While Zipfit’s headquarters is still parked in a garage in Aspen, the custom ski boot liner company recently moved the daily operations to what Managing Director Chris Dominick and Brand Manager Jeff Colt affectionately call their “shredquarters” in Carbondale.
On a chilly morning last week, the two men squired The Sopris Sun around their comfortably ramshackle corporate digs.
An old wood-burning stove warmed the small ranch building which houses Zipfit’s business office. It’s also where Dominick and Colt keep their boot liner inventory, and the sandblasting machine abandoned by the previous owner. They revamped it into a serviceably regal “boot fitting throne” for local customers who need personalized assistance.
Zipfit’s “shredquarters” is located in Carbondale, serving as the company’s humble business office. Photo by Will Sardinsky
Despite the rough floor’s gentrification by an Oriental carpet that Dominick’s father donated, the two executives identify with the lean alpine ski scene circa 1960.
Each is close to the same age as the 33-year-old company, and the young men work like they are in start-up mode — which Zipfit is, for their generation.
They know they have big boots to fill. Dominick and Colt, who took over daily operations last year, speak with awe of Zipfit founder and president Sven Coomer, who in 2023 will be the first ski boot designer to be inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Coomer’s wife and business partner, Mary Dominick Coomer, just happens to be Christopher Dominick’s grandmother, whom he calls “M.”
“We want to create new energy around Zipfit and build on what Sven has built,” explains Dominick.
His enthusiasm was ignited less than two years ago. On a visit to his grandmother and Coomer, he mentioned that when he rode the ski lift he saw few skiers wearing Zipfit liners in their boots. Dominick suggested the company needed to build up the brand for the younger generation, and create an internet store. These were not skills possessed by Sven or Mary, who are in their 80s.
At their dining room table that day, Dominick says they “immediately” struck a partnership with him.
As he drove away he called his friend Colt, a teacher at Colorado Rocky Mountain School who also worked for Protect Our Winters, and asked him to join. Zipfit sales, according to Colt, have tripled since he and Dominick started running the business for Coomer and M.
Many things about Zipfit haven’t changed since Coomer started it, says Dominick. The padded liners, which were unique in the requirement to put them on separately from the outer plastic boot shell, are still made from what Colt calls “Sven’s three noble materials: leather, cork and neoprene.”
And the liners are still made entirely by the same family-run shoemaking concern in northern Italy before they are shipped to Colorado. Zipfit liners, says Colt, last for at least 1,000 ski days, while less expensive foam liner alternatives need to be replaced after about 75 ski days because they “pack out,” or lose their cushioning properties.
Dominick and Colt speak glowingly enough of the materials and craft that go into making Zipfit boot liners. They are, however, rapturous when the subject turns to Coomer, their inventor and “genius athlete.”
Zipfit boot liners come in all colors to suit each skier’s style. Photo by Will Sardinsky
“Sven was at the forefront of ski boot design and production since 1969,” says Dominick. “He is responsible for many of its innovations.”
Coomer designed the ski boot used by World Cup skiers for 31 years, and trained with the French team. The ski boot shell’s taller form, now a ski shell standard, provides more ankle support and is considered one of Coomer’s design breakthroughs.
After Coomer left his job at Nordica he opened his own ski boot shop in Mammoth, California and consulted for five different boot manufacturers.
Gradually, he researched and developed what would become his own “zero injection pressure” system of Zipfit.
At the age of 16, Coomer competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics on the Australian pentathlon team, which means he had mastered fencing, swimming, horse riding, shooting a rapid-fire pistol and running — essential skills for the 19th century cavalry soldier.At 20, when Coomer attended college in Sweden, he says he was “smitten” with skiing the first time he visited Åre, the country’s largest ski area.
The following year, he and four friends won sport fame when they skied 622 miles from Innsbruck to Grenoble, traversing 30 peaks in 33 days, in untrammeled snow and through blizzards, while carrying packs that weighed more than 60 pounds. They slept in snow caves, which were much warmer, he says, than huts they found along the way.
Coomer treasures the low leather boots he wore in Åre. He shows them to a visitor on a tour of his Aspen garage workbench and ski boot and liner “museum.”
It was this first pair’s extreme discomfort, he says, that inspired him to spend decades designing a better fit.
The latest Zipfit creation is a collaboration between Coomer and Colt. It’s designed for the current craze on ski runs that’s as old as the hills and what skiers have always done when they couldn’t afford the price of a lift ticket: “Vendring uppför,” which is Swedish for “hiking up.”