A little over four years ago, Ian Reynolds and Greg Pantano were scheming in the back of a Framingham, Massachusetts ski shop. Reynolds, 30, a Vermont native skiing since he could walk, and Pantano, 28, hooked since his elementary school started taking buses to the hill, casually tossed around ideas late into the night.
One in particular had more legs than the rest: An indoor freestyle ski and snowboard center, and an answer to the seasonal void plaguing the East Coast's terrain park-crazy market. They had both been injured in the icy parks of northern New England, why not have a spot to hone their tricks safely in the off-season? Why shouldn't they be the ones to make it happen?
The two both moved into the corporate world shortly after, but the idea marinated. When the IOC announced the inclusion of slopestyle and halfpipe to the Sochi Games, the pair knew they had to act. "A great idea is a great idea, but if you can't do anything with it, that's all it'll ever be," says Reynolds. The Olympics, coupled with the success of western facilities Woodward and Snogression pushed their plan into overdrive, and the duo worked with architects to develop The Lab Freestyle, the East Coast's first indoor freestyle ski and snowboard compound on the outskirts of Boston.
The project is in its infant stages, but a background in the park scene of skiing and snowboarding and a solid base in business have both Reynolds and Pantano confident they have the right formula to bring indoor freestyle training to New England. POWDER caught up with the pair to learn more about the project and what it will take to make a facility like The Lab a reality for the Ice Coast.
When did you guys know you had to make this happen?
Greg: When the Olympic ski and snowboard disciplines got added to the Olympics I remember Ian giving me a phone call after a hiking trip from New Hampshire saying, 'hey did you hear?' It just got to the point where it was now or never, why not give it a shot and do what we love to do for the rest of our lives?
Why are you looking to start this center?
Ian: From my end, it's two-fold. Being a passionate skier I had opportunities based on the geographic area I grew up, but at a certain point it was all at the cost of my body. I've blown my right knee, I've sprained my left, I've broken my left foot, I've broken my back—all trying to push my abilities skiing.
I just want to see kids move into competitive skiing and snowboarding without having to risk their health in pursuit of that. If we can provide them a fun and safe place to learn, we want to do that.
The other motivation is that I want to be in skiing. I want to do something that when I get up in the morning I have fun doing it. What better place than a spot where you can jump on a trampoline, do some stretching, slap your skis on to hit a few rails, hit a jump and teach others to do the same thing?
So how does this become a reality?
Ian: We've been creating a business plan and doing financial forecasting for about three and a half years now. Like many small businesses starting today, our initial fundraiser will be crowdsourced and will help us put the deposit on a facility and deposits for equipment and installation schedules and help us hire people to supplement the hard work we've done with the expertise we need.
We're then going into an equity-based fundraiser to get us the rest of the way. That's obviously a big burden, but we think that the demand that we've generated thus far can help us find an investor that's a skier or snowboarder at heart, making this a real opportunity.
Our initial stretch goal for opening was late fall, but realistically we'd be looking toward late winter and spring. We don't want to jump the gun on this.
In terms of facilities, have you figured out exactly what you'll be offering at The Lab?
Ian: The initial plan includes a jump, a rail yard, trampolines, foam, and then a cliff drop feature as well. The biggest goal for our facility is to keep the space adaptable. We don't want kids coming in and hitting the same flat rail and down box, so our goal is to have interchangeable features. Just like a terrain park rebuild, we want to offer change.
Ian: We’re in talks with a couple groups for a winch-like device to generate speed. For the first facility, we need to limit overhead, literally and figuratively, and can’t justify the 50-foot ceilings needed to generate enough speed. By utilizing winch tech, we can limit the space needed, while also being able to adjust speed precisely, helping the learning curve.
How do you guys differ from what the guys at Snogression and Woodward are offering?
Ian: From an inside facility perspective the reality is there isn't a whole lot of differentiation in physical offerings. Realistically we don't need to differentiate that much because we've got 3,500 miles between us.
Do you have buildings in mind for this spot?
Ian: We're looking in that triangle created by Route 2, I-95, and I-93. We're pretty wide open because all we need is empty warehouse space preferably near a highway exit.
Any parting thoughts?
Ian: We may not have a facility set up that people can come check out today, but the idea started on a napkin and now we've brought it within reach, but it's going to take a community to take this thing off the ground.
Greg: We're not reinventing the wheel here, it's been successful on the West Coast, and the New England market is just as big—so why not us?