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EVL Skis Unveils Product Line

Made of wood, fiberglass, East Coast badassery and victory juice; available exclusively at The City Garage

After an encounter with ski instructor Oliver Blackman at Smuggler’s Notch during the winter of 2014-15, local Ellicottville couple Melanie Mitchell and Wade Knott started discussing the idea of designing and building their own skis. Oliver jumped cliffs with Wade and showed Melanie how to find that “playful line” through some truly gnarly terrain – and he did it on skis he made in his garage.

Oliver also inspired Melanie to stop taking her carvers into the trees; his homemade skis were wider and far more appropriate for the difficult terrain they were skiing. Their experience with him, coupled with a few more years of freeskiing, inevitably led to the birth of EVL Skis: A line of skis made for East Coast skiers who do most of their adventuring below the tree line and in less-than-ideal conditions.

THE BRAINS BEHIND THE BUSINESS

Both passionate about skiing and always looking for the next new ski, Melanie serves as the designer and builder, while Wade serves as the primary ski tuner and hardcore ski tester. Melanie says, “I tell people that I make the skis, then he makes them great.” The steel for their first press was ordered in May of 2017 without the intent of making skis as a business.

It wasn’t until they started receiving a wealth of positive feedback from people who tested their skis and a boatload of enthusiasm and support from the local ski community that they decided to go to market this year. Naturally, The City Garage (CG) was a perfect fit to handle their local demos.

“We were featured in the CG tent during Holiday Valley’s Demo Day in December with our first two production models, the Skwerl 98 and POWSplosion 108. We had five pair of demos available with alpine or tele bindings for folks to try; it was a great day,” says Melanie, “We’ll definitely do it again.”

You can now find EVL Skis for sale on The City Garage showroom floor. According to Trey Clauss, CG Team Leader, “These are skis, made in a ski town, by people that love to ski!” Several pair are currently available for demos and others are available for purchase.

PRODUCTION MODELS

Skwerl 98 – This original model was designed off a wish list of qualities Melanie and Wade wanted in a ski for what they call “East Coast tree skiing” – dropping through tight, steep terrain, playfully sliding around berms and dodging obstacles, and usually in sketchy conditions. Although they’ve made major improvements to how they manufacture skis since then, they haven’t managed to improve on this already-awesome original design. Skwerl 98 is crazy fun in the trees and pretty much everywhere else, too.

“We knew they had to be really nimble, twin tipped, wide enough for variable snow conditions, early rise for riding over obstacles, long enough to provide stability, but short enough to maneuver in tight trees, a LOT of rocker in the front and back to help with maneuverability, a relatively short turn radius, sharp edges underfoot … a lot of thought went into that design,” Melanie says.

POWSplosion 108 – Making skis that were similar in shape but wider was a no-brainer for days we get a serious lake-effect storm. “Our POWSplosion 108 is so much fun for whomping into the hidden stashes of powder that collects in the trees and the troughs between bumps that we call them our ‘Weapons of Stash Destruction,’” says Melanie.

What’s great is these also make the piles of heavy wet snow we get during the thaws a lot of fun to ski. POWSplosion 108 combines significant tip and tail rocker with a cambered mid-section. According to Melanie, they’re still nimble enough to take into the trees but just have a different feeling than the Skwerls.

PRODUCTION PROCESS

Any idea how long it takes to make a pair of skis, start to finish? You guessed it – a long time. Melanie and Wade make a combination of stock and custom skis in small batches of 5-8 pairs, with a total production of about 30-40 pairs per year. Each pair of skis takes about 80 hours of skilled labor to complete. “We’ve streamlined many of the steps in the production process, but we still take the time to do things that we think are important, even though they are too time consuming to do where volume is a greater consideration,” Melanie says.

Ski designs start with CAD drawings for the various components – core shape, core profile (bottom and top), base material shape, finished shape of the ski – and drawings of the molds that will determine the camber and rocker of the final ski profile. Topsheet material, tipfill, graphics elements, rubber film, spools of raw edge material, sidewall material … all must be handled, shaped, and cleaned. They work locally with Fitzpatrick and Weller to source and laminate their wood.

Next, their CNC machine cuts the material that they assemble into molds, and shapes wood and plastic into ski components. Everything goes into their heated, pneumatic press, and is carefully aligned and stacked in the right order with epoxy and composite materials, like fiberglass, carbon fiber, etc. After a process controller heats everything up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit and lets it soak until the epoxy is cured, the press is opened and out comes a pair of skis.

“Trimming and finishing the skis after they come out of the press takes just as much time as shaping the materials before they go in. Edges must be freed from excess epoxy, bases ground flat, and sidewalls shaped,” says Melanie. “Finally the skis head to Wade’s workshop, where he bevels the edges, sharpens them, they get appropriately detuned, and finally spend a couple of days getting reheated and soaking in the ‘hot room’ for optimal base conditioning, before a final coat of glide wax is applied.”

MORE ON MELANIE AND WADE

Melanie and Wade have both been skiing since elementary school; Wade had the advantage of growing up in Newfane, New York, and learned to ski at HoliMont. On the contrary, Melanie lived in warmer climates until she moved to Ellicottville in 2010; she’s been an avid skier ever since. In 2013, Wade joined Melanie, and as she says, “the serious ski-nerdery began.” They soon started collecting various types of skis and tried to figure out how they worked.

Last year, Wade participated in five International Freeskiing Competitions, and exceeded his goal of “not coming in last.” He was fourth at Mad River Glen and sixth at Stowe against competitors Melanie says were, significantly younger. “I don’t jump off the cliffs on purpose; when he does it, I tell everyone, ‘That’s my boyfriend!’” They are both currently members of the HoliMont Safety Patrol.

For more information on EVL Skis, swing by The City Garage at 5 Monroe Street in Ellicottville. Several pair are available for demo and others are available for purchase. Check out evlskis.com, email info@evlskis.com, or call 716-550-1215.