Smaller than Indie
Meet Nano Ski Brands
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Any skier who’s walked from Denver International Airport’s Concourse A to the tent-like Terminal likely noticed a number of ski-themed exhibits last winter. Displays featured modern ski photography, historical Olympic memorabilia, and some fat skis from a brand few people outside of Colorado have heard of: Powder Factory.
Owned and operated by Silver Plume, Colo., local Casey Day, Powder Factory makes less than 200 pairs of skis a year. Their designs match the Colorado snow climate and the type of fluff that resident skiers prefer. Day employs passionate skiers and builds skis sustainably, both in an environmental and economic sense.
Not unlike craft breweries, mountain communities all over America are seeing micro ski brands that initially popped up in garages and industrial spaces starting to reach maturity. Brands like Shaggy’s in Michigan, Caravan Skis in Montana, and Powder Factory in Colorado make less than 800 pairs of skis a year, mostly for nearby ski areas and backcountry zones. For contrast, one recognized indie brand we spoke to will sell almost 2,000 pairs of its top-selling model in a single season.
Unlike beer makers, however, there is a much steeper cost of entry to ski-building compared to brewing craft suds. Before starting Powder Factory in 2012, Day was a ski builder for ScottyBob’s Ski Works in Silverton, Colo., where he gained hands-on experience in building skis, learning what works, and finding out what doesn’t.
Powder Factory and similar companies can be particularly innovative, able to experiment with construction techniques more easily than bigger brands at a much higher quality. “We’ll see changes happen between pairs of the same model of ski within a season,” notes Day. “We can innovate and improve that quickly.”
But, in a world where larger indie brands are making carving skis and massive mainstream brands are making super-fat, niche powder skis, Day believes it’s important for Powder Factory to stay loyal to the type of ski that has made its brand sustainable and successful. “If I was going to grow this brand, I wouldn’t call it Powder Factory. After all, only a certain demographic of skier seeks powder.”
Day believes these niche brands are successful thanks to the high attention to detail paid by the people making the skis—i.e., employees who are usually avid skiers themselves. This, plus the fact that Day and his employees are on the hill connecting with their customers, creates a unique feedback loop that improves the skis and creates a sincere, long-lasting loyalty between builder and consumer.
Originally published in the September 2018 issue of SKI Magazine.