Riding high after 10 years
December 25, 2013
High Society pressed its first eight snowboards in New Zealand in 2003. It was done partly as a small-business test run, but more than anything else, the four founding members of the company wanted a deck worth riding, one that was both durable and versatile.
They weren't able to ride the boards for long. In fact, all eight were sold the day they arrived in Aspen.
After a few more pressings in New Zealand, founders Reggie Charles, Jason Flynn, Jeremy Rungi and Jay Morin moved the operation to Huntington Beach, Calif. Five years later, they brought it home by linking up with Never Summer in Denver, where all High Society skis and snowboards are manufactured today.
"The best decision we made as a company was to bring all our manufacturing to Denver," Charles said from High Society's showroom at the Aspen Business Center on Monday.
Not only was the product much closer, but High Society established itself as a grassroots company, boasting 107 dealer locations in Colorado. That's in addition to the 17 locations on the West Coast, seven on the East Coast and 46 between.
Charles said the relationship with Never Summer was a natural one because of its reputation for making durable snowboards. The Denver-based company, founded in 1991, owns the only patent for rocker-camber snowboard technology, which it licensed to High Society.
Recommended Stories For You
"There really wasn't a company that produced skis and snowboards at the level of quality that our friends in Snowmass and Aspen needed," said Charles, who is from Wisconsin. Flynn is from Michigan, while Rungi and Morin are from Connecticut.
Charles said that as a buyer at trade shows, he was overwhelmed by the selection offered by major companies. The shows would last for hours because there were 15 different park boards and 20 different big-mountain boards offered by each vendor. By contrast, High Society offers five different models of skis and five different models of snowboards.
"We try to keep it simple. We don't try to confuse people with too many choices," Charles said.
The company's most successful models are ones that integrate both camber and rocker. One example is the Powchichawowwow, a powder ski that has won Freeskier magazine's Editor's Pick three years in a row.
Flynn remembers the early 2000s, when popular fat skis included K2's Big Kahuna, Solomon's Pocket Rocket and Volant's Spatula. A 92-millimeter ski was considered fat, and it was only good for one thing: deep powder.
"Back then, the pow skis were super-directional — no sidecut," Flynn said, adding that today's rocker technology allows for versatility. "You can ride a bigger ski with more platform, and it doesn't ski as big as it looks."
High Society credits its success with feedback from snowboarders and skiers in Aspen. Notable company-sponsored skiers include Charlie Lasser, Nate Burkle and Brian Anzini. Also sponsored is snowboarder Jamie Culp, who grew up in Aspen but now lives in Jackson, Wyo.
A typical High Society snowboard is narrower and softer than a Never Summer deck. The company's newest board is the Temerity, which Charles said employs all the benefits of rocker but all the control of camber. The Scarlet, a board for female riders, was named Best All-Mountain Board in the 2012 Outside magazine Buyer's Guide. All High Society snowboards and skis will be on display from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday during a pop-up showroom at Victoria's Expresso Wine Bar.
Charles said the company's employees ride everything it makes. Mike Hogan, a former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club rider who now works for the company, said they get on the mountain as much as they can, describing it as a "mental-health requirement."
"Everyone in town is kind of grumpy when it doesn't snow for a while," Hogan said. "When it snows, everyone's happy everywhere."