Baby bunnies to pound powder on fat Kiwi skis

Baby bunnies to pound powder on fat Kiwi skis
Why should grown-ups have all the fun? Boutique company Kingswood Skis is pioneering a range of fat kids' skis. No, not skis for fat kids, but fat skis for ordinary kids.
Magazine layout

Fatty Boom Sticks

Kingswood handmade skis, price varies

Why should grown-ups have all the fun? Boutique company Kingswood Skis has introduced a range of fat kids' skis to its collection. No, not skis for fat kids—these are wider-than-standard kids' skis that enable little powder-hounds to venture out into all kinds of snow. Says founder Alex Herbert: "I started making skis because the major manufacturers weren't doing the simple, burly, fat skis that I wanted. My son Obi was born in 2008 and when he starts skiing I want him to have the best, so I thought, well, it's time to do a kids' range."

Borrowing from Kiwi slang, the skis have been named the Grub, the Sprog and the Takka. All Kingswood's products are handmade with a bamboo core and designer topsheets. The Sprog ski even boasts a striking robot-and-lightning-bolt graphic created by local eight-year-old Journey Green.

Magazine layout

Q&A with Kingswood Skis founder and ski maker Alex Herbert

What's different about fat skis and what are the benefits?

Fat skis are like the name suggests: wide. It's the width, especially under the foot, that makes it so easy to ski in soft snow, because they float rather than sink. Anything over 100 millimetres underfoot is considered a fat ski. We make some models up to 150 millimetres that are not going to perform too well on ice, but make powder and slush feel sublime.

How much demand is there?

What started off as a very small niche has turned into quite a mainstream market. Once, the holy grail of skiing was to ski like a racer. Now people want to ski the whole mountain, especially off-piste. The demand for high-quality handmade skis is, however, still a small niche.

Kingswood has been in business for eight years. What have the past few years taught you?

I've learned so much since the conception of Kingswood Skis. From tiny production issues to five-year marketing plans to overseas duties to good environmental practices to workplace safety, the list goes on and on. To me. the most important thing is the realisation that having a great product isn't always enough. The financial pressures of the recession forced us to do some strategic thinking about the business—from our structure to our marketing concepts—and I think this forced strategising will prove to be the turning point for Kingswood Skis as a business that can survive tough times.

What are your favourite skifields?

In New Zealand the greatest skiing without a shimmer of doubt is Mt Olympus. The place is a natural amphitheatre of powder-laden bowls, chutes, cliffs and steep faces. It is a non-profit club field run by colourful locals that ski in the most modest clothing but on very fat skis.

Overseas. I can't go past Corvatsch in Switzerland. It's part of St Moritz, which is one of the most famous and exclusive ski areas in the world. The facilities are second to none—however, the fact that it is St Moritz scares off everyone but the richest and laziest skiers in the world. You basically have the whole mountain to yourself and no one skis off-piste.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).