Heidi Lauterbach, top right in blue hat, explains the science behind a custom-made pair of skis from Wagner Skis in Telluride, Colorado. Pam LeBlanc photo

Suddenly, picking out a pair of snow skis feels a little bit like ordering a pizza from a gourmet shop, or getting a new custom-tailored suit.

I dropped by Wagner Skis, located in Mountain Village, a gondola ride up the mountain from the historic mining town of Telluride, during a trip to the resort two weeks ago. The company makes custom-designed skis, based on what craftsmen there called your “skier DNA.”

The shop had already closed for the day when I visited, but it seemed like half the town had shown up for a block party outside, and a bartender was mixing drinks on the sidewalk out front. Marketing specialist Heidi Lauterbach ushered a small group of us inside the factory for a quick look around.


Tom Watkinson and Stephanie Loeber look at materials used to make skis at Wagner Skis in Telluride, Colorado. Pam LeBlanc photo

Customers, she explained while I sipped a cocktail and gazed at an array of machines that buzz, shape and form snow skis, consult with one of the company’s four ski designers via a phone call, Skype conference or in-person visit. By weighing what type of terrain that customer prefers, how aggressively he or she skis and what type of skis they’ve liked in the past, the designers come up with a plan for a ski that is uniquely theirs.

She explained that Pete Wagner, a former mechanical engineer and programmer, started the company in an old gas station outside Telluride. Today he applies his technical aptitude to determining what materials to use to craft a ski with the stiffness, maneuverability and power you want.

He’ll also plaster your kid’s artwork or a photo of your dog all over your skis, or play your favorite rock song while they’re built, just for good mojo. One customer even requested – and got – Wagner’s ski craftsmen to bake a little bacon grease and his dog’s ashes into a new pair of skis.

Lauterbach walked us through the ski-making process, showing us stacks of thin-sliced sliced aspen, poplar, cedar and other wood used to make the core of the skis.

“It’s like a layer cake, and this is the base,” she explained, showing us how different materials, including a sheet of bullet-proof Kevlar, are bonded to make each pair.


Heidi Lauterbach of Wagner Skis explains the ski-making process. Pam Leblanc photo


I left coveting a pair of skis from the company, where the base models start at about $1,750 a pair, and custom graphics cost an additional $300.

But skiing’s supposed to be fun, Lauterbach reminded me, and if you’re not comfortable, or your skis aren’t doing what you want them to do, it’s not. Plus, they last season after season.

“If you have the wrong equipment it can suck,” Lauterbach said. “We’re going to put you on something made just for you.”

If I’d had just one more cocktail, I might have signed a check. After all, I’ve ordered a pizza made to my exact specifications hundreds of times.

You want olives on that?

Check it out at wagnerskis.com.




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