The way former Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk figures it, if there were some truth to everybody he has encountered over the years saying that he or she were there the night he hit the famed, game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, then Fenway Park’s attendance would have been somewhere around 250,000 people that night.
Count Ted Eynon among the masses.
In the actual crowd of 32,205, that is, not the revisionist estimate that has only grown with the game’s legend.
“I actually was there,” the native of Ashland, Mass., said. “I truly was there.”
Believe him or not (we’ll take his word for it), it’s less dubious to argue that Eynon has positioned himself in a similarly pivotal, if less dramatic, juncture of the skiing industry as the owner of Meier Skis, a Colorado-based custom manufacturer that is making the process of buying skis an enveloping experience. That’s quite the difference from a disappearing age when interested buyers solely based their purchases on what they saw in a ski magazine ad or a banner in a ski shop.
“One, we actually make the skis ourselves,” Eynon said. “And two, it’s an immersive brand experience.”
Visitors to the Denver “skiery,” as the factory has been dubbed, will find comfortable surroundings set up to introduce everyone to the manufacturing process. There’s a bar, where the “skitender” knows all about the production of the skis, a process taking place behind large glass windows behind the bar.
“People can hang out at the bar, touch and feel the material, learn about the production process while having a beer, and watch the guys actually laying out and pressing skis and getting kind of a play-by-play of that whole process,” Eynon said.
At the end of the day (usually around 5:30), Meier hosts its “Happy Hour Tours” once the factory workers are finished cleaning up. Guests will be welcome to visit the shop and go through all the work stations in order to get a sense of how the skis are made.
“It’s fun,” Eynon said. “I think it’s eye-opening to a lot of people. So many people, including myself, skied forever and have owned a bunch of skis but didn’t really know what went into making a ski. By the time you’re done with the end of the tour, you have a really good idea about how skis are made.”
It’s not necessarily an industry that the 1985 graduate of the University of New Hampshire figured he’d find himself in one day. Eynon came from a software business for utilities, one he sold in 2008 to General Electric. He then ended up traveling around the world for a few years for the company until he tired of dealing with a company the size of GE and wanted to do something different.
The fact that he was eventually drawn to the ski industry, though, makes sense.
Eynon’s father, Stuart, was a certified ski instructor for 45 years. He started shortly after World War II — in which he served as a bottom gunner for B-24 Liberators — as a student at UNH. In his spare time, he would travel to North Conway (right around the same time iconic ski school patriarch Hannes Schneider was changing the face of instruction), where he became an instructor and also became friends with Swiss National Ski Team member Paul Valar and his wife, U.S. Olympian Paula Kann Valar. The Valars were instrumental in creating ski schools at Cannon and Mittersill mountains, a connection that led the Franconia Notch locales to become Ted’s most-frequented winter destinations while growing up in New England.
Ted eventually ended up in Colorado, as many New Englanders manage to at some point, largely because of skiing, and he started to learn a little bit about the cottage industry of ski and snowboard manufacturing.
“There weren’t too many of them, but it intrigued me,” he said.
It was around that time when a friend saw an article in the Denver Post about Matt Cudmore, who started Meier in his garage in Glenwood Springs. “I reached out to Matt, we got together and skied and had a good time,” Eynon said. “We shared common interests and passions, decided to go into business together, get him out of the garage and set him up in factory, trying to make a bigger deal out of it.”
The philosophies of the company started to form at that point as well. Cudmore’s brother was working for the Colorado State Forest at the time and had the idea of using sustainable wood sources from Colorado. All of the offerings are handcrafted in Denver using locally harvested, sustainable aspen (about 90 percent of the wood profiles) and beetle kill pine.
“The wood is great to use and can even be used for framing homes,” Eynon said. “It’s got good integrity.
“We use a clear topsheet to show it off. We still have graphics on the skis, but we always show off a lot of the wood core so you can actually see the colors of the wood, the natural beauties of the wood, as well as the workmanship. It’s a distinct look.”
Meier offers 18 models of skis, most recently announcing two new ones at January’s outdoor retail show in Denver. There’s everything from a narrow, frontside carver akin to a racing ski to all-mountain skis to fat powder skis. “The custom path is we really try and figure out the right model and length for someone based on their skier type,” Eynon said, “where they ski, the type of terrain they ski, the snow that typically falls there, et cetera.
“They’re actually not made that much different than the major brands like Atomic and Rossi (Rossignol) and what have you. They might use some automations to build components and cut shapes and stuff, but the actual layup and pressing process, where you have to apply epoxy to all the composites and the material and put everything together on the layup table, it’s done the same everywhere. It hasn’t been automated anywhere.”
Graphics for the ski can either be done in-house, or with the advice of one of Meier’s graphic designers. “Some people are artists and they give us a painting,” Eynon said. “It could be anything.”
That’s what essentially makes the ski unique.
“Then, it’s one of one,” Eynon said. “There’s only one of that kind in the world.”
It’s these sorts of independent ski manufacturers that are making a name for themselves on the slopes, even as what Eynon figures is only one percent of the entire market. It’s a lot more interesting for people to talk about their original Meiers or Parlors, based in Boston, than it might be their new pair of Völkls, which happens to be only one pair of thousands of others like them.
“That’s what is so important about having a distinct and unique look to the skis,” Eynon said.
Despite the Colorado address, Meier skis are easy to try out in New England. The company is present in a number of ski shops throughout the region and sells direct as well. There also are on-mountain demos scheduled for this month at Magic Mountain, Pico and Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. (Check www.meierskis.com for a complete listing.)
Meier even helps protect its retail partners so that people can buy direct from Meier and the shop where the customer demoed can still get credit for those orders. That takes a lot of the risk out of the retail shop, particularly when they traditionally place orders in March in order to sell for the next season, guessing on quantities, lengths and models. Then, “pray to God it actually snows, you can sell the stuff and make some margin on it,” Eynon said.
“With Meier, since we’re actually producing everything ourselves here, we have the ability to hit the gas and produce more accelerated production based on orders flow. So, a ski shop doesn’t have to guess as much.
“It’s definitely a bit of a paradigm shift as far as the traditional business model for ski production and supply chain all the way.”
So, while Eynon’s father might have finally ended his skiing days (the 97-year-old committed to the lifestyle change by giving his skis to his cardiologist last year), Ted continues to be at the forefront of the way the ski buying business is changing.
There aren’t too many other people, unlike that game in 1975, who can truly say the same.