Full disclosure. There are 49 pair of skis in my garage – a pretty good range for a family of 5. So I'm more interested in downsizing than upsizing. But then I had the chance to try Wagner Skis during a recent trip to Telluride, CO, which included a visit to the company’s headquarters.
Pete Wagner started Wagner Skis in 2006. Previously, he'd spent several years working as an engineer in the golf industry writing software for design, analysis, and manufacturing of composite material golf equipment. He developed a fitting system for matching golfers to their perfect combination of club head, shaft, and grip. That golf software served as the foundation for Wagner’s Skier DNA fitting system and design code.
Figuring out the perfect ski is surprisingly easy. The first step is to log onto the Wagner Skis website and fill out an online skier DNA profile. Once you get past life’s toughest question—are you truly an expert or merely advanced – the rest is an easy green groomer to the base of the slope. You enter information about where you’ll use the ski, what you like and dislike about other boards you've used, and the performance traits you desire.
Want something for skiing the glades in Whistler? That can easily be accomplished. Your answers are translated into computer algorithms that start formulating the ski design. Finally, there’s a one-on-one interview to fine tune the design. I spoke with Pete himself, who listened to my ski dreams with the attentiveness of a Freudian scholar. With artful questioning, Pete zeroed in on what I wanted (and needed).
What goes into the perfect ski is complicated. Wagner specializes in stuff like calibrated Visco Carbon Dampening Technology (for lightweight wide-ski performance in off-piste conditions), aerospace resins and fibers (like Kevlar), tough ash and maple cores, and hi-tensile heat-treated metal. The shop employs 14 technicians who do everything from printing personalized graphics (you can send in your own, or pick one of the awesome ones on the site) to selecting the proper wood core, setting up individualized tooling using scraps leftover from other skis, and doing the layup.
Each pair of skis is different, with a unique sidecut, flex pattern, length, width, and material set. Wagner skis are assembled by hand, by experts who know how to make a World Cup-level product. It takes about 3 weeks to make the skis – they come with a money back guarantee and you can send your skis in for a spa-like tuneup at the end of the year.
To amp up the customization even more, Wagner teamed up with Microsoft to incorporate on-snow data collected by individual skiers through the Windows Winter app. Compatible with both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices, the app collects skier data such as vertical feet skied, average speed, air time, terrain preferences, and time spent on snow that Wagner incorporates into its computer algorithms to help produce precise designs for individual customers.
Now for the cliffhanger ending. Did I ski better? Absolutely. I skied for 3 days in Telluride, followed by two on Mt. Hood, several on Mt. Bachelor, with trips planned for Big Bear (CA), Breckenridge (CO), and Jackson (WY). Rather than toting 2 or 3 pairs for varying conditions, I’ll bring along my Wagner Custom Skis. They float on the powder, charge through wet crud, are amazingly stable at high speed, and carve like Ligety on the Sochi Slalom course.
To order a pair of tailor-made Wagner skis, begin by visiting the company website. Skis start at $1,750 on up based on custom features and design elements. The Winter App is available for download in Nokia Collection (app & game store) on Nokia Windows Phone 8 and or through the Windows store.
–Nancy Prichard Bouchard