I’m just talking about it’s only half an hour away. But when you live somewhere where you drive three to five minutes a day a half hour is a long way. Exactly

. And so so things like that so having these full time residents has precipitated adding things like a high school which means you don’t have to leave when your kids exactly which gives you that whole perspective. Hey we can live here like basically indefinitely. Yeah.

And the kids get a great education because it’s one of the best schools in the country. Yeah. Literally because it is.

Yeah. With 700 kids or whatever it is ratios are probably pretty epic. And I know I can’t even imagine what the life of these classes the day.

I mean powder days. I mean they get out and they enjoy themselves and they’re good kids. I mean the kids that grow up here I think they don’t get into drugs like they do in other metropolitan areas because they have the outdoors to enjoy. Sure. And parents do the same right in the end so. So

these are all interesting things and from a real estate perspective you know what I really enjoy about talking to a real estate agent is that know it’s their job to know all these things regardless of whether you have kids or not. That’s the questions that everyone’s asking. So I don’t know the answers exactly. It’s fantastic because you know these are questions that are asked by whether you live here or you’re thinking about moving here and not just crested butte but just kind of in general. You know they’re hard choices and so you know we’re starting to get into this world of less attached to kind of big city centers little towns like this start being a potential And so what have you been seeing as far as you know what’s new. Chris Matthews a small town. We’re talking how many actual full time residents.

Fifteen. Fifteen hundred eighteen hundred. Right. And about over 400 dogs and 400 nice.

Exactly. And there’s like three families that have 80. No no. I mean I did see like five some people walk in like a bunch of dogs. You know my dog walker. Oh do those. You don’t just set them loose.

Well you can see we don’t have a leash law. But they have to be envoy’s command. OK. Are you in command as I use on my dog.

Whatever works. But when you have a town the size your little incremental growth is a lot you know 100 people is 10 percent growth right. You know 10 families move to town. It’s a significant clamshell right. And so. Towns like this always deal with growth issues right because you’ve got people who want to keep it the old way. You’re worried about losing what made it great in the first place. You know what. What are some of the challenges you see kind of going forward for Crested Butte. Just as a town and I know this is just kind of your opinion. You know it seems like they’re you know they’re building some good infrastructure. But you know do you think they’re moving in the right direction.

I think they are. And I think Crested Butte does a good job of limiting growth as best they can and we’re surrounded by millions of acres of national forest so it’s you know the biggest the biggest issue here I think is affordable housing. And you know a lot of people have had to move to get us because they can’t afford to live up here anymore. When we get to a point when there’s so much construction going on there’s so many more bodies in the sea that come here because it’s busy. People are forced out because rental prices go up.

How to solve that. I really don’t know the best answer obviously.

I mean this is a discussion going on and basically every ski town and of course Colorado right up and and it becomes into an argument of who has and who doesn’t and it’s not really about that. It’s about making the right choices and moving forward. And I know town has the best interests to do that. But are they doing the right thing. I’m not sure right. Are putting houses on the east side of town next to the river and some of the most valuable land. Available giving it to locals for 50 grand so they can build deed restricted houses. Is that smart. Personally I would have sold all that land and gained millions of dollars and built affordable housing because most people that come here to work are longtime residents. They’re here for two or three years. They want to experience a ski town before they you know settle into their job after getting out of college.

They don’t want to buy a place they want to rent a place rent. So I think we could have used a lot more money from that particular example. Building affordable housing in it had inexpensive rent for people that needed it right.

Yeah it’s a challenge. And again like I mentioned this is a conversation going on whether it’s Vail. Well it’s it’s a steamboat it’s I mean anything everyone’s trying to figure out that balance and not only just a balance from an investment an ownership standpoint but a I mean we need housing for the people that are relied on to run all of these businesses right. And so yeah it’s there’s no easy answer but a step and more into kind of your realm of things you know. Appreciate your insight on that other stuff. But you know so what do you see in like in the market right now. I mean is Christopher you just there’s some gossip building going on in town there’s some new lot of construction and construction going on down.

Prices are going up. Inventory is at an all time low. And just to give you an example I think right now we have 74 condos on the market on Mount CB. When I moved up here in 0 5, 0 6 at one point we had 380 on the market and that was when we were getting all time high prices. Sure. So what I’m seeing right now is of low inventory and a lot of demand. So supply and demand is as simple as that. It’s going to pop and it’s going to happen soon. And you know in some cases single family homes have recovered two prices they were selling for and 0 6, 0 7  already condos haven’t land hasn’t but because of how much inventory of that particular product there is it usually takes them longer. So there’s some good perspective because there are.

You know if you read a lot of financial news and if you’re into real estate you know that it has been in what they’ve called an uneven recovery rate. There’s places that have yet to recover from prices that were made in 2006 or so some places you know New York’s way above where where it was at that time. And so it’s interesting to hear that you know with all this growth and all this demand like this town is just getting back to where it was protected which gives you some perspective on hey is this you know as far as it can go it’s like well I mean it’s actually been here before and it was 10 years ago it was 10 years ago and you know when you talk to brokers that have been here for 35 years it’s cyclical.

And historically when we reach highs that we did in 0 6 0 7 after the following dip our highs of the next heighth of the market surpassed the previous rhyme and that’s. So it’s always an upward trend. Right.

As places like this become more and more desirable to live in a lot of a lot of things have changed about the workforce and things like that that make it that much healthier actually economy in the long run like we are which is actually not that it’s it’s not so dependent on the tourist time.

So it’s the big piece of the pie.

It might be our summer and just an example you know it used to be ski year based. Right. Well now our summer visitors have far outreached our visit. So our attraction is summer. Right. And then obviously the ski resorts doing well and they’re getting more and more ski resorts every year. But it doesn’t even come close to how many summer visitors we have.

Right. Which is which is another just kind of great thing to keep in mind because you can’t help but think that it’s dominated by the city resorts.

And we have a saying here this the winters brought me here. Summer is keep it here. That’s true. Summers are absolutely amazing spectacular.

That’s good.

I mean it’s been fun to come here kind of in the shoulders. Because it’s super empty and the last time I was here it was just earlier in the summer. And you know it is beautiful. But the town’s kind of crowd in there’s a lot of stuff going on and you know I’ve just been able to wheel around and feel like I have the place to myself. So it’s been pretty Feydeau.

I always enjoy those times. And this is my favorite time of the year because April-May or mud generally. Sometimes it dries out sooner but the fall is absolutely incredible. I mean we’ve been biking right up till Thanksgiving turkey is fantastic. I’m not going to complain. Well hey man I don’t know if there’s anything else you know you feel like might be some good inside about this town that you wanted to mention.

But man I just really appreciate you just taking a few moments just kind of talk about what’s going on out here. I mean again real estate on a lot of people’s minds. You know I’m in the front range and it’s just crazy.

Yes and it is here too. I mean we’re up 30 percent over last year at the end of the second quarter. Right. And I’m sure the third quarter is going to be up just as much compared to last year. So the demand and a lot of it is coming from the front range because they’re tired of that I-70 corridor.

So they’re buying over here although I I’ve heard that argument and being a front range person like I have to drive on a two lane road the whole way here so that’s true you know it’s you know maybe because no one little hick up in that chain and no way you’re going to wait.

So you know I do love getting out here but it’s it’s hard to put in Beauty and the crowds are less. Yeah.

So aside from those two things is fair to ask a bit less faithful which is exactly what we’re all what everyone is looking for exactly.

Well man again thanks so much. You know it’s really interesting and I hope we can just kind of have a conversation like this again in future sometime for sure. Oh boy. Any time. All right.

Thanks a lot.

All right thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I know it was a bit different but I thought it was super relevant and I really enjoyed having that chance to sit down with Corey. As we mentioned in the intro you can find the links to any related content in the show notes to this podcast episode.

And as always if you enjoy this episode please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a few moments if you prefer to get our updates via email or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android. You can learn more about how to subscribe at Colorado dot FM for Slash. Subscribe.

Thanks again. I hope you enjoy this episode and we will see you soon.



#011 Piante Pizzeria – Elevating Vegan Comfort Food in Breckenridge

Piante Pizzeria BreckenridgeJason Goldstein of Piante Pizzeria on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast


Piante Pizzeria Breckenridge LogoThis episode is another on my tour de Colorado, but not on a bike.  I’m just not that hardcore.

Here in Breckenridge, I had a chance to catch up with an old friend Jason Goldstein, who recently moved to Breck.  He may be following me, I don’t know.

Jason is the chef and owner, diabolical mind behind Piante Pizzeria, a vegan pizzeria that’s dishing out traditional Neapolitan pizza, except with cashew based cheese and some really creative and delicious vegan toppings.

If you’re rolling your eyes right now about pizza without cheese, I’m telling you you’re going to miss out.  Check out their yelp reviews.

Of course, the journey is just as important as the destination. So we get into Jason’s really interesting journey from his previous career to going to culinary school and how his family deciding on relocating to Breckenridge – which includes a motorhome and visiting over 40 states.

Online, you can find Piante Pizzeria at piantepizzaria.com and on instagram @piantepizzaria.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find references we talk about in the show notes.

I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jason Goldstein of Piante Pizzeria.


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


Show Notes

[02:35] The long journey to Breckenridge

[08:35] Why pizza?

[11:45] It’s all about the cheese! Creating a traditional (vegan) Neapolitan pizza.

[15:00] Building a little family with a different approach to resort town employees

[17:15] Splurging on ingredients

[19:00] Response from the vegan community

[23:00] The unexpected connections of opening a vegan pizzeria


Relevant Links

Piante Pizzeria

Piante Pizzeria on Yelp

Miyoko’s Kitchen – Vegan Cheese


Related Episodes:


Breckenridge podcast episodes

Food & Drink podcast episodes





Jason thanks for having me. Thanks for being on the show. Really appreciate it. You know we had spoken a little bit about this before but you were on the east coast of New York finishing culinary school. You had your little family growing family going and you were kind of thinking about what was next. I don’t know if you were specifically think in a pizza place in Breckenridge in particular but why don’t you bring us into how you ended up in Colorado.

So once I left my prior life and career in the hardwood lumber industry and my wife who’s like a traveling yoga teacher realized that we didn’t need to live in New York anymore. We asked ourselves where in the world or more specifically the United States because we’re not ready to leave the United States yet could we. And do we want to live.

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It’s a pretty daunting question. There’s 49 other states besides New York to live in. You know and we want to get out of the northeast so we bought a motor home and said let’s go and find out where we want to live. So we hit 42 states in 14 months with our family. Nice. Yeah. With your two kids and a dog loaded up the 42 of them and my wife who is leans more towards the beach culture and surfing and stuff like that.

I was like there’s no chance she’s going to want to move to Colorado. So. So we started our search in actually the northeast like New Hampshire and stuff like that and maybe buy a farm with the barn and you know raise some animals and just kind of live our life like this once you leave New York. You realize that most of the other states in the country not all but most are less expensive considerably than New York.

So your financial help offers a lot more options to leave New York. So that was one of the reasons why we did leave. Right. And you know the weather up there in New Hampshire in Maine was just too rough for us to even consider moving forward of that project. Sure. So then we cruised down you know the eastern seaboard down to Florida in some really cool places some good surf town is down there.

But you know my wife you know she wasn’t feeling it you know to move there. Like you know beautiful state. Lots of cool stuff but not there so then from Florida we hung a left and you know we weren’t trying to skip these other states there’s a lot of good things but you know it just seemed like a place that we could relocated we didn’t know anybody in these other states didn’t and they seem to not be as open minded as like Colorado or some you know these western states you know move into like Mississippi I don’t know anybody in Mississippi right.

How am I going. Like I don’t even know where to begin. If I was going to move down there. So you know so. So we got to Florida. We hung a left you know and went down the street across the southern border of Georgia Alabama Texas and we knew no offense to any of those places we knew those weren’t any states that we wanted to look into.

So you get to California and yet we love California and stuff but there’s some issues that don’t jive with our belief systems.

So we skip California and then you got Washington and Oregon which are absolutely beautiful States great and but everybody told us you know you’re not going to see the sun for eight months. It’s hard. It’s hard. So we’re like not going to do that one right away. We knew about Colorado all along. It wasn’t like it was like a surprise like we were saving that for more of the end of the trip to Lake you know. Right.

So let’s not just go straight there. Exactly. Exactly. In the country Let’s adventure Let’s see what else is out there. To people. And there’s a lot of other really cool places that we like. Madison Wisconsin is a really cool little town. You know they’re growing. They’re growing their produce like in the middle of the highway is like in the medians it’s like really like vultures thinking culture over there and you know when we left the earth got to Cleveland Ohio we could live here like you know.

But you know certainly it just wasn’t. It was still more of like the same type of light lifestyle. You know we really wanted to change our lifestyle. So in places like Montana and Idaho and you know I grew up in New Jersey, seventeen hundred people per square mile.

And then you get to a place like Montana where there’s seven and it was pretty nice. You feel it.

Yeah. You really feel you spread your wings a little bit. But still like so isolated you know for like you know our star type of lifestyle. So you know we came down to Colorado and you know we thought maybe Boulder you know a lots of friends of relocated to Boulder. Good friends. And it just was still like two hours from the mountains. It was a big deal for us and it was just a very busy fast paced little city you know.

So just we wanted to be more in the woods so Breckenridge really was the sweet spot. You know 90 minutes or 90 minutes to two hours to the international airport 90 minutes to downtown Denver and you know world class alpine skiing and all kinds of other things so. Sure. What I didn’t like as far as the business goes a million and a half people come through this town every year so I figured out a good shot you know compared to other ski towns for sure.

Absolutely. I mean that’s that’s part of the special thing that’s going on in this town in particular and it’s a handful of towns in Colorado have kind of achieved this real solid almost four year four season economy right. They’ve diversified and they have great people in town making sure that these million and a half tourists are coming in almost steadily. I mean obviously the ski season still dominates but but summer is just as big. It seems like. Yeah exactly.

You know the biking and the hiking and all the events I mean just before you know I talked to you as I was speaking with the people over the break create and you know all of the things that they’re doing as part of their charter with the city to keep the calendar full. And you look at the calendar for Breckenridge or something like every day.

It’s crazy. I can’t I never I never even anticipate any of this moving here. You know right.

You don’t know when you come here to just to travel just to go skiing for a week. You’re just that’s all you do. You show up at the mountain. You go to the mountain. Exactly. And so yes it’s totally different when you get to move into a place as a local like that and just start making friends and really and then opening a business.

You know how did that all pan out. Like you when you moved here I’m sure you had some you know you’d been developing some thoughts when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat of a motor home for 14 months. You had a lot of time to think I’m sure.

But you know in this time you know you had your wife who had been diving deep into the lifestyle and you had you know kind of already been there for a long time but just really letting your culinary education kind of percolate around you know how you wanted to make it fit your life. And you know your views on you know what healthy eating and healthy living is all about. And so there was the opportunity to allow you to kind of open Piante Pizzeria up and right here in Breckenridge.

Well we didn’t initially think that we wanted to open up a pizza place because you know I’m a pizza lover connoisseur coming from New York and actually turning vegetarian allowed me to eat pizza. You know being vegan there’s no pizza but vegetarian you can eat pizza and like you know running around with a young family and I’m doing work and doing stuff like pizza was always the constant comfort food.

I could go into a pizzeria by myself get a couple of slices sit down and not feel weird like most other restaurants it’s like you don’t usually go into them and sit by yourself because like when you sit in a restaurant by yourself I mean it’s all cool and all but it’s also a little you know it could be a little weird.

You know I don’t know but I’m fine with it now. But you know so it was just really great food for me and it kept me from going vegan for a year and a half. Literally that was the only thing that I would eat that was not vegan for radio. And we were vegan or house and stuff like that. So I thought I was with come out here and open up like a little coffee shop the bakery because I figured I could sell sugar anybody.

Like people don’t care if they see a cupcake they don’t care if it’s vegan or not. You know when they when they’re eating pizza everybody has an opinion about pizza. Sure. You know it’s one of those foods that has a history. It’s a communal food.

And I was just like man thank God this Japanese vegan woman named Miyoko out of California really perfected the art of making cheese out of nuts. OK. And she made this vegan cheese. It’s just so it coincided with when the vegan pizzeria was like coming into form. And when I discovered the shoes I was like wow I can make like real Neapolitan pizza with this cashew based cheese and people don’t even know the difference. Right

. And that really is. It really was the hang up and that’s something like you said is really recent. I mean even if you are not vegan or not even a vegetarian but you were just open to go into the restaurant sometimes and trying this food. The cheese would be a hangout like if you’ve got a veggie burger with the cheese on it. You’re like oh. So. So that’s a recent thing actually that allowed you to do this.

Yes. It’s very recent and it’s one of those things that it’s really exciting to be in on the ground floor like with these other companies and the fact that it’s blowing people’s minds when they come into the restaurant that they can’t believe it’s of being type of situation because we we really follow the laws of Italian Neapolitan to laws of making pizza. Crust and our sauce all that type is like really traditional Italian Neapolitan style pizza. Right. And then the only the only variation this cashew based she’s right you know and that’s interesting like you mentioned that it’s it’s not really just you you’re know being on.

At the beginning of a trend including like your suppliers and your vendors and things like that you’re kind of all on a journey together. Yeah totally. So that’s really that’s amazing. So you found a place in Breck that had the wood fired.

Well that’s the other story here. Move to Breckenridge and we moved in August and it’s probably like now late late September we’re just starting to settle into our house and stuff and I was just like man like now what.

You know I mean I do want to you know get on the mountain and go snowboarding every day. But this is October and you know I’m 40 43 year old guy. What am I going to do with it like that. I’m not here to snowboard. You know to do something you know. So I went on my phone. I was like restaurants for sale in Breckenridge. And I didn’t have a huge budget on financing myself so this little pizza place was for sale.

And I went and checked it out and I was like I could afford this and it was more like we didn’t have a business plan we didn’t like you know it was just my wife and I we really didn’t know many people up here or the culture or anything and we went over there and really let’s just see if we could do it right.

That was all as I can we do it. Will people respond to this if we could do it here in a place where there’s not a vegan restaurant for 50 miles and then I feel like we could really do it in a lot of other places too. So it was more like you know just to see you. We’ve never done this before. Sure. So can we do it in like you know it wasn’t a huge risk if it failed.

You know it wasn’t going to like bury or family or anything like this. It’s been quite a learning experience from just like all the stuff still regrettably in the restaurant to getting your license to getting logo’s to getting banking accounts. I mean it was an arduous process you know. So anybody that wants started a new business just be ready that there’s a lot of unexpected things that are going to come your way like insurance and taxes and stuff like that like always be prepared for those type of things you know and those are the things that get people right.

Like I have this idea. Having the idea is one thing like kind of executing on the idea and especially a lot of times when you’re dealing with the kind of creative type types of people that’s those are the things that are really hard for them and that are the stumbling blocks. That’s the reality of owning a business right there in your city taxes on time and all that kind of good stuff.

Well I tell people all the time that like you know if I if I just had to rely on the culinary school part of my education in life then the place I would have been closed in a month.



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You know it was a twenty seven years of business in New York in doing that. That’s that’s what kept me going. Right. You know. Yeah. The culinary school was great but you know I mean that gets you the good recipes and understanding how to run a kitchen. Right. But that’s that’s one part of it. Sure. You know well and getting people is the other huge part. Oh yeah. And that’s terribly warn me about up to.

And not warm like warmed in the sense of what you’re dealing with just of a population that they’re coming into seasonal work and things like that. And so they just having that the time I think there’s a culture in the restaurant industry and in the in the world especially when it comes to tourist towns that you’re going to get late. You know not great workers and people that are like focused on other things and you know they’re just doing it to like pay their rent and get their lift pass.

And I haven’t had that experience really. I mean the workers that we have are they seem to be very enthusiastic about working in the restaurant and I feel like we’re we’re building like a little family over there. Tell you the truth with these people and I really want to put a lot of effort into this interview and into the world is that lake. But we put our time and effort into our staff and not worry about you know quarterly profits and stuff because at the end of the day the staff will get you there.

It may not happen in two months. I’m in this for 20 years and I don’t know if like I don’t care what happens you know at the end of this quarter. Right. You know I’m worried about is going to happen 10 years from now. Sure. And the better I could train my employees and the more loyal I am to them and they are to me the faster they will get the better they will be with my customers. And overall everybody wins right. You know I’m not too late to be your bottom line profits at the end of the month you know.

Sure. And you know there’s a lot of you have a chance to go and visit your business over the course of kind of this whole weekend that I’ve been staying here you know hanging out in the back of the kitchen you are really seeing that just the people there do seem to have attracted an amazing crew and you’ve kind of mentioned that the words kind of get now that it’s a nice place to work.

You know it’s a good atmosphere. And that’s absolutely rubs off when you walk in that place you feel it and then you know the other thing you mentioned is you know it’s not totally focused on the bottom line. A lot of that also spills over like into your ingredients and we spoke a lot about a lot about that. You know the tomatoes are something like the cost between the cheapest ones and the best organic ingredients usually isn’t really all that great.

Now it may become a when you add it all up with all of the different ingredients it is an investment in those things but that that’s just important to you it’s not you know you’re not getting the cheapest ingredients you’re probably getting the most expensive ones.

But it totally shines in the quality of the product at the end and that’s something that comes back to you know your kind of culinary education and things like that to restaurants. You had a chance to get involved with is just like I’m not a great chef. You know you don’t have to be a great chef if you have the best ingredients you’re your products. Probably going to be pretty awesome.

That’s usually what they say right. You know and like I see a lot of restaurants out there they spend a lot of money on advertising and you know commercials and all kinds of things that discounting their food and happy hour specials. This is like the restaurant world this is like the business of running a restaurant. And like we’re not doing any of that stuff we’re actually trying to change that model. It’s like not to pay my employees are going to pay for my ingredients.

You’re not going to see my advertisement on the front page of the newspaper because I’d rather put my money into my ingredients to my employees than into advertising and discounting the artists. It just makes more sense to me. I mean they might be 99 percent of restauranteurs out there telling me that I’m out of my mind and that’s how you do it but that’s what I’m trying to do and it seems to be working so far so right. You know and the response has been great. It’s just been really good so far knock on wood.

Yeah. I mean it seems like not only is your staff becoming a kind of a little bit of a family over there but you’re developing kind of the regulars and the reputation and by you know you haven’t even hit your first comment this season yet. So those are really you know that that’s going to be really interesting to see how that goes. But you started off by building you know a reputation kind of in Breckenridge and also with all of us front Rangers who come to Breckenridge and it’s really shining through and all here as a community man.

The one interesting thing about vegans now I have to gluten free people to that list because we at Piante Pizzeria do make a you know in-house gluten free crust that people were like you know going crazy over they can’t even almost tell the difference for my regular crust so that’s doing really well but these people will travel for this type of food it’s like you know I tell people story all the time and I’ll get a group of six that came in from somewhere in the Midwest anywhere in the world and they all know about our restaurant they just stumbled in and they’re like oh you guys have like real cheese and I say that with quotes because the cheeses you know that’s another story about it or pepperoni.

You know we’re going to we’re all looking for you know what I find you know as Peter you know regular standard pizza place across the street once and I’m over there and the next group comes in of four and they came from Fort Collins which is like two and a half hours away and they came just to come.

They love Breckenridge but they’re coming to try our vegan pizza and they tell us and we have so much positive feedback from people. I think that also helps with my staff because they hear it like because I’m not there all the time. You know they’re the ones that want to go and talk to the chef talk to the owner or to tell people like how great when you’re serving people food that they never had in their 40 50 60 years old and this is the first time they ever had this in their life. That’s pretty it’s a pretty rewarding experience for whoever is involved with that process you know. Right

Yes. Because like you said it’s a whole experience from the minute they walk in the door. It like with the music you’ve chosen for it and I mean people come in and cry.

I mean I’ve had people literally like I haven’t had pizza in nine years.

Right and they’re crying because they can’t believe what they’ve had. They can have this experience again in their life you know. Right

Because they made this lifestyle decision and it involved cutting out certain things that they love that they love. Yeah sure. That’s amazing man.

Well it’s just seems like you’ve really touched on something and obviously you know trends in food are just changing and you know people even like me so I’m not a vegan. But I was just thinking to myself when I was making myself a cup of tea in your kitchen this morning that you know our pantries first of all I had to dig.

You know when you are at somebody else’s house I had to do all your covers so sorry about that. But you know your pantry doesn’t really look that much different than now. You know there’s a lot of the same stuff going on. And then I you know I might put it like some chicken on my salad or something like that. And then and then at the pizza place like same thing like pizza and a salad is probably one of my favorite meals.

Man. So of course you like I mean we’ve talked about the pizza we haven’t talked about the other stuff that’s on your menu but your salads are just they’re amazing. And then you know you have the pizza experience and you know I don’t need if the food is good and the crust is good and you know you’re getting these crazy toppings on there and it’s just clicking.

All of the kind of mental boxes of what you expect when you sit down for that meal than that then you’re satisfied when you came out you don’t really worried about. Well was that dairy. Right. It’s like you’re your mouth’s happy your brain’s synapses are happy. lay down your belly fat in your belly.

And then and then you walk out and you don’t feel like all heavy which is you know pretty like amazing to have that experience after a pizza dinner.

And I’ve got to say to like I want to add like I had a vision in my head of like my customer base when I open up I’m like that’s probably going to be you know millennials and more females than males just from my biased about you know veganism. Like from my chefs school class was two guys and 10 girls so like just going by those numbers I’m like figure in that it’s going to be more heavy on the female side.

But when I see guys that come in that look like bikers from Texas and I’m standing there and I’m like oh my god this guy is going to like have a fit when he finds out what I’m trying to sell him over here. And the next thing I know he’s hugging me because he’s been vegan for a year and a half and lost 30 pounds because his doctor told him to get off the animal proteins and he’s like so happy and hunted our restaurant down.

I’m like wow man I can’t believe like you know 75 year old people from Oklahoma come into my restaurant you know and you know you know sorry about my bias you know but like I’m like wow you are a vegan right. Yeah. Proud of it. And I’m like man I never would have expected you know.

Well that’s what happens when you take a chance right. And you know I mean you travel the country you say you had a chance to see people from all these different places and kind of experienced all that our country has to offer. And now they’re kind of you know you settled where fits your lifestyle but those people you know we’re we’re a country of road trippers man we love it.

But he knows that. And you know whether it’s in your wagon or on your motorcycle or in your RV man we’re on the road you know.

So even bicycles more on bicycles there. And because you rode your bike from where. It’s unbelievable.

So you know when you open the doors to a foodie experience like you get to have that special kind of interaction.

Oh that’s the other thing too is that like from traveling the country we realize that you know we could drive from Maine to Florida of Florida to the southern tip of California and from California up into the southern tip of Washington and find like vegging plant based food. Like pretty much without too much of an issue. But if I want to drive from the East Coast to Colorado and drive through the heartland good luck right.

You know and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to bring it here to Colorado because even Denver being a major metropolitan city I think only has one or two like plant based restaurants where it’s like there’s more plant based restaurants in Omaha than there are in Denver. And for me I like to be in Colorado with such a healthy focused athletic focus. I mean some accounting here I think is rated as one of the wealthiest counties in the country. And I it’s like how do you guys not have a good vegan restaurant or more healthy options out there.

You know I mean I’m sure I can find a great burger in about 25 different restaurants over here but we’re really the only ones that are purely drive purely for this type of food right now appear so. Right.

And you’ve hit it with like again like with an accessible kind of comfort as opposed to like you know some fancier plates or other stuff like that. It really breaks down a barrier.

Yeah well that’s the other thing that like you know just the plant based food. You know moving forward now in this country is just been exploding so the options now. I mean even in the last year I just found out that there’s like vegan cool whip too. I mean you know it’s like it’s not even hard anymore. Like where like in the past it was like you know people came into a vegan vegetarian restaurant and they were just expecting bland food that you know not really a lot of personality and you know I mean that’s what it was.

It was part of because the ingredients just weren’t there and they thought the recipes and you know what people are doing now like with cauliflower like you know I mean it’s just you know I don’t feel like I missed really anything nowadays being vegan right now where you know maybe five years ago it was much more challenging where you know you have these ingredients like tofu and temping or like I don’t even know what do I do with this.

You know but you know it’s evolving and it seems like it’s really moved because it’s good for us it’s good for the planet and it’s good for the animals. You know right. Mean

that’s you know those are all messages that resonate especially in our environment. Like you said we’re in an active healthy place. So. Well you know it’s man. Thanks for taking the time to sit down. I really wish you all the best with your new place. It seems like it’s headed in the right direction. But man the ski season is going to be it’s going to be wild is when night the crowds really start showing up around here because you’ve had a chance just to kind of you know figure figure things out.

Hopefully we’ll see what happens. Right. It’s only nine nine tables right now so that they are to make some more carve out some more space for and make a reservation. Hey good luck to you with the podcast man that’s really awesome that you’re doing this. I know the stories are fun and you know it’s really fun to connect with people so I think Colorado is a great it’s a really great you have a lot of great stories here. Man there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in this state for sure. That’s what I’m finding is that it’s limitless.

Awesome. Well thanks again. Best of luck and we’ll have you again soon man. Good. Great. Come on a pizza bye.

Everyone here thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jason. As always you can find any links to related content in the show notes to this podcast episode. If you enjoyed this episode please subscribe to this podcast on Colorado Podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave review if you have a few moments. It really helps out if you prefer to get our advice via email or use a podcast service. Other than Apple podcasts such as stitchery Android you can learn more at Colorado.FM/subscribe.

Thanks again. Hope you enjoyed this episode and we will talk to you soon.



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#010 Erica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Erica Mueller Crested ButteErica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast


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Crested Butte is a real favorite here in Colorado among the Colorado ski, snowboard and mountain biking crowd, hikers, leaf chasers, dog walkers whoever.  It’s just an amazing place to visit at any time of year, both the town and the mountain itself..

So for this podcast episode I made it out to Crested Butte to visit Erica Mueller, who is currently Vice President of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, but more interestingly daughter to Tim and Diane Mueller who began buying ski resorts in the 1980s.

Now, we’ll talk about this more in our conversation, but the Mueller family began their journey in the ski industry with the purchase of Okemo mountain in Vermont, where I’ve actually spent tons of time, in the early 80s.  Erica was just one year old at the time, so she’s literally been in the ski business her whole life and she offers some interesting perspective on what that was like growing up.

After realizing some success there they were able to purchase Crested Butte Mountain Resort in 2004.

We talk a bit about how Erica transitioned from professional snowboarding to joining the family business, addressing the challenges of being in such a high profile position in the Crested Butte community, new changes for this season as well as 5 year plan on growth.

Of course, I’m always picking my guests brains for great local tips and insight – favorite spots, stuff like that and Erica offers some great local knowledge.

Online, you can find Crested Butte Resort at skicb.com and on instagram @skicrestedbutte.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find references we talk about in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Erica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort.


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Show Notes

[03:30] A lifetime in the ski industry

[06:00] Turnaround stories, a focus on client service

[11:30] Not quite ready for the family business

[15:30] Ok, now I’m ready…

[17:45] First season as VP

[20:30] Explaining the recent change in ownership

[25:20] Maintaining a constructive, open relationship with the community

[30:15] Exciting changes, 5 year expansion plan

[33:30] Favorite ski runs and rides

[37:45] Who would Erica like to hear on the podcast – Karen Hoskin of Montanya Distillers


Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Crested Butte Mountain Resort:

On the Web: skicb.com

On Facebook or Instagram @skicrestedbutte.


Other References:

Evolution Bike Park

Teocalli Ridge Trail

Doctor Park Trail

Montanya Distillers (Erica recommends the Maharaja)

Steamboat Winter Sports Club

Okemo Mountain Resort

Champlain College



Erica thanks for making some time. I really appreciate you being on the podcast. I think our listeners are really going to enjoy getting the story from behind. Crested Butte and everything like that.

This just I was doing some research and I really came across some fun stuff. First time was being an Okemo person somebody who moved from the East Coast out to Colorado. I came across this picture of your family that Okemo in Vermont that was taken right right around the time when your parents Tim and Diane bought the resort so it was like in 1982 1982 was this little 1 year old girl in that picture in a little red jumpsuit.

Yes you’ve heard of this scene. Is it on your mantle at home?

We actually show it or welcome orientations for on the phone. So we came from. Yeah.

So excellent. But I saw that you know is just it really hits home that this.

You know business has been your entire life. And you know so I’m really curious know what was life like in the Muller household as a ski resort owner. And you know when did you start to realize that that’s kind of different and pretty special because you know when you’re a little kid it just is what it is. Right. But you know as you get older you kind of things start down on you like wow.


OK so I’ll start obviously I was a year and a half when my parents started chemo in 1982 and so I had I I’ve known nothing else. As you say one of the first times I remember somebody talking to me about it because I really did as a child and I think my brother did too that we didn’t know any different.

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We I thought my parents made as much money as the left operators and they probably did because everything they made they put back into the mountain to make it work. At the time.But I thought everybody was equal they were all part of my family growing up and I knew most everybody at the mountain you know it’s obviously a lot smaller operation when I was younger.

But anyway the story that I’m thinking of I was in daycare and that’s where I my child care was because it was obviously easy it was the daycare right at the resort there then them and I was playing with one of the counselors and she she I think I was on her lap or something and I was like swinging back and forth you know and she had my hands and she was like ‘So Erika and I didn’t really know where that well I don’t think she goes Erica Mueller. So your parents on the mountain.’

And I was like No they only own half the mountain. And she was like well what do you mean. And I didn’t really know what that meant but I knew that my parent that it was a Vermont State Park. Half of it was. And so my parents didn’t own the whole mountain Vermont own part of it.

And my parents owned half of it which is kind of funny and you know obviously as a you know I was probably for maybe it seems like you owned half of it you know I probably confuse the you know what out of her bed.

But I really I didn’t know any different. And I think my parents did an amazing job raising Ethan and I to just just be who we were and you know at school we are in a small town of course like I wasn’t any different I wasn’t special we were never treated any differently that we just we just got to school for free.

Well I think you’re doing some research.

I think it’s worth noting that I mean the industry in the 80s is totally different than what it is now. And on top of that you know these places weren’t booming businesses that your parents bought. They were failing businesses struggling businesses and not you know they didn’t move in and just buy something the way people kind of buy it.

Right. Just to have I mean the you know they’ve they really put everything they had into it and had to be really smart about how they turn it around and forces the whole nine. And then the industry again was just smaller back then.

Yeah totally. So when they bought Okemo it was actually community owned. I don’t know if you found that in your research but it it was owned by a bunch of locals and probably some New Yorkers and people from Connecticut who had been coming up but various shares were out there and so when my dad came across the opportunity they were actually down in the Caribbean and St. Thomas helping my grandparents with their resort and.

And they were looking to move back to Vermont which is where they had bought some property that they wanted to raise us and. And so they had. My dad had to get on the phone and try to get 51 percent of the shares and so he was calling each individual owner of you know various numbers and trying to get to the magical number I think he he got about 60 percent of the people or 61 percent of the shares and he couldn’t afford that much.

So like tell people no I can’t buy the kind of money.

But anyway when they bought it it was I mean it was going into bankruptcy. It was they only had surface left so there was no chairlifts they didn’t have any snowmaking infrastructure was about as basic and elementary as he probably could get at the time and.

And so when they got there actually the first year it didn’t snow till January. So they were like oh my god what did we do. We just put any type of savings or opportunity and we have two young kids and we’ve risked it all you know kind of thing.


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They they didn’t have money initially for any more investments to put into snowmaking or grooming operations or lifts at the time so they knew that they had to invest in their people and they had six full time year round employees at the time and they obviously had never run a ski area either so they also knew that they had to rely on their employees like what are we doing how do we make you know what you know and so they it was a big learning year.

And it just started to I think gain success because of their band their attitude their work ethic. Every dollar that they did make they they put back into the mountain. I mean you know we didn’t live a luxurious life by any means nor do we know that we live a good life and we live in a life in the mountains which is awesome but it just you know kind of snowballed over time and they saw more success and they really they kind of made us dance in the ski industry early on of guest service.

There wasn’t a lot of ski areas. Talking about guest service or trying to like make their guests happier or a better guest experience. It was really just about the product. Like how is the grooming How’s the snowmaking especially on the east obviously out here is a little bit different for snow quality.

They so they really started to talk about guest service and you know really welcoming people into our home and and how can we make them feel more welcome and have a great experience because they’re going to want to come back you know kind of things that are natural to all of us now and any hospitality place organization. But at the time it wasn’t really the ski industry’s focus.

Surely these places were a little more kind of hardcore right. And you showed up there was a lift or not even. Yes. If you don’t have a lift and you don’t have service I don’t know what you’re just the hills there and they cut the trees down. They get the trees out of the way. But the industry is it’s hard to even imagine it compared to what it to what it is now.

Yeah. And so they and then only the late 80s I guess after they had you know started to be able to put in some more chairlifts and get rid of some of the pamphlets that they had. They had a ski rider up there. They were you know hosting their PR person was hosting or something at the time and at the end of the weekend they were like well did you notice you have a good time. How was it in there. She was like you know it’s just a little different here.

You know like every replace has skiing in the snow is great in this and that but she was like your people are amazing and there’s something different about Okemo and they kind of just ran with that. And we still try to run our businesses that way. But that was like the the core and the ground of it. And we called it the Okemo difference and still do. And so a lot of our Guest Service Training tune out for them.

Well when you see that that works. No you stick with it. And then the capital type things is you know you can start adding right to that and you can start doing those types of things.

But that service orientation is a culture that I mean it sounds like you’ve you’ve brought to you as you started to grow and so we can kind of bring us up to where we are today a little bit in the sense that so your family acquires Crested Butte in 2004. So at that time you’re still I guess are you at UC Boulder at that time or are you. Are you snowboarding.  Are you looking at the family business or are you still just playing.

That’s a good question. I graduated in 1999 and I did a semester at UVM not really knowing what I wanted to do but I was getting that business administration together for that semester I guess I knew I wanted to still snowboard and I had competed in snowboarding in high school and I was seeing some success with it and I was like you know I want to make a career out of this.

I want to like kind of live that dream I wasn’t really ready to go to school and my parents were very supportive and I found a program in Steamboat the Steamboat Springs winter sports club. And so I moved there and started training with them in the winter of 2000 January 2000 and I guess I lived there full time from 2001 on.

But yeah. So I was competing in snowboarding I made the U.S. team. So seeing you know some fun success for that. In 2002 I did go to Boulder. So I always promised my parents I would go back to school. I didn’t know right off the bat that I wanted to be in the family business.

My brother did. He was like on that path and I knew it. But I guess I wanted to mess around a little more and I just I just wasn’t sure you know my parents always said to us like you don’t have to do this. You need to do what you want you need to do it makes you happy.

And so I guess I tried to explore that a little syllabled or I was going to for that semester I went for exercise physiology or kinesiology and I thought that was where I wanted to go you know into the sports sciences and snowboarding and I don’t know where it was going to lead me but. So anyway I went back to snowboarding again that that next winter and just I guess just kept going at it and I was not ready to fully commit to college.

I did eventually in 2006 say you know what. It’s time to figure this out. Online colleges we’re starting to you know be more prominent and my mom happened to be on the board of trustees for Champlain College in Vermont in Burlington and she was like actually funny you should mention that Champlain as you know really has been growing their online school program you should look into and I’m like oh shoot this could be good I could snowboard and I could live in Steamboat and I could travel the world for snowboarding and get my degree and that’s sort of like a date. I yeah like too good to be true right.

And I was able to to do that. And in three years and spending a lot of papers from Internet connections that didn’t want to support that and like Russia and Italy and you know wherever it was stressful at times that I felt super fortunate to be able to do that. And once I was done with snowboarding in 2010 I could just be done and start working and I guess through that time between I guess 2002 and 2006 is when I kind of decided that you know what my parents are amazing.

They’ve taught me so much. The ski industry is probably one of them most fun out there you know like why. Why would I not want to be. And we’re a very tight knit family so I think it just you know I just had to do it a little exploring and then come back to it.

Well I mean not every business needs you know every person at every stage you bring different things to the table when you come back. You’ve been around the world you’ve seen different places. It’s like you did market research for 10 years.

I totally did. I actually used to collect trail maps from everywhere I went. I’ve got those somewhere.

So it is kind of fun like hey we should bring in you know in Japan this resort had this cool thing with Ramen so.

So it was like say 2010 that you were like. I want to kind of get involved or it’s time it’s time to. I want a job and I want to see the life. I’ve looked at other jobs and yeah that’s another fun so. So. And then you started like how do you kind of enter into the business.

Yeah I I had done for school I had come down to Crested Butte one summer in 2008 and I did an internship program and the marketing department. And it was for school credit it was something I had to do to graduate so it kind of worked out well. They were actually hiring for an intern that summer so you know it’s kind of serendipitous somehow it wasn’t.

This time it wasn’t fully just handed a job which was posted that was posted there.

So I had done that in the summer 2008 and then in 2009 10 that was the winner of the Vancouver Olympics. And so I was gunning for that. And I unfortunately get really bad shined in Beijing and wasn’t able to compete the way I needed to. So I didn’t make the Olympic team.

And as soon as I found that out in the beginning of January it was like I’m done I’m moving across to you and it and I’m ready to start a career and not stress myself out with competing. And it was an interesting time too. You know it’s like this relationship that you’ve had with yourself for and you’re you know competitive spirit for so long all the sudden you’re like oh my gosh what am I doing.

And I guess I knew you know I knew what I wanted to do it was so deep rooted that I came here and the marketing department did give me a job or my dad gave me a job I could say that yeah help them out for the first time for that first winter and then eventually we needed a PR manager and so they put some faith in me and we had a consultant at the time I helped and I worked with her and were in the role of PR in that for a while and now here I am as a vice president. Somehow some way.

So you’ve climbed kind of those ranks you know and that’s been a lot of family business stories are similar in the way that you know you do have you do start your kids or grandkids in some cases or whomever. You know different roles and just let them progress up through the ranks.

I mean I read stories about your brother bussing trays at Okemo and things like that. So like you know you’ve you’ve had your hands dirty in different ways. But last season I guess was that your first full season as the vice president of the.

My brother moved back. Yes he had lived here from 2004 met his wife here had his kids here. And as my parents are getting older they’re you know born in 1950 so do the math. Don’t tell him I said that. But you know they’re not ready to retire anytime soon. I don’t know if they’ll ever fully retire but it’s time for Ethan and I to take on more responsibility and he was a general manager here for a few years and then started taking on more responsive realty with all three mountains. And. And so kind of a natural evolution was for him to go back East.

That’s kind of Okemo is where our headquarters are if we were to really label it a headquarters just because that’s the the base the root of where it all started. And we do have a couple triple peaks is the overarching company name and we do have a few triple peaks employees and they’re all based out of Okemo And so that’s you know for I.T. H.R. and accounting all those systems across the three are streamlined Otherwise each individual resort.

We want to maintain its character and brand and whatnot but so it was kind of a natural evolution that he was going to move back east and.

And so I got to be the lucky one to stay.

But you know it’s pretty important I guess for us as a family run business to have as much presence as we can and each place. You know I think it makes a big impact on your team and your employees to come to work every day just like they do. And you know if we’re busy and lift ups need someone to scan tickets or bus trays and you know some of the first one to be there and. And so just that day to day presence is important. And so like you said I got to be the lucky one to have the data.

You call it what it’s like minus 20 in Ludlow. Like how long did it last so sunny here I came to take a lot of thought.

Actually last year with a big storm that we got in January he was like trying to figure out any possible way because Ethan does come back about a month or week a month I’m sorry. Just to see how things are going and he still does. At the end of the day oversee the general managers. Sure can. So he like trying to figure out how to convince his wife that she needed to have a do a work trip in January last minute work.

But I don’t think she was buying this mission critical. Really fall apart totally. So funny.

That’s that’s amazing.

And but you know the Mountain of course is doing great from everything you read and this town’s doing great. You know depend on your perspective. Yes. And in the industry in general. You know Colorado’s just kind of booming you’re definitely riding a wave. To some degree it’s pretty amazing place to be.

Absolutely. But at the same time like it seems like right when you’re taking on all these new role and new responsibilities is when you guys announced kind of this change in the financial ownership of you know the company like your there is all this you know change from one big investment firm to another and there was this big 14 resort deal was that there wasn’t a challenge. When you first were stepping into that role. Because I know communities are getting tight when ownership changes happen. They want to know things.

But your history with these places and your you know your family history with the town must have been what made the difference as far as communicating with how this deal was going.

And it was it was a lot of communication I think because it is such a confusing deal for people. It’s it was really just getting the message out that nothing would change.

I mean we have a long term lease so to kind of explain it in 2008. Money was getting pretty tight and we as a small family business we didn’t have the banks were tightening up I guess and so for us to have any sort of access to long term capital was getting very challenging. And so my dad and a finance guy that we work with sold all of our assets as a sale leaseback.

So now instead of paying a mortgage quote unquote have to put in simple terms we pay a lease payment to this company or it was the company’s CNL lifestyles. And so as part of CNL and this is the confusing part. And they they had to liquidate their assets in a certain number of years after a certain number of years for their shareholders to stakeholders to get back to them and liquidate all their assets and however they wanted to do it they could either start a new real estate investment trusts or they really ideally wanted to sell the whole portfolio so it was really the whole transaction was at basically like if you put it into simple terms if I owned a mortgage on a house with the bank of the West and Bank of America bought it I would just be writing my mortgage payment to somebody else.

So that that’s really our relationship with CNL. I mean do you know we show them we have to approve capital budgets with them and we show them are operating budgets. But there’s no relationship in the sense of how we operate the resorts and so it wasn’t for a lot of people in the media it was like oh my gosh I crested butte selling or that you know what’s going on. But it really has no change for us. And so it was mostly just the communication of we’re still going to do the best that we can and operate as we always have.

And like you said it’s a long term relationship but it is interesting. If you only read the headlines you would not know what happened. It took me a little digging to really understand like the analogy that that you had trying to reiterate right and I was like oh well that totally makes sense right. It’s just I didn’t find that on the on the headline or in the first sentence but it was right out you know the bottom of the article were not a lot of people get these days by the time they’ve read that far they’re already told.

Just said Crested Butte sold with 14 other 13 other resorts obviously were always in the headline. But in Colorado we were right. So it was interesting. I mean I even had friends texted me like are you moving over right now.

So here you go. Yes.

So there’s been a lot of you know talk about that in town and you know some people I don’t know.

I think at the end of the day you know we’re we’re here in Crested Butte. We’re committed to Crested Butte rumors that we’re selling you know pie kind of because of this happen but now we love this place and we feel fortunate to be a part of the community there.

And it’s I mean it’s clearly an amazing town a lot of the people I’ve had a chance to speak with so far. I like to ask him at the end of course they’re you know kind of favorite place if they get a weekend with the family or and sometimes they mention local things and quite often they just go well. I like going to Crested Butte.

OK. Well what about the town you know so it’s clearly a special place and it’s you know locals favorite for sure. Do you.

I was just sitting down reading last night I was reading kind of one of the local papers when I was eating dinner and I guess there was some you know elections actually coming up in the town.

And so they had all the profiles of you know potential mayors and city council people and everything like that. How do you maintain a you know just like a real solid relationship with the community. I mean you have to align your your growth needs with the town’s growth needs with the towns desires to kind of stay small on one place which you know obviously. Is very difficult to actually happen the words kind of out.

Right. So it’s like I’m I’m not putting the word out. You give this podcast. I exposed how awesome Crested Butte is. Great idea.

So you know how do you like kind of keep that balance with you know the resorts needs the resorts business needs growth kind of needs and the demands from your customers with you know kind of what’s going on in the town. Because I mean even the town itself is growing and I know jobs are provided. There’s all these economic benefits but at the same time you know people who are just like it’s just you know they don’t want change.

They want it to come to Crested Butte and shut the door right now. Nobody else can come in after the road behind you.

Right. It’s interesting and that actually is the main part of my job I’m not as much in the day to day operations. We have a general manager Mike Kratz who has been with us for over 30 years and moved out to Crested Butte in 2005.

So he gets to deal with that stuff and I definitely am more of the community outreach person obviously the face of the mountain. But I would say you know we’re never going to be perfect but I think how in our approach as a family or my approach in general is to be as transparent as possible.

I think we’ve learned that through some hard lessons to be honest especially in this community it’s a lot more critical because it is solely dependent on tourism. This whole valley is I mean yes we have some other industry but it’s very small when you see the percentages. And so you kind of get the big target on your back up here. There have definitely been times when it’s not that fun but at the end of the day you know you run your business with integrity and you know the decisions that you’re making are in the best interest number one in your business.

But also therefore your community because your community is so dependent on you and I’m not saying that we’re perfect or we are you know always have the right answers and we don’t make mistakes but we do stand here with our heads held high knowing that we’re doing the best that we can and we hope that everyone sees that too.

But in terms of the count you know I work with the county quite a bit in economic development and you know community wide staff I do we meet with the town council or the mayors pretty frequently just say hey how are things going. What are you doing. What are we doing. You know just keep those open lines of communication. I think at the end of the day people they can form opinions that may not be based on fact. And so the more you can get the fact out there are the reasons behind your decision. The more people understand. Sure. But like I said we’re not perfect. I’m trying.

I think that’s just that’s life. Right.

There’s a lot of always different interests colliding and the best way is to kind of get together and be open and fair about it as it is to be.

What I hear about the businesses in general so and that’s one of the thing you know I tell everybody and I’ll repeat it here again just in case they’re listening you know. But you know we have an open door policy it’s one of the most frustrating things like if someone has a gripe or a concern and they post a anonymous. Wow anonymously on Facebook or they call the paper or write a letter to the paper to say what’s going on here what why is this happening.

Just call me come in you know like you saw my door was open and I was I was going to have to talk to somebody you get tossed like a duck. So I was by over to say it’s OK. I think what’s going on here. There’s no clear answer here.

No. But you know it’s just it’s kind of people’s nature to not necessarily if it feels uncomfortable they’re not going to come. But I welcome it. I want the opportunity to explain decisions that we make or why we’re you know doing something this way or haven’t dealt with this or you know whatever the concern is or the question maybe it’s not even a concern like I’m pretty approachable or it’s awesome.

So was I just going on what are you excited about for the next. Are there any changes from last year to this year that you’re super excited about with the new season coming in. Or are there some kind of three or five year things that you’re you’re super excited about. Or both.

I’m always excited for the snow to start to fall first foremost first and foremost.

I think I loved to ride my bike and so I’m always a little hesitant to start welcoming winter. But then when it comes it’s like that itch and anticipation that you just can’t shake. It gets pretty exciting so seeing the snow on the peaks is pretty fun. I think you know for this coming winter there’s there are a ton of huge changes I think really what we’re getting excited for is in the future.

I’m kind of putting together right now a five year plan now that the economy has stabilized a little bit. Obviously things are going a lot better for us here in Crested Butte than they have been or than they were after the downturn of the economy. And then Colorado in general they’ve kind of discarded a lot of voters out buying

But anyway so we’re you know putting together that five year plan we are currently in the NEPA process the national bimetal protection act process with the Forest Service for expanding some terrain and Forest Service land so that’s for us that’s pretty exciting. We hopefully will have a draft guess environmental impact statement this winter. So seeing the results of the studies which we know there are many concerns or any concerns but to see that out in public I think will be exciting and and to kind of get some rejuvenating. And you know the excitement about potential expansion and capital investments coming in here will be a pretty fun few years to be a part of.

What was the last what was the last like kind of major expansion has a mountain been in this state for a while.

In terms of the ski terrain terrain.

Yeah we did a few years ago we opened up some more extreme terrain kind of on the back side of the mountain actually very it will be lift accessed with this new expansion once that hopefully does get through the approval process but right now it’s hike out. And so this area called teow too. So we did open that a few years ago it was about 40 acres of more extreme terrain so it wasn’t anything major.

But you know especially for locals who have ski back there may be are you know have wanted to ski back there it was pretty cool and it’s some really neat terrain and different views that you don’t always see from the mountains so that was pretty cool. But other than that our footprint has been pretty much the salmon has been the same really since we got here I guess we added the prospect a lift which really services some slope side homes and stuff on the other side. Back of the mountain.

But the majority think the difference is this. So maybe in the next five years or so you know again pretty exciting because it’s the first maybe a more major. Yes the answer.

Yes and it’s going to be just about 300 acres or skiing and it’s you know intermediate skiing all the way to double lock time. And so it’ll be good for all of our guests that we read.

Pretty neat. That sounds fun. So on a powder day where without you you know you can lie to me you don’t have to give away your stash secret though like favorite runs like favorite area of the hill cache.

That’s a good question.

I pretty much just follow my husband.

He’s lived here for longer than I have. You showed me the way he’s looking thought. No.

How about with the kids when you’re when you’re if you’re with the kids and everything. What’s your kind of best routine area.

Well I don’t have kids and my nieces and nephew that’s OK.

You know it’s been actually fun. My oldest niece is almost 10 and then almost eight in the most three. So it’s been when they did live here up until last year. It’s been fun to see them expand their terrain. You know now instead of just going up the red lady left we’re going up the silver queen and they’re taking me through you know all these little tree skiing areas that you just have no idea even exist you know because for an adult it’s not even on your radar. But they’re you know trash and threw and fallen down and laughing. And it’s it’s quite a joy for me and a powder day. Gosh that’s a great question.

I think you’re always trying to time it with the terrain openings to get there early as well. Where do you go. It’s just how soon you can get there. Everyone’s always like to have a radio you know where patrols going on like now.

No I don’t. For those who don’t get up faster than anybody I have gotten a couple of special runs.

It has been glorious. But you know I think this this mountain has so much to offer in terms of fun terrain there’s really no other place I’d rather be on a powder day and like you said I have skewed a lot of areas. Now that’s probably an that’s a really good question.

We’re always like it’s about time. I mean I think actually probably one of the favorite from like a full experience actually is even just off the queen on the front side either like sunset Ridge or coming down the funnel and then you’re overlooking town you kind of feel like you’re going to ski into the town of Crested Butte or maybe off a cliff into the town of Crested Butte and you’re not. But you just feel like you’re right above and I think that’s a pretty neat sensation. It’s a little bit different.

And then you know on the other side like when you go out to Teo 2 and you’re overlooking absolutely nothing. You know not a single house not of any type of development is just natural national forest or even wilderness. And there’s something special about that. I think also I’d like to take it all in just the past.

What about you know you mentioned them you know the mountain biking around here is just amazing. I mean again I know it’s hard. But if you just had one day to head out on your bike is there any talk.

I’d probably do a Teocalli Ridge. Yeah that’s one of my faves. I get it.

I haven’t done that one. I’ve read about it. I’ve been doing some research and I don’t think I’ve done that one.

Yeah it’s pretty awesome and I have some snow on the ground of an uphill. Don’t get me wrong I like my bike for some of it.

But the downhill is amazing. I think Dr. Park is another top one for me that I could do over and over again and never have a dull day. And then honestly like the most I ride is here out my back window of my office and ride the evolution bike park it’s right there and I can get a quick lunch lap in or you know maybe a four o’clock laugh before I head home and I’m so proud of the trails that we do have here and what our crew has done. And it’s definitely not as trafficked as you know some of the more popular ones but I kind of like that.

You know a lot of times you know your favorite hike is the one on your back door is this the one you get to do right without having to drive it without having to really think too much about it. If you can just you just want to go and escape. Get it out. Absolutely not. You don’t have to plan. You know it right.

The last question I like to ask people on the podcast who would you love to hear on this podcast.

Go to I think well somebody. I’ll say somebody locally because I think she’s an amazing woman and has done a really cool thing with her business. Now she’s starting a new business. But Karen Hoskins from Montanya Distillers. OK she makes rum which is kind of an anomaly. There’s not many rum distillers especially in Colorado. And she’s just fascinating has done a ton of traveling in India and Nepal and has a great outlook and positive person. She’s just beautiful inside and out I guess I’ll talk to her.

That sounds like a great recommendation because I was funny I was walking around town getting dinner again like I mentioned last night. And I walked by there and I was like all distillery I was like rum I can’t think I’ve ever seen it at least again like you mentioned in Colorado. You’re starting to see a lot of distilleries joined the brewery movement.

I definitely don’t think I’ve ever seen a rum one. So now I’m going to put my head in there later tonight and see what that’s all about. They should get a Maharajah. OK.

The recommendation has been noted. Well you know I really appreciate you taking time. It’s been fantastic to come here and visit you on your home turf and get to soak in your office view a little bit. To back and see. I definitely will. And now that I know I know the doors open I’ll all come by and put my head and say hi to her. But thanks again I really appreciate that. Fantastic to meet you. You bet. Bye bye. All right. Thanks.

Thanks for listening I hope you enjoy this conversation with Erika on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast. I really had a lot of fun having the chance to meet her and get out to visit her on her home turf there. Get as always you can find links to any related content in the show notes in this podcast episode and if you enjoyed the episode please subscribe in his pockets on iTunes. Leave review if you have a few moments. If you prefer to get our updates via email or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as ditcher or Android you can learn more and subscribe at Colorado.FM/subscribe.

So thanks again I really hope you enjoyed this podcast episode and will talk to you soon.



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