Colorado Ski Makers Add Social Element to Shops
Statewide ski and snowboard makers aim to increase visibility
Inspired by Colorado’s booming craft beer scene, Meier Skis owner Ted Eynon came up with the concept of a “craft skiery” when his upstart ski manufacturer was based in Glenwood Springs. The idea was to “lift the curtain about how skis and snowboards are made,” he says, by marrying manufacturing with retail.
Eynon knew he needed more “accessibility and visibility” to make the concept fly, so he picked up stakes and moved the factory to central Denver in late 2016. Meier Skis is now a literal stone’s throw from Interstate 25, where about 250,000 vehicles pass its signage on a daily basis.
A year later, his skiery vision is reality: Inside, below ski-inspired murals, there’s a bar made of the same aspen and beetle-kill pine as the company’s skis, as well as windows that showcase the manufacturing process. The full Meier catalog is on display on the walls, and there’s a full ski-tuning shop onsite.
Skiers often stop here before heading to the hills to “see how the skis are made, break bread with us, and have a couple of cold ones,” Eynon says. “As far as we know, it’s the first of its kind in the world.
“When skiers come in here, it definitely resonates with them,” he adds. A common comment: “Why hasn’t anyone done this before?”
But Meier’s not alone in fusing ski manufacturing and selling. In Telluride, Wagner Custom Skis moved its factory from an industrial space outside of town to a space in the ski resort’s base area in Mountain Village in December 2016. The new facility offers a showroom with a view of the ski-making process.
“It created a new sales channel for us,” says Pete Wagner, the company’s eponymous founder. “It’s great exposure. We’re just steps from the chairlift.”
Like Meier’s Denver operation, it also allows skiers and snowboarders a firsthand perspective on the manufacturing process, and it provides Wagner a venue for lectures and other events.
“You literally come in and look in the window and we’re actually building skis,” he says. “People can come here skiing and take a factory tour and learn how skis are made, which is very unique. I don’t think you can do that at any ski area anywhere.”
Rocky Mountain Underground took a slightly different tact and opened a hybrid store and bar in Breckenridge in 2016, then added a beer garden earlier this year.
“The main reason is we wanted a cultural center, an area where like-minded people could come,” says Chris Glynn, RMU’s director of operations. “People want to be involved. The best way to do that is have a place for them to go.”
The space hosts nonprofit events, live music and speaking engagements, serves craft beer and cocktails, and houses a prototyping lab, but not manufacturing. (RMU manufactures its skis in Quebec.)
Glynn says the store is RMU’s Summit County outlet, and “doesn’t conflict with any of our retailers in the Denver area.” He adds, “It helps people get on our skis. Selling skis is sometimes harder than selling cars. You’ve got to get people on them.”