The small town of Haines, Alaska, lies near 72 miles of glacier terrain and 15,000 feet below the icy summit of Mount Fairweather, which is the namesake of Fairweather Ski Works. Here is where a small hobbyist’s dream has become synonymous with the ski industry in southeast Alaska.
Graham Kraft, 33 (from British Columbia), was a ski racer for the provincial team in Canada, then moved to Anchorage for university where he met his wife, Lindsay Johnson, 33 (from southeast Alaska), who is a licenced boat captain and holds a journalism degree from University of Alaska, in Anchorage, and learned to ski in college. The pair, who are expecting their first child this fall, started building skis in 2008 and moved to Haines in 2012. “Graham needed a project when it wasn’t snowing buckets, and his curious, tenacious nature took over,” said Johnson.
Haines is where Fairweather Ski Works built its brand and reputation, locally, through engineers, artists and athletes. Not only do the pair work closely with locals, but they have been developing relationships in the Yukon. “This fall we are partnering with Haines Junction artist Libby Dulac for some fresh ski graphics,” said Johnson.
“The direct relationships we have with our wood sources means we have an exceptional amount of control in terms of quality and best practices. Similarly, working with artists we know and love makes for a mutually fun and satisfying process with awesome results.”
The pair were drawn to small-town life, and the beauty and, of course, skiing opportunities certainly delighted them both. “We spend summers commercial salmon trolling throughout southeast Alaska on our 40-foot wooden boat, Sika, and October to June in the ski shop or mountains,” said Johnson.
With the Haines environment, they can also sustainably source and produce their skis from the trees around them. “Sitka spruce and paper birch are literally the core of our skis and split boards,” said Johnson. “We work with what we have, and who wants to see more plastic crap in the wilderness anyway.”
The pair have grown their business, and the recognition they are receiving within the ski industry (not just in Haines) has been well deserved. “[Our goal is] to have more people riding and loving them,” said Johnson. “Retail partners definitely seem like part of realizing that goal, as the two of us are better creators and testers than salespeople.” Possibly, in the future, these skis and splitboards will be made available in the Yukon; however, you can purchase online, visit their store in Haines or sometimes find them for sale at the Mountain Shop in Skagway.
Why Fairweather Ski Works?
We caught up with Jeff Moskowitz, Haines resident and Fairweather Ski Works product tester, to find out what makes the skis so good for northern climates and terrain.
So what draws you to use Fairweather skis?A custom look and feel draws me to use Fairweather skis, plus my friends make them. There is nothing like climbing local mountains, on local planks. Their creators are not messing around, either. With thousands of glacier miles of product testing, from deep powder Alaskan spines to windblown hardpack, Fairweather skis and splitboards live up to any challenge you can throw at them.
What makes them different and how do they function compared to other skis?They are lightweight, with a solid build that you don’t find in many larger manufactured ski companies. With wood-core and carbon-fibre components, the ride is about as homegrown as a ski can feel. In comparison to the bright outlandish colours found on many popular skis and boards on the market, the unique wood-grain top sheet and local featured artists is especially nice on the up-and-down track.
You’ve done some pretty gnarly trips with Fairweather skis. What’s the most memorable one?The most memorable gnarly trip I have done on my Fairweather skis … hmmm. Quite possibly getting dropped off near Mount Krause, in Glacier Bay National Park, and skiing complex glacial terrain in exceedingly cold-blower snow, then being tent bound for two days from bombastic winds and having to traverse over the Takhinsha Mountains to the Bertha glacier, to escape, food rations and all.
Moskowitz is a forecaster and educator with the Haines Avalanche Center (AlaskaSnow.org), since 2010, as well as a Level 1 and 2 Rec Course instructor for the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, and a professional member of the American Avalanche Association.
You can visit their quirky little Klondike-esque shop (Fairweather Ski Works) at the southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds, and marvel at Kraft’s self-produced wooden ski press. You can also get some local knowledge of terrain and have an enjoyable chat about how they get their unique product out.
To see their latest works and to keep up to date on the adventures, check them out on Facebook or visit the website, http://fairweatherskiworks.com.