Riders, Artist, Musicians, Projects - RAMP Sports Ramps Up
By Brigid Mander | October 18th, 2012
In 2010, a new player – RAMP Sports – stepped into a ski production arena full of small, athlete-driven boutique brands like Armada and 4FRNT, not to mention traditional industry powerhouses. The founding dreamer of RAMP (Riders Artists Musicians Project) was not an X-Games star, but 32-year veteran of the ski industry, Mike Kilchenstein. And apparently, it hasn’t taken long for RAMP’s literally bulletproof skis to start stealing some of the spotlight.
Filling a Park City, Utah, factory with domestically-sourced and produced skis and strict green business practices, RAMP has incorporated aeronautics technology to help make a better board by employing the same technique as composite helicopter blade production.
Kilchenstein’s plan was to create an innovative company that leads by example with a business model that people can be proud of – as well as make boards that the best in the world can shred on. Now not yet two years old, RAMP sports a roster decorated with names like Charles Gagnier, Lindsey Jacobellis, Jess Cumming and Micah Black, as well as a few rock stars and Hollywood names lending support. It’s not a bad showing for an under-the-radar newcomer.
While RAMP’s athletes and team say the skis are incredible to ride, it just may be not only its use of aeronautics engineering, but the commitment to domestic sourcing, made in the USA ethics, and adhering to professed values on green business that has caught a lot of attention. We decided to let Kilchenstein have the platform, to clear the air and explain his company and its product.
RAMP Sports founder Mike Kilchenstein.
We’ve employed vacuum molding technology at our factory, and the new process cleaner and more efficient. But we use more expensive components to make our product better – so we sell direct in order to get the margin we need. Our cores cost three times as much as the standard, Kevlar is seven times the costs of fiberglass, and we use higher quality, US-sourced pine resins, not petrochemical-based ones.
A full-layer of Kevlar is being used on the boards this season. We tested many US-made composites; Kevlar resists stretching much more than fiberglass, and provides much more energy and rebound, and absorbs vibration 8 times better than fiberglass.
We use Forest Stewardship Council-certified, domestic bamboo cores, which are nearly four times as hard as the industry standard of poplar. The cores are expensive, but enhance performance – they have that rock solid feel you get from metal GS skis, but ours will still bend while freeskiing.
In traditional press molding, the layers of the ski are squashed down at four atmospheres of pressure against a camber plate, in unnatural shapes. The vacuum molding process [that RAMP uses] seems to give the product a dramatically bigger sweet spot. What we do uses a quarter of that pressure, but evenly in every direction, not just down, and retains the natural shape. We found the skis are much easier to use, even our very high-performance boards, as they have a much bigger sweet spot.
We went from zero in sales to $135,000 in our first season, which we considered very good, since nobody had ever heard of us and it was all through our website. Last year it didn’t snow much and the industry plummeted, but we still tripled our business. This season, we plan to triple again, and are so far 600 percent ahead to date on consumer orders. People seem really excited about our new product, our factory, and what we stand for.
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