GOLDEN, Colo. — Vienna native Chris Peters manufactures snow skis in Colorado for a living.
How does a West Virginia native end up owning a ski-producing company, 7 Mile Skis, in Colorado?
For Peters, a 2001 graduate of Parkersburg High School, making snow skis is an extension of a sport he has enjoyed for a long time, beginning in West Virginia.
Peters started snow skiing at the age of 2 at Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County, W.Va. His family skied and when Chris was 12 he tried snowboarding because he was already skateboarding.
After graduating from PHS, Peters attended West Virginia University at Parkersburg for a couple of semesters. He said he had little interest in selecting a college major and was more interested in going to work.
He worked for his father, William, at NAPA Auto Parts in downtown Parkersburg and at Goldsmit-Black in Vienna.
In 2003, Peters worked at Snowshoe Mountain as a ski and snowboard instructor. He enjoyed skiing on new twin tip skis and felt comfortable on skis, he said. Peters worked for the ski school at Snowshoe/Silver Creek for two years and spent two years at the terrain park as a supervisor – building and testing the jumps and rails.
“I also worked servicing ski equipment, selling skis, renting equipment and race tuning at Route 66 board shop” near Snowshoe, Peters said.
During his ski days at Snowshoe, Peters competed in freestyle skiing events such as slopestyle, rail jams and half pipe.
“Back then it seemed easier to compete and I was all about showing style in competition and never interested in spinning to win; it worked out for me a few times,” Peters said.
He won second place in the West Virginia Open in 2006, first place in one of the first half pipe competitions at Silver Creek and awards in rail jams.
While competing in the amateur freestyle skiing scene, Peters said, he went to work for Armada Skis, assisting a regional sales representative and getting products for competition and daily work.
He was later approached by Folsom Custom Skis, a company that was in its testing phase, to work for them. At first he turned down the offer, Peters said, but was asked by Folsom to design a ski to his liking for the terrain park.
“I tested several skis and delivered my feedback to him (the owner) as a tester,” Peters said.
After a few years at Snowshoe, Peters decided he wanted bigger mountains and more snow so he took a road trip to find his place in the Rocky Mountains.
“I found myself working at Winter Park Resort (in Colorado) the next season as a ski instructor and ski tuner. I ended up supervising the tune shop at the base later that season and managing tuning and repair for the mountain of Winter Park the following season,” Peters said.
Peters said he competed in professional skiing events at Winter Park but never placed well.
At Folsom Custom Skis, now a growing company in Colorado, Peters was hired to assist in making skis in the factory at Boulder. He had previously helped to develop three ski models with the company.
“I showed little interest, though, in spending time at the factory in Boulder at the time because my heart was in the mountains,” Peters said in an email.
Peters became one of Winter Park Resort’s most in demand ski tuners and also worked in Falls Creek, Australia, as a tuner for Central Snow Sports, he said.
In 2012, Peters was working part time as a regional sales representative for Ninthward Skis covering Colorado, Utah and Wyoming when he was promoted to global sales manager.
But Peters later decided to start a ski-making company with Trever Ensele. The two had worked together at Ski Broker in Fraser, Colo.
Athletes that Peters knew and skied with encouraged him to make skis, he said.
After a year of planning, Peters, 32, and Ensele found a location in Silverthorne, Colo., for their factory in May 2013.
“We spent a year making prototype skis for research and development to finalize skis for the catalog in the first sales year of 2015,” said Peters, CEO and owner of 7 Mile Skis.
Last summer, Peters made 120 pairs of skis, of which 92 have been sold.
He describes his company’s skis as being durable. His company has been working to develop new models for next year and prototyping more skis.
Peters and Ensele, the company’s only two employees, recently moved their shop to Golden, Colo., where they have a storefront and offer factory ski tunes to walk-in customers.
This summer, Peters also will be making custom longboard decks, skateboard decks and custom paddles for whitewater, canoe, kayak and standup paddle boarding.
Owning the company allows Peters to have complete control over the design and construction of his skis – and control over the size of inventory.
“We can change the product” after getting feedback from skiers, he said. Peters noted that his products go directly from his Colorado factory to customers without using a “middleman.”
The company makes three models of skis for adults: freestyle, all-mountain and powder/big mountain. It takes Peters six hours to make a ski in production. If his company is prototyping a ski, it can take Peters up to two days to make a ski he has never produced before.
Peters hopes to grow his business and go “global” in a “very competitive market.”
The name of their company comes from the backcountry ski trail on Berthoud Pass in Colorado. The seven-mile-long trail stretches from the top of the Continental Divide to the floor of the Fraser Valley. It is a well-known trail to those who ski or snowboard the Berthoud Pass area, Peters said.
“It’s been quite an adventure,” Peters said of working in the snow sports industry for 13 years.