It’s that time of year, the product guides are out, the temps are dropping, and there are even rumors of snowfall at higher elevations. Despite it still being August, ski season is right around the corner. If you ripped your jacket, blew an edge, or lost some precious gear tomahawking down the mountain, you’re probably in the market for some new equipment.
As you already know, you have an overwhelming number of choices when buying ski equipment. Brands big and small, new and established, all over the world, are spending big bucks to compete for your hard earned cash. That makes you, the consumer pretty powerful, and that is why I urge you to be mindful of where your money is going.
After “cha-ching” and a cut to your local or online retailer, your money goes to the ski company as income and their first expense is employee salaries. Smaller income pools mean smaller salaries as well as lack of benefits such as health insurance and retirement. So why would someone take this kind of a paycut? Because they love what they do. They are willing to forgo the Audi, organic lettuce, and private schooling for their kids in order to be a part of what they love most, skiing. When you buy from a skier owned and operated company, you are supporting people who put their passion for skiing above everything else and I think those people deserve our money the most.
Owner operated companies let their employees ski. When I interned at DPS, on any given week day I could expect to run into half of the office and even some factory employees in the Snowbird tram. They worked long past dinner to be out there almost every day, skiing prototypes, talking to locals, and being part of the ski community. At the end of the day, companies where skiers have the more pull over the VPs and decisions are based on the sport rather than spreadsheet trends are going to make the best product.
The next cut of your purchase goes toward manufacturing. Although not all small companies manufacture in the US, a good portion of them do. DPS, 4FRNT, Moment, Praxis, ON3P, Fatypus, Icelantic, Igneous, Folsom, Wagner and RMU among some others, all manufacture here at home AND close to skiing. That means somewhere between wetting out the fiberglass and the final base grind, a factory employee is daydreaming about the next great powder day. That’s just more skiers and American workers that you are supporting with your purchase.
I’m not trying to argue that the corporate ski companies such as K2, Salomon, Atomic, Volkl, and Rossi are awful and should go out of business. In fact, they play the vital role of manufacturing rentals and low price point skis for beginners that our industry couldn’t survive without. It’s just that big ski corporations sell 20 times more skis than the average skier owned brand, and I think that gap should be much, much narrower.
So when you reach for that ski on the wall, run your hand over the smooth topsheet, and give it a good flex, take a moment to think about where it came from. Your purchase makes a difference.