A teardrop trailer business is not the exit plan for most pro skiers. But it's certainly worked for Jen Hudak.
Hudak, a four-time national champion in the halfpipe, two-time world champion, and five-time time X-Games medalist, retired back in 2015 after eight knee surgeries and a realization there was more to life than skiing--and winning. She needed a way forward and found that by partnering with her husband Chris Hudak (he took her last name) to create a business called Escapod that makes both regular and off-road teardrop trailers in a small factory just outside Park City.
"I no longer wanted to be chasing unicorns, be traveling away from my family, and risking my physical well-being to remain 'pro' in the sport," she said. "I knew the joy of having your passion also serve as your source of income. When Chris wanted to grow this operation, I was in full support."
They'd already built one trailer before she retired so they had something to sleep in during mountain bike season. Instead of having to pack up their camp each morning to drive to a trailhead, they could just drop the trailer at camp and head off in their truck. They'd also insulated that trailer so they could sleep in during the winter--something they did during X-Games to avoid paying for an Aspen hotel.
Out on the road, friends and strangers alike constantly inquired about the trailers, which made them believe a business might actually work. The first official Escapods were built by Jen and Chris, and often involved all-night marathons to get them out the door. They've since scaled the business, but slowly and methodically. Chris brought on a partner--his old college buddy Chris Eckel--and Jen.
Nowadays, the team produces two trailers each month--a number they've found to be a happy medium. What sets their trailers apart from a crowded teardrop market, are design and price. Their Topo, or off-road model, for example, comes standard with 18-inches of ground clearance, meaty 31-inch all-terrain tires, a two-inch welded steel frame, fully-insulated walls, and amenities like a roof rack (for your skis or your bikes) and an awning. Inside you get a queen-size bed, shelving, lighting, and USB ports, while out back you get a kitchen with a stove, cooking space, shelves, and a cooler (there also tons of add-ons like a water tank, propane heater, etc.)
The trailers only weigh 1,500 pounds, can be towed with a Subaru Outback, and they barely slow you down in a truck. The base price is $13,800-significantly less than other off-road trailers that sit in the same category, especially when you consider the included amenities.
"We've put a lot of working into figuring out how to make the nicest trailer possible, while still offering it at a reasonable price," Chris Hudak said.
I can attest to that claim. This summer my family and I met the crew at the top of the Blue Sky Ranch outside Park City where they'd parked two trailers for us to sleep in. They'd hauled the trailers up a steep dirt road, stationed them in a breathtaking meadow, and we got to experience teardrop life for two nights. I personally loved the queen-size bed that just as comfy as my bed back home, plus all the shelving and USB ports that helped keep our camping gear more organized than ever. My wife, who loves to cook, appreciated the giant prep area and easy-acces stove. The kids slept like rocks, which is uncommon when we camp.
Down the road (pun intended), the Escapod crew says there are no plans to go big. They like the pace of their current two-a-month schedule and want to ensure the craftsmanship stays at the highest level. Their biggest goal is to introduce more people to the convenience of teardrop trailers. As such they've started a rental fleet available in the Park City area, and want to spread the message about how the right piece of gear is a step toward better adventuring.
"We enjoy building each trailer with the end user in mind," says Jen. "This personal element ensures that no small detail is overlooked. We know who will be cooking on the stove, we know the dirty legs that will be rinsed with the shower…These are the moments that inspire us, that drive us, that motivate us to deliver."