Take 5: RMU’s Chris Glynn brings a love of the backcountry — and nonprofit ethics — to Breckenridge
April 11, 2017
There's more to Rocky Mountain Underground than fat skis and Breckenridge's first combo bar and ski shop.
A few years back, when South Carolina native Chris Glynn was looking for a way to break into the highly competitive ski industry, he came across RMU and offered the then-fledgling company help with website development. One thing led to the other, and within a few years the founders brought Glynn on board as the company's operations director. He's now the man in charge of the nitty-gritty side of RMU's growing brand between plenty of alpine-touring trips with the company deep in the Colorado backcountry.
It sounded like the life: skiing, beer, AT trips with your best buds and co-workers. But for 29-year-old Glynn, RMU was more than a way to live the life of a ski bum with a regular paycheck — the position also came with purpose.
Shortly after graduating college in the late-2000s, he spent two years volunteering with Americorps, taking low-income youth on outdoor programs and excursions. He found a similar philosophy at RMU, which has raised close to $300,000 for local nonprofits through benefit events and fundraisers. The company regularly works with outdoor-minded nonprofits like Protect Our Winters, First Descents and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and chances are good you'll spot at least one pair of custom RMU skis with a CAIC or New Belgium topsheet floating around town.
"RMU has been dedicated to nonprofit work, even as a smaller ski company," Glynn said. "This spoke to me and engaged me early on with the company."
RMU and Glynn's dedication to the people of the industry — not just the bottom line — has helped the Breck-born brand become more than "just another gear company," according to the website, and it's given Glynn a company that feeds his love of service and skiing.
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At the start of spring backcountry season, the Summit Daily sports section caught up with Glynn to talk more about his life before RMU, his vision for the company and why nothing beats skiing a 14er in May.
Summit Daily News: RMU has slowly turned into a big name in the backcountry skiing world. How did you get involved with them?
Chris Glynn: I was looking for jobs in the industry four years ago. I had just left a job with a ski shop in Durango managing their IT and their website. Mike (Waesche, RMU's CEO) replied to my email to help RMU with SEO and website management. I started as an independent contractor, and eventually started managing events and moved into my new role as the operations director.
When I left college, I volunteered with Americorps for two years working with low-income youth and engaging them in outdoor pursuits and healthy lifestyles. RMU has been dedicated to nonprofit work, even as a smaller ski company. To date we've helped raise $300,000 for local and national nonprofit organizations. This spoke to me and engaged me early on with the company.
SDN: Talk about your first experience traveling into the backcountry with just skis and skins. Why do that instead of hopping on a snowmobile?
CG: I went to the University of New Hampshire and skied Wildcat, right across the street from Tuckerman's Ravine and Mount Washington. My earliest (backcountry) experiences were skinning up and skiing the Sherburne ski trail and Hillman's Highway trails, and then waiting for spring to ski the Ravine. We didn't use snowmobiles so we could experience the quiet of nature and the trail, and to have that connection to the early history of skiing.
SDN: Is that when you really fell in love with AT skiing?
CG: Those early days on Mount Washington really inspired me, but once (I was) living in Summit and exploring all the options we have here, it solidified my love of AT skiing.
SDN: What lessons have you learned over the years of AT skiing, and why have they stuck with you?
CG: Taking courses and advancing certs have been all parts of my major lessons. I haven't had any major incidents or truly scary moments in the backcountry. I guess seeing other people pass away early on in my learning showed me every time you go out you could die and to make decisions for safety first.
SDN: Where are your favorite places for AT skiing in Summit?
CG: Around the Basin, a few quick laps in the Hippie Trees area is always a great time. It's a nice pitch — a good reward for the skin up — and the snow normally stays nice and soft over there. In the spring, laps in the couloirs on Quandary (Peak) are always a great time. Once you get nice corn on the south side, a quick lap on a 14er is great. Careful on the north side: It can get cliffed out if you don't know where you're going.
SDN: What's your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to get into AT, splitboard and backcountry travel?
CG: The best thing is to learn through the proper channels and gain experience from well-traveled backcountry users. More than anything now, you see a number of people who buy the gear and don't know how to use it. Sometimes, you might even see someone in their BC gear at the resort and they can't even ski down. Take it slow, learn what you're doing, and learn how to manage risk and the terrain you're in.
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