The Gear Hacking Legends of Skiing

DO try this at home. Four DIY inventions from a few frugal Canadians.

Skiers have always made sacrifices and found creative ways to make skiing cheaper. These are the inventions of a few frugal Canadians who believe DIY is a way of life.

Jair Stolz—The Seamster
DIY: Ski jackets

Jair Stolz lives in a solar-powered yurt in Bleaberry Valley, near Golden, BC, with his wife and two pre-teen kids. A DIY stalwart, like his mom before him, he has sewn his own clothes since he was 13.

Now, Stolz, 35, stitches his own outerwear from inside an old bus. He generally works with three-layer material, which he procures online for around $35 per yard. The fabric is a bit pricey, he admits, but it is still cheaper than buying a new ski jacket. The payoff includes custom pockets tailored exactly to taste—like the one for his walkie-talkie, extremely handy when his composting crapper is out of TP.

Rory Belter—The Creator
DIY: Misfit skis and snowboards

Originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, this eccentric ski- and bike-shop tech moved to the idyllic hamlet of Rossland 12 years ago. Since then, he's become the Kootenay town's most well-known tinkerer. Evoking the spirit of childhood play, Belter's creations focus on the fringe and the funny. His "hug it out" ski is a closing-day mainstay at nearby Red Resort. The double-mounted set of 190-centimeter Head Carve 15s pits two pilots face-to-face in a bid to cooperate to get downhill. The system uses adjustable bindings and has reportedly saved three marriages.

Belter's also drawn on his syrup-laden roots to build the "snowboardboggin"—an ode to his first winter conveyance. Using classic maple construction, this is just a toboggan with snowboard bindings. But Belter has plans to vacuum-form a base and edges onto it so patrollers can't kick him out of the ski area anymore.

Carl Labonville—The engineer
DIY: Carbon skis

Labonville spent most of the '90s destroying poorly built snowboards in Whistler. "It wasn't very hard to get the idea you could do better," says the self-taught mechanical genius who swapped notes with plank-building pioneer Chris Prior to construct his own durable boards. Twenty-five years later, Labonville has moved on to skis. His workshop in the community of Nicholson, BC, feels like a laboratory. A stone mason by day, by night he regales visitors with philosophy and physics while engineering innovative carbon sticks from a homemade vacuum press.

Part French and part native, everything around his six-foot-two, 220-pound frame seems small as he pulls a fresh pair from the mold. He uses a technique that eliminates sidewalls and reinforces edges, making them "way stronger" than other "typically frail" carbon offerings. His favorites are 188 centimeters long and have the dimensions of 138-102-130 millimeters. If Mad Max skied, he'd be on these.

Sean Nyilassy—The Collector
DIY: Franken-gear

When Nyilassy got his first Uvex ski-racing helmet at the age of 7 at Horseshoe Valley, Ontario, he never gave it up. He even used it for his first four years on Kicking Horse Mountain Resort's ski patrol, getting a new coat of gold spray paint each season. Now 33, he's applied 25 coats. How does it still fit? "A combination of it being a bit too big when I got it," he says, "and then inhibiting the growth of my head after that."

Nyilassy also rocks a set of touring boots pieced together from an old pair of Garmont Megarides, Scarpa tele boots, and second-generation Dalbello Kryptons. The idea follows the same early modifications Eric Hjorleifson, another renowned tinkerer, made to his Dynafit Titans to give better heel retention and progressive flex, before Dynafit released the Vulcan. Despite boot advancements, these Franken-boots live on.