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The Skimo Co Store Opens

As the on-line ski mountaineering dealer, Skimo.co, settles into their new store front in Salt Lake City, I feel compelled to look back at the arguably fringe sport of light weight ski mountaineering and skimo racing and how elusive the equipment was in North America just a few short years ago. My own evolution in the sport coincided with the equipment's availability outside of Europe. In the early days, part of the competition was outfitting ourselves with the best gear, not always an easy proposition. And if we couldn't afford it or find it, lightnening and modifying what we had was the next best thing. Truth be told, you can buy speed. Jason Borro at Skimo Co makes easier than ever with great customer service and beta for everyone.

At the end, here, is a short interview with Jason documenting his path to our favorite place to shop. 

First, some history...

Ahh...the early days. Scrapa F1's, Ti Race bindings and the ubiquitous Trab suit.I think I did my first skimo race back around 2007 or 2008. The sport had been smoldering along for five or six years by then and Jackson Hole held the National Championships each year. I had a couple of friends who were way into it and I initially watched from afar the tech end of the sport. The race gear that was needed to be really competitive was hard to find and expensive. We all knew what we wanted from watching videos from Europe and hearing tales from the few Americans that travelled to and raced in Europe during those formative years. But obtaining the skis, boots and bindings often required a trip to Europe or dealing with Telemark Pyrennes, a Euro-based, early mail order business. Eventually, Dynafit USA brought some of the gear over and availability started to improve. Cycling jerseys were soon replaced with full-blown Lycra race suits and exotic gear started showing up at starting lines across the country.

The "green boot" that dominated the early days of skimo racingI entered the fray in a piece meal fashion. I got some bad advice from someone who knew better and I bought a 75mm underfoot Trab ski initially. Sure, it skied better in difficult conditions but no one who was competitive had a ski that big. I hated the penalty weight but couldn't afford what I really needed, the Trab Race Aero. But I kicked down for the Scarpa F1, carved all superfulous rubber off the sole and even drilled the requisite holes in the shell like the fast guys did. I had the old Dynafit TLT Titanium Race binding but Low Techs were quickly replacing those. Shit, more money. Then, the game changer - The Dynafit DyNA Race Boot and the TLT 5. Feeling poor, I couldn't stomach the race boot but justified the TLT 5 as a cross over skimo and race boot. I was buying speed. 

The Plum Race 145Next up, was courting the niche manufacturers in Europe for some trick bindings. Dynafit's patent had finally expired and knock offs were coming out of the wood work. I did my research and decided that Plum had the best, most reliable race binding out. I was able to get my hands on a couple of pairs at a reduced price. The relationship lasted several years. I still have a quiver of them. Finally, I obtained the "must have" race ski of the era, the Trab Race Aero World Cup. Such a fine ski. Still have it. Skis great. I managed a pair of Dynafit DyNA race boots after that and no longer had any equipment longings except, perhaps, the ephemeral Pierre Gignoux boots, which were WAY out my price range.

A more modern lookSince those days, I've made lateral moves in gear, like the Scarpa Alien 1.0 and the Hagan Race X ski. Both are excellent choices and served me well at my final race, the Pierra Menta in Areche-Beaufort, France. Living in AK it's unlikely I'll toe the line of many skimo races in the near future but one never knows. Instead, I'll continue to use the gear and skiing chops developed from racing to traverse large swaths of Alaskan ski terrain when the conditions permit. One thing is for sure, most Alaskan skiers have been insulated by the fast and light skimo movement and it's fun showing new partners the possibilities. Although I doubt AK will ever have a race "scene" like Utah and Colorado, the gear may find its way into quivers and out onto the numerous cool traverses we have up here. 

Gone are the days where I'd pen letters to various manufacturers looking for deals on the latest light weight material. Those days felt adventurous and turning up a pro form on skis or bindings felt like unearthing some gold. But now I can simply log on and peruse Skimo.co for nearly everything light and fast. Jason has an incredible selection of skis, boots, bindings and clothing as well as related accessories to complete your kit. I'm particularly fond of his willingness to offer separate binding heels and toes so I can create my ideal hybrid set ups for my fancy. Having all the gear in one place on this side of the Atlantic is something I couldn't conceive of when I started in the sport. It seemed like a big risk for Jason to kick down and invest in the project but as the sport grew, so did his business' viability. And now he opens a store. Who knew?

Jason Borro, Skimo Co founder interview

1. How long have you been skiing / ski mountaineering?  Where did you start?

I’ve been skiing for ~25 years with a fairly typical progression: snow plowing -> alpine racing in jeans -> ambulance / free riding -> dangling on skinny rope.  The first two phases of this illustrious career took place in the big mountains of Iowa.  The last two in a small backyard of Salt Lake City.  Still waiting for my AK visa to come visit you.
2. When did you become interested in fast and light equipment/skimo racing?
My first season in Utah it took me a half-day to slog up Mt. Superior in alpine boots, which is no way to live. Then shortly after purchasing the Chuting Gallery, I was passed by the author wearing a full-body leotard during the Powder Keg.  Huffing and puffing in the aforementioned alpine boots, I could only mutter “great book!” while yielding the track.  That mentorship was key to understanding that racing is the best training. Thanks Andrew!

3. What made you decide to start an online retail business in such a niche sport?
Realizing that all the good stuff was only available in Europe, I figured the worst that could happen is I end up with the best ski quiver in history.  Plus maybe I could get some cheap, hard-to-obtain, tax-deductible ski gear?  Such noble causes are behind most businesses I suspect.

4. How long have you been operating?  Are you seeing any growth?
We opened in 2013 after a year of programming and in-fighting.  We received immediate attention from crickets and a few gram-counters thankful to now have fewer spreadsheet-maintenance chores.  Concluding we had spent enough energy on advertising, we focused most waking hours on improving the website and shop tooling, sprinkled with competitions to see who could ship an order the fastest.  A few of those early folks must have told some other folks as our one-minute-fulfillment goal has steadily become more challenging.

5. Your customer service is excellent. Is it just you running the show or do you have help?
I've had lots of great help.  Turns out my wife is a natural with a tape-gun and my four-year-old son loves to count screws (he apologizes if you’ve gotten the wrong number).  My two-year-old daughter is still figuring out her role but it will most likely involve playing in boxes.  Unfortunately no more free help is on the way.  Fortunately, I'm now working with a skilled boot fitter and a ski tuning artist.

6. Does that mean you'll have a brick and mortar location?
Yes.  Despite the fact that I’m a much better typist than salesperson, this season we'll have our first storefront just a couple clicks from Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I hope you like skimo blue because I overdid it.


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Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for the interview, Brian! Gonna reiterate how awesome Jason and his business are - I've bought a bunch of gear from him, from Cho Oyus to Plum screws and he's been so very helpful along the way. Not only amazing customer service, but the best selection of LW ski gear in the US. Wishing him all the best in this!

December 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Thanks for reading, Nick. Yeah, I pinch myself every time I go to the site but with the sport's continued growth it seems that Skimo Co is a sustainable reality for all us light and fast evangelicals.

December 22, 2015 | Registered CommenterBrian

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