There’s nothing like that feeling you get when you know every nook and cranny of your local ski area, especially on a powder day. Imagine having that same feeling about your skis. While many people are satisfied to ski on mass market skis built half way around the world, some of us want something more. Fortunately there’s a number of smaller ski companies out there willing to meet our needs. There’s just something awesome about being able to walk into the “factory” and talk to the guy that’s going to build your skis.
Josh Bennett started building Slant Skis in his garage in Truckee, California in 2007. Bit by bit, the business has grown and production moved to a small shop just down the road from Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. Slant Skis currently offers nine models of skis, from park models through powder chasers. Each is hand built from sustainable bamboo and materials sourced in the United States. While business has been good, it’s time to take it to the next level. Bennett started a Kickstarter campaign this month to help fund the expansion of his production facility.
We recently had a chance to sit down for a Q&A session with Josh. Here’s the result.
What was the inspiration for Slant Skis?
As a kid, a ski purchase was one of my biggest things each year. I would work and save up all summer for a season pass and a pair of skis. I was always really hard on my skis, and they would almost always break, which was super disappointing. Plus, the ski companies would often refuse my warranty, saying I used the skis for ‘jumping’ and they were not intended for such activities! So when I turned 18, I got a job at a ski shop so I could get deals on skis and learn how to fix and maintain them. My good friend/coworker and I would always daydream about how we would design skis if we ever got the opportunity. So, I decided to try and figure it out. I saved up enough tools and equipment and built a ski press and Slant was born.
How would you describe the difference between locally produced skis versus the big brands?
Big brands treat skis more like a commodity than a crucial piece of ski gear. They are mass-produced in the tens or hundreds of thousands of pairs each year. They are bought by wholesalers at the lowest price possible and marketed to the masses for small margins in large quantities in an effort to make a profit. What’s missing in this equation? Ski Quality.
The small batch ski maker must care about the ski and the skier first. The small batch ski maker is a skier who understands their product must have superior materials, construction, appeal and skiability than their competition or their skis will not sell. Because offering a unique, high-performance ski that you can’t get anywhere else is what brings skiers back to your brand. That and they need to look cool 🙂
How would you describe your typical Slant Skis customer?
My typical Slant customer is a skier who cares about where their skis come from and the quality of their entire skiing experience. They feel good about supporting a small business rather than a huge corporation. They enjoy skiing on a pair of skis that are more unique and progressive compared to what their friends are skiing on. They also understand that skis don’t need to be made by large companies to be the best ski for them.
Our customer base is growing steadily and we love showing people that their favorite skis can be crafted by a fellow skier running a small business.
Tell us about your new Kickstarter campaign? What’s your favorite “reward”?
I’ve always loved Kickstarter and it’s ability to help the small business or entrepreneur meet the consumer that’s never heard of them. One of the biggest challenges Slant faces is simply getting discovered by more skiers. Ads in large magazines or websites bought by large brands cost thousands of dollars and are usually not cost-effective to small-batch ski companies. Kickstarter not only helps us raise funds, but increases our reach to thousands that have never heard of Slant.
My favorite reward we are offering is to let a small handful of skiers build a pair of skis along side us in the factory. This would have been a dream reward for me before I started Slant. I’m always excited to work with other skiers who are passionate about skiing and care about where their skis come from so much that they actually want to build their own skis.
Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
I feel it should be important to each skier where their skis and equipment comes from. Just like many people prefer to buy local produce and support local businesses, supporting a small ski company should be no different. People are really starting to understand that more and it feeds my energy to grow.
The Kickstarter campaign for Slant Skis ends on June 30th. At Unofficial Alpine we believe in supporting all of those little guys that are keeping skiing and riding fun and affordable for everyone.
I initially wrote this piece for the Mountain Rider’s Alliance blog…but it seemed like it needed to be here too. Supporting the independents is important to me. I’m not sure what it means beyond that. – Mark