When the first tinges of autumn are in the air, Whistlerites’ minds shift swiftly to winter.
One local whose thoughts are never too far away from the season though is ski builder Greg Funk.
Funk teaches the Ski and Snowboard Production and Design course at Whistler Mountain Adventure School (WMAS) located in Function Junction. The school opened its doors on April 1, and offers industry based academic courses for local and international students.
With winter just around the corner, the school is gearing up for its next four-week (60 hour) ski and board construction course, starting on Oct. 6. The course combines a practical, hands-on approach with design, marketing and production and operation management. “It is geared towards the creative, entrepreneurial- minded skier or boarder,” Funk said. “Students do the course as if they were starting their own ski brand or company.”
With over 10 years of ski building knowledge under his belt, Funk is typical of WMAS staff — a professional, industry-experienced local. An avid skier, Funk moved to Whistler in 1999, and began building skis as a hobby in 2002. This morphed into a business, Capital Custom Skis, in 2004. In 2010 he started Funk Custom Skis, and taught the first WMAS ski and board-manufacturing course in June, with four students participating. (Each course takes a maximum of 10.)
But how, exactly, does one go about making a pair of skis, or a snowboard, in just four weeks?
“That’s a lot of time!” laughed Funk, from the school’s production room. “I mean, comparatively, it takes me about 16 hours to build a pair of (custom) skis — but I’ve built quite a few!”
A factory could produce a pair of skis in just 15 minutes, he added.
During the course, students are introduced to the core elements of ski and board construction, creating a custom “brand.” As well as hands-on ski or board building, students create their own unique brand’s marketing, operation and production schedule and graphic design elements.
Funk said that some tool experience is beneficial, but not essential. “(In June) we had one student who had never used any sort of tool in her life. She came out with a beautiful pair of skis.”
The design is the first step with the top sheet done on a computer in the first class.
“There’s room for students to get involved in the design process and build something that they have a real attachment to,” Funk said. “It’s a step beyond being a consumer. It’s not just about the construction, it’s about the art work as well.”
He broke down the steps of ski and board construction. “Everything is based off of a template, which is the shape of the ski,” he said.
He laughs at the width of the skis in production around us. “Yeah, these are some fat skis! That’s what people want round here,” he said.
He explained the process: “Basically you trace the template onto some cores. You cut the cores out to match the template, make sure the sidewall is aligned, plane it down, and from that point it gets profiled, tapered. From there, (the skis) are all built in parts, up until the pressing process.”
The steps can be done in any order, including routing the base out on a template, gluing the edges on so it becomes one unit, and cutting out fibreglass to fit. “We do a dry lay up, then go for the real deal — cover it with epoxy (a type of glue), lay it in the set, slide it into the press, bring the press down, turn the heat blankets on, let it cure, let it cool down. Three hours later we pull it out and run it through the finishing process, which involves the band saw, the router, then it’s off to get tuned. Then that’s it — you’re skiing!”
Funk said the last group of students was excited about what they had built. “Most were very impressed with themselves, that they’d managed to build a pair of skis,” he said. “They all loved it and were really fun to teach because of that.”
Go to whistlermountain adventureschool.com for course details.