Rx From The BootDoctor: Wagner Skis & BootDoctor
“Paranoid about cyberspying? What if I told you about special software that would allow any avid skier to upload his or her deepest thoughts and desires and personal history to an address where they could get the ultimate pair of custom skis, ones that perfectly match their unique skiing ’DNA’?
Pete Wagner has taken his ultra geeky obsessions with programming and skiing to the ultimate level of perfection in custom ski construction and moved his operations just across the little pond outside the BootDoctors’ doors in Telluride’s Mountain Village. Come see the skis in production and try our exclusive demo fleet of Wagners any day. And then once you come to understand that your love of skiing requires an upgrade to a custom pair, feel free to order through BootDoctors and get extra special $100 upgrade for free.
See how easy and painless cloning your skiing DNA can be?”
And this just in from Telski.
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There have always been entrepreneurs nipping at the edges of the ski industry, trying to find ways to fit in, to merge their preeminent passion and their professional life into one. It’s the ultimate ski bum-turned serious person fantasy.
With so many people pursuing this track, we get outerwear brands that pop up and disappear almost annually, a new kind of ‘healthier’ energy bar on a weekly basis, and dozens of new players producing ‘revolutionary’ insulating layers every ski season.
It’s not incredibly difficult, apparently, to contract a factory in China to make a new brand of polyester underwear.
But hardware is tougher. Skis, boots, bindings, snowboards, goggles, helmets—the lineup of serious manufacturers in skiing doesn’t change much. If anything, it has consolidated, as once-independent brands have been merged and rolled up.
There’s a significant amount of domain knowledge equity required to make a binding, a boot, a ski. Distributing hardware is difficult, too. The selling cycle is longer; consumers don’t replace their skis every year.
There’s a newer cast of custom ski makers, however, who have found traction with their craft and enough willing skiers who want a ski or board that was shaped and built just for them.
Almost all of these upstarts can trace their heritage to Pete Wagner, a mechanical engineer, who, in a dingy building outside of Telluride 11 years ago, started using the kinds of tech and advanced manufacturing that first permeated the golf industry—Wagner once worked for Penley Sports, a maker of high-tech shafts for golf clubs—to make a better ski.
Wagner’s business, Wagner Custom, has flourished since he got out of business school at the University of Colorado with the backing of a small group of willing investors. (What Coloradoan doesn’t want to own part of a custom ski company?)
Wagner just moved to a new slot in the heart of Telluride Ski Resort’s village, making it the only ski maker with a manufacturing base that is actually on-mountain.
“It’s pretty fun for us, we get to meet our customers face to face, and we give them insider access to see how we make skis,” Wagner says.
Wagner’s success comes from his technical mastery of ski construction and high-end manufacturing, and the kind of grinding persistance present in most successful entrepreneurs. For those skiers trying to crack the ultimate life riddle of combining work and play, Wagner offers a blueprint, albeit a difficult one to replicate.
The company has recently doubled down on its success, spending $400,000 on capital improvements in the last six months, upgrading its fleet of computer numeric control milling machines and automated routers, and installing new German-made ski tuning machines in its slope-side factory.
The critical path to creating a utterly unique pair of skis at Wagner is just two weeks long. At a big manufacture such as K2 or Volkl, that process takes two years.
“Our process is the most agile in the world,” Wagner says.
The company might work out of shop in a rarefied ski town, but its processes resemble those of a small and nimble software company.
Last year, the company made 1,200 pairs of skis, cranking out six pairs on every workday of the year…
More about Rx from the BootDoctor
When the world weighs too heavy on her shoulders, The BootDoctors’ marketing whiz, Penelope Gleason, lightens her load by tuning out the headlines and turning up the volume on lighter, brighter info – such as the story above. “Rx from the BootDoctor,” is all about news to amuse – and use.
Telluride’s The BootDoctors has a well-deserved rep for community service; consider curations such as this one part of that mix.
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