There are few manufacturing sectors where Colorado shines as brightly as it does in snowsports, with industry titans, small-batch startups, and everything in between. In our coverage of makers of skis, snowboards, and other gear for the last five years, CompanyWeek has borne witness to an industry catalyzing innovation of all kinds in an effort to get customers up and down the mountain faster, warmer, safer, and more gracefully. With the 2018 edition of Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show kicking off this week in Denver, now is an apt time for a look at some of the state's standouts.
CEO Ted Eynon is rethinking retail in his new Denver factory/showroom/bar in central Denver. After launching in Glenwood Springs, the ski manufacturer moved east in 2016 for easier access to the workforce and partners. "As far as I know, it's the first place in the world that combines production, tuning, and a bar made from our own cores," says Eynon.
Pete Wagner took the golf industry's custom approach to the slopes with award-winning results. In 2016, the company moved into a 5,000-square-foot facility in Mountain Village, the main base area for Telluride Ski Resort. "We're 200 yards from the nearest lift," says Wagner.
Crescent Moon's new, patent-protected EVA All-Foam Snowshoe is an innovation for the industry. Rather than using a plastic or metal frame, they use dual-density foam, like that used in shoes, and plastic cleats for traction. Founder Jake Thamm sees the product as a driver of growth for years to come.
Not many companies manufacture outerwear in Colorado -- or the United States, for that matter -- but Freeride Systems is an outlier. Its jackets are made for the most extreme conditions the high country can throw at you, stitched with elegant designs and heavy-duty materials.
The Pagosa Springs-based manufacturer of technical outerwear and base layers leverages the naturally insulating properties of high-country wool to keep customers warm in the harshest of conditions. Bringing innovation to a staid industry, VOORMI's precision blends of wool and synthetics offer the best of both worlds.
The Denver company has devised a better way to keep the frost off your mug: Phunkshun's single and double-layer facemasks are made with with domestically produced polyester-spandex to function much better across the weather spectrum -- thus the name.
Brothers Tim and Tracey Canaday started making snowboards in Colorado before the sport went mainstream in the early 1980s. In the time since, Never Summer has led the industry with its innovative designs, including the first patent on hybrid camber technology, now the status quo for snowboarding manufacturers worldwide.
Klem and Lisa Branner have made snowboards and splitboards at the foot of the slope in Silverton for nearly 20 years. The remote and rugged location is a huge plus, says Lisa. "We can literally walk out the front door and tap into some of the gnarliest terrain in the lower 48, and they were built by snowboarders," she explains. "Everyone who works for us is passionate about sliding on snow."
It's all about math for founder Sean Martin: "We hold incredibly tight tolerances to what we can do," he says, noting that that Walkins-based Donek's ability to make the exact same board over and over appeals especially to pros. "Our tolerance is about 1/50,000th of an inch."
One of the twin titans of the chairlift business, Leitner-Poma has manufactured in Grand Junction since 1981. Over the years, it's built some of Colorado's biggest and best lifts, including Vail's superlative Gondola One, but the company is diversifying into transportation in cities and theme parks as well.
Eric Peterson is editor of CompanyWeek. Email him at email@example.com.