So many skis, so little time. Powder, all-mountain, touring, park and more. Yes, the choices are abundant. Coming to a decision on the best ski for you can be a rather daunting task. Some gear guides are helpful, but some just seem to complicate the process of ski buying. Reading too many of them has the potential to send your head spinning in ways only a triple cork 1440 can reproduce.
It’s not a reach to say that most of the ski buying population does not know much about how skis are constructed and the effect that will have on your skiing. Most of us do a little research and maybe some testing before settling on a ski that looks dope. But is it possible to do better, to find a ski that brings back childlike joy every time you schuss down the slopes? Maybe it’s time to go custom.
With more and more custom ski brands popping up, custom skis are become much more feasible. Based in Crested Butte, Colorado, Romp Skis is one such brand. Brothers Morgan and Caleb Weinberg are committed to simplifying the custom ski buying process and producing skis made just the way you like them. In fact, those skis may be just one educational phone call away.
What do you do with your tools when the construction industry slows? That’s exactly the question the brothers Weinberg faced a decade ago. Sitting around and waiting for it to pick back up wasn’t an option, so they decided to make skis.
“During the winter of 2009, Morgan found a few articles online that showed that some new techniques had been developed allowing people to make skis in a garage with general construction tools,” recalls Caleb. Being general contractors, they had the tools they needed, and that winter they built eight pairs of skis.
Rudimentary looks didn’t discourage friends and industry professionals from giving them a try. And when they returned with rave reviews, the brothers decided to turn their winter hobby into a business. Thus, Romp Skis was born.
The brand now has a full boutique factory in downtown Crested Butte. There, the brothers are producing a full line of stock and custom skis for skiers of all abilities. Yes, all abilities. Many people think that custom skis are only for experts, but Caleb strongly disagrees.
“Custom skis really can benefit any skier,” he insists. “Our custom ski interview and purchase process is geared to help us understand the needs and aspirations of every skier regardless of ability.”
It really boils down to a simple 30-minute phone call. This interview has developed over years in the industry and is meant to coach the buyer through the process. After questions about the types of terrain you spend the most time on (powder, groomers, bumps, etc.), it then shifts to the types of turns that you make in each area. Over time, and with the realization that most customers do not know much about skis, the Weinbergs have steadily refined the types of questions they ask.
Seeking to find out more of what the skier knows about their own skiing, Caleb states: “We found that we could get a much clearer picture of what they needed. Our designers then take it from there and create a pair of skis that will work perfectly for what the skier needs.”
Over the past ten years, they maintain that only a few customers did not get the ideal design on the first try. Their success rate is due in large part to the interview but also starting the process with one of their stock ski choices before fine tuning it to fit the buyer’s needs. This step both simplifies and speeds the process.
“We start each custom ski from an outline that we extensively refined and tested,” Caleb explains. “We don’t believe that a perfect ski could come from a shape that no one has ever skied before.”
Of course, all that TLC comes at a price. The cost of a fully custom ski from Romp is $2,000. However, once you have that perfect ski constructed, additional pairs cost just $650. And Romp offers less involved customization options — flex, camber, shape and graphics, plus premium add-ons like ultralight core materials and vibration-dampening carbon fiber — for lower rates, starting at $1,050.
And having gone through this entire process, I can testify that the Weinbergs are very good at what they do.
I admit, I was a bit skeptical of the notion that two guys skiing pow in Crested Butte could build a top-notch ski for guy who spends most of his time on what we lovingly refer to as the “ice coast.”
Little did I know that they grew up ski racing in New Hampshire, so their knowledge of our variable terrain was limitless. And lo and behold, my Romp skis are money. They have become the go-to ski in my quiver, delivering an equally responsive, satisfying performance on hard pack, sluff, groomers, bumps and everything else the mountains of New York and Vermont throw at me.
“What we want is for a skier to get on their first pair of Romps and be able to tell that this was something designed and perfectly fit for them,” Caleb concludes. “The skis should allow them to enjoy skiing to its fullest and achieve their goals while having the best time on the hill.”
Custom Ski and Board Alternatives
Romp isn’t the only brand making the custom process easier. Here are three other noteworthy options.
Parlor Custom Skis and Boards
Located in Boston and named after a former funeral parlor where the three founders originally set up shop, Parlor Custom Skis and Snowboards has been producing skis and boards since 2009. Parlor is now the largest custom ski brand in the Northeast and even offers a build class where buyers can experience the entire process over two or three days.
Folsom Custom Skis
Owned by local skiers , this Denver-based company has been pumping out reasonably priced custom skis since 2008. Customizing the process from the base up, the Folsom guys also get to know the skier and guarantee their skis will outlast any mass-produced ski.
Founded in 1995, Donek is the OG of the custom snowboard world. Donek’s approach is quite different: With his CU-Boulder mechanical engineering degree, owner Sean Martin applies advanced math and physics to his snowboard building. This scientific approach allows him to produce made-to-order boards that are as simple or elaborate as you want them to be.
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