Consider what skiing feels like following a big temperature swing. Yesterday was a sunny 50 degrees. But today the temperatures plummeted, hardening slush and creating a rough mine field.
Typically, on a day like this, you’d haul out the stiffest boards in your quiver. Or, you could ride a pair of Renoun Skis. The one quiver skis are set apart by the use of hyper-dampening materials.
Renoun Skis’ patented design defies Newtonian laws. Typically, as skis become stressed, the material inside them turns more viscous. But, hyper-damping materials do the opposite. As the energy input increases, the material actually becomes more rigid. So, while a hyper-dampening ski may not feel heavier or be stiffer, it has the characteristics of a stiff ski—only when it needs to.
Renoun Skis is a Burlington, Vermont, company that was started by a group of six engineering students at Clarkson University. The crew would rally for weekend ski trips to Jay Peak Resort in Northern Vermont—a 3-hour drive away. During those road trips the idea to create their own skis was born.
“We would have these conversations about how things could be different with skis. We’d ask why would Line make certain skis soft and the others hard? We got an idea that we could build skis so that we could tweak them to our own specifications,” said Renoun Skis Owner Cyrus Schenck, now 24 years old.
Clarkson University provided a 12-foot-by 20-foot room for the entrepreneurs. The core inventors all had mechanical and electrical engineer backgrounds, as well as aeronautical engineering, which Cyrus studied.
The guys soon realized that the hard goods ski market is saturated. A ski design simply couldn’t differentiate itself based merely on aesthetics or by having a rocker cut. With a mad scientist itch, they wanted to create something more stand out.
In class one Monday morning, Cyrus was engaged in a lecture covering the properties of basic concrete building blocks.
“The graphs all say the same thing: the harder you stress something, it’s going to eventually break, and that relationship is linear. It’s one for one. But, in class that day, they showed us a graph where it wasn’t a one-to-one case for how much energy you put in and how the material moves,” Cyrus said.
That was the day Cyrus discovered hyper-dampening technology, which has long been used in other fields, such as for reducing aircraft vibration and building impact protection.
Now holding a patent, Renoun is the only company that can use hyper-dampening technology with skis in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
“We’ve been washing windows for a long time, because intellectual property is a huge expense,” Cyrus said. That, and working for General Electric.
In 2012, after finishing his sophomore year and two months after Renoun pressed its first pair of skis, Cyrus accepted a position with General Electric in Tahoe. He was living in the lap of luxury, being flown around the West Coast and receiving a hefty salary with zero expenses at the age of twenty. But Cyrus realized he felt insignificant. He wanted to feel a part of a community.
“It’s the best job in the world, but I wanted to go to work and make a difference, so that if I didn’t show up people would notice. That company was so large it wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
Cyrus returned to school and finished another semester, then decided to take the plunge into creating skis for Renoun full time, as his career.