When juniors Cameron Jones, Greg Bright, Donny Lienau, Ryan Ericson, Cyrus Schenck and Bob Pelletier met during their sophomore year, they shared two common interests: engineering and alpine skiing.
After spending their winter weekends hitting nearby slopes together and their weekdays learning the basics of engineering, the guys started to think about how they could combine these interests in a productive way.
“We love skiing so much that we wanted to learn more about ski construction. Our engineering studies helped us understand how they were made and why they were made that way,” says Jones, a mechanical engineering major. “Our love for skiing made us passionate about our pursuit of knowledge.”
Once the group started digging deeper into ski construction, they learned that most ski companies and designers were based on the U.S. west coast or in Europe. This meant that most skis were designed for weather conditions for those areas, too.
“The skiing conditions on the east coast are unique because they can change at a moment’s notice from powder to ice. One day you could be thinking you’re sliding down an ice-skating rink and the next you may be in freshly fallen powder,” explains electrical engineering major Bright. “This is in stark contrast to west coast skiing, in which pockets of poor snow-coverage appear to be few and far between. The skis being produced currently aren’t made to work in the east coast conditions.”
And just like that, East Coast Ski LLC was born.
“After understanding the current ski market situation, we all decided that we wanted to design new skis to fit east coast conditions,” says Lienau, an environmental engineering major. “However, we did not have any funding to move forward with the project.”
To help with their money matters, the team enlisted Matt Draper, deputy director of the Shipley Center for Innovation at Clarkson, to point them in the right direction. Draper quickly introduced the team to an upcoming competition, the Creative Core Emerging Business Competition, where they could win funding for their idea. To enter, the team had to submit a business plan for review, which involved having a preliminary design for their ski and an idea of what type of funding they might need to get their business up and running.
“When we first approached Mr. Draper, we were hoping he would help us find funding to start our ski construction,” says Ericson, an electrical engineering major. “He convinced us that becoming a company would help legitimize our goals and make our conversations with other companies easier. The first step was entering the Creative Core competition as East Coast Ski.”
The team spent the next few months gathering data and conducting extensive research on the different factors that go into producing skis in order to come up with a feasible business plan for the competition.
“We all had a basic understanding of what factors affect a ski, but we needed to dig deeper in order to come up with a plan for our unique skis,” explains aeronautical engineering major Schenck.
Their hard work paid off. During the competition, East Coast Ski was awarded $6,000 to start their business.
Since then, the group has already obtained a domain to create a website, worked with professional designers to create a custom logo for East Coast Ski and purchased the rights to it. They plan to use the remaining money on more in-depth research and the materials needed to construct their first ski prototypes. They’ve even found space in newly refurbished Peyton Hall to use as an office and workspace while they’re on campus.
“We couldn’t have made it this far without the Shipley Center’s support,” says Pelletier, a mechanical engineering major. “At first, it was all for the love of the sport, but now we’re living the dream.” ✦