Glenwood ski maker builds local following
December 28, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Imagine standing at the top of Sunlight Mountain Resort and gazing across the very forests that produced the wood used to make your hand-crafted skis.
That’s exactly the picture Glenwood Springs ski maker Matt Cudmore was going for when he began creating his Meier Handmade Skis in 2009.
“The whole idea is to keep it as local as possible,” Cudmore said. “We emphasize home-grown, local wood and a product coming right out of Glenwood Springs.”
Though the name is European, borrowed from his wife Rosanna’s maiden German name, Meier-Grolman, Meier Skis are Colorado-made, pure and simple.
And Cudmore believes his skis are superior in quality, and certainly with respect to environmental sustainability, to any machine-made skis imported from Europe or China.
Cudmore, 32, is self-described ski junkie with a passion for fine craftsmanship. As the story goes, he gave up searching for “the next perfect ski” about three years ago, and decided to build them himself.
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“Our business is based upon the principle of sustainability,” reads the short history of Meier Skis at http://www.meierskis.com. “Our skis are made from locally grown trees, and we strive to sell our skis locally.”
Cudmore, who had been making skateboards for several years, began making the skis using primarily Colorado-grown beetle kill pine, working in a one-car garage.
He now uses a variety of wood from around the Roaring Fork Valley and Grand Mesa, including aspen, poplar, maple, pine and Douglas fir.
“Aspen makes for a good backcountry touring ski, because it’s lighter and softer than some of the other woods,” Cudmore said. “Douglas fir is also lightweight, but more stiff.”
For now, he’s primarily making alpine downhill skis, but is working on some snowboard and split board designs, and is considering some telemark designs as well. He also continues to make a type of skateboard known as a longboard.
His ski model names honor local history. There’s “The Doc,” for famous outlaw Doc Holliday who lived for awhile and died in Glenwood Springs, and “BNK” (Big Nose Kate), for Doc’s girlfriend Mary Katherine Horony Cummings.
Starting this ski season, in addition to direct sales over the Internet, Cudmore has arranged that Sunlight Mountain Resort and Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop be the exclusive retailer of Meier Skis. The skis are also available to rent for demo at the Sunlight shop in downtown Glenwood Springs, and look for the Meier tent at demo days throughout the ski season.
“We want to do business with other local businesses. We feel that’s important,” added Sunlight Mountain Resort Marketing Manager Jennie Spillane.
“They are selling a different product,” she said. “It helps us, and it also helps him to be able to showcase them up here.”
Cudmore first started talking to Sunlight about a business arrangement after he was up on the local ski mountain cutting wood to make skis for his twin boys, Bridger and Gideon, who are now 4 years old. He and Rosanna also have a 1-year-old daughter, Gemma.
“Most garage shops don’t have their own mountain to demo their skis on,” said Scott Barger, one of Cudmore’s business partners along with his brother, Lee Barger. “We have some good momentum with the demo skis, and have had a lot of positive input.”
Scott helps with the business development and marketing end of things, while Lee handles research and development and is also working to line up investors to help expand the business.
Cudmore’s wife, Rosanna, and his sister, Rachel Cudmore, assist with the graphic designs that grace the skis.
Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop Assistant Manager Kevin Horch said the Meier brand is definitely catching the attention of customers.
“It’s cool to see people asking for them by name,” he said. “It’s a real local thing, with the skis being made and sold right here. And you have the local mountain to give them a try.”
This season, the skis are available online and at Sunlight Ski and Bike for an introductory offer of between $650 and $780. Cudmore will also work with clients to build a custom-made pair of skis, starting at an additional $200.
With some help from investors, Cudmore hopes to soon expand into a full-scale commercial shop somewhere in the Glenwood Springs area.
“I’d love to be able to incorporate kids into the shop, and maybe sponsor some young up-and-coming skiers,” Cudmore said. “I can see having a place where kids can come and hang out after school.”
The majority of Meier Ski sales have been to locals, though some Internet sales have come from Montana, where Cudmore’s sister lives. He’s also sold skis to friends in Idaho.
In the three years since he started the business, Cudmore said he has filled between 30 and 40 orders per year. He said he’s on track to sell about 60 pairs of skis this season, and is targeting upwards of 150 sales in future years.
“We’re still pretty focused on marketing to locals,” he said. “But I’d like to get the name out in California and some other states, maybe next year.”
For now, though, just keeping up with the growing demand as the ski season kicks into high gear is a challenge.
Adds Scott Barger, “Our biggest problem now is we can’t make the skis fast enough.”
For more information about Meier Handmade Skis, visit http://www.meierskis.com, follow them on Facebook, or stop by and see the display at Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop, 309 Ninth St., Glenwood Springs.