Caleb Figgins on his Ogden-built, eco-friendly Happy Hippy Skis
By Mekenna Malan | February 24th, 2022
Caleb Figgins incorporated everything he loved about different skis into the ones he started building himself. Now, Caleb and his wife Liz are gearing up to offer others a chance to ride their handmade Happy Hippy skis, too.
Hey, Caleb! Let's start from the beginning. When did you start making skis?
I started making skis around the same time I started skiing. I have a lot of experience with woodworking. I've worked in a lot of cabinet shops and built a lot of things myself. And I also went to an engineering high school, so I've always been quite interested in the design and engineering side of things.
I started skiing when I met my wife. And I was like, "I bet I could build these." I started researching it and came up with my first design. Over the past four years now, I've made a bunch of different iterations and honed in the process to where, now, I feel like my skis are actually quite good.
I started skiing a lot. I got pretty good pretty quick. I worked in a few ski shops and I've been able to ski lots of different skis over the last few years. I've been able to kind of learn about the different aspects of skis, how they work, and the design features of each. I incorporated all of the things that I really like about different skis into my own.
Is this your full-time job, or more like a side hustle?
This last year was the first year where I felt like I'd finally perfected the process enough to try selling them. This last year, I made 10 pairs and sold them to friends as family as beta testers for them to ski this season. Everyone's really enjoyed them I've gotten to go out and ski with a lot of the people that I sold them to.
Going into next season, I have an investor that is interested in helping this grow. Right now, my tentative goal is to open up for pre-orders this March.
How do you prioritize the environment when building your skis?
I've really focused on the environmental side of things. I want to make skis that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, especially as most other skis are all made the same way.
I started using a lot more natural materials and minimizing the plastic that I use as much as possible—I use a full wood core and a full wood topsheet. But at the same time, they've still got to perform, so they do have a P-Tex base and are a real composite ski with metal edges and everything. But we use less plastic overall and a bio-based epoxy.
All of the cores are made of ash currently. I'm experimenting with using different words like poplar and maple. I've also done some with mahogany, but I love the look of the deep, aggressive wood grain of ash as the topsheet.
Let's talk specs! What kind of ride are Happy Hippy skis built for?
I have two models. Right now, there's only one length in each model, but next year I hope to offer more. The first model I call the Caribou—that one is about 175 centimeters long and 100 millimeters underfoot. It's my go-to lightweight—but still pretty aggressive—backcountry touring ski. just because it's a little bit shorter than I would usually use. It's a more directional ski. It still has some tail rocker similar to the Salomon QST or the HEAD Kore skis, like those directional all-mountain chargers. They're really fun in the backcountry because it is a little shorter and easier to move around, a little lighter weight, but at the same time charges pretty hard.
The other model I offer is called the Blizzard Wizard. That one is a little bit a little bit beefier, a little longer—definitely more of a resort-oriented ski. However, I still tour on that one quite a lot, too. It's about 186 centimeters long and 108 millimeters underfoot with a bit more rocker. It's not a full twin tip, but it is pretty darn close. I consider it my all-mountain freeride ski and it definitely charges hard. It's also my daily driver—I've got about 50 days on it this season so far—everything from deep powder to crunchy, terrible, icy snow and it enjoys all of it. It's very forgiving ski. You can really lay down some turns on groomers but when you do get off-trail, it's quite playful and also charges through crud quite well.
What is it about skiing that you love so much?
There's a lot of reasons. I've always loved adventure sports and getting a thrill out of doing crazy things. But the other major things I love doing are just like, long and grueling and difficult. I love running marathons and that type two fun, as we like to call it. But skis are a great way to transition from my summertime trail running and long distance hiking to be able to move long distances in the snow.
My wife and I always joke that if everyone skied, the world would be a more peaceful place. Most of the people I know that are diehard skiers are mellow people and are pretty easygoing. I know when I'm feeling stressed and I get out and ski, it really helps me to feel better. Part of our business model is we want to get more people out enjoying skiing and having a good life.
What do you love about Ogden?
Utah in general is just an awesome place. I love living in Ogden because the whole vibe of the city is kind of low-key, but everyone here seems to have a really good sense of community. People love to shop local and support each other, and it has a really cool mountain town vibe to it while also not being overrun and expensive like Park City. We sit four hours away from Moab and four hours away from the Tetons, and super close to the Uintas. You could do a day trip to any of those, and I have. We're so close to all the different kinds of adventuring that we like to do.