Delivering Us From the Dark Ages?

RAMP Sports claims new process builds better skis here in the US

Bold claims run rampant in the ski industry—promises of better turns, more fun, and increased sexiness are about as common as people snowplowing on the bunny hill. Every once in a while, though, someone makes a statement so outlandish we just have to investigate it. When we saw the phrase: “RAMP Sports brings the Ski Industry out of the Dark Ages thru US manufacturing” in Skiing’s inbox we were immediately shocked. No one in the office has been to a ski jousting tournament, done battle with a dragon, or burned the witch responsible for last winter. To investigate our apparent time identity crisis, we caught up with RAMP Sports President/Founder Michael Kilchenstein, and asked him what is going on in their new Park City, Utah factory.

RAMP separates itself from other brands by vacuum molding as opposed to the traditional method of using an actual press to build skis—meaning skis are literally suctioned together instead of being forced together by weight. According to Kilchenstein, this process is better because it allows for more consistency and precision while building a ski. How? By using a vacuum bag, ski materials are joined together with about a quarter of the pressure used in a traditional press. “What we’re finding is one BAR of Pressure [as opposed to around four by other methods] is perfect for squeezing all the layers together—they aren’t over-squeezed.” Claims Kilchenstein. “Think about it in terms of fixing a delamination on your ski—if you apply too much pressure you squeeze all the epoxy out and it doesn’t last as long.”

Besides the potential for a longer lasting product, Kilchenstein says it’s much easier to make different shaped skis—all RAMP has to do is CNC different molds to place inside the vacuum bag. It’s possible to go from conception to a skiable ski in a day. And the process is user-friendly enough that Kilchenstein is confident RAMP will be able to produce high-quality skis in the U.S. as opposed to using less expensive labor overseas. “When companies started moving manufacturing overseas, they use the same factories and the same machines with people who might make $1 an hour versus someone here who would be making $12 an hour,” Kilchenstein says. “If you start using a more modern process and not the old-school heavy machinery, you get a lighter and much more flexible operation.”

So why has no one else done this before? Kilchenstein attributes it largely to tradition. With decades of ski building by standard pressing methods, most companies don’t see the need to change. To bring manufacturing and jobs back to the U.S. on a competitive level with other companies, though, RAMP had to employ less than traditional methods.

Only time will tell if RAMP’s enlightenment will transcend current technology and bring us to higher levels of sliding on snow. In the meantime we’ll keep an eye out for dragons.

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