It all began in a basement. Tired of carrying a quiver of skis and interested in the manufacturing them, Mike Waesche and his friends decided to build their own hand press to start making skis. While they weren’t always successful in the beginning, after years of practicing and expanding their talents, Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU) was born into an award winning, international company they are today.
At 22 years old, Waesche and his friends started making their custom skis for customers for 30 beers and the cost of materials. After a few dozen orders, however, they realized that this couldn’t be sustainable, and started painting houses to gain the capital to start the business properly.
Over time they became more and more successful at making skis, partnering with Never Summer Industries, a sport equipment factory that helped scale RMU’s business from 75 pairs of skis a year to over 500. These achievements further expanded to the international spectrum, where they won the ISPO innovation design award–and soon made RMU their real, full-time jobs.
Today, RMU has opened the first ski-shop/tavern in Breckenridge, pressing skis in house, despite their newly found international success.
“We wanted to stay in Summit County, because Matt has been such a long-time local here,” said Jess Unruh, RMU’s marketing manager. “There’s a value in Colorado, and we can work with nonprofits easily here. And, of course, so many people ski in Colorado, it was just a smart business move.”
RMU has continued attending the ISPO international trade shows in Munich every year, thanks in part to the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) providing an Advanced Industries Export Grant. This grant helps companies like RMU connect with foreign buyers to increase their presence in the European market while creating and retaining jobs within Colorado. The grant, created for aspiring and current Colorado exporters through OEDIT’s Export Accelerator Program, supports small and medium-sized businesses in the state offset international business development and marketing costs by providing up to $15,000 per company.
“We’ve never given up,” insisted Unruh. “We’ve always been a solution driven company, looking for answers instead of throwing our hands up in the air, and I think that has really been a main reason why RMU has been so successful.”
As for the future, there are some big plans on the horizon for RMU.
“We want to expand our growth through a number of factors, like distributing with Black Sheep Sports and working with more nonprofits,” said Unruh. “And most importantly, we want to go beyond seasonal sales to become a Mountain Culture company, not just a ski store.”