Skiers are a conservative lot by nature, telemark skiers even more so. While skis have gotten shorter and have more sidecut than they did 30 years, the shape hasn't changed too drastically from the first wood planks that people strapped on their feet millennia ago.
There is one brand of skis, however, that seems like an idea conceived by the Mad Hatter on a bad acid trip. These skis are now handmade in a small shop in Silverton by Scott Robert Carlson (ScottyBob), who first got the idea for his skis when he was working as a telemark ski instructor during the 1990s.
ScottyBob, who has abandoned his experiment with mass production, calls his skis "on-demand" skis rather than custom skis.
"We use the term on-demand skis because we only build a pair when we have an order," he explains. "Believe it or not, a lot of people don't like the word 'custom.' They're afraid of it and think it will be super expensive, and takes a long time, and be a pain, and we make it pretty painless as far them being able to make a decision on what they want. Our prices are pretty dang low for a custom ski. We start at $750, in-house graphics add another $100, and you can even get your name on it for $50, and that's $900, and a lot of production skis are at $1000 nowadays."
The principal behind ScottyBob's design is to create a ski with a longer inside edge than outside edge. That way, when the skier goes into a turn, where most of the weight is on the outside ski, it is easier to get the inside ski on edge because it has a shorter tip to tail distance. ScottyBob experimented with designs by taking a hacksaw to standard skis, before coming up with his BobTail design.
Though ScottyBob came up with his design based on his experience with telemark skiing, he also has extended his line to create alpine skis as well.
"The theory works for both; we believe they have to be different," chuckles ScottyBob. "If you look at the website and compare alpine to tele, the alpine tail is just a little notch, but the notch of the tele is a bigger notch. If you try to do alpine on one of our tele models, you aren't getting the performance you want."
It takes ScottyBob about two weeks from the time he receives an order until he ships the skis to his customer, barring unforeseen circumstances.
"In October, we had a sale and we had a tremendous amount of orders, and it took three weeks."
ScottyBob currently offers an astounding 64 different models of skis, many of which have been custom designed by customers. The cores for his skis are all sugar maple, and they have a wood topsheet, though he can create custom designs for people that might work in the wood.
"If they want artwork, we talk about what they've seen and what they are leaning towards," he says. "Some people send me artwork and we see if we can get it on the ski."
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Skiers interested in a pair of ScottyBob skis usually start by reviewing the different designs on the website, then calling ScottyBob up in Silverton to discuss any further needs for the skis.
"I ask them what do they ski and where they are, and the kind of terrain they like, just normal questions about what skiing they do, because everybody skis differently. By the time a customer picks up the phone and actually calls me, they do have sort of an idea of what they are leaning towards. If someone skis powder all day long, there's no way I'm going to say they should get a carving ski. It's a pretty simple process, and people generally know what they want, as far as length and flex. My normal clientele aren't beginner skiers, so if they ask what length they should get, I ask what length they are on now, and if they like it, and if they want to go longer or shorter. I don't ski with that person; only they know. Flex usually depends on weight and style of skiing."
Whether you call them custom skis, on-demand skis, you can them made to your exact specifications in Silverton -- a pretty sweet deal.