Eye On Boise

Inland Northwest’s custom ski-makers carve a niche market

Cris Burnham of Substance Skis talks about his business at his home in Coeur d’Alene on Nov. 20. (Kathy Plonka)
Cris Burnham of Substance Skis talks about his business at his home in Coeur d’Alene on Nov. 20. (Kathy Plonka)

TJ Sneva wanted skis that would accommodate the kinds of tricks he and his friends liked to pull on the slopes, and major manufacturers weren’t making them – so he started building them himself. David Marx wanted skis that would work in the “side-country” terrain around Schweitzer Mountain – skis that could handle low-angle back-country touring and uphills, but still float through powder turns on the downhills and inside the resort. Now his 7B Skis has a full line of models for both inside and outside his home ski resort, with demos available on the slopes at Schweitzer.

Caleb Baukol of Big Wood Ski wanted to build elegant, fully customized skis out of hardwoods that could stay stable on the steep, fast slopes of Sun Valley. “This mountain is so steep and so fast and so demanding,” he said. “We have real skiers here that just rip.” All are small ski manufacturers that are part of the craft ski movement, a segment of the ski industry that’s gained such allure that for the first time this year, a portion of the ski industry’s annual trade show in Denver will be set aside for the small ski- and snowboard-makers.

“We’re not trying to take over the ski industry or anything like that,” said Matt Neuman, owner of Ullr Skis, which recently relocated from McCall, Idaho to Sandpoint. “We can’t compete. But more people are becoming conscious of who they’re buying stuff from and where it’s coming from.” You can read my full story here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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