SANDPOINT — Say that you’ve amassed enough years on the hill to know exactly what you want from your skis. Some brands capture aspects of what you’re looking for, but no one pair quite makes the grade. The answer? Build your own.
Simple enough to do for David Marx, who married his extensive woodworking experience with years of ski repair knowledge to form a local manufacturing concern he calls 7B Skis. Now in his sixth year of building custom gear, Marx has built his line from a single model to a total of three options this year.
“Being a lifelong skier makes it easy to differentiate between what works and what doesn’t, what’s a gimmick and what isn’t,” he said.
To get to the level of performance he sought, Marx used a process of “build it, ski it, determine what to change and then build it and ski it again.”
After a few pair of skis, he had the basic design pretty much dialed in. The next stage was to develop repeatability and consistency in the manufacturing process.
Still a small production company by any measure, 7B Skis has managed to turn out about 70 pair of skis, with more than 50 of those being produced in the past couple of years. Marx said his clientele is made up of “everyday, average skiers of all abilities.” His ski models, however, give those skiers options they never had before.
All three models are examples of the designer’s desire to maximize ski conditions of all sorts.
The Powder Claws — a play on the “clause” skiers use when fresh powder spells the perfect excuse for a day off from work — feature an early rise tip, flat camber and a 108-millimeter width underfoot. By design, these skis have what it takes to float on top of the deep stuff and wring the most out of a powder day.
The Mobius weighs in as the model that morphs best to a variety of snow conditions. Built with an early rise configuration, it adds some camber underfoot and narrows the width at the waist to 98 millimeters. The combination, according to Marx, allows the skier to rocket from deep powder to groomed runs without a hitch.
“I wanted that one ski that could do everything,” he said. “This is the ski that does it all as well as possible.”
The model that started it all, though, came from Marx’s taste for those trails that sometimes require a bit of work to get to. Low-angle ascents such as logging roads weren’t steep enough to require putting on skins, “but boot-packing - carrying your skis - is miserable,” he explained.
“My dream was to find a downhill-oriented ski that had fish scales like a cross-country ski,” he said. “Nobody was building one.”
As a builder of custom wooden kayaks, he saw more similarities than differences between boats and skis. One slides over water, the other slides over snow.
“It’s basically the same concept,” Marx said. “And it’s not rocket science, especially if you come from a background, like I do, of lamination and epoxy. Being a woodworker and having pretty much everything I needed to do this, I took it on.”
The result was the first model to roll out of the 7B Skis shop — The Goat.
“For anyone who’s been on a traditional-shaped ski, it’s going to feel very familiar,” he said, adding that The Goat features a traditional camber and width underfoot of 95 millimeters.
“Except for the Powder Claws, these are basically resort-oriented downhill skis with tweaks that also make them backcountry appropriate,” said the manufacturer.
The manufacturing process starts with Marx producing a run of cores for the skis — laminated wood slabs that he cuts into core blanks. He then gathers the tip and tail spacers, bamboo sidewalls, metal edges and base and topsheet materials for the final stage of building.
“At the end, you go into the press room with all your parts and pieces and press your skis,” he said.
The finished product shows just how much the builder eschews gimmicks — even graphics — in the skis he sells. A 7B ski has the cool, old school look of the kind of long boards surfers used when that sport first gained global acclaim, with the grain of the wood making an elegant, simple statement. But the clear topsheet that lets that grain show through was more a performance factor than a design element, Marx pointed out.
“I don’t know if I was really going so much for a retro appearance,” he said. “My philosophy in building skis is that less is more - and these skis are significantly lighter than the average, resort-oriented ski.
“Most of those average about 11 pounds a pair,” he added. “My skis come in at somewhere between seven-and-a-half to eight pounds a pair. What I’m shooting for in this construction is a light-weight ski that’s going to perform as well as its heavier counterparts.”
The simpler approach, however, does provide a classic look that goes the distance, unlike skis emblazoned with graphics that can become dated from season to season.
“Those are the kind of things that go out of style,” said Marx. “A clear, wood-core ski always looks good.”
Marx gives props to Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which keeps his Powder Claws and Mobius models on-hand as demos in the Ski & Ride Center for those who want to A-B them with other brands. In fact, many of his sales have come from skiers who made that comparison and landed on the 7Bs as the right choice for their skiing style.
“Absolutely, they stack up,” said the builder, who has been a longtime employee in Schweitzer’s repair shop on the hill. “The skis I’m competing against are top-of-the-line skis from major manufacturers.
“The beauty in this is that I’m able to produce these skis in the U.S.,” he continued. “Or, more specifically, in Sandpoint. I feel blessed that I started this when I did. If I hadn’t, somebody else would have.”
7B Skis are priced at $700 per pair in the ski shop at Schweitzer. The same price will fetch a pair of even more customized skis for those who utilize the “custom builder” function to mix and match features on the builder’s web site.
Buyers can receive a significant discount by taking advantage of the manufacturer’s annual pre-sale offer, which allows them to buy the model of their choice for $550 from late February through the end of May. The skis are custom-pressed to order and delivered in October, just in time for the next ski season.
For more information on 7B Ski models and the presale option, visit the manufacturer’s web site at: www.7bskis.com