SALT LAKE CITY — When Canadian freestyle skier Justin Dorey lost his balance while attempting to land a jump during his final run at the men’s ski halfpipe at the 2014 Winter Olympics, a roar erupted at the Utah headquarters of 4FRNT Skis in Salt Lake City.
Those in attendance can be forgiven their outburst at another's expense because the 30 people who were watching on a big screen were actually cheering and celebrating the overall results: a gold medal for American David Wise, the man wearing the skis made right there by 4FRNT Skis.
“It’s a proud (time) for us,” Matt Sterbenz, owner and founder of 4FRNT Skis, said. “To have David take the podium and be on our skis and be part of the brotherhood here, we are so proud of him.”
Dorey was the last participant in the event who had a chance to overtake Wise, who was in first place after the first round. When he wavered, it left the gold for Wise and a golden marketing and sales opportunity for 4FRNT, which also teams with Canadian freestyle skiers Eric Hjorleifson and Kye Petersen, along with American Wiley Miller who trains at Alta Ski Resort.
“The amount of exposure we just got for our small ski brand we started 11 years ago (gives) us credibility that boasts confidence to (prospective customers) that it’s the brand for them — it’s a brand worth trusting,” Sterbenz said. “When we can put our brand on the podium like this in front of everybody in the world, it’s going to have an impact.”
Currently, 4FRNT has just eight employees, but Sterbenz said the company hopes to triple its size in the next year or two.
Dan Burwell, product development manager, said watching Wise take the top prize on the Olympic stage is the culmination of all the efforts of several people who worked to develop a ski that would allow an elite athlete like Wise to excel.
“There is really no way to describe how exciting it is,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous watching anything in my entire life.”
Burwell personally worked with Wise to create a ski that would perform to Wise’s exacting standards and allow him to do the tricks that made him an Olympic champion.
Skis like Wise’s take time to design, he said, and are “tweaked” constantly as they are used to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to improve performance.
What Wise skied on in Sochi is not what he will ski on next year since the equipment is always evolving, Burwell said.
The company’s newest collection includes six pairs of skis that range in price from $400 to $800. The Wise signature series retails for just over $500.
“We are so proud of him and of our team here that helped support him and bolstered his confidence in us to be a partner through this journey,” Sterbenz said.
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