Owner Bob Rule, Durango builder and ex-pro football player, started the San Juan Ski Company in 1997 to write off his powder-skiing addiction. Without financial backing or partners, Rule cashed in his life savings and started what has become the largest catskiing operation in United States with over 36,000 acres of permitted terrain.
It has been a struggle financially, but worth every penny lost; since Rule, who is also lead guide, is living the dream and skiing powder every day.
Not only is Rule lead guide, he also drives the snowcat and engineers the road building and road maintenance preseason. (The San Juan Ski Company has over 150 miles of snowcat roads to build and maintain).
He is also chief cook and bottle washer. Responsibilities include: avalanche forecaster, snow safety director, snowcat and snowmobile mechanic, ski and binding technician, parts and metal fabricator, host and head honcho. And, in years’ past, he was also lunch maker, reservations taker and lodging caretaker. (When he first started the business, Rule added on to his home and bunked catskiing guests on the third story of his house.)
It’s no wonder that the man only gets five hours of sleep at night.
Rule has a unique business plan. He would rather cancel a trip and refund money in full than have clients ski over old tracks. His mission every morning is to find the best snow. Even though the San Juans are known for major wind events where the high-alpine gets so wind-hammered that its bullet proof and consecutive blue bird days that can create a killer suncrust; he finds powder stashes for his guests – even if it hasn’t snowed for a couple of weeks and even in spring where snow on north-facing bowls and in trees stays cold.
Rule is always pushing the boundaries – both figuratively and physically.
Every summer and early fall, he spends weeks scouting his permitted area, nearly 60 square miles, for new terrain to ski and hikes with a chainsaw to clear lines. He fondly refers to this as “chainsaw hiking.” It is also “training” to get in shape for skiing.
Unfortunately, Rule has paid a high price for skiing everyday the past 16 years and bushwhacking countless summers in the San Juans. He has two artificial hips. And, although his bionic parts have not slowed him down, they do deter him from jumping off cliffs (since the landings make his hips squeak like a rusty gate).
Rule holds a Level III Avalanche Certification in the United States and a Level II in Canada. He is also a certified blaster.
Rule, 57, grew up in the skiing hotbed of San Diego and found his way to Durango in 1979, where he has been chasing powder ever since.
Montana native Carrie Rule married into the business in 2008. Since then, she has handled reservations, sales and marketing.
An avid skier, Carrie learned to ski powder in British Columbia’s backcountry where her love for powder and adventure took her on yearly backcountry hut and heliskiing trips to Canada and Alaska.
Carrie resided in Bozeman, Mont., for 23 years where she lived the life of a ski bum – working summers for the Forest Service and skiing winters at Bridger Bowl – before moving to Colorado five years ago. Bob and Carrie have an 10-year-old daughter, Annika, who is shredding the backcountry and aspires to become the youngest snowcat skiing guide.
Thanks to modern technology, Carrie’s office is often on a ridge top since she tries to ski every day. Carrie has a degree in Marketing/Public Relations from Montana State University.