A self-described Telluride ski bum builds custom skis.
As anyone who’s shopped for jeans knows, a perfect fit is hard to find. And as it is with denim, that fit can be highly elusive with skis. Big brands cater to the “everyman” skier; if your size or style strays too far from their version of the norm, you get sloppy-fitting equipment—like jeans that flatter your butt but sag at the belly. Even worse: With skis, you often don’t have the luxury of trying a pair before you buy.
Pete Wagner knows how hard it can be to find your dream skis. “Shortly after I moved to Telluride,” Wagner says, “I bought a pair that I thought would be great for me, but weren’t.” So, he did what frustrated consumers often do: He made his own. In 2006, Wagner launched Wagner Custom Skis to build planks for others who crave gear that’s uniquely suited to their needs
Instead of using molds, as commercial and even other “custom” manufacturers do, Wagner—who engineered technology to make custom golf clubs before he worked on skis—starts from scratch every time. He uses info supplied through a “skier DNA” questionnaire, which asks skiers about their preferred terrain and current boards. Wagner plugs the answers into software he designed that helps him determine what size and shape to build the skis and what materials to use. Then, he turns that model into reality with high-tech ski manufacturing machines that can execute—with precision—a pair of maneuverable skis that zipper through trees, float over powder, and rail on groomers…if that’s what you want. And Wagner’s factory is as individualized as his skis. A former gas station during Telluride’s gold-mining days, the 1930s building now sports six rooftop solar panels to generate hot water for the in-floor heat, and wind-generated electricity powers the high-tech computer-controlled equipment Wagner uses to manufacture skis.
Starting at $1,750 a pair, the skis aren’t cheap, yet Wagner and his team of seven year-round employees and about a half-dozen seasonal workers can barely keep up with demand. “We just keep getting busier and busier,” Wagner says. Last year, the team produced more than 1,000 pairs. And although pros are starting to ski his boards, Wagner says many of his devotees are “dirtbags who are the best skiers at their ski area and have a dream ski in their heads.” In fact, Wagner himself logs an impressive 80 days of skiing a season. “We’re a bunch of ski bums,” he says. “We make skis the way we want them to be built.” wagnerskis.com