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Jeff Singer Q&A - A Look Into Spruce Mountain Skiboards

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  • Jeff Singer Q&A - A Look Into Spruce Mountain Skiboards

    We were fortunate to get some time with Jeff Singer, the man behind Spruce Mountain Skiboards, to do some Q&A. Jeff shares his insights into skiboard design and running a skiboard equipment business. Jeff is a talented skiboard designer, and he created the Spruce riser system allowing release bindings to be used on skiboards. Anybody who has dealt with Jeff knows he also provides outstanding customer service.

    SBOL: The recently revised Spruce website (http://spruceskis.weebly.com/) has a lot of great information on it. The tagline of “World's most innovative skiboard company” really stands out. What drives your innovation and what do you think is the “next frontier” in skiboard design?

    Curiosity, mostly. There are lots of design concepts for skiboards that have never been explored. The next frontier is someplace outside of the current skiboard design envelope which I think is slowly settling into its own ideas of “correct” skiboard design. “Correct” designs are what traditional long-ski skiers like to hang onto for some reason. That's partly why it took 70 years for them to discover shaped skis even though the physics involved were in plain sight.

    SBOL: On the website it says that Spruce Mountain was founded in 2003 to make skiboarding safer, more fun and to extend the envelope of skiboard design into new untried areas. What is the story behind how you got involved in skiboarding and the skiboard business?

    I had been a lifelong skier and at age 59 I noticed that cranking around a pair of 220cm unshaped skis was starting to feel like work. I tried some skiboards out of curiosity but discovered that there were no release bindings offered, so I got interested in developing a mounting system for release bindings to go on skiboards. I thought there would be a small market for these, so I developed a production version on speculation and it gained market acceptance pretty quickly.

    SBOL: You run a home-based business – what is it like to run a small business in the snowsports industry? Can you share some insights into how you juggle design, working with suppliers, manufacturers, answering customer inquiries and all the other details of keeping things running?

    Running one's own business means being ready to do everything yourself whenever it needs to be done. There are no planned days-off allowed. A day off means that sales are slow or something's probably not getting done. Another aspect of any small business, is that attention to detail is key. Every day, for every detail. Not doing this means screw-ups and surprises. No one cares as much about the products of the business as much as the owner. That means checking everything that's going on in the business every day. If the owner doesn't do this, quality suffers.

    SBOL: The Spruce riser system is an ingenious solution to putting release bindings on skiboards with either 40cmx40cm or 40cmx100cm inserts. What was the inspiration behind this design? Can you share the details on how the design was conceived, tested and has progressed over the years?

    When I started thinking about a design for a release binding system for skiboards, I had bought a fixed binding, the Canon TD-1, that I could use. I took the design of the center section of that binding and thought about how to extend its length so that a stock Alpine release binding could be mounted on it. After trying a few prototype designs for a riser on the TD-1 base, the initial composite version of the Spruce riser was developed. That was replaced a few seasons later with the first metal “Pro Series” riser which has evolved to the current design.

    SBOL: What was the first skiboard design you were involved with? How did you get involved with that design? Were you happy with the result?

    The first design I did was the Spruce 120 in February 2005. I had sold an existing design under the Spruce “Edge” label for one season. This design was a typical copy of the Salomon blade and got me thinking that there had to be designs that were closer to boards like the Canon M7 which I liked, but a bit longer.

    SBOL: The Spruce 120s are boards that seem to appeal to such a wide range of riders – beginners to experts enjoy the boards, and they have a wide performance envelope. The 120s are capable yet mild mannered and never seem to do anything unexpected. What are the design aspects that create a board with such a wide range of performance and appeal?

    A lot of board design is luck. (Or at least good fortune.) The reason for that is that the characteristics of a board on-snow are in the dynamics of the board, not the statics. The dynamics are so complex, that they can't be modeled or even reliably guessed, so it's always a build and try process. The 120 was an evolution of the Canon M7 which was a soft flex, wide (for the time) board that I liked riding. I'm 6'3” and 200+ pounds, so the 120 is sort of big person's M7 that's designed for groomers. It's a design that “came out about right” and I would struggle if I had to design a “better” 120. Much of why it has been successful is because it hits a sweet spot in the market.

    SBOL: The Sherpas are the burliest skiboard on the market. People often refer to them as “beasts” meaning the Sherpas can take on any condition, anytime and plow through anything in front of them. Can you share the story behind the development of the Sherpas?

    The Sherpa design was an attempt to expand the performance envelope of the 120 and to make a more versatile board. The 120 is happiest on packed, well-groomed snow. It's a good board in powder when ridden by smaller stature people and with the bindings set back. It's not a board designed for ice. The Sherpa is able to handle any snow conditions I've been able to find from glare, shiny ice to deep powder, to piled up crud. What it gives up is the nimbleness of a shorter, lighter board like the 120, but for larger size riders, it's a very competent board when conditions are tough.

    SBOL: The newest Spruce Mountain board is the 125, now named the “Raptor”. These boards use rocker technology and zero camber. What was the inspiration behind the development of these boards and what performance characteristics were you targeting with the design?

    I had done some testing of rocker/flat/rocker boards to see what they were like on snow. I found that they were very turny, quite nimble and handled better than I expected on ice. I thought that a skiboard with these characteristics was different enough so that it was worth making as a prototype. The Raptor design evolved out of these prototypes and has been a well-received design. It is nimble and soft in flex but very good on ice. It's also a very good powder board for average stature riders. I like riding this board a lot in variable conditions since I know it can handle a pretty big range of Eastern U.S. conditions.

    SBOL: Spruce Mountain is in a niche within the snowsports industry. Even more of a niche, maybe a nano-niche, is your support of backcountry set-ups for your boards. What drives your participation in helping riders with alpine touring bindings on Spruce boards?

    Jack Jue is the driving force behind backcountry skiboards. Without him, there wouldn't be any. I don't do any backcountry riding, so all of the testing that needs to be done to even see if a backcountry rig works is done by Jack. If he says it works, then I can sell it and not worry about the rig failing and leaving someone stranded in a dangerous situation. Putting touring bindings on skiboards is full of compromises since the boards are not designed to mount them. Jack's interest and persistence is what makes it possible at all.

    SBOL: Rocker and zero camber is revolutionizing skiboard design. Rocker is used on the Sherpas to help turn initiation. Rocker and zero camber were first used on the RVL8 Rockered Condors, then the Spruce Mountain Raptors and now on the RVL8 Blunts. What are your thoughts on how rocker technology and zero camber are changing skiboard design and ride characteristics? Where do you see these design aspects heading in the future?

    I think that rocker and zero camber have been about 75% explored in skiboard design. There are probably some aspects left to be tried, but those are sort of in the realm of second order effects, I think. Some of what could be tried in concept now may be limited by production constraints.

    SBOL: The RVL8 Blunts, while new on the market, are really generating a lot of interest. Early rider feedback on these boards is very positive. The Blunts seem to have a “variable” personality – they can be carved, slarved, hard charged, cruised on and everything in between. They also have a unique combination of riding way “bigger” than their 88cm length but somehow feeling like they disappear underfoot. Do you have any insights into what makes this board so unique?

    The Blunt design was completely Greco's idea. He remembered a short skiboard from the dim, dark past that he liked and wanted to recreate it, or something like it. I made a bit of contribution to the board, but with so little real estate to work with I didn't think there was much room for experimentation. Why is the board is as good as people say? I don't know. It's more proof that predicting a board's on-snow personality is the same as predicting the personality of one of your kids. It just pops out without explanation.

    SBOL: If there were no constraints, are there any new skiboard designs you would like to get into the commercial market?

    Many.

    SBOL: You live in New Hampshire close to a number of ski areas. How often do you get to ski in a typical season? What is your “home” mountain? Which resorts in New Hampshire are your favorites and why?

    I have to fit my skiing into times when I'm not busy, so travel time to the mountain is key. I usually have only a few hours available, so I stay really local. Ragged Mountain is 10 minutes away and I go there most of the time. Sunapee is 35 minutes away. Cannon Mountain has free skiing for New Hampshire residents over 65 during the week, so if I can, I try to get there a few times a season. My guess is that I get in 12 days or so of skiing a year. That's about average for U.S. skiers.

    SBOL: When you get out on the mountain which boards do you ride?

    There are a lot of times that I'm riding a non-Spruce test board to see how a new board design concept feels. I've ridden a lot of short rockered boards in the last few years and now a number of other new designs. I ride any newly designed Spruce boards until I feel like I know how they go in all conditions and new RVL8 boards when I've been involved in the design. When conditions are really ugly, I just grab my Sherpas.

    SBOL: Do you have any special memories of a time on the mountain that really just stand out?

    When I was a young and reckless skier, (a lot of the recklessness came from trying to keep up with my friends), I was at Mt. Snow in Vermont on a day with nice conditions and I crashed into a guy who was standing still in the middle of the trail admiring the view. I was going way too fast and skidded out of my turn and hit him from behind. When we both got up, apparently unhurt, one of his skis took off down the mountain (no brakes back then) and he began trying to ski down the hill on one ski to catch it. I noticed then that apparently one of my poles had torn a big hole in the seat of his ski pants. I figured that I'd done enough damage for one run and that I’d better get out of there before the lawyers arrived.

    SBOL: Any final thoughts to share with us?

    Keep the faith.
    In pursuit of Peace, Harmony and Flow.....
    Think Like a Mountain

    Boards ridden, some owned: Sherpas, Spruce 120 "STS", Blunts, DS110 custom prototypes, Rockered Condors, Revolts, DLPs, Summit Custom 110s, Summit Marauders, Head 94s, Raptor prototypes, Osprey prototypes.

  • #2
    Great Q & A! I never knew much about Spruce, just that the boards and risers are awesome. Thanks for providing some history behind Jeff and his incredible products.

    Skiboards:
    2013 Spruce Sherpas w/Tyrolia Peak 11s
    2015 RVL8 Blunt XLs w/Tyrolia Attack 13s
    2018 Spruce Crossbows w/Tyrolia Peak 11s
    2017 RVL8 Sticky Icky Ickys w/Tyrolia SX 10s


    Boots:
    Salomon X-Pro 80

    Past boards: Salomon Snowblades, Line MNPs 89 & 98 cm, Five-Os, Bullets, Jedis, Spruce 120s, LE 125s, Ospreys
    Summit 110s, Nomads, Jades, RVL8 ALPs, BWPs, KTPs, Tanshos, Rockets, DLPs, Blunts, Condors, RCs, Revolts, Spliffs

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    • #3
      Great stuff!!



      Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
      Boards:
      2016 Spruce tuned Head Jr. Caddys - 131cm
      2013 Spruce "CTS" 120s
      2010 Spruce "Yellow/Red" 120s
      2018 Spruce "CTS" Crossbows - 115cm
      2016 RVL8 Spliffs - 109cm
      2008 RVL8 Revolt "City" - 105cm
      2017 RVL8 Sticky Icky Icky - 104cm
      2011 Defiance Blades - 101cm

      Comment


      • #4
        Love this series of posts!


        I'm gonna get 45 days on the mountain this year if it kills me!
        33 down, 12 to go!

        Comment


        • #5
          I am glad we had a chance to get to know a little more about Jeff. Great stuff.
          sigpic


          Osprey, Sherpa, Custom Coda 120WT, Custom DS110, Condor (Green), Spliff

          Custom Twist Out duck foot bindings, Bombers (custom duck foot base plate and 3 pads), releasable S810ti on custom duck foot riser

          Nordica N3 NXT ski boots (best so far)


          Wife: 104 SII & 100 Blunt XL with S810ti bindings on custom "adjustable duck foot" risers

          Loaners: 125LE, 105 EMP, 101 KTP, 100 Blunt XL, 98 Slapdash, 88 Blunts

          Comment


          • #6
            Some very interesting insights.
            Thank you for doing this series of profiles Bluewing.

            2015 RVL8 Blunt XL 100 skiboards
            Tyrolia Attack 13 release bindings on Spruce Risers
            Atomic Waymaker 80 ski boots

            Comment

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