David Bosler and Luke Morris both moved to Missoula in 2005 to attend the University of Montana. They were paired up as random roommates in Aber Hall, and that stroke of chance led to a business partnership that has carved out a nice little niche in the local outdoor recreation market.
The duo started LB Snow, a ski and snowboard tune and repair shop, in 2005.
“We got a new house and we were roommates, and we built ourselves a nice ski shop in our basement,” Bosler recalled. “That’s really how it started. We built a nice tune bench in our own house, because we wanted an area to tune our snowboards and our friend’s skis. We got pretty decent tools and stuff like that. From there, a lot of friends were kickin’ it and coming over. And I was like, well dude, I’m going to pass out flyers and tune my friend’s skis for cheap. And the rest is history.”
The business grew, and the pair ordered more tools and started experimenting with cutting boards into splitboards for backcountry use.
“Splitboards are also a big ancillary revenue stream for us,” Bosler explained. “Backcountry skiing and snowboarding in general happened to be growing and blowing up around the same years we were starting this business. So it only made sense to push the backcountry thing, which is what we’re more enthusiastic about. We love to ride all aspects of the mountain but we’re definitely backcountry-focused. So, limited capital to work with but we’ve been able to expand our retail year after year, and now we offer supplies for the backcountry skier and snowboarder, at least the essentials. People mail their snowboards in from all over the country and we split them and mail it back. We call it our lift liberation package.”
They moved into their current location at 804 W. Spruce St., in the same building as Draught Works Brewery, in the fall of 2012. They now share the space with two other businesses, BiG HiP Snowboards and DaleBoot.
“Sixty percent of our business is just recreational ski and snowboard tunes,” Bosler said. “That’s the majority of our business, is just people walking in with the classic ski tune or repair.”
They also rent and demo splitboards and demo skis. Bosler said building a company from scratch has been a rewarding learning experience.
“What I like about it is it’s been the best college program I could have taken,” he said. “What Luke and I have learned just day to day in this business has been awesome and very rewarding. Just learning a lot, everything from dealing with the city to organizing your numbers and getting your taxes and accounting info dialed properly. And working with customers. I would say the most rewarding part is getting positive feedback. Hearing from a customer that they had a really good experience. That’s probably the most fun, rewarding factor. Just about everybody that comes in ends up being a repeat customer.”
Bosler said he and Morris try to avoid the “bro brah” culture of the action sports industry.
“Luke and I both grew up tuning skis at different shops,” he said. “The most rewarding thing is when the customer comes in and gets to see the whole operation. Here you get to walk in and see everything that’s going on and you see where the skis go.”
In the future, the shop will expand more into boat repair and bring in other collaborators.
“Our future is bright,” he said. “We’re still here; that’s a good sign. The first three years of the business we both worked second jobs. The past two seasons were the first winters we both just worked LB Snow. As long as we continue to keep customers satisfied, we’ll keep getting busier and busier.”
Bosler said that he learned a lot from his late friend Peter Maxwell, who passed away this winter in an avalanche.
“He was a big mentor for me,” Bosler said. “He owned Garden City Recycling, and took it from nothing to quite a successful small business in Missoula, a big part of the community. And I would always come to him because I would be stressing out, and he would tell me to ‘just keep doing what you’re doing.’ That’s definitely what he always said. He gave me a lot of good information.”