Podcast

#019 Roofnest – Getting Off The Ground With Tim Nickles

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast for this episode with Tim Nickles of Roofnest.

Roofnest is an emerging player in the roof top tent niche and is based right here in Boulder, CO.  As usual, the story behind how Tim was inspired to start Roofnest is one I think you’ll enjoy.

Online, you can find Roofnest at Roofnest.com  and on Facebook and Instagram @roofnest.

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

Thanks a lot.

 


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Show Notes

[03:00] How we met – Maria at Smak Strategies (what’s up!)

[06:00] What inspired Roofnest

[10:00] Refining the product

[13:30] Startup vs Outdoor communities in Boulder

[16:00] Why Roofnest is different

[21:30] The product – features and what’s new

 


Relevant Links

Roofnest.com

Smak Strategies

Laws Whiskey House

Meteorite PR

 


Related Episodes

Eric Larsen – A Life of Polar Exploration

Joshua Berman – Colorado Camping and Purposeful Traveling

Jason Sperling – Family Nature Club

 


Transcript

 

It’s been really great to dig back into this project as I mentioned, had some great interviews already lined up and we might even have to bump up the frequency a little bit. We’ll see. But right now it’s great to get this next one out. Keep the, keep the streak alive. Anyway, in this episode I am speaking with Tim Nickles, the founder of roof top tent company Roofnest. And so they are local Boulder brand and you know, I had the pleasure of meeting him actually through another guest on the podcast. I’m through my interview with poler adventurer, Eric Larsen, so you know, that whole thing of starting this podcast and getting out there and just, you know, kind of expanded my local horizons and getting in touch with people, doing cool things in this area is really kind of paying off.

And that’s how I met Tim. So we kind of get into that a little bit. But uh, you know, for now the rooftop tents, you know, they’re pretty unbelievable if you camp at all, it’s pretty easy to see how it would be amazing to just pull into your spot and in one minute have your no camper all set up basically as opposed to, we’ve all set up tents in the dark and in the rain and the wind gets a little hairy but you, it’s really, really an interesting product in and he’s getting some great press and some great reviews on, on the Roofnest. So we get into that a little bit. And of course if you’re in Colorado right now or if you’re even thinking about getting up here, it’d be a beautiful time to test out one of these. I mean, you know, the weather just follow appear spectacular.

 

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We talk about what he’s trying to do with this company, how he’s a little different than some of the other brands, how we got started, you know, what inspired it. And it’s just a great, it’s a great story. You seem to be doing well and it’s, you know, it’s really cool to watch. So as always, links to a him. You can find Roofnest at Roofnest.com and on instagram at roofnest and we’ll put links to anything we speak about in the show notes. I also just wanted to mention that I did start up a new page on Colorado.FM. There is a shop page and if you go on there you can find links to a lot of the brands that we’ve either spoken to or even people that we hope to speak to in the future. Just cool local companies. Um, you know, it’s a good way to find them and support them and you’ll be supporting the podcast and the process. So, uh, let’s get into it.

Go my conversation with Tim Nickles of Roofnest.

Alright, we’re recording. Nice. Tim Nichols. Doug, thanks for showing up man. It’s good to see you again. Yeah, likewise man. Great scene.

And you know, just I was thinking when back to like how we even met, I definitely wanted to give Maria over at Smack strategies like a call out up and little call out because um, we met at her Christmas party and she does some, some great things and represent some cool people. So I was actually curious how you got even dialed in with her. Well, Maria and I have known each other for Gosh, 10 or 15 years. She’s part of a crowd of friends that I’ve known in boulder for. Yeah. 15 going on 20 years. Some of them. So yeah, I’ve been knowing her for a long time and we just got to talking one day and I knew that she was in pr and I started to need that and uh, you know, met at a coffee shop and, and didn’t even really start to talk about her really working for me.

But she said, hey, I’ve got someone I could send your info to it Outside. And that ended up turning into like one of our biggest splashes in terms of pr, but you know, and it was a supernatural to hire her. Just given common friends and interests and she does a great job. So yeah. Well, she um, has, you know, she really hooked me up too because she reached out and had her husband, Eric Larsen. Yeah, I’m over on the show and that was like cool, amazing for his grade and to have started this little project and next thing I know I’ve got like, you know, this polar explorer the couch, right. So, uh, so that was awesome. But, so I did want to give her a little bit of a shout out in, uh, in uh, her Christmas party was Super Fun and there was lots of Bourbon as I remember.

Yeah, it was at a bourbon distillery. Yes. So a cool, awesome. Well, um, you know, you mentioned being around for awhile, like one of the, you know, we’ll, we’ll definitely get around to talking about roof nest and, and, and things. But I am, you know, this is a show about Colorado and one of the common threads is that we’re all here and that this place is pretty embarrassing and yeah. And not all of us have been around for 15 or 20 years. So, uh, so what brought you here in the first place? Yeah, I came to boulder in August of 1990 to start graduate school at the University of Colorado. I was studying molecular biology and biochemistry at that time I was Kinda in line to be a scientist and yeah, came here pretty, pretty, pretty bright eyed about Colorado. I was pretty stoked on it. And um, you know, Grad school didn’t go quite as planned.

I left with a masters from a doctoral program Kinda abd as they say and um, but yeah, ended up really loving boulder and have stayed here pretty much ever since with some stints in other places. Was in Jackson, Wyoming for a few years and yeah, I gotcha. Yeah. So it’s one of those come to see you and I almost never leave. Yeah, I constantly storage and yeah, exactly, exactly. And uh, you know, I could only imagine what this place was like. I mean going on 28 years ago, eight years ago, it had some of the same features, but quite a bit different. Quite a bit different feel. Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s cool. Well, um, I’m guessing, you know, it’s funny, I was thinking about, so I’m guessing you liked camping and, or maybe you hated trying to sleep on the ground, you know, it’s not always easy to get a good night’s sleep when you’re canceling.

So, so roof nest. I’m like, how did that come up? Kind of a kind of a funny story really. Um, I spend a lot of time in Chamonix France. Um, I’ve been going there for about 14 years and actually headed there and a couple of weeks. Um, but, uh, I have a buddy over there, Jim Lee who had a rooftop tent, a hard shell rooftop 10 on his vehicle and you know, had camped with him and my other buddies, they’re quite a bit and always thought that was a pretty cool setup. And a couple summers ago I was starting to think about building up an adventure rig and kind of didn’t have much of a budget at all. I was um, you know, not, uh, not, not flush. And so I bought a astro van Chevy Astro van for a 2,700 bucks. Super great condition. I got really lucky with it and um, my plan was to kind of build out the inside a little bit, but then put a rooftop tent on top, you know, as a way to like have a full on camper rig without having to like totally trick out the interior.

And um, what I found was it was pretty difficult to get a, an rtt for in my budget. I mean my budget was like, you know, one to $2,000 and you know, I was, everything I was seeing was like four or five, stuff like that. So I had done a lot of, or some sourcing of manufacturing in China for the bike industry. I kind of had a little stint where I was selling pedals that I designed and you know, had bought parts, bike parts and built bikes from stuff over there. So had some experience. And so I started looking into whether there was manufacturing in China and found some okay options and kind of got some tense shipped over. And um, you know, some of those initial ones were okay but not a definitely needed a lot of improvement. And um, what happened was I had never really thought about starting roof nest directly, uh, but once I had got the 10, I was like, oh, this might be a thing I could sell and thought maybe I could get 10 of these and, you know, make up some name and, and sell them and then kind of put that idea to the side.

But I had taken a craigslist ad out, um, for rooftop tents just to test the market and got some responses. So I was like, ah. And then coincidentally, like two months later, someone just sent me an email at random was like, Haiti, are you still selling those rooftop tents? And of course I just had one on my van. So I was like, oh yeah, well, um, yeah, I have a prototype model that’s not branded. But, uh, you know, I’ve been using it as a demo. But yeah, I could sell that to you for $2,000. And he said, done, I’ll take it. And he lived in Grand Junction and it was getting on December and I, um, met him at the copper mountain parking lot at, went up with four friends in my van and we skied copper and I quit early, came down to the parking lot, uh, we just pump the thing off my van and put it on his four runner and he gave me two.

Granted, I was like, this is a business, this is on, you know, and I promptly like started brainstorming names and looked into building a website and uh, um, yeah, it was kind of off to the races from there, you know, I maxed out a couple of credit cards to get the manufacturing up and running and then it’s just been a constant iteration of, of trying to improve the product and, you know, get the message out to more people that are for sale. And I’ve been lucky. It’s been very well received and it’s been an easy business to, uh, to grow.

Right. Wow, that’s great man. And it’s a little of that story and it’s just so kind of Colorado. I love the deal in the copper part. Totally down is just its roots, but that’s, so that model was kind of more like off the shelf of something you found and then so then you started iterating on it to improve it and bump up the quality. Because, I mean, one of the things I noticed is, I mean there was one of the videos on your website. I think there’s a lot. I loved it. There was these two people setting it up on the side of a road and the wind’s howling so bad that you clearly can’t even hear them talking or anything like that. It’s just like,

yeah,

and you know, you can still pop it. So I’m, I’m assuming that, you know, those first ones that you ordered probably weren’t up to snuff. They were

okay. But yeah, just so many of the features, I mean it’s a simple thing really is just two shelves with hinges and gas struts with a mattress on the inside. But as, as everything, I mean there’s so many details that go into making it a, a nice product. And I was, uh, I, I found a factory that I was able to create an exclusive relationship with and really start working on my own designs and um, and that’s been super productive because, you know, I’ve been over there a couple times and you know, I’ve met the people at the factory and you know, have a really good open communication with them and we’re constantly talking about improvements and you know, it’s always a struggle. You want to keep a sort of set feature list on your product so that you don’t have a bunch of different models out there.

But, you know, we’re constantly making improvements. And um, now we have, I think a great product. It’s super competitive quality wise with the other kind of top brands out there. And that’s been a lot of work to get there. Right. Well, and I, you know, it’s funny, I haven’t written down to ask you about that process of finding the manufacturing and everything because you have a lot of people you talked to are dealing with like digital projects these days and things like that. And you just don’t get like these, like, or people manufacturing locally where you can control a lot of that process, but you know, finding that manufacturing overseas and things like that can be a real deal breaker for a lot of people. And so, you know, having established that relationship I’m sure is pretty clutch to for sure. Maintaining everything. Yeah. And, and like I said, I think I was very fortunate with what I was able to find and create.

But it, it’s been constant work. I mean, I, I think last year, you know, uh, my factory, uh, the context of their wake up at about five or 6:00 PM Colorado time, so pretty much all last year and most of this year, uh, and, and still to some degree, but I’m, you know, I work all day on the business and then I work all night, uh, communicating and, and uh, stuff with China. So it’s been, yeah, it was a difficult, uh, last year and the start of this year, we’re, we’re a pretty tough on the old social life and everything else, you know, just like pinning it. Just a burnout espresso machine. Totally, well, what about like, um, like locally, I mean such a great, you know, startup infrastructure in boulder and such a great community especially for such, for a gear type product and things like that. Like how has that been?

Like, what, you know, aside from knowing people like Maria, I’m like, what has it been to be part of that kind of more like a startup thing in boulder? Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. There’s two elements that you spoke of. One is the startup community in boulder and the other is the outdoor community and those two don’t really overlap a ton. I mean there’s outdoor startups here. We’re one of them, but for the most part, you know, a lot of the startups or tech companies and then the outdoor brands are, they have presences here, presence here. Like, you know, Dina fit has offices here, Selayla and lots of other companies obviously. So it’s been really great to create some local partnerships for both, like branding, getting the word out, doing events together and um, and then, you know, as far as the startup infrastructure, you know, I’ve definitely attended a lot of talks and events and stuff to learn what people do when they’re starting a business.

And, you know, it’s interesting. I think so much of what I’ve done has been. I’m just making it up as I go along because some of the challenges I’ve faced are different than the challenges other companies have faced. And I think especially in the tech world, the whole kind of startup thing, you know, uh, you know, startup, even just that phrase is somewhat new. I mean we used to call that a business when you created a business, now it’s a startup and now it’s like a, you know, there’s all venture capital and all this stuff. And you know, I basically self-funded, like I said, I’m maxed out a couple of cards. I actually borrowed some money from my mom and you know, it was a little. I actually took a loan out on my car. I didn’t even know you could do that. I owned my old Volkswagen Jetta and I called the bank and I was like, I need money. They’re like, well, what do you got? You got a car? I was like, yeah, I got a car. It’s like, well, let’s, let’s put a loan on it. So yeah, it got some. Got some capital there and so yeah. And it’s, you know, so, you know, I haven’t been in that infrastructure of the startup community as much, but uh, you know, it’s been good to be here. I definitely have friends and a context that have provided a lot of assistance and advice and that’s been helpful.

Right, right. Well, you know, it was funny, we were just starting to talk before we even hit the record button and we had to, I had to stop us, but um, you know, so you’ve created this company, we won’t call it, you know, so start up. It’s real one. It’s like, thank you. We’ve got a, you know, a, a cool product in and there’s. But there are other people doing what you’re doing. There are, you know, some of these other brands out there and uh, you know, I do see the difference between your, the hard shell ones and kind of those soft ones and, but I am starting to see you around town man. I definitely see roof nests out there. But, you know, one of the things that you, you mentioned that was, that, you know, you’re, you’re different, you know, like you’re trying to be not only like a different product and different companies. So like let’s kind of talk about what you’re trying to do with it.

Yeah. So I’m pretty frugal person and I, I always like to find the best value in things that I purchased myself, cars, bikes, whatever. And uh, what I’ve wanted to create is a company that can sell a really good value to customers. And I, again, as I said I, you know, I’m kind of making all this up as I go along, but what I understood the way to do that to be was to sell direct to consumers, kind of control as much of the distribution supply, etc. Etc. As I can intErnal to the company. So I can kind of save costs at each stage and not have to pay third parties some of my margin. And uh, you know, I, I worked on this company by myself for a long tIme and now I have several really great people working with me, but I in the beginning, that was part of it too.

And I think one of the big features of roof nest is that direct to consumer thing. I mean, we don’t have a dealer network that we need to build in a margin, uh, to sell a, at a higher price. And, you know, I, I, you know, I, I, I always tell people we’re selling wholesale to the public, which is true. I mean we, um, uh, you know, we get the proceeds of every sale, so that allows us to put that back into the business and keep our prices really competitive, which there are several companies making not only hard shell but softshell rooftop tents and, you know, as a new brand, I think we’ve had to offer pretty competitive pricing just to get out there until now. I think we have a pretty good reputation. You know, there’S a lot of revIews and discussion on the web and we have a super good customer user community that’s very supportive and I think that’s helping us.

Um, you know, people aren’t sort of saying like, who the heck is roof nest and you know, why should I buy their 10? But um, but, so that’s the main thing. And then like I said, keeping all the processes of, you know, creation, supply, distribution, warehousing, we’ve, we’ve set up all those things to be as inexpensive as possible. You know, we’re warehousing in los angeles, all of our ocean freight goes right to there and get stored and um, you know, we ship all over the country and even north America from there, uh, you know, we used to do that in Denver, but it was really expensive to bring the tense, all of them, overland storm in Denver. And so, you know, this is just all to California where they had then. Yeah. And then sell it to someone in la. Wow. It’s just, they’re kind of silly.

But yeah, it’s been. Yeah. And that’s all, like I said, been stuff I’ve had to learn on my own. I haven’t had anybody to sort of teach me how to do that, you know? Yeah. Well, and now you’re like a employing some locals too. you just got to be a good feeling. Jobs, man. Totally, totally, totally contributing to the local economy is. Yeah. My first hire was my next door neighbor. Right. All I didn’t have to go far. Just like conversation in the parking lot. You already saw them standing there. It’s like, I know you’re not working, man. Yeah, that was perfect. That’s awesome. So like you said, you’re not, it’s all direct sales. So are you doing even anything like, uh, you know, it was at the outdoor retailer show here. I mean, but for most people that’s just about landing, um, you know, you’re not really meeting direct customers there.

You’re meeting retail outlet. So I don’t know if that was a big deal for you or I’ve, I’ve, I’ve gone to a couple out to our retailers, that’s where I met you really associated with the first one last winter. And um, yeah, it’s not really our show, we don’t, we don’t buy space there or anything. I mean, I go and I, I talked to people and meet some folks and stuff, but um, yeah, not, not our gig grade now, you know, we thInk about distribution as channels, retaIl channels and online channels and this and that and the other thing and you know, it, it’s just in today with the technology and people using the web for so many things. People buy a lot of things off the web. I mean, that’s nothing, that’s not news. Not mad. I’m not, you know, making news here. But uh, it, it’s been really effective for us to set the company up to sell to people online, you know, getting information out there online, getting video content, that’s always a challenge. But, you know, just making it easy for people to make that call.

Cool. Well, let’s, um, so let’s talk about the product a little bit. We talked about, you know, a lot, you know what I mean? It looks like you’re getting some great feedback and great reviews out there. I mean, I read some of the articles that you have online on, you know, you know, some great magazine. yeah, kind of feedback and uh, so how are you loving this thing? I mean it’s just the rooftop tent thing, just the idea of getting off the ground and getting caught up in the air. It seems to me like the only challenges, making sure your is like in a level spot. Yeah. Other than that, I mean,

yeah, you got no worries. Yeah. The nice thing about our tents is they pop straight up so you don’t need any thing to the left or right of your vehicle and you’re kind of self contained, just like a, an old westfalIa camper van type thing and you know, the sprinter craze that’s going on now, you know, it’s all just, you know, right in that space where you park and, and yeah, I mean leveling your vehicle. Really nobody mentions that. I mean, you know, a lot of overlander have these uh, you know, a little plastic things that they bring with them to level their vehicle. and of course if you get way out in the back country, you know, that can be an issue, but you know, a lot of our market is people that are, you know, just using these things for weekend getaways and they’re not necessarily going up to a mountaintop to camp, you know, they’re kinda near some infrastructure and so pretty easy for them to find flat ground.

But yeah, I mean the beauty of a hard shell rooftop tent like roof nest is you can literally park your car, you undo a couple straps, they pop up on gas struts, you can be inside the thing within a minute of pulling your car over, which is unlike any other camping experience other than a camper van or a our rv or that sort of thing. You know. And these, they go on any car, we’ve got them on cooper mini’s and prius’s and that sort of stuff. So it’s really open to anyone. You don’t need to buy another vehicle, you just used the vehicle you have and you don’t need another parking space for an extra camper vehicle. It’s like, you know, and they’re pretty easy to put on and take off. I mean, I think normally if, if somebody’s got a decent rack and there’s enough clearance to kInd of access everything, you can get these on in 15 minutes. You know, I had a guy come to my house to borrow one the other day and we popped it off my jetta and popped it on his truck. Took us less than 10 minutes, you know, all said and done. So you know, you can take them off if you want to use the car for something different or, or seasonally or whatever.

Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s amazing because uh, you know, I did some road trips with my two little kids and I was like, thinking that would have been killer. It would have been perfect for that situation. You know, you’re just like boom, pop the thing up. and uh, you know, it stores like, you know, everyone talks about, you know, a lot of the bedding and things like that are kind of in there. So it’s just like literally ready to go. Which kind of begs the question of whether I could just like leAve my kids in there like, or even like, like you know, men, you go camping long enough. Even like a regular adult campIng partner, you might want to just close them in there for like a few days, but if it’s too long you can get on each other’s nerves lately. You need to stay on the roof, man.

You guys just put your headphones on. Yeah. Now it looks like pretty. I mean the benefits seem pretty obvious even compared to like um, you know, the westfalia type type things. The one thing people kind of complain about in that whole setup scenario is that, you know, if you’re kind of parked here and you want to go drive even just a couple of miles away to whatever the actual feature of, you know, that you came to see is that it takes you an hour to actually pack the whole van backup, go over there, you know, for the day and kind of come back where it seems like um, you know, with if it’s just your 10 on top and not like a whole bunch of other stuff. Like yeah, like a little less of a deal. You can just like slammed that tent down and like get out of there in a few minutes and come

certainly compared to like a ground tent or any other kind of camping setup. And you know, a lot of places, uh, I camp and other people camp. I mean you can leave stuff set up at your camp site and just take off for the day. And so yeah, pop in the tent down and driving somewhere pretty easy. Yeah. Yeah. It looks like fun, man. It looks like a good way to camp, that’s for sure. And I’m sure it’s been a fun thing to be involved with. That’s the cool thing about running a, an outdoor business, especially one involved with camping is, you know, everybody I deal with is pretty chill. I mean there’s always the exception, but like most of the people uh, are out there trying to have fun trying to get more adventure in their life and you know, it’s, we’re just sort of facilitating that and it’s a cool thing to be doing.

Well. It’s funny, I was just thinking, uh, you know, speaking of erik larson, when is he, when we were speaking, he was saying how when he was growing up, all he wanted to be was a, like a professional camper basically. Yeah. I’m like, well that’s kind of funny and I think maybe you’ve pulled it off. Yeah, like a, you. Yeah. I have a, like a 10 company that I may be a professional

camera, might be a professional camera. That’s awesome man. Anything else? Anything coming up for like new year, like I know you’re trying to, it seems like you’ve, you’ve got, you know, ford models or something like that, you know, you’ve got the basis covered as far as size and different vehicles. We’ve got some new stuff that we’re working on that hopefully will be telling people about this winter, you know, get ready for 2019 spring and stuff. We’ve, we’ve introduced some accessories, you know, just other products that go with the whole car camping thing. We’ve got a 12 volt fridge that was branded roof nest and we make this a down blanket that’s actually a super cool piece of kit. It’s like a seven foot by six foot big puffy down blanket, like a technical sleeping bag with no zippers, you know, so it’s great for the roof nest and also just great to have around the camp where you can just pull it out, wrap it around your body, go look at the stars, whatever.

So it’s a pretty cool, a cool thing. So we’re experimenting with that kind of stuff. Stuff like the accessories that fit perfectly and all that. That’s all those things make the experience totally. All right. So we’ll keep our eye out for stuff like that is, is there anything else? uh, you know, you wanted to mention man? No, no, I’m good. Doug’s super nice talking to you. Thanks for letting me on your show. Yeah. Well there’s one last thing that I like to ask people. Uh, and I didn’t give you a heads up so this is going to be a, you know, a real. It’s not like anything crazy but like I do like to ask people who they’d like to hear on, on this show and I get some great ideas from, from my guests, you know, somebody like around here and they don’t have to be in your field like anywhere in Colorado.

I mean it is a Colorado show, but people doing cool stuff, somebody doing something really, you know, whether it’s for the community or business wise, I don’t know. I meAn, I don’t know if you know Eric Henderson, you know that guy? No, he’s a, he’s an old buddy from jackson and uh, he’s lIving here with his wife and family and um, does sImilar stuff to maria, you know, works wIth brands and, and she’s just super cool guy. Tons of energy. Great to talk to. He’d be, he’d be a fun guy to have on the show. There you go. That’s all I’m looking for. Perfect. Alright, well thanks agaIn man. I appreciate you making some time and coming over. My pleasure, man. Easy trip is a trip across town for me. awesome. All right, thanks. See you doug.

Right everyone. Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Tim from Roofnest. Again, you can find them at Roofnest.com. Again, a great local brand and doing some great things.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, go ahead and subscribe, you know, whether it’s on apple podcasts, android, stitcher, you listen on any one of those devices and also join our email list if you are interested in that.

Thanks again and we will speak to you soon.

 

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

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

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

But what does that have to do with Colorado?

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Lauren Steele.

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

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

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

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

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

 


Show Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[41:00] What’s next for Lauren.

 


Relevant Links

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

Vice Motherboard

Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge – US Fish & Wildlife Service

Dept. of Energy Office of Legacy Management

EPA Superfund Record of Decision

CaldelasLife.com

CandelasConcerns.com

Carbondale, CO

 


Transcript

 

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

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

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

Read More...

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve already cleaned it up that mindset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One great quote from this story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Early Look At Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One last question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

alan bernholtz eleven experienceAlan 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

 


Transcript

 

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.

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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

Romp Skis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Show Notes

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

[02:50] Doing business in Crested Butte

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

[05:30] Journey from copy to innovation

[06:30] A custom factory for custom skis

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

[09:30] Becoming a government contractor

[12:00] What’s new in the lineup

[14:45] Who would they like to hear

 


Relevant Links

Romp Skis

Line Skis

10th Group Special Forces

Gunnison Western University

Reactive Adaptations

 


Related Episodes

Venture Snowboards

Erica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Crested Butte Real Estate with Corey Dwan

 


Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it started to catch on with more people now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well thanks for stopping by.

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

 

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#010 Erica Mueller of Crested Butte Mountain Resort

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

 

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

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

 


Transcript

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.

Yeah.

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

Venture Snowboards

Venture Snowboards on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards..

 


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Show Notes

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

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

[9:30] Having a business in Silverton

[10:45] It’s all about the core

[12:45] Product development, backcountry testing

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

[19:19] Partners speak to quality

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

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

[27:00] Ska Brewing – Season kickoff party

 

Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Venture Snowboards:

On the Web: venturesnowboards.com

On Facebook or Instagram @venturesnow.

Youtube: Rough Cut Series

Events:

Season Kickoff Party with Ska Brewing – Nov 4, 2017

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

Spring Fling – March 31, 2018

Splitfest Silverton – April 12-15, 2018

Beartooth Sessions – May 25-28, 2018

Demo Tour – Stay tuned!

 

Partners / References:

Ska Brewing

Silverton Mountain

Silverton Mountain Guides

Silverton Avalanche School

AIARE Level 1

Irwin Guides

Silverton, Colorado

Farmington Hill

 


Transcript

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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