Going 100 Percent East with HG Skis
Burlington-based ski company is building skis for the right coast
After obsessing for years over the lack of East Coast-specific ski brands and designs, Harrison Goldberg started HG Skis in 2010 with his UVM buddy, Connor Gaeta. The process is slowly coming along from Harrison’s first hand-built pair of skis as a senior project in high school back in 2006, and the pair now produce their skis in a Quebec factory, which was their only option to keep production within reaching distance and “100 percent East Coast.”
While HG Skis are currently available in only one model and size and available in only one Killington shop, they believe their trajectory is strong enough to allow them to leave their day jobs—designing electric plug load meters and working for a natural gas provider—and make a go as full-time ski company men within two years. They’re surprised that they’re the only people to be running a one hundred percent East Coast-focused and produced operation.
On designing a ski for the East Coast: Our skis are softer, they’re poppier, and they’ve got a much tighter turning radius, right around 18 where the norm is 21 and above. An 18 would be like a GS ski, a 13 would be a slalom ski. You have hardpack, so you’re going to need edges around here. Our (park) features are smaller and closer together, so it’s about how much you can spin into a rail, and how easy is it going to be to transfer between features because there’s much less space. It’s a fun ski, but if you were to ski out West, you might not even want our ski. And I’m okay with that because it’s my belief that if we’re going to do something well, we should do it the very best. If you want a ski for the East Coast, you come to us.
On finding balance in the design: My partner Connor is purely a park guy, almost purely rails in fact. When he and I built this ski for the first time, it was an ongoing argument because his focus was on how we were going to make it ski well in the park. So we made it light and fully symmetric; it’s a true park ski. But I came from a race background, and I was like ‘this better be fun to ski everywhere else.’ So we ended up with a ski that also held a really good edge and had a tight turning radius.
On their powder ski prototype: We have a fully developed powder ski as well. People may laugh about that, but where do you ski powder on the East Coast? You ski it in the trees. If you happen to get an open field of snow in New England, you’re either dreaming or incredibly lucky. It’s always in the trees. So this powder ski basically has a bunch of design elements that make it much easier to flex into and much more nimble. It’s about float and agility. A West Coast company will build a ski where you can go 100 miles an hour down an open face, which is going to be a ski that is long, wide, and very stiff. And that ski is not going to help you on the East Coast.
On how they found office space: During school, we were always moving our operation between dumpy garages with no insulation and no heat and no electricity. We’d just run extension cords and a propane flare heater to stay warm. In some cases, we actually had to hang plastic because when it would rain, it would rain through the roof of the workshop. But eventually people started hearing about it, and were so pumped on it, and wanted to help out. I ended up getting connected with a guy who had a office building with a garage that used to be a mechanic’s shop, he’s been renting it to me for a super low rate.
On working with students: Engineering students at UVM are actually constructing a new ski press for us. Every year, I do a senior project with a high school student to help them build a pair of skis for the first time. Sometimes I have trouble overcommitting my time but it’s hard to say no to those kids because where would I be today if someone hadn’t helped me at that stage?
On his first ski build: I wasn’t a very good student. But I loved engineering probably more than anyone I went to school with. My older brother and I had been filming a ski video for a couple years and that was his senior project. So a few years later when it was my turn, and I follow really closely in my footsteps, I wanted to do something similar. But I had to do something different and I thought ‘Well, I like skiing, and I like building stuff,’ so I just took a shot in the dark and try and build a ski. I had a really good mentor, my shop teacher, and between him and the information on skibuilders.com, we figured out how to do it.
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