During the first week of December, SKI Magazine heads up to Vail, Colo. to preview skis that will be released the following season. In 2020, the brands that attended the private event were pretty mainstream—Head, Elan, and Faction, to name a few—and the ski valets at the Lodge at Vail handed us skis from the future every morning without asking questions.
But one pair of skis I tested caught the attention of nearly everyone at the ski valet, in the lift line, and even on the mountain. The green color of the top sheets was blazoned with the words “Prototype” above the ski’s brand name, Romp. Everyone kept asking me, “What is that brand?” Followed quickly by, “do you like them?”
Founded in 2010 by brothers Morgan and Caleb Weinberg, Romp makes its skis in Crested Butte, Colo. Back then, a number of people were making skis in their garages across North America and launching micro-ski brands with limited success. A decade later, the only garage brands that survived had strong business plans and, perhaps more importantly, made great skis.
“I’m not very good at making plans with people to ski but I just head up [to Crested Butte Mountain Resort] and there’s always people up there I know and I meet up with them and ski with them,” says Morgan in the short film “Never Never Land.” “And whenever I’m up there in the liftline, I see tons of the skis that we’ve made.”
Watch: Never Never Land
Romp offers two types of skis: Custom Skis, which the company works with customers to design, and Romp Ready Skis, which are pre-built and ready to order. Both products start with pre-determined shapes ranging from 75mm-waisted radonnée skis to 120mm deep-snow hogs. The brand’s latest shape, the 89, aims to fill an all-mountain narrow void that most small ski brands miss.
What also sets the 89 apart is the use of Countervail material in the construction. The vibration-canceling technology is found in Wilson Tennis Rackets and Bianchi bikes (and in no way is it a swipe at the owner of Crested Butte Mountain Resort). Now, thanks to Romp, it’s in skis.
“It’s a patented material and we’re the only ski company using it,” Caleb says. “It’s a proprietary weave of carbon fiber and other materials. It reduces both weight and chatter, which means better performance” for their skis.
In addition to Countervail, the 89 can be customized for different stiffness options, rocker profiles, and topsheets that can better match a skier’s size and style. “It’s easier to go custom than to endlessly test every ski” someone might be interested in, says Caleb.
Back at Vail on the Romp 89 prototypes, I could see what he was talking about. The ski was a little soft in the tip and tail than I would have preferred (I didn’t have input in the design, for what it’s worth), but it was lively transitioning edge to edge at medium to high speeds. My instincts said it would be a really fun ski for someone about 30 pounds lighter than my 200-pound self.
“Since we made that proto and moved to the production version, we have made the base flex about 20-percent stiffer,” Caleb wrote to me in an email. “If we were to make you a custom one it would be quite a bit stiffer than those that you tested.”
Even with the softer flex, however, there was hardly any chatter, which was very much appreciated on the early-season hardpack. Better yet, there was absolutely no carbon fiber jitteriness to the skis, a common issue for small ski manufacturers experimenting with new materials. This lack of twitchiness was extra surprising considering carbon fiber is a primary ingredient in Countervail.
The addition of Countervail adds an extra $400 to the price of the ski, which might give some skiers pause about the custom process. But to have skis that are made in a historic Colorado mountain town with materials from the U.S.A., Germany, and Slovenia is encouraging, as is Romp’s unconditional guarantee that skiers will love their custom planks.
That guarantee means that if you don’t like your custom skis after ten days of skiing, Romp will make a new pair, free of charge. And if you destroy your skis on accident, Romp will replace them within one year of purchase or sell another pair at half price. That level of confidence in both the performance and the durability is a pretty good reason to spend more money on some bomber skis.
If I worked as a ski valet in Vail and skied every day during my breaks, the warranty and durability of the skis would be worth the investment. So, even if the skis caught the eye of the valets because of the cool shape and name, there is a lot more for locals and skiers everywhere to be interested in when it comes to Romp.
Romp 89 Info
Lengths (cm): 155, 164, 172, 178, 182
Dimensions (mm): 126-89-117
Base Price: $750
More info: Romp’s Website