I grew up skiing in the east, Vermont to be exact, so I was a Rossi girl. I became a Völkl girl I went to college in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, minutes from the Völkl US headquarters in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Apart from a brief (but prolific) sojourn to K2 skis in the early 2000s (when they launched their first high performance women’s skis), I have stayed pretty true to the Völkl brand. I still contest the Mantra is one of the best one-ski quivers you can find, and I skied the Shiros in the deep Chugach powder this winter and they crushed it.
However, the old tried and true brands we’ve grown up skiing are no longer the only ponies in the race. Increasing numbers of boutique, independent ski manufacturers are entering the scene and competing handily against the big, established brands. Some indy brands with humble beginnings (Line) have even pushed through to the main stream. These five, in no particular order, are some of the hot new(ish) comers to watch (and ride!):
Bluehouse Skis, Salt Lake City, UT
Bluehouse began in 2007 with the quest to create a line of more innovative and affordable skis. Bluehouse quickly gained notoriety amongst the Utah skiing community and beyond. The company sells everything factory-direct so no retailers, no distributors, no middlemen. This allows Bluehouse to deliver on their promise of kick-ass ski technology at affordable prices. Bluehouse actually let Liftopia design a custom top sheet and preorder next year’s models of our choice with this killer design we developed. Yeah, that’s an avalanche of animals. Jealous? You might be able to win a pair through a future Liftopia sweepstakes, if you’re extremely, extremely lucky.
DPS, Salt Lake City, UT
Officially founded in 2005, after years of dabbling in ski design on the part of the founders, DPS is known for its innovations in rocker technology and carbon fiber design. Most models afford you the choice of pure carbon construction or the less expensive fiberglass, carbon and bamboo hybrid. DPS offers a full range of skis from big mountain to all-mountain and even has a women’s specific line. They sell direct on their website and through many retailers.
Wagner Custom Skis, Telluride, CO
This independent manufacturer is special to me, as I actually know the founder, Pete Wagner. I met Pete a decade ago back in my Telluride days, but when I knew him he was a software engineer/ski-and climbing-bum – designing high-end golf club shafts by night while ripping pow lines in Telluride and sending cracks in Indian Creek by day. Peter then left town for a brief stint to get an MBA and came back in 2006, ready to apply his engineering prowess and business acumen to innovate ski design and manufacturing. As a result, Wagner Custom Skis was born. Pete’s skis are unique in that they are custom designed for each rider and every pair is handmade from scratch. Not only are the shape and the guts of the ski customized, clients can also choose the design of the top sheet. AND Pete’s manufacturing facility is super green, running on solar power and offsetting its carbon-footprint through the purchase of wind energy credits. You can check out their website here: Wagner Custom Skis.
Praxis Skis, Truckee, CA
Praxis Skis takes a hybrid approach, they offer both standard and customized models to choose from. Praxis boasts a new perspective on ski design, getting away from skis designed for a specific purpose like groomers or gates and instead offers customers skis built for skiers, not specific use cases. You can buy Praxis skis through their website or through a few North Lake Tahoe local authorized dealers
ON3P, Portland, OR
Industrious founder of ON3P, Scott Andrus, came up with the idea for his custom ski company as a sophomore in college. By the time he graduated he was ready to launch into production in 2009. ON3P prides themselves on meticulous craftsmanship and using only the best materials. There is nothing “mass” about the way they produce skis. In fact, they are so confident in their methods their factory in Portland is always open for ad hoc tours. ON3P’s design team is known for pushing the envelop with their unusual prototypes (see Oar Skis) but through trial and error have honed their core concepts into some of the more innovative designs on the ski market today. You can buy ON3P skis direct from the company or through a few select retailers including evo.com.
Wish for snow and happy shredding this winter on whatever boards you choose!