Community Skis

It’s hard not to get excited about Community Skis. The company’s approach to ski making might just be the first real new thing in skis since rocker. In this sense, it’s worth putting their recipe for ski manufacturing into a larger context.

Like microbreweries, the eat local movement or the organic process that has lead to even the smallest of surf town having several shapers to choose from, Community is a return to place.

It’s a space where purchasing, consuming and creating is centered around the people, topography, resources and context of the local environment.

But as everyone knows, today local can be global. Which means that anyone can become part of Community, the ski company or the concept. It just takes the desire to do so.

This summer, we caught up with Community’s Kristin Broumas to see what Community is up to.

What’s the background of Community Skis, the motivation?

Michael Lish has been building factories, mono skis, snowboards and skis for over thirty years.  I started working with Michael at 333 skis in 2009.  We are now co-owners of Community Skis.  The motivation is simple: build out a company that feeds the mind and soul. Focuses on creativity and labor. Is strongly integrated with the community we work in. Keep innovating ski design, supply chain management and business systems.
Give us a quick overview of what you guys are about.

We are a full custom ski manufacturer that builds for the working persons wage up through ultra high tech carbon skis.  Michael designed and fabricated our factory space to be transparent, slightly enchanted and a venue for community based events.  Most important, the factory is designed to respect labor or the work we do. As ski smiths we are convinced that the environment we work in is key to our personal and business success.

Is this the future of ski manufacturing?

Yes. Our next step is to open Community Skis Telluride, Bend, Hokkaido, Chamonix and other national and international locations. We also have an apprenticeship program to seed other efficient ski manufacturing companies that are not boutique.  The final step is 3 tent manufacturing.  Off grid, on-site for seven months a year, scaled out to accommodate upwards to 12,000 sets of fully custom skis and split-boards per month through a six month manufacturing cycle.

What’s your take on the role of big brands, like the well-known guys from Europe or a K2?

These companies have survived and continued to innovate.  This is a big accomplishment in itself.  We are developing Community Skis through multiple locations and 3 tent manufacturing to compete with European brands and Chinese manufacturers.

Give us some insights into what makes a great ski.

Four things and no gimmicks.  The correct flex, shape, weight and tune.  Graphics make a significant contribution to your personal connection with the product so Community only does custom or raw.  What does not make a great ski is marketing.

How can someone figure out how to design a ski for themselves?

Designing a ski is simple.  Designing a ski that will do precisely what you want or need it to do takes a great deal.  We provide this service for free and what you receive is an in-depth overview that correlates design aspects with performance gains or loses.  It’s based on your inputs such as how you ski, type of snow, amount of camber/rocker, tip and tail flex, reinforcement package, turnability and turn radius.

What’s next? What’s next for Community and what’s next for ski manufacturing?

Community is continuing to develop a lean manufacturing and business platform.  We are also in the process of designing a second-generation trailer for manufacturing and workshops. As far as ski manufacturing goes there shouldn’t be any significant changes in the industry.

Ski design will continue to develop with a trend towards lightweight for on-piste as well as AT gear.  The impact of small-scale manufacturing will probably be negligible unless it is paired correctly with effective business practices. Retail may make an adjustment if it decides to focus on customer service otherwise internet and overstock will continue to be the prime product movers.

Demographics will probably continue to shift towards a higher income bracket but that could be slightly offset by a growing number of backcountry skiers.  Global warming will have an impact due to significant variation in long term weather patterns.

Our position is to focus on the individual customer experience in an efficient manner rather than whole market segments. So our intent is to stay above the fray and grow Community into multiple locations.

Along these lines, will people eventually make skis at home? After all we’re seeing 3-D printers, do you envision a revolution where you hit “print” and you print your skis in your garage?

It might become possible to hit the print button. At this point you can already make a well performing ski from two materials: polycarbonate sheet and steel edges. So we should expect to see in the coming years the technology and/or innovative approaches to 3-D printing tackle ski design.
Keep in mind a ski is only a sandwich; a composite. The industry can throw all the hype, graphics, incentives, marketing, pro endorsements but a ski is just a sandwich. Whether it comes from a 3-D printer or a factory that is designed for custom ski building or a Chinese mega factory, what influences buying decision most in any product is knowing that it exists, a belief that is it going to get the job done and the price is right. If you wrap that in a package of customer service excellence, can deliver on time and make a profit, that is the new trend in American manufacturing- Community style.

Any final words?

If you want to ski better get the right boots and take a lesson then talk to a custom ski builder, not the boutique type, and work with them and design something that is truly going to rock your world.

Watch the origins of Community Skis, 333 Skis, here:

PE Perspectives – 333 Skis from Planet Earth Clothing on Vimeo.

Follow Community Skis on Facebook


Be A Cook In The Kitchen

Community Skis is not the only company to offer classes as well as a venue to build your very own skis. Big Wood Skis, based in Sun Valley, Idaho also offers  ski manufacturing classes as does Austrian builder SPURart.

Big Wood offers three different classes, ranging in cost from $950 to $2500. Each class is five days long and features different levels of ski manufacturing from building a pair of skis using a pre-designed template to CAD aided design for a shape of your choice. At the end of each class, participants will have built their own pair of skis.

The Innsbruck, Austria based SPURart custom ski manufacturing company also offers classes where you can design and build your own skis. Their three-day workshops run every weekend during the winter season and once a month during the summer. Worshops cost € 690, and include the initial design consultation and support, all building materials and personal support and guidance during the building process. Group rates are available.

The Thiokol Spryte

Privately owned, from the early 1960′s, it’s been used for a bit of cat skiing as and to access a cabin located near Eldora Ski Area, Colorado.

Thiokol is perhaps better known for its work in the space industry. The company was created in 1926 when Joseph Patrick and Nathan Mnookin created synthetic rubber by accident in their lab.

Thiokol went on to play a role in space exploration, designing and building rocket motor systems including winning the contract to build the solid rocket booster for the Space Shuttle in 1974.

However, it was the company’s roots in rubber that led to its role in manufacturing sno-cats.

“They made the rubber tracks for military vehicles, snowmobiles and sno-cats like Tucker,” says ski historian and journalist, Seth Masia.

Masia, who is active on the International Ski and Snowboard History group on Facebook,  adds that, “It was a logical step from making the tracks to making the whole machine.”

Thiokol left the ski industry in 1978, selling its ski lift division to CTEC while John DeLorean’s LMC purchased the sno-cat division. DeLorean, of course, would later be arrested on charges of drug trafficking in 1982. Those charges would eventually be dropped and LMC’s sno-cat business would struggle on until 2000, when it finally closed, marking an end to a chapter in skiing history.

The Spryte from Indie Skier on Vimeo.

Big Cottonwood Backwater
Sleepy Brighton is the Complete Utah Package
Brighton Arial_small


Molly Green’s bar in Brighton’s old base lodge, the Brighton Manor A-frame, is an honest place. You can take you ski boots off and sit, barefoot, in front of the fire. Surrounding you will be a mixed crew: locals, day trippers and a few destination visitors, all will be chilling out after a day on the slopes. It’s a crew that is like the ski area’s terrain: some scraggly, some clean-cut, families, single snowboarders, kids and adults.

Brighton does have something for everyone. It’s not the biggest, and it makes no claims to be the best, but as a complete package, it’s hard to beat.

From the legitimate backcountry access for experts (Wolverine Cirque, anyone?) to rolling in bounds powder stashes, a low key yet happening park scene, groomers and —Hell Yeah!—legitimate night skiing terrain, Brighton has it all.

Brighton By The Numbers
Average Snowfall: 500 inches/ 11 meters
Vertical Rise: 1745 feet
Total Skiable Acres: 1050
Lifts: 7
Season: Mid-November to Mid-April

brighton2 from Indie Skier on Vimeo.

Kyler Cooley – Santiago Backcountry

chileThis photo is all about the Andes: the amazing lines buttressed with rock spires.  This is one from the archives. It won’t win any photo contests but it personally gets me really stoked just looking at Kyler charging the apron below the cliffs, just having fun.

You can see our tracks up top off the ridge and the video is classic GoPro headcam footage from Kyler. I first was shooting from the ridge when he dropped in on top and we got some great stuff up there.

I wasn’t even planning on shooting the bottom part of this line, because I like to try to get some skiing in myself. After all, that’s why everyone does this. But I looked up, saw Kyler coming down and was able to grab my camera out of my pack fast enough to get a quick photo before he came past me.

I hope that when people look at this photo, they can imagine skiing this line, or at least one like it. And I hope that they get motivated to go on an adventure down south. For skiers in North America, the Andes are really accessible and they’re great mountains. I’ve had so many fun trips there.

chile from Indie Skier on Vimeo.

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The Winter, Spring, and Summer 2014 issues, including the Ski Buyer’s Guide are on the Newsstand now for both iPhone and iPad.

Download it here:


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Independent Skier
noun, [in∙de∙pen∙duh nt  skee-er]
plural: in∙de∙pen∙dent  ski∙ers.

1. An autonomous being or thing that skis.
2. A small, privately owned business devoted to telling stories about skiing.

We believe skiers are skiers. It makes no difference how old they are, what their education level or income is, if they live in the mountains and ski 100-plus days a year, or take one ski trip a year.

Our readers are all over the map. What they care about is high-quality storytelling to fuel their love of their sport and lifestyle anywhere, anytime.

Mission: To provide the highest quality mobile storytelling possible to skiers worldwide, for free. Always fresh, always deep.

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Tom Winter  -  Editor, Co-Founder

Tom’s ski journalism background includes positions as the founding editor of the influential skiing title Freeze Magazine, Editor at Large for Freeskier Magazine and a Senior Contributor to Powder Magazine. In addition to his work as a journalist, Tom has created, designed and organized some of the most important freeski events in North America, including the Berthoud Pass Bad Ass Championships, the Colorado Freeride Championships and the New Mexico Extremes, a 4* Freeride World Tour Qualifying event. He’s also acted as a judge for the Freeride World Tour (FWT) at events ranging from Sochi, Russia to Squaw Valley, USA.

Tom’s skiing background includes ski mountaineering descents of Ecuador’s Chimbarazo (6,268 meters) and Cotopaxi (5,897 meters) volcanoes as well as first descents on smaller peaks in North and South America. His writing and photography has been featured in ESPN, Skiing, The Ski Journal and others, and he is a three-time winner of the Howard Hirsch Award for snowsports photography.


Mark Lesh  -  Creative Director, Co-Founder

A geologist by training, Mark is drawn to telling the story of mountains and how we live and play in them. Mark currently art directs, designs, and illustrates for various publications and websites including The Drake, Inspirato, 5280 Magazine, and He has served as an Art Director and Photo Editor at Skiing Magazine. His work has also appeared in Ski, Powder, and Mountain Magazines.

Mark grew up ski racing in Utah in the early 1980’s as a founding member of the Waterford Ski Team, worked on the Race Crew at Park City Mountain Resort, cooked at the Alta Peruvian Lodge, and taught skiing at Eldora Mountain Resort.

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True to our name, we’re not part of a bigger company or the pet project of a few deep pockets. We’re just a few skiers who love figuring out new ways to tell great stories. We are completely community supported right now through many generous Kickstarter backers and talented contributors.

We cannot do what we do without our community support. We gladly take donations and beer whenever offered and are happy to review your story ideas and media. We’re doing our darnedest to product the highest quality storytelling for mobile devices for free and appreciate your support greatly. Thank you.

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