Second Calling: Kevin Brower
[Editor's note: This is part four of an interview series called "Second Calling," about freeskiers turned entrepreneurs. It is written by pro skier Griffin Post. Stay tuned next Wednesday for the next installment, a story about a pro skier who dreamed of making a better touring binding.]
Perhaps one of the most underrated pro skiers in Utah's Wasatch range, Kevin Brower has called Salt Lake City home nearly his entire life. Brower is as comfortable on a big mountain line as he is hitting a wall ride downtown, and countless magazine photos notwithstanding, he has kept his attitude in check and has largely let his skiing do the talking over the years. In 2011, Brower opened Snogression, an off-snow training facility for action sports athletes in Salt Lake City, complete with trampolines, foam pits and jumps powered by a patented Hyperdrive system. I recently caught up with Brower to talk Snogression, skiing and the "bro deal."
While I was in school at the University of Utah, friends and I would always drive an hour south to an old gymnastics place that had trampolines and a foam pit. After I graduated, I was still skiing a lot and trying to make some money working for my dad in his sports timing business. I was assembling electronics so I had lots of time to think while at work. One day the idea came to get a group of friends together and purchase an Olympic trampoline. I knew that the idea itself was nothing too unique, but the way the facility would be designed, built and run was where I could really innovate.
The more I looked into it, the more daunting and expensive everything became. I tried to forget about it, but I knew there was a need for this facility, so I kept figuring out ways to solve the design and expense problems. The biggest hurdle was getting enough speed for a ramp indoors. A drop-in ramp high enough was out of the question, so I developed a tow-in system named the Hyperdrive.
The first location was a bare bones operation, but I was lucky enough to have the support from the local scene. The ramp to foam pit idea was pretty new and I think that's what got people in the door at first. Pretty much every dollar earned was put back into the business.
While getting the business started I think my skiing career suffered because I was not skiing enough to really improve. One of the main motivating factors in starting Snogression was to enable me to continue skiing and still support my family. I think in the last year Snogression has really helped my skiing career. I get to practice at an amazing facility and hang out with other talented riders that push me to try new things.
I don't think that me having the little bit of status as a skier has much to do with the success of the business. That being said, I do think that having a facility designed by somebody who knows the culture and needs of a skier or snowboarder is very important.
Being a small business owner and having to say no to the "bro deal" is still a hard thing for me. I just have to remind the "bros" and myself that if they really are my friends they would support what I am trying to do.
It's hard to focus too much on the distant future with so many things that still need to be done. Right now I am focused on making the current Snogression the best it can be and spreading the word so that everybody can come have a great time and develop new skills. Expansion for me is building more facilities, not just a bigger facility.