Handmade Skis from Norway – Ski Maker Endre Hals

Photos by Mattias Fredriksson

The ultimate luxury for a skier is a pair of bespoke skis. Custom ski makers are up there with the great deities of the ages. Ski maker Endre Hals, who founded Prog Skis in 2007 before launching EVI Skis in 2013, is one such modern-day Norse god.

As with most Norwegians, skiing and mountain life quickly became a passion for Endre. In the early ’80s, when alpine skiing was hot, and the winters were colder, Endre’s love for all things skiing grew. While studying industrial design at the School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, Endre decided to build a pair of skis as his first school project in the fall of 2003. “It started as a fun and interesting process that I wanted to learn more about. Slowly it became a lifelong obsession,” Endre admits. Upon graduation, when the school board asked him to clean out his basement ski factory, Endre was forced to make a decision; pursue a career as an industrial designer or start building skis for a living? He chose to live the dream. In 2007, Endre and his wife Elisabeth moved to the mountains to raise their family.

In L0nset, a quiet little farming village with only a few hundred inhabitants, they found an old 1814 barn. Twenty minutes east of the ski town Oppdal in Trnndelag county, L0nset is at the base of some of Norway’s best ski touring mountains. And now it is home to Endre. Twelve years and three children later, the 39-year-old is living his dream; he is an award-winning ski maker with a growing ski factory located in the restored barn.

Known as the cradle of skiing, Norway had nearly 80 ski factories scattered across the country in 1940. Times have changed: Today End re is the only manufacture in Norway who produces steel edged skis. In the first few years after Endre founded Prog Skis, he built 300 custom pairs and worried about keeping up with the huge demand. And so in 2013, EVI, which produces semi-custom skis, was born. “With EVI we found a way to build semi-custom skis. The price point is a bit more reasonable yet we can still build the skis by using the knowledge and technology we have gathered during the years building fully tailor-made skis.”

Norwegian Ski MakerEndre makes his skis combining old methods with modern technology. His innovative concept, which he began working on when he studied industrial design, allows him to create skis with any specified curves by using a ski press that has adjustable rocker and camber settings. The ski cores (from Norwegian grown aspen and ash trees) are shaped on a computer-controlled cutting router. The wood core is exposed above the steel edges and saturated with resin to withstand moisture. Most of the skis are made with a six to eight-layer carbon fibre construction and then the skis are hand-finished. Instead of buying core blocks and the prep reg materials, Endre and his crew also make this in-house which he considers an important part of being a custom ski service.

Endre has measured ski geometry and been testing skis for Norway’s leading ski magazine, Fri Flyt, for 12 years. Ile tells me, “I might sit on the biggest database in the world when it comes to ski geometry. We use it as a reference when people order skis.” The process of ordering skis includes myriad details about each client: how they ski, what type of skis they have liked before, and their weight, height, and shoe size. These factors are common in custom skis. What really makes the Prog Skis stand out is that they are 100 percent tailor-made. Whether you want double steel edges in the middle of the ski, embedded inserts for all bindings on the market, or the most lightweight ski constructions, Endre can make it.

All the skis from the two brands are sustainably produced in the L0nset factory. And from the initial design, the skis are made with reproduction in mind. Since Endre started to make skis, though not a single steel edge has ever delaminated, his skis are made so the edges can be replaced. “I don’t talk about a second-hand value but an extended value. When the skis are used a lot or if they break, we take them back for repair or reproduction,” End re explains. Unlike most ski brands, he doesn’t have any overproduction. “Everything we produce is going straight to a customer; we produce as fast as we can but only on demand.” He currently builds more than 1500 pairs a year.
“lt might sound strange, but 1 have no ambition of growing my business any bigger.” Endre adds, “With EVl, we want to be a role model in the industry, a brand that others can look at to see it is possible to produce skis like we do.”

Endre’s reputation as a ski maker goes beyond satisfied customers of EVI and Prog skis. He has been nominated for several awards; in 2010 he won Askeladdprisen, which is an award to a young entrepreneur who is establishing a business on the Norwegian countryside, and in 2013 he received Norsk Form’s award for Best Design for his design and production of alpine skis. Famous skiers come by his workshop to get help and advice. Free ski icon Eric Hjorlcifson travels from Canada to L0nset to spend time with End re while working on his 4FRNT Skis. The popular ski Renegade was made in collaboration with End re and the first prototypes were produced in the L0nset workshop. Business is good. Endre’s dream is to build up a little destination around the ski factory and he is already working on a showroom and shop for Prog and EVI. In the future he would like to build a few cabins near the old barn, so people can come and stay while ski touring in the local mountains. “Eventually I hope local ski guides will choose this as a destination for avalanche courses and a natural stop with guests who come here to ski.” He adds, “There is no lodging provided in the valley at this point, so this could become a center for like¬≠minded people.” With three full-time employees to help fulfill orders now, still Endre makes skiing a top priority. He is busy but when it snows in the local mountains, he is out skiing. “I am a skier and I do this because I love skiing. You could work 24/7 but you must find the right balance. We moved here for a reason and I try to take advantage of that.”