Strategies and gear for living the dream
Luke Jacobson set out to land a gig at a big ski company like K2. Instead, he helped launch American-built Moment Skis, a small but growing brand that made it all the way to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Name: Luke Jacobson
Job: CEO, Moment Skis
Home Base: Reno, Nevada
Education: Mechanical engineering degree from the University of Nevada, Reno
Luke Jacobson was in college in Reno, Nevada, when a friend told him about a guy named Casey Hakansson, who worked as a mason but was also building skis in a small snowboard factory in town. Jacobson showed up at the factory one day and asked if he could work for free. “My intention was to learn how to make skis so I could eventually go and get a job working at a ski company,” Jacobson says. He never left.
Together, the two guys built Moment Skis, an independent ski brand launched in 2005 that still makes its skis on U.S. soil in the company’s factory outside Reno. Hakansson recently stepped away from the brand to run another company, and Jacobson, who officially became Moment’s CEO in 2016, is now at the helm. Today, Moment makes several thousand pairs of skis each year, having doubled production in 2017 from the year prior. Not to mention that on February 21, halfpipe skier and Reno resident David Wise won an Olympic gold medal on a pair of Moments.
We called up Jacobson while he was working a ski grinder to talk about his secrets to being a good boss and what a skier does during a low-snow winter.
On Getting Hands-On at Work: “We get dirty here. We’re behind ski grinders and epoxy and welders and ski presses. We keep a pile of dirty clothes ready because there’s fiberglass all over. This isn’t like we’re designing skis and outsourcing it to some other company to make. A lot of people think we’re just watching ski movies and chilling out. But this is blue-collar, old-school American factory work for ten hours a day.”
On How Moment Skis Has Changed Since Its Early Days: “Our accounting back then was so disorganized. We didn’t intend for it to become a business at the beginning. When Backcountry.com wanted to place an order, we barely had a price sheet. We didn’t know what we were doing. But today, we’re still making skis for our friends, ourselves, and our athletes. We make skis because they’re new and fun, not because they’re going to sell. But every year, we’re becoming better at business.”
On Becoming the Boss: “I’m now 100 percent responsible for all the financials. I’m better at QuickBooks than ever before. Being at the top of the food chain at work means everyone’s problems become my problems. Sometimes that’s a personal problem; sometimes it’s a broken machine. It’s definitely a growing experience.”
On His Favorite Skis: “One of my favorite skis is still the Deathwish 190. I’m still really proud of the triple camber we came up with. It’s still our bestseller. We just tweaked it for next year, and it made me fall in love with that ski all over again. I love how it charges. It has such a solid edge, but when you slip the ski out just right, it can feel playful, too. I don’t think there’s one ski that can do it all, but I think this one is the closest we’ve come to that.”
On the Hardest Thing About Designing Skis: “When revisions don’t work out, that’s the worst and best part. You spend all this time and it comes out and it feels just worthless. It’s frustrating in the moment, but afterward it’s how you grow as a business and how you learn to be a better manufacturer. It’s those mess-ups that teach you to improve.”
On Why Moment Calls Reno Home: “I love that Reno’s so accessible. I like rock climbing, and Yosemite isn’t far. There are cool restaurants and nightlife. I’m not a city person, but I can definitely put up with Reno. It feels like a city, but you don’t have to pay for parking.”
On What He Does When the Snow Doesn’t Fall: “It’s still nice to get out for a ski tour even when it hasn’t snowed. Otherwise, I’ll hit the rock climbing gym, and I have an airplane, and flying is my biggest addiction outside of skiing.”
On a Useful Habit He’s Adopted: “People make fun of me for it, but when I go to restaurants where I know I like something, I don’t even look at the menu. I just get that same thing every time. As soon as I find something I like, I don’t go perusing the menu or changing my toothpaste. I keep it simple.”
On the Most Fulfilling Part of His Job: “We like making things here. When you make something and it skis how you intended it to, that’s exciting. But I think one of the most fulfilling things is when you’re out skiing and someone you don’t know is on Moment skis and they’re talking about how much they love them. When you see a stranger who’s excited about something we work on every day, that’s the best part.”