A new breed of entrepreneurs
Near an American ski town somewhere, a custom built tiny house trailer is likely parked. The trailer is more than a house, though, it is also a factory. Inside, Michael Lish and Kristin Broumas create fully custom skis and pursue a lifestyle dedicated to curiosity.
If everything about Community Skis seems different, that’s because it is. Coming from very different backgrounds, business partners Kristin Broumas and Michael Lish aimed to create something absolutely unique, something that according to Michael makes people come up and ask, “Wow, what are you?” Yes, their venture is about creating fully custom skis that answer the question posed to each client: “What do you want your skis to do?” but it is also about so much more than that; Community-Skis is about encouraging curiosity, about doing things resourcefully and sustainably, about passing on knowledge, and about connecting with the natural world.
The first thing you might notice about Community Skis is the custom trailer that Michael built by hand that acts as the company’s off-grid factory, office, kitchen, reception hall, and living quarters. “He built the whole thing from scratch,” Kristin says. “He didn’t even buy an axle. We bought the steel and he welded it together.” Most of the rest of the materials that make up a trailer came from stuff people gave them. “Michael would see the material that was available, then he’d say, ‘Well, I can build this and that and the other thing,’ and then he just went out and did it.” The result is an incredible feat in mobile engineering, one that epitomizes the efficient use of space.
The company itself creates skis that redefine the meaning of the word “custom.” From profile to dimensions, core materials to graphics, every choice that is made in the construction of each pair of skis comes from being intimate and inquisitive about that client’s needs and wants. “I think that what makes us different from other custom ski manufacturers is just the amount of customization we can do, and then also just that real close client-to-ski builder relationship that we work really hard to develop and nurture,” Kristin says. The duo produces up to two or three pairs of skis per day during the winter and can build about ten pairs of skis completely off-grid before needing to return to town to refuel their two Honda generators and recharge the solar panel.
Michael’s passion is transferring his knowledge to others, and that knowledge comes from 30 years of designing and building monoskis, skis, and snowboards. He and Kristin do this by working with high school students to teach them not only about ski building, but also about the design, engineering, and business practices that go into running a viable business. They also host day-long workshops that allow clients to come to the workshop and build their own skis from scratch. Clients fly in from all over the world to do this, even while the
duo has their factory parked in the wilderness. During these workshops, Kristin’s culinary passion and background come to light, as she cooks three gourmet meals for the day of creation. The result is not only the building of skis but also the fostering of long-lasting friendships.