Worth Skis, Middlebury VT

We became aware of Worth Skis while “lurking” in Teton Gravity Research Forum’s East Coast Roll Call thread. A group of passionate TGR skier’s seem tied to the brand and I wanted to see what I could learn about the company. Worth owners, Dalton Harben, Adrian Kostrubiak and Jason Duquette-Hoffman agreed to bring me up to speed.

NYSkiBlog: Tell us about the genesis of Worth Skis.

Dalton: Worth Mountain Designs was incorporated in September of 2011. We first imagined the company in the spring of last year and incorporated once we had our ideas and business model refined. We wanted to create a company that designs skis for eastern skiers wherever they ski. There are some great indie ski companies out there, but for the most part they’re designing skis with western skiers in mind.

We wanted to bring skiers into the design process. That’s why we developed the semi-custom model. By providing customers the ability to mix and match elements of the build to their preferences, recreational skiers can have what pros have had for years.

Who are the founders Worth and what’s their background in skiing, ski design and construction?

Jason: Dalton, Adrian and I are partners. Dalton and I formed the company last September and Adrian joined us in January.

I’m a lifelong Vermont skier who learned to ski at Mad River Glen. I raced as a youth, and later became a ski instructor. I spent years on the retail side in nearly every conceivable role: technician, sales, bootfitting, purchasing and management. Most recently, I was the hard goods buyer for two large shops in Northern Vermont, and was GM at the Alpine Shop in South Burlington before I left to pursue a living outside the industry.

While I was a hard goods purchaser and shop manager, I spent a lot of time working with manufacturers on product development. I am a gearhead and coworkers would laugh because I could recite ski dimensions and details about the construction of every ski model we carried. I skied every ski we stocked, whether it was a hot freeride, race, women’s model or a beginner package ski.

Adrian: I grew up skiing in Wyoming and in Vermont, at Mad River, Sugarbush and Stowe. I also spent time racing, which laid a solid technical foundation for my skiing. I got the opportunity to live closer to the mountains three years ago when I began my masters at Dartmouth in computer science. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to explore central and northern Vermont, from the steeps of Mansfield to the mellow glades around the Middlebury College Snow Bowl.  Among other things, I serve as the IT guy for Worth.

Dalton: I was born in NJ and grew up skiing Magic Mountain and other southern VT resorts. Since then I’ve skied the backcountry in the Andes, India, Japan and the western US. I’m as happy skiing boot-top in the farm pasture next to my house as I am waist deep in Hokaido.  My family is thriving in Vermont and couldn’t we be happier pursuing our dreams here. I’m another passionate skier who also likes tuning and mounting skis.

Middlebury College Snow Bowl

What mountains do you ski?

Jason: Middlebury College Snow Bowl is my home mountain; it’s a great place to teach my kids and there is good backcountry terrain nearby. I’ve skied Vermont for 33 years, growing up skiing at Mad River and Smuggs. There are a number of areas in the East I still haven’t been to, and some of the NY mountains are definitely on my bucket list. I’ve skied out West in Colorado and Utah. My brother was a patroller at Solitude, so I’ve spent some time there too.

Adrian: I’ve been lucky enough to ski in Jackson Hole consistently since I was three. I love the combination of a big mountain and small town feel. But there’s just something about zipping through absurdly tight eastern trees that I just can’t give up. I’ve had a pass at Stowe for the past few years, but I enjoy the more old-school style of Mad River Glen. I like riding lifts, but I often prefer earning my turns off a small road to nowhere, deep in the heart of the Greens.

Dalton: If I am riding resort, I love the terrain of the Snowbowl, Mad River and Smuggs. I also take the occasional trip south to Magic, my old stomping grounds.

If not for Worth Skis, what would you ride on? Quiver of one?

Jason: Before we started building skis, I was on Praxis. I’ve had the RX and Big Mountain 120 models, and thought they were some of the best boards I’ve ever been on. Praxis has been able to marry light weight with durability and power in a package that retains the classic great feel of a wood core ski. There simply isn’t a better build out there, in my opinion.

Adrian: My quiver of one would have to be the Volkl Gotama. This was both the first wider rockered ski and first ski with rocker that I owned, and it changed my world! My style definitely evolved as I learned to take advantage of the rocker, and as I’ve come to fully understand the ski, I’m very impressed with it’s versatility.

Dalton: I have owned at least five or six Praxis models. Their build quality and zeal for design innovation is what attracted me to them.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Dalton: Our biggest challenge is resources. We all have day jobs and bills, and none of us is wealthy. There are no angel investors or venture capital firms behind us. We pool our personal funds to pay expenses, and we’re running Worth without commercial debt. We have no marketing budget, and are relying on building our relationships with customers to get people excited about our brand. So far, the response has been significant and positive; skiers seem stoked about our product and our vision. There’s is more than one way to gain brand energy — we’re doing it from the ground up.

Who are Worth Skis customers?

Adrian: Our customers are passionate Eastern skiers who ski it all, and see interesting lines everywhere they look. Customers span a broad spectrum of skills and style, but they look for adventure at every turn. Worth skiers are in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. They experience a variety of conditions at resorts and in the backcountry. Our customers appreciate good equipment, they know what they are looking for, and they understand the value of getting exactly what they want.

Worth Skis
The Humpback

It seems that alpine touring and backcountry equipment is hot, with an evolution in binding offerings that is opening up new terrain to more alpine skiers. This same evolution has driven our own preferences in terrain, and is at the heart of the niche we are looking to fill in the marketplace.

What are the most popular sizes, dimensions or camber/rocker configs that people are buying?

Jason: Currently the Daily Bread (135-98-120) and Humpback (140-109-122) are our most popular models. In terms of build options, people seem drawn to our carbon blend layup paired with our Response Core. As a person of substantial tonnage myself, I prefer the Power core, but even that depends on the model and purpose.

I use The George in a 178 Response/carbon build for all kinds of terrain. I generally ride bigger skis (185s or 192s), but that ski is an absolute hoot in the woods and soft snow, and skis well even on hardpack. Differences in construction make for totally different experiences. That ski is surfy and surprisingly poppy, with lots of playful energy for such a big ski. But get on the George in the Power core, fiberglass build in the 185, and it’s a totally different animal. Big, solid, fast and stable, the Power core 185 is an agile freight train with a little bit of rocker.

What are your goals for ski production?

Dalton: We anticipate selling 100 pairs in our first full season of production next year. We want to grow beyond that, but at this moment, our goal is to stay small enough so that customers have a direct working relationship with the owners of Worth Skis.

Describe your relationship with Praxis.

Adrian: When we first started thinking about starting a ski company, we looked at the costs and time involved in setting up our own production facility. In addition to the large sums it would take to set up the kind of shop we need, we would need time, lots of time, to develop our production processes and test constructions to ensure the highest level of quality.

We chose to focus on ski design and have contracted Praxis to produce our work. Keith O’Meara at Praxis helps us spec out core and layup options to meet our design goals. Keith is an eastern born skier and a great resource because he understands our goals.

By working with Praxis, we’ve bypassed the pitfalls of small scale manufacturing. Praxis production quality is second to none. We focus on creating our designs and building our business, not on trying to build a ski that doesn’t fall apart.

Jason: We’re currently working with local Vermont craftsmen to bring some of our prototyping and eventually, some of our production to Vermont. We don’t anticipate replacing our relationship with Praxis, but augmenting it. In the next few years we will unveil a new line within the Worth brand, called the Green Line, that will offer up skis built in Vermont with Vermont wood. Our first model in this line is in development, and we are working with a local craftsman on a prototype. It will have a maple core.

Sweet. Are there dangers or downsides to going directly to consumers without using a dealer network? Can you imagine a scenario where select dealers could work for you?

Adrian: Limited access to customers is the downside. We’re establishing relationships with a few key retail and demo centers regionally to get some access to their customer base. Our cost structure doesn’t allow us to sell skis at wholesale to retailers and make any margin, so these are essentially marketing partnerships for us.

What do you do to assure customers you’ll stand behind your product?

Another advantage to sourcing our production with Praxis is that our product is backed by an established builder. If a ski were to fail due to a manufacturer’s defect and could not be repaired to as-it-was condition, it would be replaced in our next production run.

What has surprised you about the ski business?

Jason: I’ve been surprised and pleased at the response we are getting. People want to support a local company that understands their needs. They’re excited to be part of the design process, spec’ing their own ski, at a price that is in line with mass-produced, off-the-shelf product.

Worth Product Testing • photo courtesy Chris Nelson

What do you think would surprise the public most about Worth?

I don’t think anyone would envision our spare bedroom as the headquarters of a ski company. We really are that small. Our “tech rep” is my brother — he’s helping us out because he likes the work. Our business phone number is my cell. We’re grassroots, we feel we’ve already accomplished a lot, and we are optimistic about the future of our company.

I love talking about ski design and construction on lift rides. The conversations that spring from those interactions are filled with all of the reasons we love this sport. We are skiers, we built this company for skiers, and we love meeting other passionate skiers.

For more on Worth Skis:

21 comments on “Worth Skis, Middlebury VT

  1. I had been planning on stopping by Smuggs for their demo day earlier this year. The dimensions on the Daily Bread look perfect for my needs. Ultimately, I passed on that demo day due to the price of the skis. I figured I was better off not knowing how they skied because I wasn’t willing to pay that much. I had no idea they are sourcing skis from Praxis with custom specs and designs. It certainly explains the high price tag.

    Looking forward to seeing what they do with that Green Line once things pick up. Even though these are out of my price range, I have been following Worth with interest and I look forward to seeing what they do.

    BTW- What’s up with the pink bases?

  2. Hey Steve,

    We will have demos on sale and pre order prices as well. That being said if you compare to other custom design companies and even some other non custom indy brands we are on the lower end of the spectrum for sure.

    We will be at Sugar Bush this saturday, stop by and say Hi!

  3. I still owe the Worth guys some feedback on my experience with my Daily Breads from the beta production run, but the short version is that they have more than met my expectations. With the exception of one day at Plattekill, I’ve been on them every weekend at Magic in every possible eastern snow condition….except powder! I was away for the 1 (one!) big dump 2 weeks ago. I’m on the response core, standard layup 185s, with my midsole about 1cm forward of the marked mounting position. I find they need a certain amount to speed to really wake up and have been rock solid on hardpack and chopped up crud, rip up soft groomers and were a blast on last Sunday’s soft cream cheese. I'll be up at the Bush on Saturday and look for you guys to say hi. I post as GetAmped over on TGR if anyone has questions for me.

  4. skimore: We haven’t published weights just yet, as we want a larger sample to be sure we have good data. After our next production run in late April we will have enough data points to feel good about posting average weights. But if it helps, I weighed our 185cm Humpbacks in the Power core (heavier of the two) with the carbon blend layup at 4.2lbs per ski.

  5. Steve: The pink bases are sort of our bat signal. They do get noticed, but they also serve a very practical purpose. Ever lose your ski in deep snow? The pink makes it MUCH easier to find (Dalton can speak to this from experience!). As for pricing, MAP on a Blizzard Cochise is $749, the same price as our fiberglass layup build. Sure, carbon adds another $100, but you’re also getting a ski hand built for you to your specs. You can’t find that on any retail store shelf, and certainly not for the same price as the rack skis. Sure, there will be a LOT of great skis on sale this spring, but again, comparing custom-built to your specs to an off-the-shelf ski is almost apples to oranges. Or better yet, Kobe beef to supermarket shelf steak on sale. Nobody I know buys Kobe beef every day, but once? Because you deserve it? You bet you do…
    😉

  6. Sweet interview, Harv!

    My GF really dug the Marcy’s at the Snow Bowl and I really want to get her a pair. They really stepped up her game. I understand the argument that 7 private lessons would be a better investment than a $700 ski, but she was so much more comfortable on the ice and steeps with the more “Serious” ski than her softer skinny girl skis.

    I’ve recommended Praxis over the years to everyone that has asked me about them, whereas with my other skis I’ve almost felt embarrassed at times when people would ask me about them because I didn't want to “represent” them.
    looking forward to being able to do the same with Worth’s sometime.

    Pink bases: I do like them but say I preferred neon yellow or black is that an option? I really like yellow, hint hint.

    Worth Skis = Treat Yo Self:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsABTmT1_M0

  7. On our next run, a customer requested black bases, so yes, they can be spec’d to your preference! On our Green line, the bases will be spec’d bright green…

  8. Some bright vermont strong green bases would be an excellent alternative to the pink. But yes I tossed a ski hopping an ice fall in the notch during the big storm, ski shot down the hill as did my dreams of a deep pow day. 100 yards later the ski was there pink bases acting as a tractor beam
    😉

  9. Great article. I agree with Steve…just can’t justify spending so much on a ski. Especially since most of my skiing is in the woods and this year, on a lot of thin cover, dodging rocks. I’d hate to trash a super expensive pair of skis. I usually buy my skis on sale the next year to save some money.

    I own the Volkl Gotama and the Line Prophet 100s. The Prophets are my go-to eastern ski. It really does it all and is super fun to ski. The Gotama is only really great in powder and is what I usually take out west with me. When there isn&’t powder the Goat just isn’t as fun as the Prophet. I've skied 40 days this season and only skied the Goats once. I left them home when I went to Tahoe, but that’s because there was no new snow in the forecast. The Prophets are not only my favorite all time ski, but I have a number of friends who agree.

    I'd like to see how the Worth skis compare to the two models I have.

  10. Powderqueen: I did some testing on and helped LINE develop the Prophet line from a retailer perspective, when they were first building the model line from the Assassin series. I worked hard to convince Jay Levinthal that the 100 was a viable category and model, and that it would outsell the (now defunct) Prophet 80. I owned an early pre-production P100 and it is a ski I know well and love. It is also generally pretty darn rugged, or at least mine were (Quebec made). That said, I would put a Praxis-built ski up against anything out there for durability. We ski woods almost EXCLUSIVELY. When I am on trail, it is only between woods runs. We design our skis and spec our builds for that kind of use. And for what it’s worth, MAP on a P100 isn’t much different from our fiberglass build, and ours aren’t made in China! no disrespect to LINE, I’m a current and longtime fan, and consider Jay Levinthal a friend. But as for value, well, we think we have something to offer!

  11. Goreskimom: Give me a call! (802) 989-1618 We are booking a production run for April now, which may be our only production slot between now and next December/January. We would love to hook you up!

  12. We have a good friend who swears by the prophet 100 and 90 for the last 5 years and he skied our the DB and the hump back 3 weeks ago and now said he finally has found a replacement for his prophets. He could not believe how much he was in love with the DB.

  13. Yea, I get the semi-custom and carbon thing influencing pricing. Like I said, it makes a lot more sense with Praxis making the boards as well. I wasn’t saying it wasn’t on par with the competition. I just don't see the extra value personally, but I am sure other people will. I have never paid more than $400 for a pair of skis and I landed my favorite pair used for $200. It is just hard to justify.

    But that is just make take. I totally get the reasons for the price and I am sure it is on par with other companies for what is being offered. Wasn’t meant as a negative comment, just a personal observation on why I didn’t even bother trying a demo.

  14. Steve: No worries, it wasn’t negative at all. Just a good opportunity for us to talk about what makes us different! I hope you will demo a pair at some point (or several!), we love to get feedback on the shapes and builds from as many skiers as we can.

  15. Oh, and be sure to check out Stride- the Wright Foundation for Female Athletes. One of the first organizations we are supporting through our Worthy Cause program, Stride is pairing girls with mentors to improve lives through sports and community connection. They are making a difference in the lives of women and girls…they are a Worthy Cause!Find out more about our Worthy Cause program at our website, on our Worthy Life blog (click the link with this post)!

  16. I’ve been skiing the Prophet 90s for quite a few years and the power core 185 DBs are to my mind a significant upgrade in all conditions. I greatly enjoyed the Georges in deep snow (and would consider them for a multi-quiver) but the DBs were more versatile and quite frankly, I did not feel as if I was missing much in the pow. I have been saying for a number of years that the Prophet 90s were the best skis I've been on but the Daily Breads have changed my perspective.

  17. Powderqueen – you sound like a ripping skier. Hope we get out in some powder next year! btw: what lengths are you skiing those sticks in? Do you feel like the p100s and Goats overlap at all?

  18. Well, I can keep up with the boys! But you won’t find this ole lady huckin big drops. I ski the 165cm Prophet and the 178cm Gotama. There is some overlap but the Goat is really my big mtn/powder ski. Sadly I only used them once this season. The Prophet does well in everything and I particularly love them in eastern trees. They also hold edge nicely on eastern hard pack and rip groomers comfortably for a ski if that girth. The Goats are burly for tight trees and kinda suck in bumps. While the Prophets are a tad stiff for bumps I am able to work them just fine. The Goats have the early rise so the are much floatier and the Prophets ski deeper but still shred powder anyway. I got the Goats so I could ski western big mountain powder with greater ease. My western ski pals all ski big rockered skis so I needed that ski to keep up. Now I’m contemplating a bigger fully-rockered ski for next year’s powder pig outs. I tried the Rossi S7 and loved them. Hope to demo more skis before I buy.

  19. PQ – totally agree with that assessment. I’ve owned both in the past few years (older ones, both without rocker). I got rid of the p100s, despite the superior edge hold I had no need for them and preferred the surfier feel of the goats in fresh anyway. But, they have my only non at bindings on them so I might give them a try at the old plattekill bump contest this weekend (unless Laz can rent me some skinnys!!!)

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