Mike McCabe, left, and Ryan Prentice are managing partners of Folsom Custom Skis, a Denver-based company they took over in 2010. (Katie Shapiro, The Cannabist)

Shop Sesh: Duo behind Folsom Custom Skis taps into botany, bud (interview)

Welcome to our new Shop Sesh column. Every month, I’ll visit the curators, artists, builders and designers who enjoy a little kush to help them push boundaries. It just so happens they’re all also doing pretty impressive things to cultivate the creative community in Colorado and beyond. We’ll have a smoke and a chat in the spaces that often inspire them most — their own. If you’d like to request a sesh or have one to recommend, e-mail me here.

Shop: Folsom Custom Skis

With: Mike McCabe, Partner/Production & Ryan Prentice, Partner/Marketing

Sesh: Sativa blend pre-roll, Denver Kush Club ($10)

A pair of custom boards made completely by hand is pretty much an anomaly in the big business of skiing. But for Denver-based Folsom Custom Skis, it’s the norm. One hundred percent rider owned, the focus is on individual on-mountain needs using sustainable materials — most sourced right here in Colorado. Aside from the expert engineering of Mike McCabe (he’s a master builder and former professional skier), the graphics really get me. Local artists like Chris Adams are regularly enlisted to dream up limited-edition designs while Ryan Prentice keeps tabs on Folsom’s Stock Graphics and Lines, which are all ballsy, bold and bright. I got to spend a day in the shop with the Folsom fellas to preview their latest custom topsheet graphic “Juicy Fruit” and talk powder days, safety meetings and ski making.

Folsom Custom Skis with topsheet graphic "Juicy Fruit"
The new topsheet graphic for Folsom’s “Juicy Fruit” skis is an image from a local friend’s homegrown plant. (Provided by Folsom Custom Skis)

Tell me about this here pot ski.

MM: One of the main selling points for us is the customization of the topsheet — probably the biggest appeal is that you can make your skis look absolutely any way you want … from literally taking a picture of your homegrown and putting it on your skis. That was the case with this ski – a local guy that grows pot just took close-ups of some “Juicy Fruit” and sent us a hi-res image. Ryan created this graphic out of that.

RP: It was right after it became legal that Mike and I went to a dispensary and decided to do it. We felt a lot more comfortable to put it out to the public — it already feels different and within our industry it’s really just a part of it. I have all sorts of weird shit on this computer that no one is ever going to see — but this is something people want to see, especially now.

MM: We kept it classy. It’s not like there’s a big blunt being smoked or Cheech and Chong‘s faces … you know, blatantly in your face. It’s just the natural beauty of the plant. We did some fun stuff with a little tie-dye die cut in the base and matching the sidewalls to the color of THC crystals in their natural state. Really went for whole fun aesthetic of it.

But it’s not all just looks with Folsom, right?

MM: You know behind that ski, is a very, very high-performance product that was built for Ryan Banker, who’s competing in the Freeride World Tour. This first one we made is a Gambit/185cm, but any of our graphics can go on any on our shapes.

Do you think he’ll get any flack from competing with the graphic?

RP: It will definitely get attention, but I don’t think it will be negative. I can’t speak to each competition’s rules, but in the towns these guys are skiing in, it’s just a part of the culture — and pretty much always has been [before legalization].

And from customers?

RP: We only have one retailer [Backcountry.com] and everything else is sold directly through our site. Look, our skis are expensive, so we want to be a little bit careful about getting pegged as this super stoner brand. So yeah, the “Juicy Fruit” is only available through us directly.

I can’t believe it’s just you two here on a daily basis.

MM: As far as the day to day — everything that gets done — it’s 100 percent both Ryan and myself. We have a few other business partners that are more detached and helping us with the logistics of a small business, and a few CU interns that swing by and help us out. We’re just two dudes that hang out in a shop for way too long. We kind of get detached from the rest of the world a little bit.

RP: We live together too. We see a lot of each other. We’re a pretty damn tight-knit team here!

How did you guys start making skis together?

MM: I didn’t technically start this company, but I more or less started from the beginning with the founder, Jordan Grano. It was us for a while, but he decided to move on. That’s when some of our team guys (professional skiers and testers) and I decided to band together and buy the business. Ryan was actually one of our first real professional testers when he was living up in Whistler. He was coaching and on the product every single day.

RP: Mike, our third partner (Jesse Durrance) and I were all buddies at CU. We took over in 2010 entirely and it’s been a bit of a shift in focus a little, but it’s been really good since we’ve grown quite a bit. Jesse is in Argentina finishing up medical school, but he still is involved. We like to call him our mini accountant.

Back to pot … how did it all begin?

MM: I didn’t start until I was 20 and it was introduced to me skiing. Friends I’d be riding with would take a break, smoke a little weed and mellow out for a minute. We’d come back out and just have a way better time. For everyday skiing, when I’m smoking I’m more focused on my natural surroundings and never the negative. It’s wonderful. I actually prefer not to be high in certain situations a lot — more aggressive ski days obviously — and on the job. It’s tough with manufacturing. We’re dealing with sharp, dangerous stuff that you could really take a hand off in the blink of an eye. I stay clear-headed when I’m out there in the shop to make sure that I’m on point and doing exactly what I need to be doing to build the best skis. But it’s really awesome to see the changes over the past few months. To have that validation for something that’s been a part of snow culture for so long.

So, do you ski better when you’re high?

MM: Arguably … to myself. But when I’m really getting after it, then no. Smoking a little weed on a deep pow day, though … it’s one of the best things ever. I love those nice reflection moments and just being really present.

How much does it suck to miss a powder day like today?

RP: Yeah, it’s tough. But we try and get up there two days a week. It’s pretty nice to be able to peel out on a weekday to get some good snow, but we definitely make up for it late night and on weekends. We get a good block in soon with a whole month of testing. But we come back to a real shit storm. When we’re not here, zero happens.

How long from online order to on-mountain fun, and how do we get a pair?

MM: Always approximately three weeks. Building skis is an overwhelmingly large part of our daily lives. It takes eight hours for us to produce one pair.

RP: It’s all done online. We like to think our website is fairly well laid out, so people can research as much as they want. There’s forms like the skier profile and personality questions to give people a chance to let us know exactly what they want. From there, we build a relationship with the customer and take it to the phone. 99.9 percent of the time our skiers are extremely excited about the end result.

What’s up next?

MM: Coming into the new test season, which is the last week of February, we’re showcasing our product out on the road for about a month (Aspen, Jackson Hole and Whistler).

RP: We have a new all-mountain/big-mountain charging ski called the Primary, and it’s a really unique blend and take on two skis we already offer.

MM: We also have a super-secret shape in the works but we’re not divulging much information just yet. All we can say is, regression is progression.

RP: Yeah, we’re taking a couple of steps back.

What’s playing in the shop?

Ghostland Observatory, Black Keys, White Lies, Cut Copy, Interpol, Italo Disco, The Smiths, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Favorite mountains — one in Colorado, one anywhere in the world?

MM: Ajax (Aspen Mountain)/Highlands Bowl (Aspen Highlands), Las Lenas (Argentina)

RP: Whistler only

Folsom Custom Skis’ “Juicy Fruit” design now available through their online shop and start at $850 for semi-custom or $1,200 for full custom fit. With about 12 weeks left in the season, there’s still time to ride these skis high.