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Sea to Sky Made

Start-ups and struggles in the Sea to Sky snowsports industry

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Page 7 of 10

"I see the company growing as boutique, unique, one-of-a-kind, being able to produce specialty items for people as opposed to being a mass (producer)," emphasizes Sheldon. "I'm never going to be able to compete on the volume scale. I want to keep it handmade, charging at the front of what's new for powder technology, and being able to adapt with my flexible style of making skis."

The Waynes are built with Sitka Spruce from Vancouver Island, and yes, the skis do have edges — but no sidewalls (though treated with linseed oil). The Waynes are reinforced under the bindings with wall-to-wall carbon fibre, and the convex bases — what are called concave by skateboarders and chine by surfers — are hand-finished by local ski-tuning legend Turtle.

Skis with designs this radical are pushing other technologies and conventions too. "The binding hole pattern needs to be twice as wide," says Sheldon. At that precise moment, Turtle walks in — we're holed up in a nefarious corner of Whistler Cay, and this is Turtle's acid-house abode. Turtle reveals he's been working with Eric Hjorleifson on new binding insert strips for an (unnamed) ski-touring binding manufacturer. Sheldon turns to me — "There's lots of innovation going on around here," he says, before he and Turtle launch into a discussion of adding fins to the Waynes.

Funk, Don't Just Sender — Trans-sender!

Greg Funk leads me down into the garage he shares with Brad Bethune of Supernatural Splitboardz. The garage has been transformed, with one side devoted to all things split-snowboard, the other side, ski construction. Four pairs of Funk skis are lined up ready for oggling; tools and cores are stored on shelves; and a long workbench extends along one wall, with Funk's handmade ski press tucked against the end.

A transplanted White Rockian, Greg began building skis back in 2002, when he was on the clock as a maintenance staffer at the Westin. With the basics under his belt, he crafted fully customized skis under the Capital moniker from 2005 through 2009. Working fully custom left him with some doubts; as he puts it, "the quality just wasn't consistent." The issue with fully custom — as Jeremy McCall also pointed out — is that customers don't always know what they want, nor do they understand what will work. "You're haggling back-and-forth over minor details," says Funk, "yet people are only willing to pay so much for a pair of skis." The result is inevitably a compromise between cost and customization.

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