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Growing up in the Midwest forced Steve Kopitz to travel all over the world to satisfy his fix for skiing, but eventually he realized that occasional trips didn’t cut it. Once a certified financial planner at American Express, something became clear in his mid-thirties. Steve wasn’t happy. At 55, he now operates five ski shops and an online store under the banner of Summit Sports.
“I didn’t leave financial services for more money, I left for a better life,” Kopitz said. “Now, I love being on the cutting edge of new features and technologies.”
Initially unsure of how he would make it as a working ski bum, Kopitz researched hundreds of businesses for three months before opening Summit Sports in 1990; the company began the retail site, Skis.com, in 1997. At first, meant to be a safety net for the volatile Michigan snow sports market, the website now accounts for 80 percent of the company’s sales.
Steve and his wife of 25years, Kathy, haven’t always shared a mutual passion for the sport. Before the two tied the knot, both had conditions that needed to be satisfied. Adamant about sharing his love for the snow, Kopitz insisted that Kathy learn to ski. “I always knew that, for this relationship to work, we would have to ski together,” he said.
Reluctantly, Kathy agreed under two conditions: she had to be warm and had to enjoy it. With the “puffiest” jacket in the store, the two skied a local mountain, then Steamboat Springs. After realizing the bliss that comes with spring skiing in the Rocky Mountains, she was hooked. Kathy, in fact, was the one who made the ultimate decision for Steve to venture into the sporting goods industry.
The passion for skiing that built a 20-year-old company seems to be infectious. Kopitz’s wife Kathy, the one who almost got away, is working on her own venture in ski retail while their two children have both fled the Midwest to find altitude.
“It was bound to happen,” Kopitz said. “I showed up to the hospital, when my son was born, with a teddy bear and a pair of skis.”