Das dicke ende kommt noch!
by Than Acuff
Crested Butte custom ski company ROMP landed a contract with the U.S. military to build skis for the 10th Group Special Forces and it has turned out to be a boon to the local manufacturer.
It all started with a special request from the 10th Group Special Forces four years ago when they were looking for some custom skis complete with custom graphics for retired members. Based in Colorado, they wanted the skis made in Colorado and reached out to ROMP skis here in Crested Butte.
ROMP owners and ski builders Caleb and Morgan Weinberg filled an order for five pairs of the commemorative skis and as word spread among the retirees, the Weinbergs were making skis for retired Special Forces all over the globe.
“They loved the skis so much they started telling their buddies about it,” says Caleb. “We’ve shipped skis all over to them.”
One of the retired Special Forces members is in charge of ordering skis for the current 10th Group of Special Forces, the same group that does winter training here in Crested Butte and the surrounding mountains.
In 2015 they contacted four ski manufacturers—Icelantic, Rocky Mountain Underground, Black Diamond and ROMP—to build skis to test for use for the 10th Group. The winner of the test would then get a military contract to be the ski provider for them.
The skis did have a set standard of requests: they must be either 165 or 175 centimeters long and 100 millimeters wide underfoot and must include grommets in the tips that could be removed to build a rescue sled.
ROMP had a slight advantage over their competition for the military contract. Having built skis for the retired members, they had an idea of what the military was looking for.
“We knew typically how big the guys were, having made skis for the other guys,” says Caleb.
The tricky part came with the predetermined dimensions and knowing that the members of the Special Forces unit would also be carrying 75-pound packs. Basically, the skis needed to be short and stiff but they couldn’t be wide. That presents a problem as well because several of the Special Forces members aren’t the most adept at skiing.
“We typically wouldn’t make a ski that short, that stiff,” says Morgan. “It was just a matter of coming up with the right combination of materials.”
“It’s possible to make anything. The challenge is making it good,” adds Caleb.
Despite the requested dimensions, experienced ski makers Morgan and Caleb had an idea of what would work best. They built skis that were 175 cm long, using a poplar core with carbon reinforcement for durability and strong screw hold and made them 106 centimeters underfoot. Furthermore, they added a little bling on the grommets for the ski tips.
“We had a machine shop in Montrose make a really nice steel grommet for the skis,” says Caleb.
The ski test was held in December 2015 with the 10th Group Special Forces getting some time in at Crested Butte Mountain Resort as well as two weeks in the Taylor Park area and then the waiting game started.
Ultimately, the U.S. military went with ROMP, and in the spring of 2016 awarded the firm a contract to build 1,000 pairs of the skis over the next three years.
“It definitely feels good to be tested against those other brands and come out on top,” says Caleb.
The contract also provides an opportunity for ROMP skis to crank out more skis and make skis during times when the shop sits relatively silent, providing an income during their off season.
“Typically we make about four pairs of skis per day and they’re completely different skis,” says Caleb. “We will be able to make six of these skis per day. Plus, they want them in October so we can start making them in May. It’s really good because it gives us skis that we can make in spring and summer.”
Production began this winter. The ROMP team has built 60 pairs so far and will continue to crank more out at a rate of about 200—perhaps more—per year.
Furthermore, Caleb and Morgan appreciated the commitment of the 10th Group to their training, to their work and to skiing.
“It’s cool to see the pride those guys have in what they do,” says Caleb. “They’re fired up.”
“It’s also cool to see how much fun they have skiing,” adds Morgan.