Making skis by hand with Rupert Hammond of PFD
Rupert Gammond founded handcrafted ski company Pure Freeride Design in 2012 out of a passion for quality craftsmanship coupled with an equal passion for skiing.
The journey started when after completing a product design degree at Leeds University, Rupert headed straight for the mountains where he spent six consecutive seasons in Alpe d’Heuz. Over the course of these seasons he began to turn his thoughts to ski design and a mission to create the perfect freeride ski.
Fast forward five years, Rupert now handcrafts 100 pairs of bespoke bamboo skis each season under the PFD name, with high-end stockists including Harrods.
We talk to Rupert about his journey with PFD and what the future holds.
What inspired to you set up your own ski company and specifically one that specialises in freeride skis?
As a passionate freeride skier, the inspiration stemmed from a search for freeride skis that combined both performance aspects with a personal handcrafted approach that compliment us in what we do in the backcountry environment.
How did you progress the initial idea of build your own skis through to having the first skiable prototype?
Since I had a design background I had a good understanding about the design and construction of skis. After researching and developing initial designs, I decided to take the next step and create prototypes for testing. We started building custom tools and machinery in 2011; this made it possible to create the first prototypes in 2012.
Once the first skis were tested it was clear we where able to produce something special. This opened up a huge scope of possibilities and the journey began.
You endeavour to source the highest quality materials from around the world for the construction of your skis. What is your process for selecting the materials?
Performance, durability and consistency are the key aspects we look for within our materials. We have searched for the best materials that compliment our designs, weather it’s the consistency of the bamboo cores which gives the perfect flex for our models or the extra thick high grade base material we use to create fast yet durable skis.
Being based in the UK you don’t have the advantage of mountains suitable for testing freeride skis on your doorstep. How did you overcome this challenge and have you found advantages to being based in the UK?
After living in the Alps for so long it was hard to step out and create a base in the UK for PFD. Situated in the Worcestershire countryside close to Birmingham has meant that there is a wide range of services on our doorstep. Whether we need parts laser cutting, molds to be milled or general day to day services such as printing top sheets, everything is available to us.
Testing skis and getting the powder fix is the hardest part but with flights to the Alps from Birmingham its all possible.
What do feel makes your skis unique compared with the mass manufactured offerings?
It’s very much down to the designs, the chosen materials, and the personal handcrafted approach.
As a freeride brand built upon a small community of passionate skiers, we stick to creating what we know best. This combined with customisation and the personal aspects of producing each set to order, makes for a completely different experience to the norm of mass-market skis.
Many industries are experiencing a rapid growth in demand for products from smaller, independent manufacturers. Do you think this is a trend we will see coming to the forefront in the ski industry?
It’s definitely a growing area within the ski market. Many skiers appreciate more individual specialist products. For years, the main brands dominated the market but with the recent growth of smaller brands the ways the public can purchase skis has changed in a positive direction.
How does it feel to know people are enjoying skiing the mountains on a ski that you have put so much time and effort into handcrafting?
It’s always great to see people on our skis, sharing the PFD experience.
I love to watch the reactions our skis create whether it’s on the mountain or in the lift queues.
What do you hope the future holds for PFD skis?
It’s exciting times for PFD during the next few years. We intend to keep the setup very similar with a maximum production of 100 sets a year.
The main changes will be introducing new models within the range and also developing more personal options within the buying processes to create unique skis.
Explore the PFD skis range at www.pfdskis.com
Photography by Ross Woodhall