Vermonters make new skis
MIDDLEBURY — “Vermont Born. Vermont Bred. Vermont Shred.”
That’s the slogan for Worth Mountain Designs LLC, a new Vermont company that designs customizable skis for Eastern skiers.
The company is co-owned by three Vermonters, Jason Duquette-Hoffman of Middlebury, Adrian Kostrubiak of Norwich and Dalton Harben of Cambridge. According to Duquette-Hoffman, all three are avid backcountry skiers who saw a business opportunity within their shared passion.
“After 15 years in the industry, I knew it was time to bring a specialty product to market that really focuses on Eastern skiers,” said Duquette-Hoffman, a past general manager of the Burlington Alpine Shop. “We had our first customer on them in January.”
The company ran off 24 pairs of skis, of which they retained eight as demo models. A basic Worth design starts at $750, but these aren’t ordinary skis. From customizable cores, composites, and flex to custom graphics, a Worth ski will be exactly what the customer wants it to be.
Worth designs “semi-custom” skis tailored to the buyer’s preference. The company currently offers four shapes — the Marcy, the George, the Daily Bread and the Humpback — with custom build options in every design.
For an extra $50, Worth customers can choose any graphic for the topsheet. Their demo models feature views from Vermont mountains, but Duquette-Hoffman says the sky’s the limit.
“A ski’s a pretty big canvas, so you can have any graphic you want.”
Duquette-Hoffman’s skis are an even bigger canvas than usual. For a dedicated eastern ski, Worth’s designs are fat — at 98-120 mm underfoot, they look more like powder boards. Duquette-Hoffman says that a stiffer core design allows his skis to edge effectively, despite their width.
“The cores are designed for more torsional stiffness, which increases the edging and power of the ski,” he said.
Earlier this winter, Worth offered demo rides on their skis through Skihaus in Middlebury. Patrick Dempsey, of Skihaus, said that the response was very positive.
“I’ve been demoing them to anybody who shows interest,” he said. “The ski patrollers have all been on them, and are liking them a lot. I skied on them myself, and thought they were a lot of fun.”
Though Worth has partnered with both Skihaus and Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington to offer demos, Duquette-Hoffman is reluctant to offer a retail line.
“Our cost structure doesn’t allow for wholesale distribution. Really we want to sell directly to customers,” he said.
Dempsey said he would be interested in a Worth product line at Skihaus, but he believes Worth is making good business decisions.
“If they can stick to what they’re doing, it’ll work out,” Dempsey said. “If they keep making fatter, customizable skis, people will buy them. There’s not anything else like it right now.”
Worth’s model is truly unique; according to Dempsey they are the only semi-custom ski designer in the state. Duquette-Hoffman and Harben model the skis on a computer-aided design software program and then the skis are built in a Lake Tahoe warehouse owned by Vermont native Keith O’Meara.
Duquette-Hoffman hopes to ultimately bring the production to Vermont, source Vermont materials, and kick profits back into sustainable forestry. For all the good intentions, though, Dempsey said the company is a long way from going entirely local.
“The only way they’ll bring the production out here is to start a warehouse themselves,” he said.
“We don’t anticipate changing our model anytime soon,” Duquette-Hoffman said. “But we will be working with a couple shops to help us reach out to our core market and keep us grounded.”
Jason Gibbs, marketing director of the Ski Vermont trade and marketing association, agrees that establishing a core market in Vermont could make or break Worth Mountain Designs.
“Skiers are very loyal customers,” he said. “Once they find a brand they like, they tend to stick with it.”
Gibbs cited Vermont brands like Burton and Rome snowboards, companies that have established a global presence while maintaining Vermont roots.
“Vermont has a long and proud history of cultivating winter gear manufacturers. Unfortunately, the historical trend has been for these businesses to ‘grow up’ in Vermont and move elsewhere,” Gibbs said. “We certainly hope that Worth Mountain Designs is successful and signals a resurgence of this important legacy manufacturing industry in Vermont.”
For now, Worth will remain a small, “boutique” ski company, designing and building independent skis with Eastern conditions in mind.
Worth Skis is online at www.worthskis.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/worthskisvt. Contact Jason Duquette-Hoffman at [email protected] or call (802) 989-1618 for more information.
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