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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.)