Stickers from this Crested Butte ski manufacturer are plastered on newspaper boxes and street signs all over town. Here’s the inside scoop on the Colorado ski-maker that’s won a loyal following with its powder-friendly products.
By Eric Peterson
In less than a decade, Romp Skis has grown from a garage hobby to a favorite among Colorado skiers. And, Romp owes part of its success to a real estate bust.
In 1992, Caleb Weinberg moved to Crested Butte for its legendarily steep and deep ski terrain. His brother, Morgan, soon followed him west from New Hampshire. Morgan worked for Caleb’s homebuilding company until the local housing market hit the skids in late 2008.
“The first winter we made skis, we didn’t plan on making a company out of it,” said Caleb. “We just had the free time.”
After winning rave reviews from friends, the Weinbergs’ garage hobby snowballed into a full-fledged manufacturing operation on the south side of Crested Butte. After initially using a makeshift vacuum-based system, Caleb fabricated a pneumatic ski press that the company began using in 2010.
Romp Skis are handcrafted with vibration-dampening carbon fiber and fiberglass, which offer both bounce and durability. While the catalog expanded to include stock skis ($750 a pair) in 2015, most of the company’s orders are custom (typically $1,050 to $1,450). A Romp rep first interviews the customer about their preferences and skiing style to determine the length and shape that’s best, then the buyer can choose the graphics for the topsheets. The market is responding in a big way: Romp made about 700 pairs of skis in 2017.
New in 2017, the Romp 110 model won Backcountry Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for powder touring skis. “It was designed to be a hard-charging backcountry powder ski,” said Caleb. Mission accomplished: The underfoot camber and rear rocker design are made for quick turns on high-speed powder runs.
Skis made for the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, not to be confused with the 10th Mountain Division, have emerged as an unexpected sales driver. After Romp made some custom skis for veterans of the 10th, their buddies liked what they saw.
“When they showed them around, other people wanted them,” said Caleb.
The 10th Group commissioned an official pair of skis in 2016 and invited a number of manufacturers to submit proposals and designs. Romp won the bid, which represented a large chunk of production
Romp’s business extends to businesses looking for powder-centric giveaways and gifts that sport their logos; Odell Brewing is one of the corporate customers. The skis are typically based on the stock models, but orders of 25 pairs or more can opt for a customized approach for each recipient.
But what do the ski-makers strap on for a powder day? Caleb typically skis on Romp 100s and Morgan favors the 106s, but when you’re a ski manufacturer, you’ve got a notably big quiver.
“We always seem to have a different powder ski or a prototype we’re working on,” said Caleb.
How does ski-making compare to building houses?
“I love the work,” said Caleb. “It’s a lot of fun to prototype the skis and build them out for each person. And it’s fun to build something people get so excited about. You give them a pair, they’re stoked to go ski. Our customers are really our best sales reps.”
On the other hand, skis aren’t as lucrative as homes — yet.
“It’d be nice if it brought in as much money as building people’s second homes -- but maybe that’ll come,” Caleb said.
On the Web: www.rompskis.com
The author of Ramble Colorado, Eric Peterson writes about Colorado manufacturers, breweries, artists, and roadside attractions.