I was scrolling through my Instagram feed probably a year ago, or so, when I got an ad for a ski company. I started to swipe right on by until something caught my eye. The ad said, Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis- Custom Skis Handcrafted in Northern Michigan. So, I clicked the link and started reading. After learning about their brand, I knew there was a story to be told here.
Shaggy’s is an independent ski maker started by the Thompson family back in 2005. According to Jeff Thomson, Partner/Product Design Engineer for Shaggy’s, the family has built the brand from scratch with no outside investment. The original goal, according to Jeff, “was always to make an all mountain ski that could take the performance of a race ski and bring that all over the mountain.” You might find it interesting, as I did, that a company in Michigan would make skis with waist-widths greater than 100 mm. I wanted to know why, so I asked Jeff a few more questions.
You make your skis in Northern Michigan, how does the terrain in MI influence the design of your skis?
“We have shorter runs and ever changing snow conditions coming off the Great Lakes. Basically, we have to make skis that are super fun to ski when the conditions are less than ideal – think refrozen groomers or crud, straight ice, slush, etc. Then when the conditions are good, they have to feel great.”
“We design our skis to work in the best and worst conditions. It sounds kind of cliche, but we are dedicated to doing whatever we can (design-wise) to make sure people are smiling on the snow, no matter the conditions.”
“When we were first getting started, a lot of people wondered why we even made skis over 100 mm wide – but then they got on our original Ahmeeks (first big all mountain ski) and saw that we built the skis to rip on hard pack just as much as in powder. And since then, our Ahmeek 105s are not only our best selling model for all sales, but also our best selling model within Michigan.”
Where do you draw inspiration from in designing a ski?
“Inspiration in designing skis is drawn from simple round-table style discussions with our build team, our ambassadors, and most importantly – our customers. As a small company, we run most of our demo events ourselves and that affords us the ultimate in consumer product feedback. We even have a public test demo for the coming year’s skis in March every year.”
“For me, ski design is an engineering problem to be solved rather than an artistic experiment.”
What is your most popular model?
“The Ahmeek 105, hands down – our original all mountain ski – it bridges the gap between playful and powerful.”
I noticed that Shaggy’s offers “Custom Ski Options”, can you tell me more about what you offer?
“There are two sides of the custom question – graphic and construction.”
“For graphics – we offer custom top-sheet graphics on any ski that add $100-$200 depending on complexity. We’ve printed everything from basic solid colors, to photos of pets, to reproductions of fine art.”
“On the construction side, there are many more options! We start with our 11 unique ski model shapes and build out from there after matching the shape to a customer’s style, ability, size, etc.
Then we have four different layup styles that we regularly use:
● Standard – Ash core, triaxial fiberglass, unidirectional carbon fiber
● nanoMAG Damping System – Ash core, nanoMAG magnesium inlaid into the core, triaxial fiberglass, unidirectional carbon fiber
● MidLight - Ash/Poplar core, lightweight triaxial fiberglass, unidirectional carbon fiber (twice that of the standard construction)
● Pure Carbon – Poplar core, ultralight biaxial carbon fiber, unidirectional carbon fiber”
“Then there are virtually limitless camber/rocker combinations for each ski. We can also customize the flex of the ski to the specific skier.”
“All this said, I think it’s very important to note that we always want to have a baseline to start with rather than completely redesigning a product for one person. We spend a tremendous amount of time dialing in our stock models to remove variables for customers. When someone makes a request, we want to absolutely nail it – every time.”
“Within our stock line alone, we have over 60 combinations for shape/length/construction before you even get into a custom build, so our customers have tons of options.”
You sell Carbon Fiber options for a few of your models. Can you share noticeable differences a skier will feel in a Pure Carbon set up?
“The biggest benefit with the carbon fiber option for a ski is the swing-weight and overall weight reduction. The skier that will notice the biggest benefit is the one that does a lot of back country touring.”
“Depending on the model, the carbon option will yield a 10-18% reduction in overall weight, while the swing-weight will feel substantially lighter.”
“We also have a lot of customers that come back and report how they have much less leg fatigue after a day of skiing tight terrain – much like that is found at Mount Bohemia, MI.”
How many days do you get to ski a year?
“I’m usually on the snow 3-4 days a week. Our local ski areas usually open mid November and close in late April, so that usually means 50-60 days a year.”
What ski do you ride?
“That’s a totally loaded question… My daily driver is the Ahmeek 105, I always have a pair in the back of my truck and always know that no matter the condition, I’m going to have fun with them. They’re also my go-to travel ski. When I really feel like laying down arcs with a damp ride, I grab the Brockway 95s with our nanoMAG Damping System. When the snow is deep, I go for the Ahmeek 115s.”
What does it take for somebody to start their own ski company?
“Tenacity, thick skin, time, and dedication.”
I am truly impressed with Shaggy’s mission. Now, I just need to get on a pair of their skis. Follow the links below to purchase, or check out their demo schedule for this season!
I’d like to thank Jeff and the Shaggy’s Team for sharing their story with me!