Life on The Summit: Hey, Spike! discovers an outerwear extremist
Special to the Daily
Most of us think about outerwear seasonally — and likely thought about it a lot during winter’s recent onslaught.
Mike Collins thinks about outerwear year-round.
A resident of Copper Mountain, Mike owns two apparel design and manufacturing companies, making garments for regular folks.
His brands are Freeride Systems and Fulsus USA.
Mike readily admits you won’t find his brands on the national and international ski-circuit podiums being worn by the winners.
“We are about supplying real people living in the mountains, needing the best performing garments due to our lifestyles,” he says. “Most of these folks are rarely celebrated or heralded — they keep our roads clear, commerce moving and food on our tables.”
One exception in the early days of the apparel producing effort, now in its fifth year, was Charlie Hayes, a Colorado firefighter who finished the Leadville Trail 100 in second place on a fixed-gear bicycle at age 48.
“We made an exception because we think Charlie exemplifies us,” Mike says.
“My brand is not designed for elite paid pro athletes, but the highest quality, most-well-thought-out seam-taped technical outerwear of the best performance fabrics for the common man or woman who makes their living full time working and living in the mountains,” he says. “However, people at lower elevations buy it up because if it works for us, it works for them.”
A native of eastern Tennessee, Mike came to Colorado about a decade ago.
“I lived in Eagle/Vail and worked as a liftie when I first hit the state, and I moved to Leadville because it was affordable,” he says. “I purchased a condo to rent out at Copper two years ago and the guests were tearing it up. So, I moved my sled down from Leadville, moved in and have stayed here looking at the slopes most mornings and spending most days on Tucker Mountain (when it is open).
“This year, even though I own a pass already, I am a volunteer bootpacker because Tucker is my inbounds domain.”
Mike doesn’t limit himself to resort terrain.
“I negotiate the backcountry of the Tenmile Range and Eagles Nest Wilderness, which replaced my old haunts of the mining district in Leadville and Mosquito Range,” he explains. “I am a skier/skinner on alpine touring gear, with no time for any other serious sports. However, I have a couple of bikes and a motocross dirtbike.”
This is the product tester talking:
“I personally test and refine all my products (jackets) myself inbounds skiing, bootpacking, backcountry skinning skiing, dirtbiking and on snowmobile from 9,000 to 14,000-plus feet elevation. I also am the provider of uniforms to mountain professionals such as search and rescue teams, road and bridge snowplow operators, transit and airport authorities all located in high-altitude alpine environments.”
“If they work and perform well for us, they will work from Boston to San Jose to Calgary to the Chugach and we sell them all over to rave reviews,” Mike says. “We have never had a single unhappy customer return a garment in almost five years and thousands of jacket sales.”
“I think the No. 1 story here is that this company, based and started in the Colorado mountains, makes the only technical outerwear in Colorado and for that reason it has been chosen to be worn by ABC News Worldwide and local outfits like the Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecasters,” he says to Spike!’s inquiry.
“The uniqueness is that this whole business was founded with a plastic sewing machine right out of our Summit County Target,” he adds.
Mike also hopes his Freeride Systems and Fulsus USA story might motivate others to do something unique and entrepreneurial, inspiring young people who think that their career possibilities are limited.
“The most important part of what I am doing is that I choose to produce technical outerwear in Colorado when not one other brand is doing so. This business model is better for our economy, and if more brands — or even other products, for that matter — did (the same) it would have a much greater positive impact on our U.S.A. economy.”
Mike further explains:
“We do design work in Leadville and periodic webbing production runs. The rest of our production is in the Front Range. We own and operate the only seam-sealing machines in the state as far as I know. Nobody makes anything like we do here, and we are one of the few in the entire United States — that is why ABC News Worldwide made us their exclusive outerwear wearable supplier.”
Mike’s goals for Freeride Systems and Fulsus USA are “to keep forging ahead with made-in-Colorado garments, supporting local ski community causes when I can afford it, and spreading the word of domestic manufacturing.”
Mike’s brand links are:
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed “Spike,” a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former Climax miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org
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