Skiboards Online – Ski Industry’s Latest Trend in Four Corners Business Journal, By Indiana Reed
Bayfield, CO – Skiboards. They’re all over the slopes, strapped to the feet of an increasing number of folks who relish the thrill of shushing down a mountain. On the flip side, they are noticeably absent in ski or snowboard retail shops across the nation.
So what’s an enthusiast – or an intrigued novice – to do? Quite simply, go online to skiboards.com, the Bayfield based resource for retail purchase and information about these increasingly popular mini-boards – an inventive hybrid of skates and traditional downhill and cross-country skis. With a ski industry slow to embrace and promote a new sporting discipline and its equipment, the Internet has proven incredibly effective, with thousands of devotees pointing and clicking their way to skiboard heaven. Skiboards Online – Ski Industry’s Latest Trend is becoming more and more a thing!
“All the (ski and snowboard) manufacturers tell us we’re the world’s largest,” said Doc Roberts, who in 1996 founded the virtual company in his home with his wife Christie, a graphic designer. “And we’re out of Bayfield which is kind of funny.”
Indeed, Skiboards.com’s success is proof that an international company can operate and even thrive in a small rural community of some 1,200. As Roberts noted, all he needs is a phone line. And, while he acknowledges that fiber, wireless or DSL service, currently unavailable in Bayfield, would likely be beneficial (especially for his webmaster), Skiboards.com is growing consistently without the latest broadband technology.
“We get about 3 million hits per month on our website and 80,000 unique visitors a month. We average 2,000 to 3,000 (visitors) a day,” said Roberts, explaining that though they launched the website with 6 pages, it has grown to over 800 pages. “It’s huge. You can’t get through it in one sitting, that’s for sure. It just continues to grow.” “And this year we’re definitely above that. People call and think we’re this huge company, (asking) “Can I have the customer service department?” People have no idea it’s just us,” gesturing to Roberts and Taylor. All three who manage the approximately 3000 square foot industrial space and assorted employees.
“There’s actually six of us currently,” added Roberts, plus additional programmers, technical staff, warehouse staff and a bookkeeper. “And we bring in part-time help for shipping and demo days and things like that.
Most orders come in over the Internet, though Roberts acknowledges that customers will call to make certain they purchase the proper boards. Fat, thin, shaped, loner, short, the options abound, and Roberts and crew will tailor the customer’s purchase to the type of terrain, be it hard-pack, powder or anything in between. Backcountry skiboards are also growing in popularity.
“The web site’s so informative,” said Komie, “You can go to the website and do some research and read some reviews and figure out exactly what’s right for you. And probably between Doc, Taylor and myself, we answer between 50-75 e-mails a day.”
“Almost all the calls are people who are ready to order, but they just don’t know what,” Said Roberts, noting that a beginner can get into the sport for as little as $99.00, complete with bindings. “It’s amazing how many people order without having tried them, because they heard from a friend.”
Roberts had been a skier for 22 years and the day he first tried skiboards, he gave away his skis knowing he’d never go back to long boards. Unlike skis and snowboards, skiboards have relatively no learning curve and for the most part lessons are unnecessary.
“We have people putting 3-year olds on these,” said Roberts, holding a miniature Salomon skiboard recommended for children up to about 4ft. 10in. tall. “I put my son on these and within one day he was already in a double black (expert runs) in the trees. He’d never been on a ski lift the snow or anything. You don’t really need to learn how to snowplow because you don’t have the big tips. These turn quickly and they stop quickly. A lot of moms who have told us that they usually end up sitting in the lodge while their family is up on the slopes can now go anywhere that their family does! These moms are finally having fun on the slopes!”
Though still relatively new to the United States, skiboards have been popular in Europe since 1970, according to Roberts. In the early days major companies jumped in like Fischer, K2, Atomic, Salomon, Head and Elan. Some have removed themselves from the market while others continue to see the popularity of the sport and keep producing. To fill in any lapse, Skiboards.com has also begun producing its own brand, Summit Skiboards, designed locally and manufactured overseas.
The sport continues to thrive in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. In fact, nearly 10-15% of orders come from International locations. Japan alone counts for one out of every two skiboards sold in the world.
“In seven years I have not experienced anybody who has tried skiboards and not stayed with it,” said Roberts. “We have thousands of testimonials from people saying they will never go back to skis or snowboards.” Yet, the US ski industry remains slow in accepting the sport. Some resorts, such as Angel Fire in New Mexico, have begun to recognize they are not just in the “ski” business, rather the “entertainment” business and have offered Skiboards.com opportunities to come to the ski resort and set up demo days.
“We’re kind of getting used to being out of the box in a sense,” said Roberts of the company’s marketing approach. “For a couple of years we’ve tried to do the ski industry thing, to promote the sport, and then we realized that the ski industry is not really interested. They’ve got their thing. That’s what they do – skis. So we started branching out in other ways and found that was much more successful.”
“It’s a mind set. It’s a paradigm,” said Roberts. “For years and years it’s been skis, but I know if skis were not around and it was kind of a free-for-all and somebody came out with skis and somebody came out with snowboards and somebody came out with skiboards, skiboards would be way more popular.”