Karakoram Snowboard Products, Extended Industry Visit


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 17, 2015      
Karakoram. On the bus to Stokeland.

Karakoram. On the bus to Stokeland.

Fall is an exciting time for backcountry people like us. The anticipation of snow in the hills is on our minds. It causes us to be simultaneously sane and insane. At Karakoram Splitboard Binding Company, fall is building season. Last September, I joined the crew at Karakoram to lend an extra set of hands and to learn about the design and building processes.

Assemblage cubical at Karakoram.

Assemblage cubical at Karakoram.

Something that makes this company stand out to me is that they really care about keeping their scene in the Northwest. The offices, prototyping room, production shop, and warehouse are located in the same building. This means that if a change needs to be made with a part, everyone can be in the same room problem solving, redrafting, and re-creating. Over 90 percent of Karakoram binding parts are made and sourced in Washington state. Every year they look for ways to bring more of their production to the local economy.

 The Ankle AirForm Strap is new, made in Washington state, available next year.

The Ankle AirForm Strap is new, made in Washington state, available next year.

Before I started working at the company, I was warned. Relationship and Communications Director and self proclaimed “Sultan of Stoke,” Russell Cunningham made sure I understood what I was walking into. He told me that there would be shop dogs, a keg of local beer, mountain bike sessions during lunch breaks, office debauchery, and that I would be the only female. Oh yeah, and I’d probably be building hundreds of the same thing a day. Ninety percent of what he said sounded rad! I was sold at “shop dogs!”

Shop dogs, Tucker and Cedar, making the rounds.

Shop dogs, Tucker and Cedar, making the rounds.

One thing that the founders and owners, Tyler and Bryce Kloster, said that really stood out to me was that there are no boss or worker hierarchies at Karakoram. We all build bindings and work together to make things happen.

Production and Process Engineer Rob Timmerman processing heel cups. Its true, everyone at the company helps build hundreds of parts a day. On their website, every single person’s job description involves 'binding builder,' no matter who they are.

Production and Process Engineer Rob Timmerman processing heel cups. It’s true, everyone at the company helps build hundreds of parts a day. On their website, every single person’s job description involves ‘binding builder,’ no matter who they are.

As I eased into my routine and the guys got used to having someone new around the shop, we spent much of the day laughing, joking, and pulling pranks while building. Much of our conversations were about snowboarding, snowfall, winter housing (several of us were about to move to mountain towns), and travel. Many podcasts and YouTube videos were shared, lunch breaks were usually spent in the parking lot playing on bikes or skateboards, and sometimes at the end of the day we’d enjoy a beer while we built.

A lunch break spent at nearby Snoqualmie Falls.

A lunch break spent at nearby Snoqualmie Falls.

Beer and bindings.

Beer and bindings.

At one point while we were building the new women specific bindings, it was pretty handy to have me in the shop to help rework a part. We needed someone that had the strength of a girl and did things like a girl. We needed a realistic consumer to make a fix that would meet Karakoram’s standards. I was proud to use my girly strength and ideas to help make their women’s line that much better.

So if you end up with a new pair of Karakoram bindings this year, chances are that I built part of them. Check out their website here and photos on Instagram @Karakorambc #WeAreSplitboarding.

(WildSnow guest blogger Rachel Bellamy skis, snowboards and does just about everything else that’s fun. Rachel calls the Pacific Northwest home but is often romping around the mountains and crags of other states she loves.)



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Comments

13 Responses to “Karakoram Snowboard Products, Extended Industry Visit”

  1. dynasplitter March 17th, 2015 5:14 pm

    Glad to see some splitty coverage on the site. Maybe with less beer and playtime Kara’s binders would be more durable..

  2. Lefrançais March 18th, 2015 3:06 am

    Great equipment and great company

  3. gringo March 18th, 2015 7:03 am

    @dynasplitter.

    If you don’t like beer and playtime you are welcome to work in a bank or an insurane brokerage, for the rest of us who value quality of life… I guess we’ll stick with workshop beers, pump tracks and halfpipes in the warehouse.

    cheers!

  4. Mike March 18th, 2015 7:14 am

    Good folks working at Karakoram. Made in the USA!

  5. Bill B March 18th, 2015 7:41 am

    Ya
    Real pride in workmanship.
    ” Hey man, I can do this stupid stuff stoned”

  6. Frame March 18th, 2015 8:14 am

    If you think insurance brokers don’t have a beer during work hours, you are dreaming. Lloyd’s actuaries open up the pubs at 11am on a Monday around their offices in London – literally overflowing onto the pavement. All work and no beer/play makes for a very disinterested workforce.

    Do you get stoned from drinking beer? I feel like there is something different in the beer over the pond…

    People aren’t machines and machines won’t have moments of inspiration during their play time.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 March 18th, 2015 10:01 am

    OSHA will have final say in the matter (grin).

  8. Shane March 18th, 2015 3:34 pm

    On topic: cool story but I wish that some time would have been spent describing the actual function of the bindings. Even some of the AT audience here may have enjoyed a little techie discussion of how these bindings function vs the more passive action of the Voile and Spark offerings.

    Off topic, and aimed at Gringo: I get so tired of the “oh yeah, well you have a real
    job so you must have a crappy quality of life” nonsense. First of all, the fact that we’re all commenting here means we probably have more in common than we do differences. Secondly, myself and most of my friends have career track jobs that don’t allow drinking during work hours, pump track riding in the warehouse, etc.. But you know what? Our quality of life kicks ass. I enjoy my work (environmental consultant) and, in fact, I have a lot of pride knowing that my job results in clean water and soil – something that is arguably more meaningful than helping someone recreate. It also pays well in terms of time off (lots of it – especially in winter), insurance, and $. And those things go a loooong way towards creating a good quality of life.

  9. See March 18th, 2015 7:29 pm

    Ancient history at this point, but I worked for a few years in shops that Rachel’s piece brings to mind. I wouldn’t be too critical of gringo for coming to her defense. We did useful work and took it seriously (mostly). That said, I think drinking and working is like drinking and skiing— I like both, but not at the same time.

  10. See March 18th, 2015 8:47 pm

    Of course, I couldn’t tell a split board from a ham sandwich.

  11. Coop March 19th, 2015 1:40 am

    Shane,

    In relation to your request for more of the tech side of Karakoram’s new bindings, I will be posting an in depth review of their Prime System in the next couple of weeks. Check back in!

  12. Rachel Bellamy March 20th, 2015 7:42 pm

    Karakoram is a stand up company and I respect them for mixing in a few of life’s pleasures (in moderation of course) with work. Dogs make me silly happy. So being able to work and have great canine companions at my side while doing so, made it that much better. There is nothing wrong with mixing hobbies and passions into the daily grind. Even if it is a half pint of local beer.

    Also, I’m glad some folks are stoked on the split side of things!

    Look for Coop’s closer look at the Karakoram Prime binding soon.

  13. TM March 24th, 2015 6:09 pm

    Less fluff, more tech. Like… Karakoram make the only soft-boot binding-interface system whose interface overlaps the seam to the opposite ski. This allows the board to flex along a more even plane in ride mode–disallowing one ski to flex higher than the other. As a matter of ride-mode performance, this is a big deal, and it’s astonishing (or, perhaps telling) that the other companies (Voile, and now Plum) have still not figured this out. The Phantom interface and binding system, which is better designed and more elegant, also overlaps the ski seam but it is thus far solely for AT boots.





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