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Custom Ski Builders Bring New Designs, Local Materials To The Slopes

Local food, craft beer and handmade goods are a big part of the culture and economy of Vermont. And one more product can now be added to that list: craft skis.

Although skiing is hugely popular in Vermont, up until now most of the equipment has been made in other states and even overseas. Some Vermonters want to change that.

Vin Faraci never set out to be a professional ski builder. He just started making the kind of equipment he wanted to use:

“I ended up buying a pair of skis one time that I didn’t really like,” said Faraci. “And I began to think about building my own pair.”

Faraci says it took thousands of hours of research to figure out how to build skis.

He started building custom pairs for friends and family.  Eventually, he says people on the slopes started asking him where they could buy a pair. That led to starting his business, WhiteRoom Skis in Hyde Park.

He says the aesthetic of his skis are a big part of what draws people in:

“They have a different appeal than some of the graphics on the market. I’m not too fond of the current graphic design of most of today’s skis,” said Faraci.

The skis have a wooden, almost retro finish to them. And they definitely look handmade.

Faraci says most skis that Vermonters use are made overseas. And he’s surprised that more boutique ski-makers haven’t sprung up in the state.

“You go to any major ski industry market here in the country and you’ll find small, craft, boutique custome builders like myself,” said Faraci. “Except for really here in Vermont. There are very few.”

Faraci points to places like Colorado and Montana, where custom builders are more common.

Lars Whitman agrees. He just finished an apprenticeship in Idaho, where he learned to build downhill skis. He just started his own business, Silo Skis, in Richmond.

"I could even listen to your favorite music while I build your skis if you wanted." - Lars Whitman, custom ski builder

He says the personal connection that comes with custom building a product is what drew him to this business:

“For someone to call me up and have direct input in how to make their end user product is pretty unique,” said Whitman.

He also says the customer has more say in how their skis are made.

“There will be a long list of questions you put in, like where you like to ski, what kind of conditions, how hard you ski. And from that we can start a conversation,” said Whitman. “I could even listen to your favorite music while I build your skis if you wanted.”

Whitman hopes to build 40 pairs next season. He says that by keeping his business small, he’s able to be more environmentally conscious and source materials locally when possible.

But because of the time they take to produce, only a few skiers will get the chance to order custom skis for next winter.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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