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How an Indie Ski Brand Grows

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Going from a literal garage brand to an indie brand that manufactures in the Never Summer factory (the same factory that makes Icelantic and other skis) in Denver, Colo., Rocky Mountain Underground prides itself on its Made in the USA stamp.

Skiing Business caught up with Mike Waesche, Rocky Mountain Underground owner and chief executive officer, to find out more about the brand and its growth.

What is your retail strategy, and how do you balance getting the word out, and increasing sales with growing organically and not too fast?
RMU has kept our retail relationships simple. It’s always been about a partnership that we are committed to supporting. Our growth is based off the amount of support we can offer to our partners. The word and organic growth for a company named Rocky Mountain Underground has always been from skiers talking about skis, the construction and durability. We have been making a push to get our skis to the highest level of quality and durability. The rest is for the skiers to determine.

Rocky Mountain Underground skis

You guys have grown quite a bit in the last couple years. What has that growth looked like, and what to what do you attribute it?
Our growth has been from identifying that our customers care about quality in their product. Turns are the friends of our customers, and they care about the quality and durability as well. This, with a combination of limited supply, has fueled the demand from retailers.

RMU has pretty humble roots: painting houses to start and fund the business. Nonetheless we can’t exceed the current year’s demand since growth can be expensive to accommodate. All of that helps contribute to our high sell through every year.

What are your thoughts on having so many indie brands in the industry?
The small brands fuel innovation and keep everyone moving.  We have had some great mentors with other small brands—in particular Moment, Icelantic, Faty-pus—helping us find our own niche and identity.

Rocky Mountain Underground skis

What does it take for a small brand to gain national recognition and increase sales across the country?
For us it has been staying innovative: like the sustainable project we are working on, being a part of our community and working with non-profits, staying environmentally responsible, and never losing sight of our passion to make a high-quality, durable product by simply listening to our retail partners and skiers.

How has production changed for you over the years? Do you think it’s feasible for brands to bring production back to the U.S.?
Our production has gone from one ski to, well, a lot more. RMU has paid its dues to stay in the U.S. and, on average, pay 10 times the price to build skis in the U.S instead of China. I believe the U.S. customer is making it a priority to buy domestically made products. For now it may only be a small niche of customers who seek U.S. construction, but it is a much larger niche of people who support our economy and U.S. jobs—thus driving the macro scale.

Categories: Products Profiles

4 Responses to “How an Indie Ski Brand Grows”

  1. Phil Burgess says:

    Lets bring Manufacturing back to the USA.. Better quality / jobs

  2. GG says:

    10x is just wrong ane false. Yes Chinese line workers on average make about 2000 RMB per month but with raw and pack mat there is no way a ski costs (delivered cost) $15USD made in CN (guessing your cost at ~$150 per ski USD equivalent to equal your comment) Give a look at CN OEMs and come back with real facts on an apples to apples ski made in US verse CN. I am not preaching one way or the other but facts are facts. Good luck RMU.

    • Ski Maker says:

      GG,
      Increase your estimated cost ($150) by 150-200% and you will be in the ballpark for how much it costs a domestic brand to produce a pair of skis. Then take into account the economies of scale that the major brands producing in China or Europe are able to benefit from. The 10x claim by RMU may not be too far off.

  3. john daniels says:

    We are tryling to make build in america real. need to find edges and petex at competative priceing to China then we can bring the cost per shiped ski . about the same

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