“This year is our real initial launch into the market,” said 28-year-old Joel Nashett. “This is the first year we’re really selling skis. I’m not saying we’re going to take off this year, but we’re hoping to gain exposure.”
Nashett and his childhood friend Ben Callaghan, who both grew up on Upper Saranac Lake, have been making skis since they were in college. The driving force for production came from Callaghan’s requirement for a senior exhibition show to earn his bachelor of fine arts degree at Alfred University.
The idea was in place, but it became a reality when Nashett added his master of business administration degree in mechanical engineering from the University at Buffalo. He helped his friend design, build and present a pair of skis in a matter of six months.
Now, after several years of research and development, the pair is hoping to sell skis on the open market under the brand name Avant skis. The series they are launching is called Aviator and features twin tip, carbon composite, all-mountain skis. They have three ski sets: Ace, Bomber and Wasp.
Callaghan, who is 26, classifies the skis as advanced all-mountain skis, but he says they are more lightweight than most because they are made with carbon composites. They are also made of traditional sandwich construction and have a solid wood core.
Both men have been working on the skis in their free time. Callaghan works full time as a graphic designer at a company named Fathom, which specializes in marketing and website design, while Nashett works as a market development engineer at a company named Henkels, which among other things, specializes in adhesive technologies. Both men live in Hartford, Conn. although they still spend time in the Adirondacks.
Both men share responsibilities because Avant is a small company, but each takes the lead in their respective fields. Callaghan handles most of the designing, aesthetics, marketing and website design while Nashett develops tools, builds ski presses and is in charge of much of the manufacturing end. The testing is done almost exclusively in the Adirondacks .
“We almost exclusively ski up there, especially Whiteface Mountain and Big Tupper,” Nashett said. “Those are the only two ski mountains that we ski at, unless we go out west to Colorado or anywhere else out there.”
Because they ski so much in the Adirondacks, it has influenced the design of their Aviator series, especially the model they call Ace, which costs about $800.
“It’s one of those skis you can put on almost every single day of the year, and it’s the ideal ski for the day because the mountain’s never the same,” Nashett said about the Ace. “These skis are really the jack of all trades.”
Callaghan agreed the skis are made for skiing the Northeast.
“The big trend now is to have super crazy wide skis, which is great when there is waist deep powder, but for the east and even 90 percent of the conditions out west, they are kind of overkill sometimes,” Callaghan said. “So people usually have a wide ski and a skinny ski, so I’d say ours fit somewhere in between. Its wide enough for powder, especially in the east, and it can also ski really well in groomers and mixed crude.”
The challenge for the ski makers is to find businesses to distribute their skis. Right now, they are available for sale on Avant’s website, but Callaghan and Nashett have yet to make a hard push to get stores to sell them, although they have started to test the waters.
“The market is definitely big enough,” Nashett said. “It’s whether we can get people out of the nontraditional, big brand skis and into the nontraditional market that is emerging here.”
For more information about Avant skis, visit the website at avantskis.com'>avantskis.com.
Photo courtesy of Avant skis
Ben Callaghan waits to drop a cliff at Whiteface Mountain using the Aviator Ace ski that he and his business partner Joel Nashett developed.