December 30, 2013MILAN — A family run custom manufacturing startup based in a small corner of Coos County is making a name for itself as the only business in the state that makes custom skis and snowboards with only local or American made products.
Saint Skis is the brainchild of Milan's Kevin St. Gelais who works full time as a ski patroller at Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch. It's at that mountain that he and coworkers have been testing out Saint Skis. Kevin also works as the fire chief for the town of Milan and as a ranger at the summit of Mount Washington.
Kevin prides his company on using only the best American made products available.
"For the base and the edges we use Durasurf plastic from Crown Plastics [out of Ohio]," said Kevin. "They are the highest quality, most durable and fastest out there. We also use American made hardened steel edges. The core is wood top of the line, not foam, all locally sourced from the White Mountains."
Kevin knows the source of the wood because he get his materials from White Mountain Lumber out of Berlin. Before that he had a friend who milled maple out of Gorham and used that for the core.
Saint uses the maple for durability and poplar for its light and springy nature. According to Kevin they still haven't had a pair of skis break despite logging 4.7 million vertical feet or 3,000 runs on at least one pair. The average skier/snowboarder takes less then 100 runs a year said Kevin.
The inspiration for the business endeavor came to Kevin when he was heading into Berlin on Route 110. He was driving past the industrial park looking at all of the abandoned factory buildings and thought how great it would be to produce things again. With the line of mountains staring back at him from the horizon the perfect product came to mind, skis.
Kevin also needed a new pair of skis and with Yankee ingenuity proceeded down the path less traveled making his own.
"I learned a ton from friends, trial and error and online research," said Kevin. "I looked at the best skis out there for inspiration and modeled ours after the best."
From there Kevin turned his basement into a workshop and his family helped with the production.
The top sheet for the Saint skis or snowboard is printed in California with a custom design that can be created or submitted and if you want that old school look of the wood core then they can make the top sheet clear.
"You can design your own graphic, It's wicked cool," said Kevin.
Since their humble beginnings Saint Skis has produced 45 snowbound products, pairs of skis or snowboards, in total. They established themselves as a business in February 2010 and started selling in October 2012. Kevin's goal for the future is to produce 60-100 skis/snow boards next year.
His wife Gerri teaches kindergarten in Milan, but for the company is a bookkeeper and helps with profiling/shaping of the core. Daughter Sarah is a junior at Berlin High School and has been handling the marketing. Son KJ takes care of the graphic design using a CAD program as well as the social media and his fiancé Jess Hallee helps with marketing.
Friends have also been helping out knitting Saint hats and Milan preschool teach Tonya Leveille has embroidered Saint jackets for sale.
After years of research and development Kevin has gotten the process down to a science. "Once we get all the info we cut the board into strips remove knots and defects, make a uniform flex and laminate all back together," said Kevin. "Then we clamp it together smooth it out on the planer. The core is also profiled and shaped."
For more information on Saint Custom Skis and Snowboards go to www.saintskis.com or check them out on facebook.