By Alicia Cunningham | Jan 17, 2016
Salt Lake City
Skis and Snowboards
Salt Lake City, Utah
If you have not been skiing in the last ten years, Stephan Drake, Founder of DPS Skis, would argue that you have not been skiing at all – at least not the way it should be experienced.
“The experience has changed by leaps and bounds because of the technology,” Drake says. “Basically, it’s so much easier. You can carve a clean turn and feel safe and powerful in your skis. With more control, there is less fear. The experience is much more powerful with better equipment.”
When Drake founded DPS Skis, the industry was ready for a new change, a new experience.
“Skiing was at a real transition point in 2005,” Drake says. “It was a great time to get into the game.”
Not only has DPS Skis gotten into the game, that have changed some of the rules by introducing a very progressive, carbon fiber ski to serve the skiers the European manufacturers were leaving behind.
“Right now, we produce big powder shapers for intermediate to experienced skiers. We do not offer anything on the low end, and our lowest price point is at the higher end of the market.”
This is a price many fans are willing to pay. “It’s a blessing, to be sure,” Drake laughs. “Willingness to pay a higher price is a hard thing to build up, and we are proud our brand has built up that equity.”
But Drake never takes that equity for granted. He is always looking for a better experience, a better model. In 2016, DPS unveiled the DPS Wailer 106 Foundation Ski and invited retailers to take a closer look at the Outdoors Retail Expo in hosted in the company’s backyard: Salt Lake City.
“The reception was really good in terms of the performance of the skis. We received really positive feedback, which is important because that is where it all starts. If the retailers are behind the products, if their staff is behind the products, it makes it easier to gain momentum. Their approval is critical,” Drake says.
Though manufactured in Salt Lake City, DPS Skis are sold globally: anywhere there is a mountain and snow.
“We wrap the globe,” Drake says. “We have 350 retailers worldwide and also sell through our website directly to customers. But we are not selling a $30 item you can grab on Amazon,” Drake says. The majority of sales are through retailers. “Our sales are through dealers and customers who want to experience the product first. It’s a leap for people to buy a higher dollar purchase on the Internet – a challenge for sure.”
Challenges: Drake believes balancing growth with the subsequent cost will continue to be a challenge this year. “But, I guess a lot of that is normal,” he admits. “It is really about fine tuning and building efficiencies in the right places.” Being located in the heart of the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ helps. “It cannot be understated how valuable it is to be close to an international airport and close to good mountains, good snow,” Drake says. Within 20 minutes of his office, Drake can be pulling into an airport terminal or sitting down on a ski lift, a crucial element of his success which demands quick access to both.
Opportunities: DPS Skis has already released a new line for 2016 and will launch another line as well as a boot product later this year. “We are building on the things we have established traction on in the last few years,” Drake says.
Needs: Access to capital continues to be a need. “We have a very seasonal business which is capital intensive.” With the success DPS Skis continues to experience, the need is not as stifling. “There is still stress,” Drake admits, “but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Drake looks forward to concentrating back on his original interest: creating a perfect ski. “We’re entering a creative stage where we have the resources to make the product even better.”