Welcome to Upstarts and Underdogs. This monthly column aims to showcase both up-and-coming brands and brands that have been quietly operating outside the spotlight. Arguably, these companies are shaping the future of skiing—and protecting its culture and soul.
The story behind Batalla is distinctly American—but the passion that fuels the company is universal. Making its debut this season, the brand is the brainchild of a group of friends who drop everything to spend their winters on the snow.
TJ Lackey, the company’s co-founder and president, first learned to ski on family trips to New Mexico and Colorado. Even during his time in the military—where he spent ten years in the armed forces—he found time to sneak off to the mountains. Since becoming a civilian, he’s kept busy ski bumming with his friend Kyle Fox, who serves as Batalla’s vice president and a cofounder of the brand.
Ready for battle
During the summer and fall, Lackey and Fox bust their asses working so they can spend their winters skiing. Lackey runs a feed store and farms hay while Fox plies his trade in landscape design and construction. Last winter, the duo bounced between Taos, Wolf Creek, and Durango, developing Batalla and testing and refining the brand’s prototypes. Lucky for them, the launch of Batalla now ensures that skiing can also be defined as “working.” We caught up with Lackey to learn more about Batalla, its debut team of heavy hitters, and what he and Fox hope to contribute to skiing.
What’s the story behind Batalla?
Well, Batalla is a mindset. The word Batalla is Spanish for battle. It may be getting through life's daily struggles or it may be fighting down a wicked run that you've never ridden with one goal in mind: get down it alive so you can do it again. Living to the extreme is not limited to one aspect of your life. It is a way of thinking, but more importantly doing. We wanted to create a ski company with that concept in mind and cater to that lifestyle, with products and customer service that the elite athlete deserves.
What can you tell us about your skis? Why should I spend my summers mowing lawns and donating plasma in order to snag a pair?
Why would you spend your hard earned money on anything but a quality ski handcrafted here in the states? Our skis are sandwich construction. They’re pressed together with a state of the art press designed by Epic Planks engineer Joe Crawley that ensures equal pressure is applied to all points of the ski. Our molds and cassettes are machined aluminum. All skis sport a poplar core, maple stringers, poured polyurethane sidewalls, and Dura surf 4001 sintered, diecut bases. The Park Reapers and Spriggs Pro have 2.5mm thicker edge and base to shrug off rock and rail strikes. Aside from the topsheets, which come from Austria, our skis use all American-made products.
Crafted by Epic Planks and featuring graphics by Lou Currie, Batalla's debut line-up is super crisp
In the midst of a sea of microbrew companies, what makes Batalla different?
There are a lot of great ski companies out there with a lot of really fine products. We are absolutely stoked to be involved in the ski industry and have been blown away at how our presence has been so openly accepted within the ski community. As for what makes us different . . . Attitude . . . We grew up cutting grass, bagging leaves and waiting tables to buy the things we wanted, and as adults we still bust our asses to fund our passions. We fully understand and appreciate the value of a hard-earned dollar. When we decided to dive into this industry, we wanted to make sure that we created an affordable ski that would hold up to the abuse of a Batalla rider.
The brand's roots are both on the farm and in the mountains
Where can folks find your skis—are you selling direct or partnering with select shops?
Right now we are selling our skis directly through our website (www.batallaskis.com). We only made a limited run of skis for this season, but we are planning on partnering with shops around the world as time goes on. We would ultimately like to keep our production line limited to certain numbers each year so that we can continue to focus on quality products for elite athletes and still maintain our promise of real customer service.
What made you decide to partner with Epic Planks in Michigan for production?
We researched numerous companies and looked at their construction methods, materials used, and the manufacturer country of origin. Then after knocking out the companies that outsourced production to foreign countries we were left with a handful of American companies to choose from. Out of those, Epic Planks was one of the few companies that was willing to help us turn our design concepts into a reality. They have a great work ethic and solid customer service that melds with our idea of how things should be run.
Batalla takes pride in its commitment to domestic manufacturing--Epic Planks crafts the brand's skis in Michigan
Batalla is a member of the USA Colab, a trade organization that just launched to promote American-made skis and snowboards. What attracted you to the organization? What do you hope it accomplishes?
It was a natural choice for us. There was a time when Made in the USA meant something. Corporate greed compromised American jobs, customer service, and overall product quality for financial gains. We are passionate about our cause, and we have a commitment to our customers to keep quality high and prices affordable. We hope that working with the USA Colab will help shed light on the fact that there are a lot of great companies here in the states that are committed to producing great products.
Cofounder TJ Lackey
Batalla makes its formal debut this winter. So far, what have been the greatest challenges and opportunities in building a brand from scratch?
For us, all of our challenges associated with building a brand from scratch—like brand identity, finding pro riders, advertisement, product, and graphic design—have only become opportunities. Opportunities to meet and work with some of the most gifted and talented people that we have ever had the privilege to work with. Even though it is hard work it has been so far the most fun!
When not landscaping or working on Batalla, Kyle Fox dreams of winter
You guys are definitely making your debut with a stacked team—Mike Cappola, Jordan Clarke, Mike Urich, and John Spriggs. What was your philosophy when assembling this crew?
Simple, we had four designs in mind when we started this project: all mountain, the park, the powder ski, and a big mountain ski. Once we had our designs in mind we needed to find riders that could fully utilize the potential of our product. Bill Wanrooy of Epic Planks helped connect us with promising riders that shared the Batalla mindset. We have Mike Urich our park master and team captain riding the Park Reaper, powder annihilating beast Jordan Clarke on the Pow King, our all mountain aerial specialist Mike Cappola on the All Mountain Twins, and the big man himself John Spriggs on the Big Mountain Spriggs Pro. We are excited to announce that we have an equally strong European team of diverse riders to be announced later this season.
Between filming with TGR and developing a pro model with Batalla, John Spriggs keeps busy
As Spriggs films with us, we’re perhaps a little biased in claiming him. How did you connect with John and what can you tell us about his work in designing a pro model with you?
Bill Wanrooy told us about this kid who embodied the Batalla mindset from start to finish. Go big or go home!! After a little bit of negotiation we reached a mutual agreement; we were a good fit. As far as the design of the Spriggs model, we were stoked to work with him. We initially came to him with a big mountain concept and he took our model and added some Spriggs flair to it, increasing overall dimensions, adding rocker to the tail, camber, early tip and tail rise. He also was influential in the topsheet graphics.
What are you guys cooking up for this winter?
Filming, Filming, Filming. We are the major sponsors for a webisode called R.T. weekends. We are also cosponsors with Epic Planks in the Beastcoast webisode series. And we are working on a project with Vexum clothing to showcase fresh, up-and-coming talent. On the R&D side of the house, we will be working on a women's model all mountain ski and smaller versions of our current line. We will be riding several mountains this season in Colorado and we welcome all to come shred with us and hang out. We're also putting on a few park series contests with Under Armour and other local businesses in the Pennsylvania area so follow the Batalla Skis Facebook page for more info.
John Spriggs shows why he's worthy of that Batalla pro-model
What do you love the most about what you do?
What’s not to love? We have met some of the most extreme and talented individuals in the world. We have been able to pursue our greatest passion, and we get to share it with like-minded people.
Now it's time for the other side of the story. People love to romanticize owning a ski company. After all, chasing storms is way more appealing than talking about spreadsheets. What are some of the harsh realities of owning a ski company?
One of the worst realities about owning a ski co, in particular, is telling kids that are asking for sponsorship, “ I'm sorry I can't sponsor you at this time”, which I absolutely hate. But you can't sponsor everyone and I would love to be able to give everyone who wants sponsorship a full deal, but that’s not reality.
Spriggs is somewhere in there--we promise
In lieu of sponsoring every kid who approaches Batalla, what do you hope to contribute to skiing?
We hope to bring together like-minded individuals and give them an avenue to tell us what kind of products they are looking for and then fill those little gaps. We also want to help expose new talent and do what we can do to get them noticed. We have a passion for the industry and intend to expand beyond ski products. We are very interested in film and hope to bring some cool footage to the world—and all the while helping expand the revolution of American-made commerce. We also plan on heading up community events that give back—whether it be planting trees, picking up litter off our highways, or planting community gardens. We want to give back to the earth and help preserve our world for the next ones to come.
Anything else you would like to share?
So the elephant in the room: yes, we are from South Texas. We have already caught some flack for it. We have one response. Watch Cool Runnings. Our work dictates that we live in Texas for the majority of the year (April through November). But we work hard so that we can spend the winters ski bumming with you fine people.
To learn more about Batalla, drop into www.batallaskis.com
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