Last year’s Freeride World Tour was a good one for Praxis skis. The tour featured six stops and on half of them the winner rode a pair of the company's sticks.
Drew Tabke, the tour’s overall winner, took first place at both Revelstoke and Chamonix Mont-Blanc on a model called the GPOs. Later in the tour, Lars Chickering-Ayers won the Kirkwood stop on a pair of the GPOs as well.
“It was a lot of fun to watch,” says company president and founder Keith O’Meara.
Of course it’s the skier not the equipment that wins these events. But for a small company like Praxis, knowing the world’s top competitors trusted its gear on the world stage was validating. It was also a relatively fast climb to the top for a brand that was founded less than a decade ago.
Like most small brands, Praxis grew out of a garage. Back in 2005, O’Meara says he and his friends in Truckee, California, wanted to build their own skis because they thought the major brands were making stale, boring products that catered too much to racers and recreational users.
At the time, all the technology that now dominates the market (reverse camber, etc.) was creeping in so they wanted to take full advantage and make big mountain, powder and backcountry skis that pushed the envelope.
Its initial production model, the Powderboards, featured both reverse sidecut (136mm underfoot) and continuous curve rocker. They made 20 pairs that first year on homemade equipment. People immediately became hooked. The second year they built 50 pairs and word started to spread. By the third year they had pre-orders for 400 pairs of Powderboards, which provided enough money for O’Meara to buy industrial manufacturing equipment, move into a permanent factory in the Tahoe area, and start making a full line-up of skis.
“It was enough – just barely – to get things rolling, but it was pretty motivating to have some success,” O’Meara says.
In the garage and later in the factory, build quality was something O’Meara says he made a priority. He and his friends were notorious for breaking skis so they wanted to make something that would last.
To make sure his products were stronger and more resistant he tore down a number of other skis to look inside. What he found was a lack of craftsmanship. Areas that were supposed to be filled with wood or other core materials were filled with epoxy and sometimes two of the exact same ski had noticeably different shapes or cambers.
“I was surprised these companies wanted their product on the shelf,” he says.
These days, Praxis is producing thousands of skis but they’re all still handmade. Like other well-built brands, Praxis skis feature over-sized edges and extra thick bases. But O’Meara and his crew have also developed their own special blend of maple, ash and aspen for the core. Carbon is also found in some of the skis, but the heart is always made up of these three woods, which provide an extra-durable binding platform and stronger sidewalls.
The skis can only be bought online because it helps keep the price down and O’Meara still has a hand in every sale because he's picky about quality control and customer service. According to O'Meara, it would be easy to start taking shortcuts and grow the company into a much larger brand, but he says he doesn’t see the need. Quality is more important at this point that quantity.
"Everybody in the factory cares a lot about the product and it’s my reputation, so I want to ensure we build the best product possible,” he says.
To check out the full line of Praxis Skis, go to www.praxisskis.com