05 Jan 2014

Photos and article: Tennille Barber

The art picked for the stock topsheets on Bigbend skis employs the talents of a local artist that many may not have heard of but that has secretly been beautifying ads or banners in Revelstoke for a couple years now.  Isaac Becker’s style is inspired by Revelstoke and the outdoors while making the local scenery look as if it’s in a comic, with a background that says “I’m so happy to be here I could explode,” on most of his pieces.  The “town ski” shows the bridge across the Columbia River and the classic peaked houses in Farwell with the river running by, in a couple different colors.

TownSki1915 Map Template  bigbendavalancheOther artists include Tristan Overy from Jasper with a topsheet design that looks as if muppet monsters are exploding off your feet.  Jenny MacPhee from Squamish designs in a more conservative manner for the girl in you, with a kind of Japanese type tree in beautiful pastel colors.  However, while you can get these stock graphics, you can also design your own topsheet and employ a local artist to put your own twist on your custom skis.  Shannon Broza has been known to put her style into a couple, her black lines and bold art make the pairs she’s had a hand in scream the fact- this is the ONLY pair.  One of a kind.

Bigbend gives back to the community through two designs.  Bigbend is actually the name for the highway that used to be the only way to get to Revelstoke, until Highway 1 was put into place starting its build in 1962, running through the notorious Roger’s Pass.  A gold rush in 1864 took place, prompting travellers to use canoes or river steamers until a dirt-surfaced road was built on the east bank around the Big Bend, from Revelstoke to Golden, from 1930 to 1937, opening officially in 1940.  The map design of the Bigbend from 1915 supports the Revelstoke Museum and Archives to preserve this history, the very first stock graphic they ever made available.

The second stock graphic that gives back serves to help the Canadian Avalanche Association provide education to youth.  Designed by Isaac Becker, it is literally an artistic rendition of an avalanche, normally a scary thing, turned into a breathtaking piece of art.

Here’s the 2nd step in the design process.


the Core Tapering Machine

the Core Tapering Machine


Core Material Shaping

Custom Handmade Equipment: Core Tapering Machine

“You know what a CNC machine is?  That’s what this is, except I’m the robot.”

He mounts a router on aluminum tracks which can slide vertically and horizontally on rails.  He puts a core down, and hooks the machine up to a vacuum system.  Mounted along the base of the machine under the router are 4 vacuum pucks outlined with a pliable rubber, one for each ski.  While he works, the vacuum sucks the core down to the table so that it doesn’t move while slides the router back and forth across the cores.  It reminds me of a dot matrix printer.  With this handmade CNC, he puts the taper into the tip and tail of the core material with the same precision anyone else would do with a precision computer controlled CNC machine.  “I’m a sucker for punishment.  So I stand on the end of the router and do it myself,” he laughs.  “But it’s something I’m real proud of.”  The further towards the middle of the ski the taper goes, the softer the flex.

“I call this the crazy room.”  It’s covered in ptex curly cues, shavings from the sintered 4000 base material.  The amount of effort put in to the design, the sourcing of materials for the skis as well as the machines that he built by hand that build the skis… it’s enough to make your head swim.  I think it’s part of why I had to do 3 separate articles.  It’s taken 2 months for me to sort it all out.

Next in the series: Bigbend Skis: Handcrafted Tools for a Handcrafted Ski