For KC McCallum, the hardest part of starting his own business was naming it.
The Highlands Ranch resident opened Ski & Boot Lab in 2016 after nearly 25 years of working in the ski industry — an industry he finds fun and feels lucky to be a part of.
While considering names, McCallum’s brothers gave him some advice. Also small business owners, they cautioned him not to use his name but to pick something that could show up organically in potential customers’ internet searches.
So McCallum took inspiration from the shop’s location instead. After looking at expensive warehouse spaces, McCallum found a laboratory to rent in a commercial building not far from Highlands Ranch Town Center. It had sturdy countertops and cabinets, ventilation, even an eyewash station.
“Everything I needed” to house ski tuning equipment and set up a workshop, McCallum said.
Now in its sixth season, Ski & Boot Lab mounts bindings, fits boots and tunes skis for Highlands Ranch and beyond. It has demo gear from top brands like Atomic, Blizzard, Nordica, Lange and K2 available for rent, as well.
“It’s like renting a Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Porsche,” McCallum said of the 60 or so high-end skis he purchases annually for the shop.
But Ski & Boot Lab doesn’t stock merchandise for sale. Not a lip balm, sock or insole, McCallum said. However, he does sell off his demo equipment at the end of the season and can special-order items for customers.
Voted “Top of the Town” for ski and snowboard service in 2020 and 2021 by readers of 5280 magazine, McCallum likes to think he’s known for his honest opinion, quick turnaround and skillful tuning.
“I think people take me at my word,” when it comes to advice about equipment, he said. “I don’t have anything to sell, you know.”
The shop is open 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and at other times by appointment. Although that’s only 20 hours a week, 16-hour days are not unusual for McCallum during the season. There’s plenty to buff, scrape and sharpen when he’s not with customers, especially in a thin snow year like this year.
McCullum has one employee, a buddy, who helps with waxing skis and snowboards, but McCallum does all other mounting and tuning work himself.
He barely minds the extreme hours though, he said, because the hours are spent doing something he enjoys.
Plus he has slow summers to rest, relax and spend with family. In recent years they’ve traveled to Florida for his daughter’s cheer competitions, toured Iceland and explored Colorado’s backcountry.
“You’ll see me at the pool in June or whatever,” McCallum said. “I hike, bike, climb, run, ski. It’s kind of a balance there.”
Before opening Ski & Boot Lab, McCallum worked for Colorado Ski & Golf, Sports Authority Elite and Gorsuch Ltd. where he built connections and developed expertise. He started in the ski industry while he was still a student at Highlands Ranch High School and said he’s never had a job that actually felt like a job.
“The 1 a.m. stuff? It’s a little long,” McCallum said of the late nights in his lab. “But I think it’s some of the funnest times.”
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