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Steamboat Magazine

License to Carve

11/29/2021 12:04PM ● By Dan Greeson

Bill Best, Peter Daley Sr. and Peter Daley Jr. | Photo courtesy of Northland Skis

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO – The Northland Skis logo harkens back to a time when craftsmanship, simplicity and attention to detail were synonymous with ski manufacturing. A group of Steamboat Springs ski-makers is hard at work to bring that spirit back.

Founded in 1911 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Northland Skis reigned as the largest ski company in the world during the 1920s and ‘30s. Throughout the decades leading up the ‘60s, Northlands were the ski of choice for numerous champions, including Toni Matt, Penny Pitou and Stein Eriksen. During this time, many championships on Howelsen Hill were won on Northlands, and the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division had their skis supplied exclusively by Northland. The brand rode high until a series of factory fires and the evolution of laminated skis led to Northland being sold to Larson Industries in the late ‘60s. The company closed its doors in 1970, and the brand faded into obscurity...

...That is, until Steamboat Springs local Peter Daley revived Northland Skis in 2013, buying the name and original logos. He converted his garage into a workshop, hand-crafting skis and selling early builds largely through word-of-mouth.

Daley’s son, Peter Daley Jr., fell in love with the Northlands during a college break in 2013. “I came back for Christmas and I was like, ‘What the hell are these?’” he says. “I was looking for something more backcountry-oriented at the time, and I couldn’t find anything else that was comfortable, so I jumped on these. The biggest thing I noticed was the reliability and dependability. I never looked back from there.” Daley Jr. would go on to join the Northland team as head of manufacturing.

In 2020, Bill Best joined the Daleys to enhance Northland’s business development strategies. A former competitor with the U.S. Ski Team, Best knows his skis. “I believed so much in their potential, I moved here to be a part of their brand,” he says. In recent months, Northland brought Will Stewart and Chris Bell on board to support the brand’s evolving ski engineering and production needs.

In 2021, Northland inked a deal with ski retailer Gorsuch, taking the next step in growing the company. Moving forward, the Northland team will continue to sell directly to customers in Steamboat Springs, with the possibility of creating a local retail business in the future.

“There’s no gimmick with this ski,” Daley Jr. says. “There’s a certain inherency between each pair. If you were blindfolded, you could tell that you were skiing on Northlands. I would say that the word ‘lively’ best describes the feel.”

The Northland team hopes to create a ski that does away with the need for constant replacements and upgrades. “Our goal is to be a standard. We want retailers not to constantly have to sellout stock to make room for new products. It’s become common for people to have quivers of skis even though they all ski very similar,” Daley Sr. says.

The simplicity and focus in Northland’s collection speaks to the confidence they have in their design. “We believe in the ski enough that we’re making the ski the same each time,” Best says. “At the core, we’ll continue making the same ski. This is the classic.”

The Northland team’s goal with what they’ve created is versatility not only in terms of terrain, but also skill-level. “There’s no top-end – everyone from advanced intermediates to world cup ski racers – the skis do a lot of the work for you,” Best says.

“People tell me, ‘Those are beautiful skis,’” Daley Sr. says. “And I say, ‘They ski a lot better than they look.’”

While modern trends lean toward wide, rockered skis, Northlands feature a narrow waist of 78-80 mm and a radius of 11-13 m. When paired with a lively camber and dramatic side-cut, Northlands are specialized to carve in a variety of conditions. The narrower the ski, Daley Sr. explains, the less energy the skier needs to put in to generate an energetic bounce out of a turn. “Our core goal will always be there – the ability to carve,” Daley Sr. says.

The process of redesigning the Northland ski was one of repeated trial and error, experimenting with a variety of ski shapes and materials. While shape plays a large role, Daley Jr. is quick to note that the materials are where the magic happens. “The materials give these skis that liveliness and springiness,” he says. The top layer of the ski comprises ribbon-striped African mahogany with a core of pine, ash and hickory that gives dampening, poppiness and springiness. A layer of Kevlar helps with dampening and a layer of carbon enhances rebound and torsional performance. Fiberglass adds stiffness and torsional stability. Collectively these are laminated with a metal edge, creating an advanced carving ski.

The Northland wood core extends out to the edges of the ski rather than being limited to the middle. Each pair of skis is cut from one piece of wood, ensuring that properties like the density and flex are evenly balanced between skis.

The ski manufacturing process can be tricky, as Daley Jr. knows better than anyone. “We make our skis completely in SteamboatSprings – every step of the manufacturing. It’s a truly handcrafted ski,” he says. “ And there are complexities throughout the process that require extra attention to detail so that it’s done right for every pair made. That’s the hardest part.”

But Daley Sr. disagrees about the most difficult part of making Northlands. “The real hardest part of the process is coming down off the mountain,” he says, laughing.

Learn more about Northland Skis at