RAMP’ing It Up In Park City

 


RAMP Skis - Production LineIf you have not heard, RAMP Sports has moved all of its manufacturing facilities to Park City, Utah. They now join the RAMP operations which has been headquartered in Park City since its inception.

I had a chance to meet up with Mike Kilchenstein, the owner of RAMP Sports and I asked him how it felt to now have all manufacturing be completed in-house?

Mike: Amazing and the fact we can apply our new ideas, processes, materials and have them ski so great and do it here.

Are all of your material suppliers from the US as well?

Mike: Nearly and wherever possible.  We used almost all US machines, US resins, composites, bases, edges, the bamboo cores and veneer are a US Company that owns the factory and controls the whole process so we have bamboo that is actually Forestry Stewardship Certified, which is extremely rare with bamboo.

Wow, that is pretty awesome to not only be built in the USA, but also all the sourced materials as well.

Can you tell me some of your biggest challenges that you have faced in “on-shoring” your manufacturing process?  

Mike: The whole molding process, design and development process and graphic process are all new.  This has created many challenges but they are all now overcome.

Did you have any surprises in the process?RAMP - Applying The Epoxy

Mike: Yes, the vacuum molding as opposed to press molding has created many performance benefits, especially in the sweet spot, the skis have a much bigger sweet spot as the layers are left in their natural shapes according to their thermal expansion characteristics vs traditional molding where they re forced under very high pressure into unnatural positions.  

Second is the effect of the bamboo cores.  This material is 4 times harder than the industry standard Poplar core,  so it really makes the skis feel like they have metal layers in them like a race ski construction.  This is an amazing performance boost! 

And since this material is FSC Certified, we aren’t using bamboo where there is no control over harvesting and also without the normal toxic resins used in nearly all bamboo produced skis.

When I came to your operations and warehouse when we first met, you were on the frontage road on the outskirts of Park City. Are you still there in the same facility?

Mike: No, we have moved to a new location and in a much larger 10,000 square foot building.  RAMP is still in Park City, but a bit closer to downtown by the Home Depot.

Is Park City a prime location for your biz ( I think I know the answer)?

Yes you do because, YES!  There is a huge culture of people here who appreciate what we are doing! It’s easy to attract very good people here and you can test right out our door.

It doesn’t get much better than having your testing grounds so close and to have them be the Wasatch no less.

Has your role had to change since you opened your doors?  

Mike: Yes, I find myself doing a lot more things even the before.

I see that your athletes include Ross Powers, Brant Moles, Donna Weinbrecht and Lindsey Jacobellis. This is a star studded line-up with Olympians, movie athletes and X-Games winners, for both your ski and snowboard lines.  Do you expect to add any new athletes?

Mike: Yes, one very notable one we should be able to announce maybe this week.

RAMP Chickadee TopsheetsWhat are their roles within the organization? Are they RAMP’s ski and snowboard Ambassadors?

Mike: For sure Ambassadors, but they also help with product development.  We had Brant Moles come in last year to help tune and now he’s even been making skis this year.  We will certainly have the athletes involved in product development for sure.

What has changed in your ski building process since you first started manufacturing skis?

Mike: We added Kevlar after all the testing was done.  I think we are the only company to use a whole layer of Kevlar.  It is very expensive vs fiberglass.  When a ski flexes the bottom of the ski is being stretched the top compressed.  Using Kevlar in the bottom we get much more rebound and energy as this material is way more resistant to stretching-deformation than fiberglass.  It also absorbs vibration about 8 times better than fiberglass.  It really improves the ride dramatically.

I’ve seen that you have moved from pressing to a vacuum process for manufacturing skis. Can you explain what you are doing?

Mike: With vacuum molding you use about 1 atmosphere of pressure and the pressure is equal in every direction.  We are letting the materials expand and contract according to their natural tendencies.  In press molding used throughout the industry, there is 4 times as much pressure.  It is all in the downward direction, crushing the layers against a camber plate, forcing them into a specific shape.  With all the testing we did the most astonishing thing was how big the sweet spot is on our skis and how much more specific the old method skis are.

Do you have a ski that you can’t figure out why more people are not buying it?  For example,  “jeez, I think this ski is an unbelievable all mountain ski and I just don’t understand why we don’t sell more of them.”  

Mike: Not really, we sell our whole range pretty well.  For me it’s more like RAMP  has a more consumer friendly business model, we sell direct so our pricing can be better.  We use the most expensive materials available versus what I see in the industry.  We have by far the most green manufacturing and business practices and we are made in the USA.  And our skis just ski great.  It’s more like, “why wouldn’t everybody want to buy these vs the Chinese or other mass production skis where they are made by people making $200 per month, have no environmental responsibility and cost more?”

What are you most excited for this season, besides hopefully more snow?

Mike: RAMP is getting a lot more attention and traction, just seeing this take off.RAMP - Brant Moles

Since you are located in Park City, which ski do you think represents the best ski for those primarily skiing your backyard, the Wasatch?

Mike: I think the Peacepipe, it does everything so incredibly well.

How many months during the last year have you actually tested skis?  

Mike: I skied about every month through August this summer.  I just had full knee replacement last Wednesday, so my testing is over for 6 months.

It sure sounds like RAMP  is moving forward from a just another start-up indie ski and snowboard company, to a bonafide ski and snowboard manufacturer, who is heading down a path of earning a place in the mainstream.  I am looking forward to getting on a pair of the new vacuum molded RAMP skis this season, hopefully, when I make my trip to the Wasatch for some of the renowned “Greatest Snow On Earth”.

 

– Lane Lawrence