The New England custom ski building company Parlor was started in abandoned funeral parlor in Cambridge, Massachusetts by three “dried-up” ski racers.
Co-founders Mark Wallace, Pete Endres and Jason Epstein have spent most of their winters racing in the unpredictable and unforgiving New England, but they love it and only wanted the best skis for the varied terrain. They began making skis as a hobby, using the applied knowledge the three had among them, but they quickly learned they had a knack for building skis and took the venture a bit more seriously by reaching out to friends in the industry and acquiring even more comprehension and mastery. This mastery has led them to be the largest ski manufacturer in New England in addition to having the largest ski building course in the country — if not the world — by volume.
The Parlor philosophy
“We had jobs, but we felt so passionate about skiing in New England that we started the company based on delivering a better product for New England skiers,” Wallace tells Digital Trends. “The most important thing for us is the community and experience that we provide for people. Because buying and owning a pair of Parlors is not like owning any other ski. It was built for you, you know the people that made it, and you have a connection with them and that is really a different model than even some of these other small brands. At Parlor we have become experts at putting our customers on the perfect ski for them, over the past four seasons we have been doing this one fit at a time, often in person over a beer or two.”
This has served them well, but like any growing company, their clients will evolve. “We found that the face to face was a barrier for some of our customers who wanted a way to get the right ski for them with less in-person interaction,” says Wallace. “Some consumers want to do a lot of research on a product and make the final decisions for themselves. Others want the smoothest, quickest and most integrated process possible.”
The algorithm for your perfect skis
For a brand whose backbone is interaction and connection, a more anonymous transaction might be foreign, but the Parlor boys are some clever chaps. They put their heads together and came up with an easy-to-use algorithm based “fit tool” that answered both of these needs: How to get customers a perfectly custom fit, without having to interact face to face, directly.
Parlor identified four key characteristics that give them a window into who a skier is
The way it works. Parlor identified four key characteristics that give them a window into who a skier is, and what will make this the perfect ski for them: 1. Height and Weight; 2. Ability; and 3. Terrain that they ski on most. The third question is the most unique feature; asking the user, “What percent of your time will be spent in the following: mellow groomers, ripping groomer, trees, open bowl and backcountry,” with all factors having to total 100 percent. This variable option really dials in the ski to the individual. Lastly, 4. Snow conditions where the user wants the ski to perform the best. Once all these inputs are plugged in, Parlor then uses existing customer data, and their own personal tweaks to create a backend algorithm that selects the perfect ski. In real time, the “fit tool” will recommend the ideal, size, weight, flex and camber to the ski being designed, thus allowing the customer to add the ski to their cart and put their order in online.
Support is available to the customer at any point during this process. Most of their customers choose to do custom graphics on their skis, so Parlor is in contact with them. Parlor also reviews every fit as it comes through and will reach out to a customer if they have any questions or concerns. “As with all of our skis we back them up with 100% satisfaction,” Wallace says.
Even though Parlor’s business is expanding, their heart will always be in New England. “We are a New England builder, but our skiers ski all over the world. We have skiers who only ski Vail, but they live in Boston, we have skiers who only go heli-skiing who live in Manhattan, yet our designs and the DNA of the company is a New England base – so we make skis that work all over the world but the core of our design is really focused on what is unique about New England,” Wallace proudly states, adding that Parlor’s motto is “custom to the core.”