Fuxi Racing USA moves from Vail area to Copper Mountain in time for ski season
Fuxi Flash Copper grand opening
What: A grand opening celebration for the relocated Fuxi Racing USA store, the Fuxi Flash Copper Mountain 1StopShop, complete with music, drinks, apple strudel and authentic Austrian goulash
When: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17-18 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Fuxi Copper store, Center Village (across from the Woodward Copper Cage)
The celebration is open to the public. All equipment will be on sale, including $25 for a pair of DeFeet socks and winter gloves. For more info on Fuxi Racing, see the website at http://www.fuxiracingusa.com.
Franz Fuchsberger is the first to admit he doesn’t make a single thing he sells. He’s also first to admit that’s why his gear is the absolute best.
“I claim I have the best products,” he said. “Why? Because I don’t make it. I let the pros do that, the best suppliers. If you want the colors, a red jacket or a yellow jacket or anything, I can do that. You know you’re getting the best.”
On a warm and sunny October afternoon, Fuchsberger — known as Fuxi to just about everyone — was busy playing foreman to a small group of friends as they put the final touches on his new shop in Copper’s Center Village. There was Don Johnson, a former U.S. Ski Team racer who’s gone head-to-head with Fuxi on the masters ski circuit for decades. Then there was Matt Henderson, a former collegiate soccer player who entered his first ski race last season, the Fuxi Combine at Ski Cooper, and quickly made friends with the host.
“This will be a very cool place, you know?” Fuxi said to me while Henderson rummaged through a blue container filled with winter gloves bearing the “FR” logo, short for Fuxi Racing USA. “The doors will always be open. Well, maybe not in winter when it’s very cold, you know, but this will be a cool place, where you can come and hang out, get a race suit, get your Fuxi flash.”
The Fuxi flash
Since 2001, Fuxi flash — as in neon-hued race suits and hats and sunglasses and ski socks — has been the Austrian’s claim to fame. Like he says, he doesn’t make a single thing found on his shelves. Instead, he pulls from 30 years of ski racing experience to identify, test, market and then sell the hell out of the best alpine gear around.
The Fuxi Racing roster of roughly 20 suppliers is impressive: Race suits made with Eschler fabric, snow pants from Arctica, race socks from DeFeet International, Bode Miller’s company. Only thing is you won’t notice a brand name. All you’ll see is neon and the Fuxi Racing logo: A fox with clenched teeth and ski goggles.
The flash mentality fits Fuxi well. He’s a ball of pure energy, the sort of guy who bounced from his truck to the shop and back in a span of about three minutes, all while taking two or three phone calls and sending Facebook updates about the store’s grand opening celebration today.
“I’m a Facebook nerd,” Fuxi managed to say between running around. “That’s the most powerful thing to promote the business, you know?”
It’s already working. Fuxi officially signed the lease for his new store, dubbed Fuxi Flash Copper Mountain 1StopShop, in early October. Just a week later, he’d packed up everything at his old EagleVail location and made the move over the pass. In that time, his shop’s new Facebook page has notched 377 likes.
“Whether it’s email, text, phone, Facebook — anything — if I can get it on my phone,” Fuxi waved an iPhone covered in a flash case, “This is my best employee. You can always reach me. That’s how I run my business.”
Fuxi is in the ski racing business, but not the high-end, pro-only business most casual skiers associate with Miller and Lindsey Vonn. That’s not his audience. He’s here to supply youth ski racers, like the 200-some-odd alpine kids from Team Summit Colorado, found just steps from Fuxi’s front porch in Copper.
“My job is to keep the second tier of Copper busy,” Fuxi said, pointing to the base on the other side of the village. “That’s the front tier, the mountain, but if you come here, to the shop, it will be a party. It will be busy. People want to see the colors, enjoy the shop, enjoy the energy.”
Epicenter of racing
For nearly a decade, Copper Mountain has been the early-season training ground for alpine skiers. It’s home to the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center, where national pros will spend a few weeks getting in snow shape after the official team announcement on Nov. 6, the same day as Copper’s opening.
But, again, Fuxi isn’t entirely interested in the pros.
“The key is to service the ski racing community in the fall,” Fuxi said. “If it starts getting cold, the first camps start next week. For me, it’s not the national teams — it’s about the club teams, the next big things.”
This approach has won Fuxi a rabid following since he sold his first race suit in 2001. He started as a one-man operation in Vail — “I was totally impressed with that mountain,” he says of his early introduction to Vail — when he split time between racing and teaching for the ski school. Soon, his business exploded and he moved to Edwards, where he’d spend winters before following the snow to Mount Hood in the summers.
The Edwards shop wasn’t quite a shop, really. It was more of a warehouse to hold boxes and boxes of flash gear. But, it was also much larger than his new store, the “world headquarters” of Fuxi Racing, complete with every last item he sells.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s smaller,” Fuxi said. “Smaller is better, smaller is better. This is Fuxi, this is everything we have — socks, race suits, gloves, DVDs, everything a local ski racer will be.”
And, after nearly 15 years in Vail, he was ready for a change of pace — and a change of scenery. The Copper storefront opened up at a moment’s notice and he wasted no time taking the plunge. He had a Copper shop for about three years in the mid-2000s, right where the now-defunct Spyder store was, and he couldn’t wait to be back in the thick of race culture.
“Copper is the epicenter of ski racing,” Fuxi said. “What Mount Hood is in the summer, Copper is during the ski season. This is the happening place, where everyone who wants to ski race comes.”
And when Fuxi says everyone, he means everyone. Along with youth clubs, he’s also a major supplier for masters ski racers, guys and gals who follow the Nastar circuit all winter.
“It’s not just junior camps here,” Fuxi said. “It’s the masters, it’s your wannabe racers like me, the regulars, the locals and those future racers. You don’t have to be a pro to have Fuxi take care of you.”
Just ask Johnson, who was standing next to me when Fuxi yelled from his car: “You have to interview this guy!” So I did, getting the details on Johnson’s past on the FIS World Cup circuit in the ‘80s and U.S. Pro Tour in the ‘90s.
“If you need clothing or anything it’s all right here,” Johnson said. “And he’s one of my sponsors — he gives me everything I need to keep going.”
But does Johnson manage to out-ski Fuxi in one of his sponsor’s flash suits?
“Nah, Franz usually beats me,” Johnson said, then started pointing to posters scattered across the walls. He’s in most of them, along with Fuxi and dozens of other racers slathered in flash gear. That’s how the Austrian works: Everyone is part of the Fuxi family.
During grand opening weekend, that means authentic Austrian goulash, apple strudel and Oktoberfest brews from Paulaner. But there’s work to be done until then. Fuxi, Johnson and Hendersen were at the shop when I left. As usual, Fuxi’s phone rang while the others mounted shelves and arranged gear.
“See? My best employee,” Fuxi said and answered. “Where are you at, man? What are you doing there? There’s only one Fuxi one-stop shop in Copper.”
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