Made in Colorado: Winter Guide 2018
Soft and hard goods manufactured in our own mountainous backyard
Enjoy the winter 2017-2018 season with these products and fashions.
When he isn’t guiding hunters or anglers, Cold Smoke founder Kyle Jones enjoys splitboarding in the backcountry: He hikes up the mountain on ski-like splitboard halves that he connects together to snowboard down. He started making his own splitboards in 2010 and decided to launch Cold Smoke two years later. Instead of buying a press, Jones contracted with Romp Skis in Crested Butte to manufacture the boards. “I’m so glad I did it,” he says. “I love being able to go up to Crested Butte to the shop, and I like keeping the money in the valley.” Cold Smoke makes one model in five sizes that Jones calls “one of the most versatile boards I’ve ever ridden” and touts a durable design with a poplar core and carbon-fiber stringers. “We build our boards to last,” he says.
After growing up freestyle skiing in Ohio, Eric Hegreness ran a ski shop in Virginia before moving to Colorado. In 2012, he started making his own skis, featuring intricate wooden topsheets and all-wood sidewalls. The original model, the Crossover, is “a one-ski quiver” for powder and the groomers, says Hegreness, with a maple core augmented by aluminum alloy. He’s just launched his second product in Iris’ Freestyle Skis, made for jibbing in the terrain park. But Hegreness himself has been steering clear of the rails lately. “Two years ago, I broke my seventh bone,” he says. “I’m getting old — I’m going to be 30 next summer — so I’m doing a lot more tree riding and powder riding.”
$800 to $900 retail
James Niehues has been the top ski map artist of the last 30 years. “I’ve done 194 resorts around the world,” he says. He got his big break in the late 1980s when Bill Brown, the previous leader in the field, gave him a Mary Jane map to paint and subsequently “just turned it all over to me,” says Niehues, who has painted maps for Vail, Telluride, Aspen and other resorts in Colorado and beyond. “It’s a small market. It’s hard for one person to make a decent living if you only make trail maps.” Now semi-retired, Niehues sells prints and originals, while referring work to Montana artist Rad Smith, “who was rendering the best computer image I’ve ever seen,” says Niehues, before going back to painting by hand. “You just can’t replicate nature with a computer.”
$3,000 to $15,000 for originals
Julie Jackson says she had a background in sewing before founding J2 Softwear in 1989. “My mom was a home economics teacher,” she says. “In college, I worked for a sailmaker in Santa Barbara.” After relocating to Salida to work as a raft guide, Jackson took her experience to another level when she “bought a bolt of material and started making jackets.” She’s sewn heavy-duty jackets for employees of Monarch Mountain near Salida and Leadville’s Ski Cooper and now buys leftover performance fabric from Patagonia and Arc’teryx to make a wide range of outerwear, about half of it custom. “It’s not a cookie-cutter jacket,” she explains, noting the lead time jumps from about two weeks to two months around the holiday season. Jackson is a one-woman shop, and that’s the way she likes it: “I had an opportunity to go big, but that was never me.”
$52 to $185 retail