Garage Dreams: New ski manufacturers take a page out of snowboarding’s book |

Garage Dreams: New ski manufacturers take a page out of snowboarding’s book

Tom Winter/Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily/Tom Winter

When Igneous’ Adam Sherman wanted to build skis, he started in his garage.

It’s a trend that has gathered steam over the past few years as new ski companies are starting to offer unique boards to consumers. While this trend hasn’t gotten Salomon or Rossignol worried yet, the explosion of small, garage-style ski manufacturing is the hottest news in a sport which has slowly been reinventing itself over the past five years.

While skiing has never experienced the explosion of garage manufacturing that propelled snowboarding’s chaotic growth in the 90s, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that small ski manufacturers are fueling innovation.

Skiing has always been about individual style and expression and pioneering souls have always dabbled with the manufacturing process. Witness The Ski, the Bobby Burns freestyle project that still boasts one of the best graphics in the history of the sport.

The first true mogul ski on the market, The Ski was the tool of choice for legendary mogul skier Scott Brooksbank, as he dominated the early days of the freestyle circuit in the mid ë70s.

Graphics are only one design element that sets several new ski companies apart. They’ve hired the best athletes, come up with innovative shapes and created new ways to connect with their customers. db skis is a case in point.

“We hand-build custom-flexed, carbon freeride skis on a per-order basis,” says db’s Stephan Drake. “They are the first pure carbon-cored freeride skis made. I feel as though it’s pretty revolutionary. The patented construction makes them ultralight, powerful, strong, and damp, a whole new sensation compared to your average wood/fiberglass blend.”

4FRNT, a new American manufacturer based out of Squaw Valley also focuses on design. Their MSP, the only model available this season from the company, utilizes a vertical sidewall, race-stock style manufacturing process that creates a beefy twin-tip all mountain ski.

“I want to design skis that will progress the sport,,” says 4FRNT’s Joe Stumpf.

To assist him in the company’s mission of making a progressive product, Stumpf brought on Steele Spence. A hot, up-and-coming athlete based out of Snowmass, Spence has been at the forefront of the park and pipe scene.

“Steele Spence is partner in company, not just a rider,” says Stumpf of Spenceis involvement. “He’s designing a line of skis for 2004.”

4FRNT is joined by Armada. While Armada has focused on building a highly visible freeride team including Tanner Hall, JP Auclair and Anthony Boronowski, the company shares a passion for design and a predilection for funky, cool graphics with the other young guns.

Look for the company to make a splash at this yearis Winter X Games in Aspen, when its sponsored athletes, particularly Tanner Hall, are expected to podium in the skiing events.

These companies are joined by Jackson Hole stalwart Igneous and Swiss transplant AK skis. Igneous, which made a run at distributing its custom skis in specialty ski shops throughout North America in the 1990s has pulled back from a traditional marketing program and now only produces a small amount of custom skis each year.

“You have to seek us out,” says Adam Sherman, Igenous’ founder. “We’re not for everyone.”

Like Igneous, AK produces hand-built skis. But with seven models and a growing presence in Europe, the company can’t really be compared to Igneous or 4Front. Still, the very fact that AK would try its luck in the highly competitive North American market proves a point.

American skiers are hungry for choice and the same old boards just don’t cut it anymore.

Let the garage wars begin.

Tom Winter is a freelance writer based in Vail.

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