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WuBanger staff, left-right: Howard Wu, Nick Wheeler and Scott Smith of WuBanger Skis. Photo: Jesse Anderson
Somewhere in China and/or Europe, a huge factory is spitting out thousands of skis. The materials are obtained for rock bottom prices, the designs are flawed, and Laverne and Shirley carelessly inspect the product before flaking off in song and dance. Finally, the product is packaged and set out on shelves where the local high school stoner convinces you that these skis are the right ones for you, because without the commission from the sale, he won’t be able to get high tonight. After one day on your new setup, you realize the skis suck, but now you’re screwed—the skis are used and can’t be returned. There goes a thousand bucks—FUCK! Enter WuBanger Skis.
WuBanger is the brainchild of Howard Wu. Once an engineer for NASA, who worked on a “top secret flying machine,” the daily grind of a nine to five began to wear him thin. “Even though the paychecks allowed me to buy just about anything I wanted, I was miserable. Being stuck in a cubicle in Los Angeles was torture, so I decided to quit my job and move to Utah to be a ski bum,” says Wu. “What was supposed to be a one-year vacation of sorts turned into a permanent stay. After one season of skiing every day, I decided that I wasn’t leaving. I wanted to ski all winter for the rest of my life.”
Over the next few years, the now 30-year-old Wu spent his time skiing and working in a rental shop. After constantly breaking costly equipment, Wu realized that the high-end skis being offered really weren’t that good. Figuring that said skis were geared more towards the average skier, Wu needed something for diehards, the 100-plus-days-a-season skier. “Although I hated working my engineering jobs, I still loved engineering. I’m good at science, I’m good at crunching numbers, and I enjoy designing/building things,” he says. After reading up on how to build skis, he decided to give it a try in 2007. Turns out he was pretty good at it! Using all the money he had saved for grad school, Wu invested in some equipment for his garage. With the help of partner and fellow shred-head Nick Wheeler, WuBanger (banger skis from a dude named Wu) was born in 2008.
What makes WuBanger different is the hands-on approach from start to finish—no mass production involved. Wu uses his skiing and engineering backgrounds to target specifically what the skier needs and wants, and the process begins once the customer agrees on the proposed design. From there, the guts are glued, sanded, sidewalls inserted, base and top sheets layered, epoxyed, pressed, polished and inspected. The process is actually a lot more complicated than that, but the boys didn’t want to reveal too many of their secrets. “Hand-built skis are the only way to go if you want skis that are of the highest quality. There are so many variables that change, even when building the same pair of skis. No machine out there can replace a trained eye and a skilled pair of hands when building skis,” says Wu.
Due to an overwhelming positive response from all his buyers, Wu has no desire to branch out into cheaper overseas production like other companies. Everything is done by people who live to ski and live where they ski. What they can’t do themselves is contracted out nearby. This can be seen most visibly in the graphics, which are designed by local artists. Although next year he’s hoping to have a full line of skis, nothing will be done outside of Utah, where the quality could be jeopardized. Profits aren’t what concerns Wu, just producing the best product he can. This may seem like a disadvantage from a business standpoint, but Wu isn’t concerned with traditional business models. “We’re not just another ski company that wants a piece of the action by doing the same thing. We’re trying to do things differently,” he says. By incorporating the buyer into the design aspect, WuBanger is changing the whole retail experience, and the difference can be felt in every pair of skis. This is what he hopes will make his company flourish.
This winter, WuBanger will be expanding its name and reputation by sponsoring local events and riders. WuBanger skis can be purchased in Salt Lake at 2nd Tracks Sports, Christy’s Sports at Snowbird or online at wubanger.com. Be sure to check their site regularly for upcoming events, and always remember to support our fellow snow riders!