You know that feeling, when you’re at the top of a run and are ready to let gravity take over, or when a wide expanse of backcountry powder unbroken by any ski track beckons?
Max Flowerday and Sam McEwen share that feeling with you.
The newly-established Canmore businessmen are backcountry and climbing enthusiasts – with a particular interest in skiing – and now you too can share in what sets them apart as aficionados.
Like Flowerday and McEwen, you can now launch yourself down a mountain on the same skis they produce and use – handcrafted 93 North Skis.
In September 2016, the Queen’s mechanical engineering grads moved from Calgary to Canmore as roomies and into an empty shop at 111 Bow Meadows Crescent as business partners to expand on their passion, hobby and love of skiing – by designing and manufacturing their own skis.
They began selling their inaugural product, the Andromeda all-mountain ski (175 and 184 cm), in December.
“We share a passion for the mountains, skiing and climbing,” said Flowerday. “And we realized, after doing it part-time, as a hobby, there was only so much we could do in making our skis.
“As 25-year-olds, we didn’t feel like we had a lot to lose and it’s been a great experience so far; a no brainer.”
While both attended Queen’s in Kingston, Ont. for mechanical engineering, it wasn’t until after they graduated (2013) that they got to know each other through another friend and grad at a climbing gym.
“We both started working in oil and gas in Calgary,” said McEwen, “but we found we weren’t able to apply the creative thinking we had studied for the last four years. We were looking for something to do outside work.”
That something was creating their own skis, with their own design, while developing their own manufacturing procedures.
“We decided it was a business we wanted to take on,” said McEwen, “not just on evenings and weekends, but every day.”
After looking in Calgary, and Canmore, for a location, the pair found the Bow Meadows location of 1,000 square feet, which now houses their production facility, sales and showroom area.
“We thought Canmore is the perfect place to make skis,” said Flowerday. “It’s right in the middle of mountain culture.”
Since moving into their shop, and moving in equipment needed for ski production, the pair have been tweaking and refining their process to where five pairs of Andromeda skis a day are being produced.
“We had our time as hobbyists to draw on,” said Flowerday.
“But to generate cash, we have to move faster, which has meant refining our process,” said McEwen.
That process begins with poplar and maple dimensional lumber being used to create a laminated core. The core is glued, shaped and planed to the proper profile, with each core ranging from 10 millimetres in the belly to 2mm at the tips.
Skis are manufactured by building from the wooden core out, by combining and layering P-Tex, fibreglas and carbon fibre for torsional rigidity, cold rolled steel edging, P-Tex base material and a top sheet which features artwork created by Emily Beaudoin.
Skis are built in pairs to ensure uniformity and the layup of materials is heated to 70 C so that epoxy used hardens, cures and sets as each pair is formed with a pneumatic press for a couple of hours. Each is then finished, with final base stonegrinding done at Gear Up and Outside Bike & Ski, which have grinders 93 North has yet to purchase.
“The Andromeda is designed to be an all-mountain ski,” said Flowerday. “It has width for powder and is sidecut for carving. They’re good for the snow in this area.”
Currently, skis are priced at $795 per pair, a price point Flowerday and McEwen feel is competitive for the market, but which will also encourage skiers to try a new product.
As well, 93 North Skis has a fleet of demo models for skiers to try before purchase, and the demo days are held at area ski hills. The next demo day is at Revelstoke on Jan. 21, then Lake Louise on Feb. 18.
Currently, skis are sold at the shop and online at www.93northskis.com.
“It’s really satisfying to get out on a pair of skis you’ve built yourself,” said Flowerday. “It’s pretty exciting and it’s pretty exciting to be doing this full-time.”
The company was named 93 North after Flowerday and McEwen found themselves skiing in the Highway 93 north area.
Flowerday is a native of Calgary and McEwen is originally from Ontario.