Indie ski makers continue to subvert ski culture from within, playing by their own rules, bringing new ideas to the slopes. All revolutions start small, but the mainstream regime has been put on …
By Joe Cutts
There’s a ski factory in Bangor, Maine. It’s not a big one. Chris Bagley, a recent graduate of UMaine Orono and longtime Sunday River and Sugarloaf skier, hopes to press 50 pairs of skis this year under his nascent Volition brand.
“Sometimes I’ll grab beers and have some buddies over to help out,” Bagley says. And his fiancée’s studies in structural engineering come in handy. But otherwise Volition is a company of one. And Bagley isn’t even full-time. During the day, he puts his new-media degree to work as a web developer.
Bagley doesn’t sound like a bitter guy with a stick-it-to-the-man agenda. He wasn’t dissatisfied with the big-brand skis on the market. He’s just an avid skier and a committed consumer of local products. After a day of work developing websites, he likes to get his hands on something more tangible. The cliché is unavoidable: Making skis is his labor of love.
Knowing exactly how many indie brands exist in North America, much less how big a share of the market they control, is impossible. The industry trade group SIA carefully tracks sales of skis sold in shops, but many indie brands sell directly to consumers, and those sales go uncounted.
“The best you can do for now is try to estimate their market share,” says SIA’s CFO, Bob Orbacz. “If there are eight or 10 of them doing four or five thousand pairs, plus a bunch of smaller ones, you might be looking at something like five to 10 percent of the market.” Orbacz’s estimate sounds about right to other industry veterans.
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