If you take your powder seriously, you might want to consider that your sticks or plank were probably mass-produced among thousands of others – almost a one-size fits all model, made in a country where riding deep dry powder is a luxury, not an everyday fact of life.
Niseko locals and visitors now have the opportunity to order personally customised skis or boards made in two separate local boutique factories.
You can work with the actual human that will hand make your skis – they can assess your height and weight, see footage of your skiing/riding style, and you can then discuss what sort of shape, length and flex combination you would like. To top it all off, you may even choose a custom graphic or design your own topsheet.
Both of these factories have been set up by Australians and at opposite ends of the Niseko United ski resorts.
Roko Skis is the new pet project of passionate outdoor adventure entrepreneur Ross Findlay, who was the first foreigner to live in Niseko and also kickstarted the summer rafting industry here.
Making skis had been a dream since he was at university, and he’s hoping the Roko brand will take off in the local area and beyond. The factory is located in a wing of the rustic old train station in the heart of downtown Kutchan, just beyond Hanazono.
Offshore Snow Shapes is a snowboard brand founded by surf and snow loving artist Josh Monin, a committed disciple of the Niseko-born “snow surfing” movement and backcountry riding.
“If I’m 80 and can shape a hand made board at the base of Moiwa I think I’ll have achieved my goals.”
The company has been making boards for several years near the beaches of Eastern Australia. With demand increasing and a desire to see where this thing could lead, this year Monin teamed up with buddy Richie Willcocks to set up their very own manufacturing workshop right at the base of the Moiwa ski mountain – just beyond the western-most resort of Annupuri.
Monin says making custom snowboards is a niche concept, but it was a process that ultimately led to a better connection between board and rider.
“Everyone has a different style and different preferences for how they want a board to feel,” Monin says.
“Similar to ordering a custom surfboard, the process needs to be a blend of what the customer wants, and how the shaper interprets that information. Sometimes you get the magic board, sometimes you have to fine tune it. There is something special about getting a board made specifically for you.”
Just two years into the business, Findlay has learned there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to ski design.
“We did a testing day with five skiers and every one of them was a very good skier. But when I was watching the video later I realised everyone is a different age and build, and all ski so differently.
“One guy was from an alpine racing background, and even in the powder, he really pushes into it. Then there was another guy who was skiing more on the back of the skis. I was thinking, how can you make a pair of skis that everyone is going to like when everyone skis so differently?”
“Then someone might want their skis more lively, and someone else might want something more passive. Do you make them for the three guys that are really good, or the seven guys that are not so good?”
Again, these are things you can work with the maker to adjust as you go. In both cases, you know that each one has been tested, refined
and built right here in Niseko.
If you’re interested, please contact the guys well before your trip so you can organise a meeting (after you’ve got some video of yourself on your first day or few). If they know you’re coming they might be able to have your stick/s ready before the end of your trip.