SILVERTON Not counting the skis that lean against walls and hang across windows, the decorations are few at ScottyBob Carlsons workshop. Located in an old powerhouse east of town, exposed brick and high arched windows create the backdrop for the ski makers work while wood, tools and sawdust cover every surface in the foreground.
The shop is unique without trying to be, and in that way syncs perfectly with Carlsons business, ScottyBob Skiworks and Boardworks.
The 12-year-old company is known for its skis, and now snowboards, that feature shapes and cut outs that differentiate them from almost anything else on the market. Carlson is usually the companys only employee and blasts music through the buildings cavernous space as he crafts each ski by hand from start to finish. His business is small, and he likes it that way, but this year Carlson decided to expand his offerings to include snowboards.
His impetus began with the question that seems to rule many of his decisions: Why not?
Beyond the fun of trying something new, branching out to snowboards also was a way to appeal to a broader customer base, Carlson said. The economic downturn has made the last two years tough for business, and snowboards will provide the opportunity to sell to a new group of customers.
He wont say how many skis he sells per year (Id rather let people wonder, he said), only that its a small amount. His exposure continues to grow, though, as his unique designs and ski-making process pop up on more and more blogs. Last week, he was the subject of a commercial for Canon cameras.
In his current business model, he makes all his sales through the Internet, which means he sells less, but he also gets a much bigger chunk of the profits, Carlson said. He also prefers staying small to avoid responsibilities such as payroll, employee benefits and human-resources work that come with managing a bigger company, he said. When demand increases, Carlson usually hires one or two part-time employees to help him churn out the skis and boards, which have a starting cost between $600 and $850. His orders come from as far away as Japan and Sweden, he said.
From an economic-development perspective, every ScottyBob ski and snowboard sent out of Silverton helps spread the image of the town as more than a summer-oriented tourist destination, said Town Administrator Jason Wells.
Having a product coming out of here that lends itself to winter recreation puts us on the map for having a winter economy and being a winter destination, Wells said. The fact that the product is disseminated internationally and nationally helps put our name out there.
Though snowboards are a new world for Carlson, when he started the research-and-design process last year, he said he found that well-made snowboards follow the same principles as skis.
The industry has kept them a world apart, and I dont think they should be, he said.
Just as his alpine and telemark skis have a distinct shape, his snowboards are nothing like the typical Band-Aid-shape design.
The prototypes that lean against the walls around him look like experiments from shop class one has a split tail, another has a scalloped back end and another has a tip more pointed than the rest.
Were not known for doing what everybody else is doing, he said. Im giving snowboards the chance to be a little different.
Justin Dennis, a snowboarder in Vermont who worked with Carlson at Arapahoe Basin, said he had been bugging his friend for years to make a snowboard.
He tried one of the ScottyBob designs last winter.
Its a very surfy feeling and it floats effortlessly on the powder, Dennis said.
Carlson said he hasnt received any orders for his snowboards yet but is hopeful that its still early in the season. Because he makes his products only after he receives an order, his initial investment in new materials and labor hasnt been a burden on his business.
Carlson said the distinctiveness of his designs are the key to standing out and spreading his businness name.
If you painted every other board black, you wouldnt have an idea of who made it, he said. My idea is lets make a snowboard not look like one.