Friday, March 12, 2010

Boutique skis made with Baldy in mind

5B Ski Factory launches at Sun Valley Demo Days

Express Staff Writer

5B Ski Factory co-founder Caleb Baukol, left, shows off the 5B powder ski to George Crandlemire, middle, and Harold Tollerup at Sun Valley Demo Days at River Run Lodge. Photo by Willy Cook

Four years ago, good friends Brandon Doan and Caleb Baukol, now both 40, wanted to make their own skis, especially skis for Baldy. Doan and Baukol began to experiment and created the 5B Ski Factory in Ketchum with funding from Ketchum resident AB Wescott.

Baukol said he and Doan wanted to make better skis that were also affordable. In their research, they discovered that many major Western resorts, including Aspen, Vail and Squaw Valley, have boutique ski manufacturers.

"The boutique ski industry is competitive," Baukol said. "It's hard to figure out the parameters for making a ski. We made a ski with half twin tips, which is uncommon, and an early-rise shovel and a full wood core."

5B skis are made with either maple or poplar. Maple is the heavier of the two woods and makes for a stouter flex in the ski, which also makes it faster. The poplar skis have more flexibility and are good for terrain parks and touring. Both have a full-wrap steel edge and uni- and bi-directional fiberglass, as well as a carbon-fiber crossbar.

Baukol said the early-rise tip helps a skier stay forward in powder and is quick moving from edge to edge. The skis' wood cores are from Vashon Island, Wash., and the top sheets, fiberglass and epoxy resins are made in Seattle. 5B Ski Factory assembles all the parts and presses the skis in Ketchum.

"It's a ski for all conditions—powder, crud and ice—because it's entirely made of wood from top to bottom and has a 360 classic edge," Baukol said. "It is durable with no fill—all wood—and the tips are real."

Baukol said Doan has 10 years experience building skis and has a good feel for what they should be. Doan is a freestyle skier and Baukol is a racer—a good combination for making skis for Baldy.

"We wanted to make a ski for Baldy that would be stable for high speeds and good for moguls, powder and crud," Baukol said. "We are in the hobby stage, and it is an expensive hobby, but it has become a small business. We are constantly working on getting prices down."

Last winter, when U.S. Ski Team member Dane Spencer was training in Sun Valley, he tried out a pair of 5B Ski Factory skis and told Baukol that he loved the idea of unusual, locally made skis.

"This inspired Brandon and me to make a race ski that was so good it would make it to the podium," Baukol said. "We would like to see a factory here in Ketchum so local people could be a part of the manufacturing. This town has many people who have a great deal of information on building skis."

5B Ski Factory also has the benefit of a local pool of professional skiers such as Will Burks and Zach and Reggie Crist to try out the skis for feedback. Baukol said all systems have been put in place for 5B Ski Factory—they have suppliers for their raw materials, machinery to build and shape skis and the manpower to do it all.

"We love making skis," Baukol said. "We like the racing stripe look—it's like a hot rod, like a race car."

5B Ski Factory will make limited-edition skis for Sun Valley's 75th anniversary next year and has approached other Ketchum business, including Smith Sports Optics, about having skis made with their own graphics.

5B Ski Factory will have a "yard sale" for its used and some new skis at Apple's Bar and Grill in Warm Springs on Saturday, March 13, at 4 p.m.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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