Jose Doton works on a snowboard at the Never Summer Industries’ factory in northeast Denver. Skis and skateboards also are manufactured at the plant.
Jose Doton works on a snowboard at the Never Summer Industries' factory in northeast Denver. Skis and skateboards also are manufactured at the plant. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Given that the folks at Never Summer work in a building that resembles an aircraft hangar and is just as vast, it's appropriate that they are in the business of helping people fly — albeit with skis and snowboards, not wings.

The company is one of the leaders among Colorado's ski manufacturers, a burgeoning subset of the winter sports industry that shows not everything has moved to China.

"For a while there American ski manufacturing seemed to be disappearing," says Vince Sanders, who directs product development for Never Summer. "But there's been a comeback, and people are doing it for the right reasons, because they're committed and passionate."

Wheels in a box await installation on skateboards at Never Summer Industries. "When we need a part or a piece of equipment, we make it. We’re
Wheels in a box await installation on skateboards at Never Summer Industries. "When we need a part or a piece of equipment, we make it. We're really self-sufficient," Vince Saunders, who directs product development. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

And these manufacturers have their own testing labs — the ski slopes dotting the Rockies just a quick drive west.

Along with making its own products, Never Summer builds equipment for such Colorado brands as High Society, Icelantic, Fat-ypus and Rocky Mountain Underground. Toss in other Colorado brands such as Unity in Dillon, and you have a snowy version of the food world's "Eat Local" movement.

Never Summer sits in a brick building at 5077 Colorado Blvd. that is as long as a football field. Seventy employees work two shifts. The pace is brisk. On an average day the company produces 120 snowboards, 60 skateboards (longboards are the company's thing) and 50 pairs of skis.

The snowboards alone are a 40-step process.


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About 70 percent of Never Summer's output involves its own product, with Icelantic accounting for more than half of their contract work.

Never Summer also recently turned out 400 pairs of skis for Enabling Technologies, a company that offers gear to paraplegic and quadraplegic skiiers.

"Capacity-wise, this place is not only unique in Colorado, but in the United States," Sanders says of the 19,000-square-foot facility. "We do our own tool-and-die. When we need a part or a piece of equipment, we make it.

Levi Surber works in the layup area making snowboards at Never Summer Industries, 5077 Colorado Blvd.
Levi Surber works in the layup area making snowboards at Never Summer Industries, 5077 Colorado Blvd. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

"We're really self-sufficient."

Sanders joined Never Summer shortly after its 1991 launch. Before that he had a retail snowboard shop in Lakewood.

Like most of the company's employees, he learned on the job. "Most people here come in and are taught by senior workers," he says.

Owner Tim Canaday, however, is self-taught.

"In the early 1980s my brother and I built snowboards called Swift," he says. "I actually built my first snowboard in my wood-shop class at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins."

Some of those snowboards still hang on the wall. Funny thing: Radically innovative at the time, spawning a lengthy but now-settled debate about snowboard-skier coexistence, those old boards now look as archaic as a Model T or Philco tube television.

A display of completed longboards at Never Summer.
A display of completed longboards at Never Summer. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Unlike most of his fellow employees, who learned on the job, Never Summer's Cuauhtémoc Tiscareño is a career woodworker.

"I like the challenge of the work," says Tiscareño, who grew up in Denver. Although his title is production manager, he wears a slew of hats. "I'm the mechanic, welder, electrician, companion, babysitter and guidance counselor," he says with a laugh.

Never Summer's snowboards are a mix of birch, poplar and aspen — plus the carbon fibers and edging that give the board bite, stiffness or flexibility, as needed.

"The aspen is for lightweight flexibility, birch goes underneath the mounting area, and poplar creates durable edges," Sanders says.

The manufacturing area dominates the plant, and it's a bustling cacophony of buzz saws, routers, presses and programmable sanders — plus the din of a dozen or more competing radios. Not into rap or heavy metal? Just turn the corner, and you'll get a blast of Norteño. Or alt-country.

Colorado's ski industry owes a huge debt to the fact that it's located in, well, Colorado.

"The state is a great hub for snow sports," says Sam Warren, the promotional and apparel director at Icelantic, which is headquartered at 621 Kalamath St. "A lot of industry people really trust Colorado skiers to be at the forefront of things.

"And our access to some of the best mountains in the world make it really easy to test and innovate," he says. "That makes for a really quick turnaround, which is great, because there's real pressure to stay on the brink of innovation."

In that respect, Rocky Mountain Underground enjoys a real edge. Located in Breckenridge, their in-house "lab rats" can pretty much step right out the door to test-drive new products.

Owner Timothy Haley says he thinks the rise of Colorado's homegrown ski manufacturers owes something to the economic downturn.

"I've had a lot of skiers tell us that they wanted to support people who are creating jobs in the state," Haley says. "People really want to support businesses that are bringing jobs back to America."

William Porter: 303-954-1877 or wporter@denverpost.com


Made in Colorado

A partial list of skis and snowboards manufactured in Colorado:

Donek donek.com

Drake Powderworks dpsskis.com

Ellison ellisonskis.com

Fat-ypus fat-ypus.com

Flo floskis.com

Folsom folsomskis.com

Hangfire Handcrafted Skis hangfireskis.com

High Society Freeride highsocietyfreeride.com

Icelantic icelanticboards.com

Liberty libertyskis.com

Never Summer neversummer.com

Rocky Mountain Underground rockymountainunderground.com

ScottyBob scottybob.com

Sterling sterlingskis.com

Unity unityskis.com

Venture Snowboards venturesnowboards.com

Wagner wagnerskis.com