*This interview was recorded as part of the Colorado.FM podcast which I launched but am not continuing at this time. I figured that it would be a waste not to continue to support the great guys at Romp Skis since they took the time to talk with me.
While in Crested Butte, Colorado I was able to catch up with Caleb and Morgan Weinberg of Romp Skis.
Romp Skis builds custom handcrafted one-of-a-kind skis for a bunch of really happy clients and it is a pleasure to have a chance to tour their factory learn a little bit about their process and meet these great guys. Every company has a story and we get into the history behind Romp can some of the 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 really get what you want. And you’re happy with the result. Finally, Morgan gets into some of the evolution of design material and what skis they’re looking forward to this season.
And of course we’ll be sure to put any relevant links so that you can find these guys and check out their amazing gear in the show notes. OK here we go. My conversation with Caleb and Morgan Weinberg of Romp.
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. I would rather have you here. It’s always fun to show someone new around the factory.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 was 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 websites 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 need to eat pears in Morgan’s garage and 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 rap started.
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 cookies 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.
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.
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?
Well crazy. 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?
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 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.
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 Polonia 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.
Yeah it’s you know Crested Butte has really good backcountry access. There’s basically you know four valleys that lead out of town and dead-end the roads dead-end or closed in the wintertime. So you can hike from there and access tons of stuff. So back on Irwins 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.
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.
I mean as far as local Crested Butte kind of builders.
There’s Jake O’Conor 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. All right good. Thanks a lot.