Steamboat Living: Filthy fun: North Routt locals riding homemade skis
Ski in North Routt County this winter and you might see locals schussing on a new ski underfoot, complete with gray-and-brown beetle-kill topsheets. Far from their Filthy Ski brand name, they’re works of art that are as fun to arc turns on as they are aesthetic.
Four years ago, Willow Creek Pass resident Joe Muhlbauer and a few buddies began drafting handmade skis in the same garage they gathered in for beers after a long day’s work. That’s when the Filthy Ski brand was born, and the garage-built skis have quickly garnered a strong local following.
“I was inspired by other friends that do it,” says Muhlbauer, whose skis blend camber, rocker and other design features of more established brands. “I went on ski trips to places like Jackson Hole, and I saw how these guys created a lifestyle where their job was skiing, and it made me want to do it.”
Not that it’s a full-time job yet. Muhlbauer, 36, is still a mason by trade. But when the construction business slows down in the winter, he swaps rocks for a ski press and uses the extra time to make tools he can traipse around on in his snow-filled backyard.
In the past four years, he’s produced dozens of skis each winter and, with the help of partner Pete Owen, recently has expanded into making split boards, as well. “It just became addicting,” he says, adding that most skis have bamboo cores, maple sidewalls and telltale North Routt beetle-killed pine for graphics. “First, we did one pair, then two, and eventually, it snowballed into 50.”
For now, the two are happy keeping things small and doing something they love. But someday, they’d love to see their custom-built skis and boards extend beyond North Routt. “We’re never fully satisfied,” Owen says. “We want to keep making them better and better.”
The bottom line is the beauty of hitting their local slopes on handmade gear. “It’s really satisfying to rip down some big mountain on something you made in your garage,” Muhlbauer says. “I’ve skied some pretty hairball stuff in the Zirkels, and trusting your life on something you built, and then putting all your friends on it, is a really gratifying feeling.”
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