By Dave Potter

Editor’s note: Some skiers spend the off-season planning for the next season. Our friend and colleague Dave Potter is one of those. Sure, he stays busy year-round,  but he never really stops thinking about the next chairlift ride to the top of the mountain. So it was no surprise that he is already shopping for this year’s new pair of skis. Here’s what he’s thinking.

I don’t remember much about my first pair of skis. I was very young and more concerned about how to get down the hill without killing myself than who manufactured my instruments of destruction.

The first pair I do remember the brand and model of is a pair of black Head JR 60s. I thought they were cool because they were made of metal and the bases were made of the same material as bowling balls.

As I grew older into my teens and beyond came pairs of Harts, the infamous Chess series — not the Freestyles I coveted. Then came my racing Rossignol STs. Oh, Rossi STs, in their various forms, are in some ways still my all-time favorites.

After college came a short love affair with Hexcels. Remember those? They were made of hollow aluminum honeycomb. I broke three pairs.

After that misadventure came my introduction to shaped skis with a pair of Elans that my father-in-law talked me into. I liked him better than the skis. After that came Volkls. They were great, but I started to crave something different … something that you didn’t see on the slopes, which led me to Stockli. Rossignol sells more skis in a month than what this small Swiss firm sells in a year. I loved the performance of my Stocklis, but as I raved about them, I started noticing more of them on the hill.

Now, I’m once again looking for great skis that not everyone has or has even heard of, for that matter. A quick internet search led me to such names as Wagner Custom Skis, Caravan Skis, ON3P Skis, Deviation, Igneous and more. What these brands all have in common is that they are made by skiers for skiers in ski country, like New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Utah, to name a few of the “locals.”

These companies make skis for all conditions — all mountain, powder, terrain parks and even Eastern hard pack. They are all handmade and for high performance. If you’re looking for bargain basement prices, these are not for you, but I was pleasantly surprised at the pricing. These skis were not out of line with more known high-performance ski brands. The lowest price I saw was $850. As the prices go up, so do your options. Some companies allow you to design your whole ski, including your own top and bottom graphics, camber profile and materials. You can even choose the sidecut.

My personal favorites are the manufacturers that let you choose a wood veneer for the top sheet. They have a long list of species and colors to choose from.

So, if you’re like me and want some unique skis, there are plenty of options out there. And, yes, my next pair is coming from one of these specialty firms. And, no, I’m not telling anyone ahead of time. I want to be the first kid on the block to have a pair.