He crafts skis from trees he logs. There’s a terrain park in his backyard. Al Eagleton knows he owes serendipity a beer. This story by Valerie Rossi appears in KMC’s Winter 18/19 issue.
Every winter, Al Eagleton sports a hairdo replete with sawdust and snow. If the 45-year-old resident of Rossland, British Columbia, isn’t in his 1,200-square-foot shop carving skis, then he’s testing them on his property, which boasts no less than 30 tabletop jumps.
Eagleton, a carpenter by trade, launched Instinct Killer Ski Company five years ago by creating unique sets of skis sourced from wood on his 30 acres. This year, he’ll make about 250 pairs in between ski missions to nearby Red Mountain Resort and test runs in his backyard, which was originally built as a two-kilometre-long bike park but makes for an excellent demo track in the winter. Vertically the terrain reaches 180 metres (600 feet) and offers tabletops, five large gap jumps, and a soon-to-be-completed wall ride. Skiers stick to a line that starts from the apex of the shop roof and immediately launches into an eight-metre (25-foot) step down jump.
Instinct sponsors Red Mountain pro patroller Andrew “Knobber” Bednarz, who has spent time at Eagleton’s playground. He’s a well-known local powerhouse skier who’s worked at Red for 15 years and who regularly gears up in hockey shin pads to hit no-turn runs with brutal force and speed. So when he says, “Al’s skis are pretty hard-charging,” you can take his word for it.
Eagleton launched Instinct Killer Ski Company five years ago by creating skis sourced from wood on his 30 acres.
Bednarz has known Eagleton for as long as he’s worked at Red and is impressed by both his work and play ethic. “To become a ski builder in your 40s is quite a daunting task,” he says. “If he’s not building skis or his park, then he’s out there on ski-touring trips with his kids.… I think he’s kind of hooked.”
Indeed, Eagleton left the prairies to chase snow 25 years ago, and he’s never let up. He built homes to support his habit but eventually moved toward the finer craft of shaping skis. Last fall, he upped his small-scale production by installing a vacuum press in his shop along with a CNC machine, which uses computerized numerical controls to ensure precision in the cutting and tuning processes. “Everything has been sort of serendipitous,” Eagleton says, including having his company celebrated during Powder magazine’s annual ski-testing week, which was held at Red Mountain last winter. The Seeker, a ski he designed as a lightweight backcountry ripper, took home a skier’s choice award at the event—an underdog victory that was huge for a company with an employee roster of one.