Rocky Mountain Underground got its name by default. In 2008, founder Mike Waesche and a group of friends began making their first skis with equipment that they also built themselves, in a garage dug into the side of a hill in Breckenridge, Colorado. “We were building skis for beer,” Waesche says, and they were doing it underground, in the Rocky Mountains.
Sometimes the literal is also implicative of nonphysical qualities. Rocky Mountain Underground, or RMU for short, now makes its skis at the Never Summer factory in Denver and its headquarters isn’t beneath a hill but in the middle of Main Street in downtown Breckenridge. The violet-hued building’s front porch leads to two entryways, one to the ski shop and the other to the bar. Once inside though, it’s clear that these two designated spaces are indivisible.
That’s by design. “How do you take our culture, who we are as skiers and as people and then manifest it into a space?” Waesche says. “It was this culture of drinking a couple of beers, building stuff, having a community involved in it — we just glorified it. Instead of a garage, now it’s on Main Street, and it’s open to everybody.” Community forms the shop’s core — RMU often holds events and fundraisers to benefit groups like the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (or in one case a local dog with a leg injury).
Waesche often refers to the bar side as “a time machine,” the type you step into without knowledge of what date the controls are set to. On a recent Saturday night, much of the furniture was pushed aside to allow for a band to set up. While they covered “House of the Rising Sun” and John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” in the shop, a big screen in the bar aired a decade-old ski movie on silent. Younger versions of pros that are still around today, including RMU’s own Wiley Miller, hucked cliffs and contorted their bodies over massive wedged jumps. The bartenders worked the taps like excavator levers; the band thrummed on.
Ski bummery will forever be linked with partying, but when the carpets are rolled up and the amps are securely in the van, RMU’s shop is one that teetotaling gear nerds will find wholly adequate. Behind the front counter is a space for tuning and mounting skis (if you’re lucky you might get a glimpse of next year’s unreleased models) and a fully-operational ski press; one can imagine that the old garage followed utilized a similar layout. The brand’s own skis and bags are on display, but everything a skier needs is also present: outerwear, boots, socks. We asked Waesche to point out his favorites.
Dynafit Hoji Pro Ski Boot
“Dynafit is based out of Boulder, and they’ve been a great partner for us. It tells the story of the skis. We could be seen as competitors but we work together really well; it’s the same story of getting in the backcountry. The boots, the access and everything they provide complements what we’re doing so well. It’s right in line with our customers.”
New Belgium La Folie
“A lot of people see it and they think it’s just beer. We do this limited edition ski for them and they use that to donate to nonprofits all over the state. They do these events where they serve beer but they’ll donate the proceeds to nonprofits. It’s been cool to be a part of, the reach of these products activating more in the community. We’re serving their beer and selling it and that’s great but it’s perpetuating other things. They’ll always have a new can to release and they’ll often release it with us.”
“People are traveling through and the see it and they’re like, ‘what the hell is this thing?’ They probably arrived here with some carry-on they’ve been meaning to upgrade anyways, and I think they connect the town and RMU together. It’s cool to travel with something that reminds you of the place where you’ve been skiing.”
Just outside of Lake Placid is The Mountaineer, a family-run gear store that’s been around since 1975. We asked the experts for gear picks. Read the Story