These Ski-Makers are Handcrafting a High-Value, Sustainable Economy

When a spruce log leaves Haines, Alaska, in its raw state, it doesn’t bring much value to the local economy. But in the hands of Graham Kraft and Ian Seward at Fairweather Ski Works, it becomes part of a high-value product—one that goes on to generate additional value for the community.

Graham Kraft, owner of Fairweather Ski works in Haines, Alaska. Photo credit: © Chris Crisman

This transformation from raw resource to custom skis contributes to an economic resurgence led by sustainable small businesses across Southeast Alaska. Fairweather Ski Works builds one-of-a-kind handcrafted skis specially designed for the rigors of Alaska’s big mountains and backcountry. The company makes its skis from naturally fallen or donated logs harvested from the Tongass National Forest. The sustainably sourced paper birch and Sitka spruce wood boosts the strength-to-weight ratio and flexibility these master ski-makers are looking for.

“Our skis are a very efficient use of wood, and we only use about six board feet per pair of skis. By selectively harvesting or using salvaged timber, we can make our impact on the environment as minimal as possible while still contributing to the local economy.”
— Graham Kraft, co-owner,
Fairweather Ski Works

In 2015, their fledgling company was awarded $40,000 in seed funding and a year of business development support from Path to Prosperity (P2P). The annual contest provides grants to sustainable startups in Southeast Alaska. P2P was founded by the Conservancy in partnership with the region’s Haa Aani Community Development Fund.

“The P2P program provided us with invaluable resources to get our business headed in the right direction,” said Graham Kraft, co-owner of Fairweather Ski Works.

P2P strives to help small local businesses become the engine of the Southeast Alaska economy. These homegrown companies increase local employment, promote sustainable use of local natural resources, and make a positive social and economic impact.

Ian Seward at Fairweather Ski Works. Photo credit: Bethany Goodrich/SSP

In its first three years, P2P has generated a buzz of entrepreneurial activity across Southeast Alaska. Winners receive the cash and consulting expertise to start making their dreams a reality. And all finalists can participate in P2P’s business boot camp in Juneau—a transformational weekend in which 48 young enterprises have gained the know-how to grow a business.

Spruce forest. Photo credit: © Chris Crisman

Fairweather Ski Works exemplifies the ripple effect that sustainable businesses have on their communities. Kraft and Seward purchase goods and services from neighboring businesses; many of their products showcase the work of local artists. They are also helping to expand ski-based tourism in Haines, a world-renowned destination for mountain sports. Together with others in the community, they are building backcountry ski huts as part of a larger effort to attract more winter tourism.

By growing a local business that sustains the area’s natural wonders, Fairweather Ski Works is crafting a stronger economic base and quality of life for its community.

Ian Seward, left, and Graham Kraft at Fairweather Skis. Photo credit: Bethany Goodrich/SSP


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