Would it surprise you to learn that Apple, Mattel, Amazon and Microsoft were all started in garages? By association it suggests Meier Skis is in good company, given that its co-owner, Matt Cudmore, hatched the company in his garage in Glenwood Springs.
“Meier Skis got started from my grandparents, Harry and Harriett Hanson,” Cudmore says. “They started it off by giving me a thousand bucks, so I decided to put it towards something cool—my ski press and just a few basic tools to get (the business) going. Six months later the first pair was done, and they were the coolest skis I’d ever skied. Not by the looks, but because I’d made them.”
That was 2009 and by 2011 Cudmore, whose day job was as an auto-cad designer at a civil engineering firm, was making about 20 pairs a season painstakingly by hand. It wasn’t until 2012 that the trajectory of the company changed after he crossed paths with Ted Eynon. Originally from New Hampshire, Eynon was thinking about leaving his career in the software field in the rearview mirror, so he headed West to get more clarity.
“I came to Colorado really because of the mountains,” Eynon says. “I’m a New Englander and I think the mountains draw a lot of people here. I actually was still working for General Electric, but that's when I said I needed to do something completely different, something challenging.”
He read an article in The Denver Post about Meier Skis, whose name is derived from the last name of Cudmore’s in-laws. Believing the company’s values aligned with the career change he’d envisioned, Eynon got in touch with the entrepreneur. They agreed to a day on the slopes at Sunlight Mountain and the two, in his words, “had a blast” skiing. Shortly afterwards, Eynon invested in the company with one of the first actions being to move operations from Cudmore’s one car garage to a small factory in Glenwood Springs.
As Cudmore was considering sources for the core of his skis and snowboards, his brother, who at the time was a district forester managing Colorado’s Gunnison office, suggested he use aspen and beetle kill pine. The idea struck Matt like a lightning bolt.
“The beetles have just come in and devastated the pine trees in Colorado,” says Cudmore. “So, we’re trying to recycle a lot of that wood and put it to good use. It’s super cool, you can go to Steamboat, be on the top of the mountain, look over a couple of ranges and that’s where the wood for the skis you’re standing on came from.”
Calling itself the “World’s First Craft Skiery,” the company’s environmental sensitivity was in play from the beginning, first by using locally sourced dead trees, as well as a non-petrochemical resin made from pine oil and recycled vegetable oil. Instead of using highly toxic lacquers and inks to add graphics to the top of skis and snowboards, a standard practice for many manufacturers, Meier Skis uses special ink that is heat-pressed into the top sheet. Between this graphics transfer process, the use of less ink tip to tail, a commitment to composting and recycling, and sourcing most components from local companies, the manufacturer minimizes its carbon footprint.
In terms of social consciousness, the company enlists the services of Mile High WorkShop in Aurora, a nonprofit employment and job training program whose employees prepare the wood cores for skis and snowboards.
“They have men and women who were incarcerated, homeless people and people overcoming drug addictions that are getting a chance to get back in the workforce,” explains Eynon. “We buy and inspect the wood, then have it delivered there where they glue up the blocks to our specs. It’s a great set up for both of us.”
Owning your own ski and snowboard company allows the flexibility to determine the breadth of high-performance products to offer customers and also do pretty much any graphics you—or customers—wish. In addition to popular skis in their line, including Bangtail, Wild Bill, Big Hoss, Calamity Jane and Big Nose Kate, Meier Skis has grown the business through unique partnerships.
“We’ve done skis for Sunlight Mountain and Cabot Cheese,” says Eynon. “We like to have fun, so we’ve tied in with these co-branded opportunities doing licensing deals with Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Leftover Salmon and Sierra Nevada Brewing. We just signed a deal with Widespread Panic so we’re planning a line of skis with those graphics.”
The company’s deal with Monarch Mountain was particularly unique because skis were crafted using dead trees harvested from forests at the resort. Customers willing to pay between $200 and $400 extra can have custom graphics applied to their skis or snowboard. Caveats are that customers don’t infringe on trademarks and that the design doesn’t run tip to tail so that the bare wood is always visible in the bindings area.
“We’re doing what we can to make amazing products and give people the opportunity to pick a model that suits their skiing or snowboarding style,” Eynon explains. “Our skis are light, they’re poppy, they’re fast and they’ve got muscle. I’d put them up against any brand in the world.”
A growing list of loyalists would agree.
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