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  1. #1
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    BROs Before Hos - Another BRO Model/PM Gear Article

    A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Splat and his manufacturing partner about the BRO models for the Low Down, a local free magazine published for the Tahoe area out of Truckee. Unfortunately, they don't have room for the article this month, but it will run in February.

    I thought I'd post it here for anyone interested. For those in the area that see the finished product, it may change due to editing by Low Down staff.

    Enjoy.

    **********
    Splat and Ben Harmon at the PM Gear Factory
    Bros Before Hos
    by Lane Meyer

    “Made in Reno” and “custom skis” are not exactly two phrases most would expect to find in the same sentence. Yet over the last few months in a small, dusty north Reno factory, a dedicated group of skiers and snowboarders has been slaving day and night to bring those five words together in reality.

    For the last four months, the PM Gear (“Powder Maggot” – read on) “BRO Models” have been slowly rolling out of the modified single-plank presses at the Slouch Snowboards shop in north Reno. In the true spirit of American ingenuity, a simple idea has coalesced into reality through the hard work and dedication of a small group of entrepreneurs with a clear vision – to build durable, extremely high-performance fat skis for the upper echelons of the skiing world (or those who wish they were that rad….).

    PM Gear started as an idea for a different kind of ski shop offering high-end gear to high-end skiers – a virtual one that exists only on the internet. The concept of PM Gear was birthed on the net by a small sub-group of the larger congregation of driven/psychotic/motivated desk-jockey ski bums (the Powder Maggots) who gather in the chatrooms on the Powder magazine and Teton Gravity Research websites. The Maggots are a surprisingly tight-knit community of ski-obsessed office workers and computer junkies who whittle away their cubicle-dwelling days by hanging out and talking about skiing with each other online. Incredible things have arisen from the virtual community that the Maggots built – annual pilgrimages to skiing Meccas around the US, countless road trips, charity fundraisers, missing-persons searches, and now a virtual ski shop.

    Long time Reno/Tahoe resident and Maggot Pat Keane is one of the principal founders of PM Gear. A perpetual ski bum who’s lived in the area for nine years (this time), Keane spent his younger years bouncing back and forth between the killer surf of O`ahu’s north shore and the steep terrain of Squaw Valley and Kirkwood. Pat was deep into his career as a ski bum long before my parents could even drink alcohol. He’s been not only been around the block a few times, but also traveled the world extensively in search of deep snow, steep descents, and good times.

    Long before the PM Gear Maggots dropped in on making skis, they started out selling gloves, poles, and luggage items hand-selected from a global product pool to be the best, longest lasting items. After a successful run at selling accessories, Pat and his business partners decided (with much input from the rest of the Maggots) that it was time to expand their offering to the ski bum community. Sometime this past summer, after much research and development both on- and offline, they decided to design and build a ripping fat ski for the most advanced skiers in the world.

    Pat and the rest of the Maggots at PM Gear didn’t have to look far to find someone to help them turns their ski-making vision into reality. After a serendipitous chance encounter at Bobo’s Mogul Mouse in Reno, they discovered that there was a small snowboard manufacturing company on the north side of town willing to take on the daunting task of retooling their manufacturing facilities to make two planks instead of just one.

    Enter Ben Harmon, founder and president of Slouch Snowboards, who is also an insanely driven and overcommitted 28 year-old biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate at UNR. Ben grew up in Placerville, ripping Sugar Bowl with his friends, and has been behind the helm of Slouch for six years.

    I recently sat down with Pat and Ben to chat about PM Gear and the BRO model skis. It hasn’t been an easy road for Ben, Pat, or PM Gear. But in the end, after numerous designs, redesigns, trips to Hood and Las Lenas in Argentina, they seem to have stuck their design as the fruits of their labor are rolling off the presses drippingly sweet.


    Chris Cowell, VP of Marketing, builds a pair of BROs
    What styles of boards do you make?

    Ben - We have 20 models.
    How many models of skis?

    Ben - Just one - the PM Gear BRO Model.


    Before you guys finalized your design for the BROs, did you go through a couple rounds of testing?


    Pat - A lot of testing.

    Ben - At least 15 probably, maybe 20 rounds.

    Pat – About 15, or at least 10, yeah somewhere in there. I’ve been a little bit involved in making some skis before, but haven’t gotten right into the manufacturing and working with somebody like Ben. I’ve worked on designs, flexes, graphic, and testing prototypes for a European company though.

    How many employees do you have?

    Ben – There’s four total, counting myself. We’ve got Jim, Ryan, myself, and Chris.

    Are you guys confident now in feeling like you nailed your design, and now it’s just a matter of cranking them out?


    Ben – Yeah, the design’s there….

    Pat – the design’s there now. We’ve shipped only 10 pair, but the feedback has been just phenomenal. Whether it’s the soft flex, or the stiff flex, or super-stiff flex, we call the Pro Bro or the Bro Pro, for the guys that just want a stiffer skis. It’s about as stiff as the stiffest skis out there. Everybody that’s ridden all three flexes has just loved them.

    If you had to say in a few sentences what’s different about your skis, why should people buy your skis instead of some of the models made by the other “boutique” ski manufacturers?

    Ben – Well, you can go and buy from a major conglomerate, like a Wal-Mart type ski company like a K2 or someone that just bought Volkl, who owns Marmot, who owns numerous other ski manufacturing facilities, and then most of their stuff is made in China. Not to knock their skis, they make pretty good products, but instead you could support US manufacturing. You can get a higher quality ski for pretty much the same price, unless you’re buying in quantity.

    Pat – In the whole design aspect, we’re really geared to make a ski that is good in every condition. So you won’t feel like you have to run to the car and switch skis when you go skiing. If there’s one pair that you could be confident in grabbing on your way to go skiing that you knew is gonna work on whatever the mountain handed you that day, that the BROs would be those skis. As a startup, we could only afford to go one length, one sidecut. In order to expand on the different kinds of skiers’ capabilities that we’d appeal to, we then came in with the different flexes. Plus, we’re putting in a metal toe-plate for tele bindings to mount on. The kinds of skiers that it was a designed for want to ski deep, to ski aggressively, yet would maybe want to go out and skin all day to go do a peak. And then we’re putting a metal toe plate in the tele, because tele skiers can rip their toe out when they crash, so we’re fitting a stainless steel plate in there.

    Ben – I would think two major stand-out things from a manufacturing standpoint and a product standpoint are that these skis are super light, almost to the point that Pat was complaining that they were too light! And the second problem that most ski manufacturers use are thinner edges and thinner base material, and we applied a lot of snowboard technology – snowboard base material, snowboard edges that are much thicker and used for rails - and a little bit more demand on some of that stuff now, and we applied that to the ski outfit, and we ended up with a ski that is much lighter than the average ski.

    Pat – The skis is durable. These edges and these bases really rule. One of the first things I did when we took a prototype and went to Mt. Hood was ski over thirty feet of rock and took a look at it, and just got my mind blown, the base material is really burl. And the edges are twice as thick as a lot of edges on the market.


    Is that something anyone else is doing?

    Pat – Actually, Ben said he was just talking just the other day with a major ski manufacturer, they said they only put three layers of glass in there, A lot of tele guys rip their toe pieces out.

    Ben – There are these T-bolts, similar to snowboards, which I think that’s eventually what skis are going to have to go to just for the whole “rip-out” problem, but just a couple tele manufacturers use t-bolts, and then a couple of the manufactures that I talked to the other day are using the triple glass.

    Pat – If you’re using a metal ski, then that doesn’t matter that much, you have that metal to lock into. But if you’re going for a light wood and fiberglass ski, then I’m not sure that just the fiberglass alone is enough. And right now the tele skiers are really turned on by the fact that we’re putting a toe plate in. They’re liking the thought of it.


    That’s why I ended up buying Igneous skis back in the day, because they were doing a similar thing, using snowboard edges that were twice as wide and used snowboard base material.

    Pat - Probably the Rockwell 48 edge – the same thing we’re using.

    Ben – We cut apart I don’t know how many pairs of skis with a Skil saw, checked out the edges, the binding mount, just to see what other people re doing
    Last edited by Lane Meyer; 01-04-2005 at 04:27 PM.

  2. #2
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    (part 2)

    So, let’s say money was not an object, were would you see your company in five years? Would you be making different models of skis for different kinds of skiers? Would you be making snowlerblades?

    Pat - I honestly believe there’s a lot of room for a US manufacturer to make a lot of skis, for of whatever varying degrees the market is asking for. No, the profit margin is not near what somebody making skis in Bulgaria or China can make, but, I think there’s room for it, I think there should be a demand for it. Somehow we have to get the US economy back on. But I honestly believe there’s room for a company to do that kind of stuff. Do some innovation. But at the same time there is a big market for somebody to make skis that cost like $7,000. But the cost of the finished product is going to become a governing issue. In the future, I’d love for somebody to form the ski manufacturers of North America association. Let’s bring skiing to the US. There’s enough small ski companies now that have started up, like ski film companies that maybe some concerted effort could really see an advancement of the process.

    Hopefully this won’t happen for you guys - you have all these great ideas, and you’re so motivated, but then you have the business end of things to worry about too. In an ideal world you guys could just design and build and prototype to your heart’s content.

    Pat – Maybe we could get a grant as an artist? (laughs) It’s been a constant improvement being made, not so much in the design itself, but in bringing it all together, the pressing of the skis, we had some the other day where a piece of fiberglass that went over the binding mount went all the way to the edge and it caused the topsheet to lift and flutter a little bit, you know, we trimmed it, a little improvement here, a little there, maybe on where the binding plates are mounted, finessing it into the best possible product.

    If you had to go back and do it all over again, would you?

    Ben – Yeah, I mean, trials tribulation, headaches, whatever, but I’ve learned a lot from this whole process.

    Pat – And if have to, I think I’ve just been so dedicated to this, PM gear is just a little dirtbag ski company, so we used some advance orders to finance the venture, so because of the commitment I have, and a lot of those people are friends of mine that bought just on my word that I would make a killer ski. It’s been very stressful for me. Ben knows this, We have gone many rounds. I’m the guy that needs the skis, he’s the guy making the skis. I’m jumping on his back, he’s jumping on mine, we go back and forth with this. Maybe it’s the nature of the business. Manufacturing meeting marketing demand. When I read a review, I just read one a guy put on the net this afternoon, skied them at Vail, he’s just raving. That is so gratifying, when people are basically saying to me, “God! I can ski any condition! It’s such a light ski, I can’t wait to tour on it, and it; just killed it in the powder.” And when I hear something like that, there’s a lot of gratification, and that’s really what it’s all about.

  3. #3
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    great article, and mad props to all the PM guys that are working so hard to make a great product. nice work all.

  4. #4
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    Splat - your box is full, douche that shit out!!

  5. #5
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    Great article Lane. I much prefer the interview format to the typical PR information dump. Much more interesting to read, IMHO.

  6. #6
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    Smile

    Thanks for your work on this Lane. Much appreciated.
    Waste your time, read my crap, at:
    One Gear, Two Planks

  7. #7
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    Got your cleanout order, sir. I'm vinegar all over again.

    Oh, and, great job on the article. I like that interview format as well.

  8. #8
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    Well, due to flak from McConkey's repeated use of the (gasp!) middle finger the title got changed to "BROs Before Those" (lame) but the article did come out today.

    Bump for everyone that asked before for me to send them a copy in the mail -re-PM me your addresses so I can send them out to you.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for that article LM, nice work!

  10. #10
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    Pat – Actually, Ben said he was just talking just the other day with a major ski manufacturer, they said they only put three layers of glass in there, A lot of tele guys rip their toe pieces out.

    I'm curious who is ripping what toe peices out of what ski?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by likwid
    Pat – Actually, Ben said he was just talking just the other day with a major ski manufacturer, they said they only put three layers of glass in there, A lot of tele guys rip their toe pieces out.

    I'm curious who is ripping what toe peices out of what ski?
    I was wondering that too when this came out. I haven't heard of very many bindings pulling out of skis when there wasn't either a failure in the binding or a problem with the mount job. This was a rampant problem some earlier tele bindings(super loop) but the newer ones normally don't pull out.
    "if the city is visibly one of humankind's greatest achievements, its uncontrolled evolution also can lead to desecration of both nature and the human spirit."
    -- Melvin G. Marcus 1979

  12. #12
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    Teletoe pieces out of fiberglass-beefed mounts. I've seen TeleRob do it to scores of different brands, but I don't feel comfortable naming any one in particular.

    After a lot of testing, we're backing off the stainless steel plate in the mounting area for the people mounting their Bros exclusively tele and sticking to the alpine mount plate. We are using wire mesh that does not affect the wood camber whatsoever. We call this our DoreTech Mounting System and it rules. Any metal (that we know of) countersunk into the wood core for mounting plates tends to deform the camber, and thus the edge, making it a bad component in a ski. It led to significant problems in the first batch of Phantoms we did, which now are getting DoreTech.

    In our typical punning of industry marketing hype, DoreTech is named as such because we couldn't find a metal that would take screws without encasing the core in two sheets of titanal top and bottom. We tried a wire mesh similar to that used on screen doors, countersunk in a bed of resin with an extra layer of glass on top of it. Worked like a freakin dream and -alas, DoreTech was born!


    edit: punctuation/sp.

  13. #13
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    I see that the BRO brain trust has come up with a good idea and a good solution to implement the idea once again. Congrats. Splat from the article ( and this could be my small bit of understanding on the situation) I could feel a bit of tension between you and Ben and it seems there is a difference of opinions in the success of the fabricating process. Is this in there or am I reading in?
    Move along nothing to see here.

  14. #14
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    just curious... is the an email for Ben Harmon that I can reach him at. i knew him from years ago when he was just starting to make boards and startup Slouch. would love to try and reconnect with him....

  15. #15
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    So has he ripped "tele-norm inserts" out of skis yet?

    Considering there's currently atleast 2 companies that do this, names don't need to be named.

  16. #16
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    chili- pm sent.

    likwid - not that I know of, Rob's healing a broken leg right now, skiing alpine on one ski . But Rob and I did a piece for Powder a long time ago on inserting tbolts into skis for tele bindings that had been ripped out of skis. Inevitably, he broke those skis at the insert locations, but that was a rather crude retrofit done in Pancake's garage in Fernie with a drill, hammer and chisel.

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