Industry Profile: Director of Ski Business Mike Martin

20 Jun, 2008

Industry Profile: CMC Director of Ski & Business/Professor Mike Martin

Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself


Skier (prefer backcountry/steeps)

Lived in Steamboat 13 years

Surf in the summer (15 years)

Shay: What is your job title?

Mike: Professor/Director of Ski and Business Program, Colorado Mountain College.

Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?

Mike: No, they are both avid skiers.

Shay: What was your first set up?

Mike: As a skier, orange Head skis. Rubber, no name boots.

Shay: What is your current set up?

Mike: Nordica skis, boots and Fritchi bindings. All Helly Hansen up top.

Shay: What was your first job?

Mike: Dishwasher at a retirement home. You should see the food…

Shay: What’s a great day of skiing to you?

Mike: Backcountry in BC. There’s no other place that offers that total package.

Photo compliments of Leo Lutz:

Mike Martin skiing the champagne powder in Steamboat backcountry

Shay: Who are your influences?

Mike: In the film making world, Greg Stump. In the ski world, Trevor Peterson.

Shay: How long have you been skiing?

Mike: 28 years.

Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?

Mike: 100+ I start early and end real late.

Photo compliments of Leo Lutz:

Mike Martin after skinning up Redemption Peak in Whistler Backcountry

Shay: What classes do you teach?

Mike: The entire program: Marketing, product design, boot fitting, wholesale & retail, tuning, work experience.

Shay: Ski & Business is a degree program, do you think it prepares students for the industry?

Mike: All of the courses are designed with input from the industry and each course reflects a position a student may enter upon graduation. Many of our students have gone on to become significant players in the ski and snowboard world and I meet with them in Vegas to discuss what curriculum we should include based on what the industry demands.

Shay: Students attend SIA each year, what do they do while they are at the trade shows?

Mike: Depends on the company, but typically a student runs the gamet of putting on a trade show booth at Vegas. This includes set up, helping representatives show the line, and assisting the marketing personal in anyway they can. This is an excellent way for students to meet contacts they will need to secure a career later in life.

Shay: What jobs have students gone on to?

Mike: Each student has a different path, but typically most students enter the manufacturing side as a Technical Representative or Marketing Assistant. On the retail side, many have become managers or store owners within a year or two of graduation.

Shay: In the product design class, what steps are required from start to completion?

Mike: Well, to build a ski or snowboard, there are quite a few things to determine. Most students assume it’s really easy and quick, but the smallest details can make a difference. The broad steps from start to finish:

-Organize the company

-Design graphics

-Design Board sidecut, flex pattern, camber (reverse, flat, standard)

-Design Board construction (internal) specs

-Revise with manufacturer

Shay: Are there any differences in marketing to skiers and snowboarders?

Mike: Certainly. The two have come closer in the past decade, but there are clear differences in the end users. One can see this first hand at any trade show, where the ski side is still pretty formal, the snowboarders on the other hand…Lets just say they keep the ‘fun’ in the industry.

Shay: How has the snowboard market changed with the current state of the economy?

Mike: Diversification is key to making it today. The snowboard market has been relatively flat the past few years, even showing a few declines. Thus, for a snowboard company to make it, it is important for the company to have a few other SKU’s available. Burton, Quiksilver and others have proved this concept works. Would you have ever guessed five years ago, Burton would currently own Channel Island Surfboards?

Photo compliments of Leo Lutz:
Mike Martin after catching a ride on the heli

Shay: Is there room in the market for new brands?

Mike: Yes and no. I think a lot of people think starting a company is easy and startup companies typically don’t last long. That said, the snowboards of today are far more sophisticated then ten years ago, typically owning a quiver of at least two to three boards. This allows small brands to come in and capture that nitch market of say, powder boards.

Shay: What are your thoughts on ski/snowboard technology…is tech really changing from year to year?

Mike: Not as much as marketing departments would have you believe. That said, the manufacturing process and materials have changed significantly in the past ten to fifteen years. You see the biggest changes in companies trying to address the environment from a manufacturing aspect. That’s great for everyone. Additionally, CAD computers and design tools have really perfected the quality of boards coming out. If you have the chance, go back and ride a board from 1996 and compare it to your board today. I guarantee you’ll feel a difference in weight and performance. That’s due to changes made in material and manufacturing.

Shay: Since you started teaching, what’s been the biggest change in the ski and snowboard industry?

Mike: An industry acknowledgment of Global Warming.

Shay: What do you tell your students when it’s an epic powder day?

Mike: What’s the bumper sticker, “No excuses, just choices” Anyone who really wants to work in the industry knows they’re going to miss a powder day while working in the biz.

Photo compliments of Leo Lutz:
Mike Martin getting powder face shots in Steamboat backcountry

Shay: How is working for CMC (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?

Mike: It’s the best job in the world. There is nothing more gratifying than to be around students who are so excited about working in the industry and seeing them succeed in their dreams. Plus, it keeps my enthusiasm for the industry strong being around students who call me at 5am to tell me they are already riding (backcountry).

Shay: What experience did you have or attributes before getting the job?

Mike: I have fifteen years in the industry in both manufacturing and retail. Additionally, I have a Bachelors Degree in Marketing and a Masters of Business Administration.

Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?

Mike: January. With students returning from break and the trade shows firing up, it’s hectic trying to get everything organized.

Shay: Apart from being a professor, you are also a filmmaker. How did you get into filming?

Mike: I’ve always been interested in films. As a kid, I used to watch Greg Stump’s License to Thrill everyday in the winter. I knew I wanted to be a part of that lifestyle and once I moved to Steamboat, I had my chance. This was right around the time Stump quit and it seemed like a great time to start making films.

Check out Michael Martin Productions here

Photo Compliments of Leo Lutz:

Filming after Heli-drop in Whistler Backcountry, BC

Shay: What videos have you made?


2008-Walls (Thinner) (In production)
2007-WZ-TV, a new television show featuring filmmakers and their works
2006-A Place Without A Postcard (2006 Steamboat Mountain Film Festival, 2007 Cold Smoke Awards (2nd Place, Powder), 2007 Northern Lights Film Festival (Audience Favorite)
2005-(en)vision/The Good Life-Short (2005 Steamboat Mountain Film Festival)
2004-About A Skier/Start Again-Short (2004 Steamboat Mountain Film Festival)
2003-Wedge/Future Proof-Short (2003 Steamboat Outdoor Film Festival)
2003-From Here to There-Instructional Telemark
2001-Mind Over Matter
1999-24 Hours

Shay: What are your thoughts on the snowboard industry as a filmmaker?

Mike: I think most of the progression in both sports has been a result of more people pushing films each year. If you ask most athletes what’s important to them, they’ll tell you they want a great segment over any contest victory. I think that helps the sport in general and with computers making the process accessible to everyone, it’s really opening the door to filmmaking. That’s why I started the Steamboat Mountain Film Festival.

Shay: Do you feel it’s necessary for the film industry to just release one film a year, or is it valuable to get smaller films/TV/Internet work released during the year?

Mike: It depends on what you refer to as the ‘industry’. If you mean Mack Dawg or TGR, yes, one film is about what you’re going to get. Many people starting out think what they are producing is “A” quality filmmaking, but once you’re in the game for a while you notice how bad one’s films are in comparision to the big players. This is due to locations, professional cameraman/editors, and a big budget. That said, the internet has allowed us all to have an audience and this has been exemplified by ipods and podcasts. So it’s allowed everyone to get in the game to some degree.

Shay: Where have you traveled for filming?

Mike: For skiing/snowboarding I typically go through the west, Colorado, Utah, California, New Mexico, Alaska as well as Europe. My favorite is still British Columbia, it has it all.

Photo Compliments of Leo Lutz:
Mike Martin ripping the backcountry in Kicking Horse, BC

Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?

Mike: Both are equal. Many students think they can just work their way into the industry, but eventually hit a ceiling. I have a graduate who is building boards at one of the biggest snowboard manufacturers, but he tells me time and time again, he’s going to need to complete a Bachelors Degree or better to keep moving up.

Shay: Final thoughts?

Mike: keep riding and remember why you ride. Jake Burton spent a year just snowboarding around the world in an effort to reconnect the industry (and his company) with the end user and it worked. That’s important for everyone to stay connected to the sport, first.

About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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