There’s a very cool chap in New Zealand making epic powder skis out of laminated bamboo and exporting them worldwide. Call it serendipity, but in need of a knock it out of the ball park present for the ski mad husband, my heart jumped when I read an article about Kingswood skis on a foreign news site.
A pair of cult, handmade skis all the way from Lyttelton, New Zealand is the perfect gift for the guy who loves skiing and is impossible to buy for by the time he reaches forty.
Owner Alex Herbert has been crafting skis for now over a decade. The former competitive skier wanted a ski that could cope with the rocky patches and tough conditions to a degree that European skis often fall short of. Anyone who has felt the snag of a rock whilst traversing to seek out powder or has skied on New Zealand’s volcanic and Lord of the Rings like ski fields must relate. His fat powder skis with a bamboo core delivering both strength and shock absorption are now shipped worldwide to ski enthusiasts looking for ‘one more pair’ in their quiver of skis.
Many years ago he started a repair workshop called Ski and Board Surgery in Christchurch – which may seem odd to Europeans more likely to just buy another pair of skis when faced with damage, but you’re living in a continent with plenty of reasonably priced brands competing for your money and low export duties. It can be a little different down under, particularly nearly 10 years ago when skis had a total reinvention and ‘Fat Boys’ hit the slopes. It’s this kind of market force and almost vacuum like syndrome that propels the constant stream of innovation coming out of New Zealand.
Alex was intrigued by the evolution of fat skis in the late 90s, but found it hard to get his hands on them. Having worked for years as a ski technician he thought he’d simply make some. It’s taken him a while to perfect the moldings and combination of materials, but the wait has been worth it.
There is a lot of ‘kiwi’ in his startup story – from the brand name echoing one of New Zealand’s much loved retro Holden car models, to the number 8 wire cliché of simply making his first ski press from two pieces of rolled steel sandwiched together with car jacks.
The ‘Kingswood’ brand was born and the first pair hit the market in 2005. They are high quality, high performance and super chic.
Every pair of skis is hand made to order and he makes about four pairs a week. He spends a decent amount of time on the slopes ‘product testing,’ which is surely the point of being an owner/operator of a lifestyle business.
He lovingly handcrafts each pair, tailored to the new owner based on a humorous questionnaire that details your measurements, expertise and skiing style.
The wooden core gives a hint of nostalgia, but the design options are firmly contemporary. They are extremely pliable and literally float through powder but deal with unexpected bumps and changes in terrain and the consistency of snow in what has been a shaky season unusually well. They get a rave review from the husband in champagne powder, crud and corduroy groomed piste. You need a little more effort on the hard pack, but that is to be expected, he tells me.
The Kingswood factory was knocked down in the Christchurch earthquake, which also took out the family home, but owner Alex and his wife Kris have battled back and built an exciting export business.
Great product, cool brand and an excellent example of passion, innovation and tenacity. Double thumbs up and highly recommended.
You can buy them from www.kingswoodskis.com.