#020 Iris Skis – Keeping Skis Functional Yet Elegant with Eric Hegreness

Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast for this episode with Eric Hegreness of Iris Skis.

Iris Skis are a really unique and beautiful ski crafted by Eric right here in Boulder, CO.  It was great to meet Eric and have a chance to hear the story behind Iris Skis.

Online, you can find Iris Skis at IrisSkis.com  and on and Instagram @iris_skis.

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Thanks a lot.

 


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Show Notes

[03:30] Building skis, building the tools to build skis

[05:00] Designed with Colorado conditions in mind

[09:30] Collaborative attitude among the Colorado ski makers

[12:00] Specifics: The models and what’s coming in the future

[13:45] Product ambassadors – From ski techs to Austin Porzak

[18:45] Where to find Iris Skis

 


Relevant Links

Iris Skis

Rocky Mountain Underground

Folsom Skis

Romp Skis

Austin Porzak

Ski RMNP

Wolf Creek Ski Area

 


Related Episodes

Romp Skis

Meier Skis

Venture Snowboards

Jessica Beacom

 


Transcript

 

So here we go. Hope you enjoy this, my conversation with Eric from Iris Skis.

All right, Eric, thanks for having me over in the shop, man. It’s really amazing to be here and see where you’re making these unbelievably beautiful skis, man.

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I’m a big fan of podcasts and I’ve listened to a lot of your podcast, so this is exciting.

Yeah, it’s awesome to connect with people in a, you know, one of the, I don’t always get to see a manufacturing type facility though, and that’s really, you know, the first thing that differentiates you from other people is you’re doing this all yourself and including first yet to build the place, to make it first you had to build the tools to make this stuff in the place before you can even make the, uh, the product. So what, you know, to me that’s probably a big differentiator for you.

What’s different about your skis?  So why don’t you just kinda walk us through what’s, you know, what’s different about them and why you know, why you’re doing this.

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Yeah, for sure. Like for me the biggest part is being hands on. Like I love doing what I do. I love building skis, I love building the tools to build skis. Um, so, you know, there’s a lot of other people that will build a brand and have someone else build their skis. I’m going at a much smaller rate because I want to be hands on as much as I can on, to be involved with every step. So when I build a ski I’m going to see it from start to finish. Um, and that’s been one of the biggest, you know, I guess priorities or goals I’ve had with building iris skis is that like, you know, to be hands on, to be a ski company that actually builds their skis.

Uh, so that’s. Yeah. And it ends up showing in the product, right? I mean it’s just a hand built literally from a start to finish. And we were talking a little bit about this, right. You know, when I kinda came in, not only is it hand built you’re really kind of tailor making it almost for, for our region, like the ski conditions that we have here in Colorado. Um, why don’t you kind of talk a little bit more about that, like the actual model itself and what’s inspired, you know, the shape, the construction and our performance. Yeah, definitely. So as you know, skiing Colorado, uh, our conditions are really unique. Um, you know, and so the first ski I really went after as I have the ski model called the [inaudible] or the crossover one. Oh five. And the idea of the name of that crossover, meaning that, you know, it can skeet in different, uh, you know, it can ski powder and he can ski hard pack.

I wanted to ski. That is perfect for our Colorado conditions. When you go up to the mountains here, oftentimes will be blessed with a foot of powder. You know, if you’re skiing inbounds two, three hours later, that powder is gone and it’s still a beautiful day. That’s a lot of fun to ride, but you don’t want to be stuck on your wide, your widest ski. So I built a ski to be really fun and playful in the powder. It’s got a lot of early rise to 100 and 500 foot, uh, which is good enough to get you up out of, out of powder, but it’s not too wide. You can still hit moguls. I actually take the ski and the Train Park, which is definitely a little bit bigger for most skis in the park, but it’s really flexible and fun. I came from like a freestyle background.

Uh, so my skis are really soft and playful. Um, so that’s Kinda the main model I have. And then I also have a front side ski which is kind of the park ski and Just Criminals Ski, uh, from when you go up there and you weren’t blessed with that foot of powder and just slowly working out different models. Right now I have two models with three sizes and working on a third model this year which will have three sizes as well as well. Awesome lightweight touring stuff. So. Oh Nice. And uh, you know, the construction itself, I mean the look of them is so unique because of that metal top sheet, but it’s functional as well. I mean, I was kinda reading some of the articles about it that you’ve, you’ve had out there and uh, you know, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that, like the, the combination of the wood and the metal.

I mean, it’s beautiful and it’s super unique and uh, but there’s functionality to it as well. Yeah, definitely. I appreciate that. Um, you know, one thing as working as a ski tech over the years, I’ve gotten to play with a lot of skis. I’ve gotten a ride on a lot of skis and uh, one thing I really liked was the Teton all layer a that goes in a lot of skis. And so I started playing with that. Originally I was doing all wood top sheets and I was finding they’re kind of getting chipped up and if people after a couple of seasons weren’t taking care of those skis, uh, the varnish would wear away and things like that. And I was like, well, why don’t I just bring that Teton a layer from the inside of the ski to the top of the ski? And it gave a lot of durability this gate and then it just out, you know, secondhand after building.

And I realized, wow, this actually looks really cool and unique. One thing kind of from the start of building whiskeys was I was like, I don’t want to look like everyone else out there. A lot of times when you go skiing, it’s, everything’s like fluorescent orange or neon green and you know, it’s like you’re out on the mountain and it’s beautiful and you’re in and then snow. And then we have it littered with just like caution tape look and skis. And so I really wanted, like, I was like, you know, I want something that’s simple and elegant and uh, you know, I think that would look beautiful itself. I don’t necessarily need to add a graphic to that. Uh, so, you know, that’s kind of the design behind it. It’s just bringing a kind of the metal and the wood and letting that simple characteristics make the ski look beautiful on their own.

And they, each ehr kind of individually when you get to ski, it’s going to look a little different than someone else’s ski because it’s going to have different woodgrain that’s interesting. So I didn’t realize that that material was actually common in skis. It’s just hidden. I mean, it’s not common in all the skis, but uh, yeah, for sure. Okay, cool. Another thing we kind of touched on a little bit was you’ve got this great space but it always hasn’t. It hasn’t always been this way. You’ve really kind of been through the ringer and you’ve been through a lot of different variations of where your shop was. Um, you want, we don’t have to get into like all of the war stories because I think that’s a common thing. Like, you know, you want to start a business, you don’t always stay in the same spot for 20 years.

But um, you did mention that it’s been really interesting your, your interactions with other kind of like small batch craft makers out there and you know, how supportive is that been like, what’s it been like to be kind of starting off in this space in Colorado? Yeah, it’s, it’s really amazing. Uh, you know, I thought building skis that, you know, when I reached out to other ski builders, they wouldn’t really be wanting to share too much information, uh, just because you know, they want to protect their product. But, you know, as I learned and as I, I kind of grew with the industry, I realized a lot of these guys are out there to see you do well to, you know, I want to see other small batch ski builders doing really well because that makes us all look good. And uh, I’ve had a time where I’ve talked with rocky mountain underground.

I’ve talked with fulsome and several other, just small. There’s some other ski builders who would just one guy building skis kinda like me, who through instagram will reach out, you know, right now I’m playing with a new material and playlists, plone and foam and I posted on instagram and then this guy messaged me and he was like, Oh, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, here’s what I’ve been doing and it’s great. Gives me a leg up or I can, you know, he’s prototype this 10, 15 times already, so now I can start playing with what he’s been doing and it’s been amazing and I’ve, you know, don’t have as much knowledge as some of these guys who have 10 years of experience. But it’s been cool for me to be able to give back to some other people too and help them with their CNC stuff, which is something I have a lot of knowledge with a and that’s been, it’s been really fun and I’d be like, I don’t know, really excited to be about a community that’s so supportive of each other.

Yeah. And it looks like, uh, you know, speaking of your CNC background and things like that, from what I saw, it looks like you started off with skateboards and now you’re making these, like the complexity level is through the roof. To be honest, it always started with skis. When I first started I was working in someone’s garage and they had, they wanted to start escape business and they just, it was a trust fund kid and he got an idea, I need this quit. He had all this material. So I was like, well, I can build skateboards easily while I’m learning the craft of building skis because building skis is a much more complex. So for the first two, three years I was building skateboards along with skis. And last year I was actually able to sell off all the skate stuff and just focus on, you know, what I love the most, you know, I used to skateboard a lot, but now I’m, you know, it’s all about skiing for me.

So. Yeah. Right. And you’re, um, you’re. One of the things that differentiates you, I’m a little bit is, you know, I had the chance to meet with and speak with the guys at Romp Skis and they’ve taken the approach of like the full custom, you know, and that’s what they’re trying to do and they’ve got the operation kind of built to support that and they were really awesome guys to speak with what you’re, you’re taking a little bit of a different approach, right? You’re, you’ve got your models. Yeah. A couple of two, three sizes and uh, and what’s, you know, what kind of drove that decision? Sure. Um, I, I don’t want to say that like skiers don’t know what they want, but sometimes skiers mill, they know really what they want their ski to do a and you know, I really wanted to focus on building a couple of ski that do really, really well at certain things.

So when someone comes to me who’s got a race background, I don’t have a race ski that I’ll be honest with them and also just other companies and be like, you know, I didn’t come from a race background, my skis and aren’t focused on that, but I have a couple models that are really great at x, you know, and for a lot of guys who came from a freestyle background or a lot of people who just go up and have fun on the mountain inbounds, my skis are perfect for that. They don’t, they’re not as aggressive of a ski, you know, it’s fun on the jumps, but it’s easy also to take just carving turns down the mountain on. So yeah. Well I think if you listened to that interview, you’ll find that they agree on how much the skiers is actually know what they want.

There’s a lot of guiding people through that process and it’s a hands on process. So it’s totally different than. Oh yeah. And I think it’s awesome. I think it’s great that they’re offering that totally. It’s a cool service. I think it’s, you know, I, I’m, I’m really behind, you know, people offering that custom option as well. Sure. Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. People are going to want different things, but that’s a, that’s really awesome men. And uh, one of the things that seems like a, you’ve been able to team up with some, some good guys who are putting these things through the ringer for you, including some amazing local skiers. And uh, let’s talk a little bit about that. Like what kind of fee, you know, who these guys are, what kind of feedback you’re able to get from guys who were doing this stuff in their skis.

And I’ll let you kind of elaborate. Sure. I mean, the, the first guys who were taking my skis out a lot was, you know, I was working a lot of ski shops in town and it’d be the skeet tax and ski tax. I have a great knowledge of skis because they see everything and they see every kind of dlm and every kind of edge issue and they can also get out on a ski and no, is it the tune that’s affecting how this is skiing or is it the, it’s itself. And so those guys put it through a lot of ringer the first couple years when I wasn’t actually selling to the public yet. And that was great. And then last year I brought on my first ski ambassador and that’s Austin Poor Zack who is just an awesome big mountain skier, a that’s local. He, he’s actually like the flat irons here in boulder that everyone’s familiar with.

And he was the first one to make a descent down one of the flat irons. He’s Al also all of the Colorado fourteeners. And uh, it’s awesome to have a guy like that who has so much back country experience who can kind of bring in extra knowledge and just really put the hours in on these skis. And he didn’t get to that level of skin by, you know, just starting off. I skied on every different kind of ski from a million different brands and so I’m sure like the feedback that you can offer as we’ve, we’ve spent time just waxing up skis in his garage looking at different models and I’d be like, I really like this about this scheme, but I wish it was a little less heavier, you know, and just go through different models and we’re like, okay, I think we can make that, let’s, let’s start focusing on getting there.

So we’re designing a really unique ski this year together, a really lightweight ski that hopefully it’ll be ready by end of season or next season as well as a really fat ski. That’s going to be a lot of fun. So Nice. Yeah. All right. So those were the ones to look forward to going to be to me. Exciting. Cool. And, uh, and, and while we’re on the subject, like not only is he skied the fort teenagers, he’s the current project is to ski all of the peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park, which is really. That was one thing that really got me excited when we first started talking that he came to me with a project he’s working on, he’s passionate about. And once he started talking about the project I was like, Hey, this is really cool. So there’s, I think there’s 50 peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park and I guess I think his grandpa was the first person to climb all of those peaks and he wants to be the first guy to ski all of those peaks, American Mountain National Park.

So he’s skeed now 40 of them, which it’s a big feat. Like some of those ones you have to hike. It might take you a day sometimes to get out to that where it is and then get up and ski and he’s had to work with the, you know, the ranges up there and get permission. And he’s only got, I think like six or eight left. Uh, you can and you can check it out at rocky or ski, Rocky Mountain National Park. And uh, he’s been doing these last mountains on the cx one. Oh, five. And our new version of the ski, he’ll be doing the last couple of peaks on, which will be really exciting. Yeah. That’s amazing. Should finish up this year. Weather permitting. Yeah. Yeah. And I think it says a lot, man, not to digress into, you know, the story is amazing. Um, but I’m, I’m sure, I mean he is not going to head out into the back country with a, like a day approach and with something that he’s not confident in.

And so I think it really speaks to the quality of your ski and what he’s experienced so far and uh, you know, it’s uh, it just really says a lot about what you’re putting out there, man. It’s really impressive. What about you man? What are your favorite a testing grounds around here? Sure. So, you know, I grew up in Ohio, which is not in, not in the mountain, you know, mountains at all and it’s like, it’s like slanted parking lots. And, uh, when I first started skiing I was really into the freestyle scene because in Ohio, you know, after a couple of years riding, you can ski everything backwards with your eyes closed practically because it ruins, it gets so easy. So I started hitting handrails, we’d gotten to the city and hit handrails, hit jumps. And that was a lot of fun. Did that all through college, did a lot of events.

Uh, and then coming out here, um, my perspective changed a lot because I’m like, wow, so much more is available to me. And uh, I really love getting into the powder. I’m definitely the last five, six years is just whenever I can find some patterns, get out into that. And I love skiing in the trees. That’s been like one of my, this has been my favorite ski to take into the trees. It’s pivots really well and that’s just like one of my favorite sections in the mountain to get on. So yeah. And, um, hopefully, you know, I’ve done a little bit of back country and I’m trying to get a lot more experience over the next two years. So yeah. Where’s a, where are you getting out normally? Like specifically, do you have any everywhere. It depends on which path. I guess so yeah, yeah, yeah.

No, that’s awesome. Well, where can people find you were working, they find your skis, how can they, you know, check them out and what’s the best way to get their hands on these things? Well, I’m super small so you know, I’m not available in a lot of locations, you know, uh, I have some skis down at Wolf Creek ski resort, which is where my wife actually grew up and I have my father in law actually is a ski instructor up there. He’s sometimes let people take, take skis up for me there. And then the best way is to go through me, you know, one advantage of me being small as you know, you can just reach out to me. The best way to contact me is rarely through instagram. You know, I’ll just, I’m willing to share any information and I’ve, I’ve met up with a lot of people either at the mountain if they live away and be like, Hey, you can take these out.

We’ll meet up at the end of the day, you know, maybe have a beer or whatever, talk about them. People also come right here into this shop and check stuff out and taking them out for a couple of days. So yeah. Gotcha. Yeah. Well that’s how I found you. So, uh, yeah, it seems to be working to try to share a lot of the experience of developing the skis, you know, through, through the story because to me that that’s my passion is building an excellent, you know, experienced building a ski that delivers an excellent experience. Yeah. Well it’s funny, I was talking to a friend of mine who actually was the first person I interviewed on this podcast and her name’s Jessica Pika and she’s a food blogger and 10 in any way. She’s a big skier and we were just chatting and she was asking me if I was doing the podcast, you know, I was like, yeah, she’s like, you gotta talk to this guy at Iris Skis.

Uh, she’s like a huge instagrammer, you know, and so I was like, you know, it’s funny that you say that because I’m going to go meet with them this week. So, uh, I mean it was totally random. It was really awesome. So you’re. So what you’re doing is standing out man, and I think it’s because like the product is just amazing and so unique. Man. It’s just really, really cool. Um, if, you know, you should think about making a snowboard. I don’t know how many. You don’t know how many times I’ve been told that especially because know miss skateboards before, you know, I’m very focused on skiing because that’s primarily what I do. I do. I go out and snowboard a couple of times a year and I do see like maybe some day down the road just for the fun of it building a couple of snowboards.

Probably split boards. Yeah, exactly. All right, well let me know when you’re, when you get like, so you’re busy and you’ve got the system all down to take on the side project, which I’m sure is the last thing you need right now. No more side project. Exactly. Well, awesome man. We’ll, you know, thanks for telling us your story. I uh, I really appreciate you making the time and it’s really awesome to finally meet you and uh, you know, one of the last things I like to ask people before, you know, we kind of let things go is, so who would you like to hear on this podcast? Like who’s inspiring you? Uh, you know, and it could be anywhere in Colorado like. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I mean, I think, you know, Austin’s one I think is an awesome person to talk to you because he’s got so much knowledge of Colorado in Colorado skiing and I think that you’d have a lot of fun talking to him. Oh yeah, that’d be my suggestion. Also, Malala, I’ll definitely reach out to them or maybe have you, uh, put us in touch or something for sure if you don’t mind. Yeah, it will definitely make that happen. Cool. All right, well thanks a lot man. And um, you know, like I said, like, you know, the links to everything, you know, we’ll be able to find and we’ll, you know, we’ll make sure everybody knows exactly where to find a, find your stuff. But, uh, thanks for making the time. I appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for coming over.

All right, there we have it. Eric Hegreness of Iris Skis, know, cool guy making a great product and a, so as we mentioned, all the links to find Eric and get in touch with him, will be in the show notes and we’ll have the links to all the other partners other things that he kind of mentions in the episode in there as well. And so yeah, hope you enjoyed it.

Please subscribe on Itunes or stitcher or whatever you use to listen to podcasts. You can also sign up to be on our mailing list and please leave a review on itunes if you get a chance. It really helps us get found.

So thanks a lot and we’ll be talking to you soon.

 

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