Everybody in the snowsports world knows that Utah is famous for the copious amounts of powder, and the terrain of the Wasatch is equal in its recognition. Throw in the ingredients of a nearby metropolis with an international airport, a knowledgeable and savvy outdoor scene, world class terrain that entertains a large number of outdoor activities, and it’s no wonder that many of the biggest manufacturers in the ski and snowboard and outdoor business are proud to call SLC home. It’s also possible, with a little research and local knowledge, to find manufacturers on the other end of the spectrum. The individual who turns their own passion for the mountains and outdoor lifestyle into a product or innovation that fills a need that perhaps the bigger companies can’t, or won’t. While these individuals are filled with passion and energy for their dreams, it’s almost hard to say if they are in fact “living the dream.” It’s hard work, long hours, and quite often- difficult to make ends meet. Still they forge onward with the courage to achieve a dream or goal that others might consider chasing a rainbow. In the end, the satisfaction that comes from their work, and the dedication to their craft is infectious. It is apparent, and they’ll also tell you that indeed- they are living their dream.
Full disclosure- Stephanie Nitsch is a regular contributor to this publication. While she hasn’t penned a feature in some time, she does have a regular column. While she’s never met a deadline that she likes, she always comes through.
When she hit me up this fall with her new venture, which she faulted for her latest editorial tardiness, her enthusiasm was apparent as soon as we got on the phone. “It’s a snowboard company for women, by women.” Hew new venture is called Palace Snowboards, and where an industry heavyweight like Burton may make upwards of 150 boards a day, Steph plans on making maybe 25 boards total this year. She has partnered up with another local manufacturer- Chimera- a backcountry splitboard manufacturer with great credibility in the industry. “Alister Horn and Chimera have obviously been a huge part of this venture,” says Steph. She uses their facility, and shares some of the splitboard technology that the company has developed and applies similar techniques to her manufacturing process, all of which is done by hand. “Palace boards are specific to women, slightly narrower waist, the stance is aft, a slight tip rocker with a big nose on the front of the board for flotation. Women tend to get tired riding powder on the boards available to them today, and by pushing the weight back, it gives more flotation, pop, and playfulness” says Steph. “A common notion for womens boards from manufacturers is to take the ‘shrink and pink’ approach which also make a board too short and squirrelly for an aggressive female rider.”
“I want Palace to be a catalyst for showcasing female craftsmanship. It’s also a way to show that brands should be concerned with more than just pushing product, we want to share knowledge of the backcountry, and how to use tools properly to make better decisions, and getting hands on experience. Palace can be a platform for learning proper practices in the backcountry, and getting women there with the proper equipment and knowledge. It’s much more than just digging a snow pit. You can’t expect the equipment to do it all, you also need the knowledge to accompany you. Our plan is to seek the value in events and clinics where we can show our boards and also engage women with hands on experience.”
Palace boards will only be available by direct online sales, although a creative demo program will allow anyone to get out and try one, with an emphasis on making the program approachable for folks outside of the Wasatch. The boards are beautiful, and the craftswomanship is apparent. The gorgeous Hedonist model Steph showed me will sell for $895 for a splitboard, and $575 in a solid.
It sounds like she may be passing me by, and I don’t blame her. Anyone interested in a columnist position? Palacesnowboards.com
A few blocks away from Palace is a nondescript shop on West Temple, right next to the Trax line that leads eventually to Sugarhouse. I step inside and am greeted warmly by Todd Herilla, I am however very distracted by the skis he has lined up on the wall in his attractive storefront, beautiful sandwich construction and cambered skis that I can’t help but envision flying down the mountain on. These are Todd’s handmade marvels- 7even Skis. “Yeah- I like to get down in the pow” says Todd. I’m holding a pair of his handmade DPow skis with a 105 mm waist. “ I like to make skis for how I like to ski” he continues “this ski has a slightly bigger nose, and not too much flotation to keep you on the surface, it lets you get down in it.”
“I’ve been building 7even skis for about 6 years now. These are my third generation models.” Next to the Dpow sits the A-1 carving ski, a heat-seeking missile that shows Herilla’s racing roots, and his most popular model, the C-4. “I’ve been playing around with construction for years, and am now utilizing a great system I call ‘pulse inhibiting technology’ which is a vibration control. I can also build full custom skis and take into account anything for the customer, any specs to adjust flex, radius, width, whatever.” A full custom ski will run about $1200, and my mind is spinning at the thought that for a pair of these beauties, it’s well worth the price. He’ll also do my own custom graphics if I want! Todd says he’ll build maybe 30-40 pairs of boards this year, and to support his passion, he also has a full tuning shop in back which provides a high quality tune that you might not be able to find anywhere else along the Wasatch Front. “I also tend bar at night to help keep things moving along” he says. He built his ski press himself, and uses the skills of friends who have engineering and CNC experience. Otherwise, it’s a one-man show on the manufacturing end, his wife Nadia also helps with the biz.
When the inevitable gets asked- why? Todd’s response is straightforward and no-nonsense. “I grew up skiing, and it’s been my passion my whole life. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and moved to Colorado to ski. I worked in boot shops, ski shops, whatever I had to do to ski. I spent my time in racing programs, and have always wanted to be on the snow. Of course I got to thinking about how I could build my own skis and it’s just been a natural progression for me to do. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.” It’s motivating indeed, but I’m still only partly listening as in my mind I’m still conspiring on how to get a pair in my quiver.
A full demo program is also available.7evenskis.com