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Blog

A blog written by the Gabe, the Alpin project founder.

The Ski Pack and Local Craftsmanship

Alger Alpin

The Ski Pack consists of 130+ pieces individually traced, cut, and sewn by the same set of hands, from start to finish in Lake Tahoe, USA (excluding hardware). This manufacturing process is inefficient and time consuming, but the end product—a locally made piece of outdoor equipment—has special value.

There are ways to streamline the production process, namely the inclusion of machinery and the utilization of low-cost labor. However, machinery is expensive and takes time to acquire, and US labor laws and regulations means that the cost of labor for US producers will always exceed that of overseas competitors. For this reason, products manufactured in the US will remain more expensive than goods produced abroad. However, this does not mean that US manufactures cannot still exist—even thrive—in the marketplace.

Following WWII, the United States experienced a decades-long economic boom, know as the Golden Age of Capitalism, and was the world’s premier manufacturing superpower. The economic troubles of the 1970’s prompted the outsourcing of low-skilled American jobs and manufacturing to highly populated, low-cost labor markets, a business practice that continues today. There is really no way to reverse this process, yet legitimate concerns have surfaced regarding the benefit/cost relationship of this business model.

As indicated by the Brexit vote, the rise of Trump and the rejection of globalism/globalization, millions of people are looking inwards on their economies, hoping for a reversal of the outsourcing model and for a resurgence of domestic manufacturing. Economically speaking, it is not feasible or even helpful on a large scale, but niche markets within the domestic economy that feature domestic manufacturing are available and can healthfully exist in parallel.  

The project of Alpin is built on the hypothesis that certain consumers will pay more for American-made products that are as-good-as (if not better than) the products produced by the big-name brands. Given the economics, there is no way for small-scale American manufactures to compete with the big-name brands and deliver the same quality at the same price. However, if the same quality can be achieved by the hands of a local craftsman, I believe that some consumers will pay more for it given the circumstances described, if the option is available. 

The experiment of Alpin will be to test this hypothesis, specifically with the Ski Pack. Having grown up in Montana, skiing since the age of five, I began using a backcountry backpack, beacon, and shovel to access out-of-bounds terrain at age 11. After 25 years of skiing and with ten-years work experience in the ski industry, I can say from experience (and with impartiality) that the Alpin Ski Pack is the best ski pack that I’ve ever used. As Alpin grows, I will work to bring the costs down, though the prices will always be higher than the name-brands with overseas manufacturing. However, I believe that you will find the quality and intrinsic value of locally-crafted equipment to be well-worth the extra dollar.

 

- Gabe, Alpin Mtn. Co.