STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Two Steamboat Springs men have landed on a new way for graduates of the University of Colorado and Colorado State University to show their pride in their alma maters while floating through the powder.
Luke Dudley and Don McLean are the founders of LDM, which is marketing fully licensed skis with the CU and CSU mascots on the top skins under the www.collegeskis.com brand.
Another Steamboat businessman, George Danellis, is a partner in the company.
The CU skis, with Ralphie's horns set into multicolored hardwood top skins, are being made by the award-winning, Breckenridge-based company Ski Logik. And the CSU skis, which just came out (yes, Cam the Ram makes an appearance), are being made in Boyne City, Mich., by the historic ski manufacturer SCC.
"The concept arose out of a nonprofit motivation to raise money for the CU Ski Team and the college athletic department," McLean said this week.
For the first production run of 100 CU skis, the local entrepreneurs have committed to donate 20 percent of the purchase price (currently discounted to $795) to the university to be split between the ski team and the athletic department.
"The skis are all handcrafted and very high quality," McLean said.
Geared to all-mountain skiers, the skis have received written endorsements from CU Athletics Director Mike Bohn and CU Ski Team assistant coach Taggart Spenst, among others.
Spenst was quoted by www.collegeskis.com as saying: "Obviously the skis are beautiful and represent everything that being a Buff is all about, but I have been blown away by how well they ski and how durable they are. I have 50 days on the skis, including a trip to Chile, and put them through every test possible, from groomers to powder and everything that comes with being a coach. The skis have performed and still look like new."
Interested skiers can watch a video of the skis in action in Chile.
Ralphie skis in action in Chile
Endorsements like the one provided by Spenst are critical to marketing the college logo skis because they are not available for retail sale in ski shops (allowing the company to create room in the price to make the donation to participating schools).
"We've had these skis tested by expert ski racers, ski coaches, ski patrolman and avid skiers," McLean said.
The Christy Sports Gondola Square store in Steamboat carries Ski Logik skis and has a couple of pairs in its demo fleet.
The CU logo skis for women are Ski Logik's model, the Goddess Twin Tip, and for men the corresponding ski is Ullr's Chariot Twin Tip.
The website www.realskiers.com called several models of Ski Logik's skis "among the most highly regarded skis we ever tested."
Powder Magazine and Skiing Magazine also gave Ski Logik's corresponding skis high marks in 2012.
McLean graduated from the University of Colorado in 1977 and launched a 30-plus-year real estate career in Vail, Beaver Creek, Telluride and now Steamboat. He sold his own brokerage in Telluride before moving to Steamboat.
Dudley grew up in Steamboat Springs but earned his MBA in sports marketing from the University of Oregon and has worked with K2 and Yakima in the past.
The University of Colorado has a ski club whose members include many alums, including graduates of the Leeds School of Business, he said, providing a natural avenue for direct marketing.
Licensing the logos of major universities for commercial products is a detailed process, and LDM worked through the Collegiate Licensing Co., which acts as an intermediary for dozens of colleges and universities. The two partners have their eyes on producing skis branded with the logos on other major universities with large ski clubs in the future, including some schools in the Southeast Conference.
When that day arrives, LDM will have to adjust its business model and the 20 percent donation it's making to CU.
"We won't be able to do that for every school," Dudley said.
In the meantime, Buffs and Rams fans have the first crack at bragging about their schools while riding a high-performance ski.