February 18

Phillips ski makers craft Maine wood into custom skis

Franklin County craftsmen Nick Mukai and Ian Reinholt are hearkening back to the state’s ski manufacturing heritage with the wooden skis.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

PHILLIPS — Two Franklin County craftsmen are celebrating two parts of Maine culture — forestry and skiing — by selling handcrafted skis made of Maine wood from their Phillips workshop.

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FINI: Nick Mukai stands among finished wood skis made at the Lucid Ski company in Phillips on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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STEP ONE: Nick Mukai looks over raw stock of local ash and basswood that will be used to make a pair of custom wood skies at the Lucid Ski business in Phillips on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

The state was once a major manufacturer of skis until the 1960s, and while mass production has died down or migrated elsewhere, the co-owner of Lucid Skis is bringing back manufacturing on a small scale through a custom ski business based out of his home.

For the past three years, Nick Mukai and his business partner, Ian Reinholt, have designed skis that showcase the core made of Maine wood, displayed through the fiberglass casing — a style that they say is finding market value in not just Maine but across New England and with some skiers out west.

“We’re showcasing the wood and not covering it with some silly graphic,” Mukai said. “They appeal to people who are maybe a little older and don’t want fluorescence or to anyone who wants to ski on something that reflects the environment. I love that they’re made of the same trees that you’re skiing past on the trail.”

Mukai and Reinholt started the business in the winter of 2010 and 2011, turning a lifelong love of ski into a fledgling business venture.

“I mean, that’s the dream, to keep bringing ski into your life. It probably would have been cheaper to just buy a few pairs of skis,” he said.

Mukai, 33, said skiing has been a part of his life since childhood, and 10 years ago, at the urging of his high school classmate and now business partner Reinholt, he went ski bumming around the country and into Canada. The two men, along with a group of friends, traveled in a refurbished school bus painted blue that now sits under a pile of snow on his property.

“I remember one time they all got pulled over in British Columbia and the cops were like, ‘Hey, do you mind if we look around? This is pretty cool,’” he said.

His ski bum years came to an end while living in Vancouver when the Olympics came, which threatened to drive up the cost of living and sent him back to the region.

“I missed Maine,” Mukai said. “You don’t get community like this quite anywhere else, where you pull over on the side of the road and five people stop to see if you need help. It’s a nice feeling.”

After Mukai and Reinholt had both settled back in the area, Reinholt approached Mukai with the idea of manufacturing custom skis. Mukai said during that winter they brainstormed until late in the evening to the point that both men started having lucid dreams about ski design, giving the business its name.

Reinholt, a furniture designer by trade, had some knowledge of ski design from taking classes on the ski industry at the University of Maine at Farmington, and the two also had woodshop knowledge. Most of their technique, however, came through trial and error as they tested and tweaked prototypes throughout the winter on nearby Saddleback Mountain.

“We’re now at the point where we really can just about dial by eyeball to one-sixty-fourth of an inch,” he said. “Where a larger manufacturer might have an engineer doing the calculations by computer, we just bust out the old trig calculator and draw it out.”

The next year they started selling skis by pre-order only and sold about 30 pairs, and by the winter of 2012 to 2013, they were selling the skis retail around New England. By the end of this winter, Mukai said they hope to sell about 100 pairs.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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TRY ONE: These custom made wood skis made at the Lucid Ski company in Phillips are used as demonstration skies at nearby Saddleback Mountain for potential buyers to try out.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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START THE PRESS: Nick Mukai slides a ski into a press to ensure camber at the Lucid Ski company that he and co-owner Ian Reinholt own in Phillips.

Staff photo by David Leaming

 


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