Photo credit: WNDR Alpine
Pep Fujas is a personal ski hero of mine, so I was already excited to interview him. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, he hit the ski-headlines shocking us all by leaving K2 for Matt Sterbenz’s new brand WNDR Alpine. So when interview time came around, we had plenty to talk about, both new and old!
Hi Pep, you’ve been pretty busy recently! How long have you been planning to leave K2?
There was never a plan to leave K2. K2 came out for a marketing shoot in April. At that time I had some initial conversations with the team manager, about redoing my contract. He was looking forward to that and I was really looking to build on our relationship. It wasn’t until late May/early June that Matt (Sterbenz) reached out and said ‘hey, would you like to help me launch WNDR Alpine’. We’d been talking about the brand at the end of the season, he was testing some skis and I ended up testing some for him. He wanted some advice and opinion, so I said ‘sure, why not?’. I was interested, I asked him when he wanted to launch, and he told me June! I told him I was with K2 until the end of the year and there’s all kind of details that we would have to iron out, but it got me thinking.
What is your role at WNDR Alpine?
Initially, Matt was thinking I’d be the image and likeness of the brand and just represent the brand as an athlete. That wasn’t really that appealing to me, so I kind of rethought and wondered if I could have some more value and provide some more value to the WNDR Alpine brand and be integrated into designing better product, be a part of the marketing team or whatever. I just wanted to figure out where I could fit in. Matt went back to his CEO Charles Dimmler and told him that I wasn’t that interested in being an athlete, but would like a more integral role in the company. Charles thought that actually sounded a lot better, he wasn’t really thinking of having any "traditional" athletes on their program, at least in the short term.
It was actually pretty serendipitous, within the next two weeks he happened to be coming through the office. I sat down with him and we hit it off. He said I should come out to the Berkely headquarters and learn about their technology, innovations, science and see if it was the right fit for me and we just went from there.
Photo: Sam Watson
WNDR uses more environmentally friendly materials, do you think skiing, in general, is getting more environmentally conscious and is that a big part of WNDR Alpine?
Yeah, that is a big part of WNDR. The technology is there and we’re developing oils, composites and internal components, to integrate down the line.
I think, overall, we should be more conscious as skiers and people who utilize the mountains. Particularly with ski design, building and the whole manufacturing process is pretty dirty and I think a lot of people just turn a blind eye to it or just don’t want to talk about it.
We just want to open up the conversation and do our best and look at how we can do better, both upstream and downstream of our process and the process of manufacturing itself.
WNDR Alpine's skis are made from these new materials, do they perform differently?
That’s kind of the main value proposition of this whole endeavor, the base structural components of the molecules have novel properties that do have superior performance characteristics. The foam core that we have now, has a better strength to weight ratio than competitors structures.
Does that mean that they’re generally lighter?
Yeah, you can get a little bit lighter and still maintain solid strength and rigidity that you need. There are so many complex characteristics that you need, in order for all different components of a ski to integrate properly and that dictates how the ski reacts in different conditions. They’re definitely a little bit lighter, but we’re focusing on the strength and durability.
Photo: Jay Beyer
Is there anything you’d like to say about your time with K2?
K2 was definitely my longest-standing partnership/relationship. They essentially brought me up. They allowed for so many incredible opportunities. They helped push me and I helped push their ski design and development. I have nothing but respect for K2, as a company and a brand. Historically, it’s one brand that probably has brought up some of the most notable skiers. They have always had a passion for the more ‘unconventional’ type of skier.
The Fujative was the first pair of skis I bought with my own money. I did not have a lot of money, was that the point of the ski?
That’s one of the things I really wanted. I wanted something that was accessible to more people because I remember going into the ski shop and there was no way I could have bought the majority of skis. I wanted to make something that’s appealing to my demographic, based on the way that I was skiing at the time. The idea was to build a progressive flex pattern, where you can do more presses, pop and have a bit more fun with. I saw a couple of pairs last year, so people are still skiing them!
Production of skis is changing. The production of ski movies has undergone some pretty drastic change since the days of Session 1242 was that your favorite movie part?
Well, it was certainly my most notable, but I think if we compiled all my shots from IDEA, that could be my favorite.
I can see why you like it, but did you realize IDEA would be such a game-changing movie?
I knew it would have an impact because Eric (Pollard), Andy (Mahre) and myself were doing things that were different at the time. I felt like it definitely had a place, so I thought it would do well, I never thought it would ‘change the game’. We were all just highly motivated to do something a bit different. We were just kind of tired of the old ‘ski movie model’ of just having individual parts, we wanted a more communal feel and vibe, just have more fun. When you work closely with the filmers and the other skiers, you understand what they’re going to do and how best to film it you can have a nice conversation about the artistic perspective of how to film a certain trick and play with angles. That synergy between filmer and athlete or athlete and athlete, that works a lot better, so you’re not just going on a single film shoot.
What’s your view on the constant stream of footage from social media these days?
It’s certainly hard to track exactly what’s going on, but it’s also really fun to see what’s going on. I can go onto my Instagram feed and see tons of new tricks and all the new things that people are doing and that’s pretty neat. It can maybe dilute people’s value, I think, across the board, just because it’s hard to generate the same kind of hype. People don’t get excited for months to come, because now it’s all instantly at your fingertips. Then it’s really hard to sort through and see all the different things that are taking place.
What type of skiing do you like to watch now?
I really don’t like to discriminate, I love all types of skiing. I still love watching park skiing, urban skiing and the new age skiing like Magnus and those types of guys, not that I want to generalize! Then, of course, there are backcountry and backcountry fusion skiers, I just really respect what so many people are doing. The level’s just gone insane.
And who inspired you before and throughout your career?
I was always inspired my Tanner, Evan, CR some local Mammoth guys. When I was young I looked up to people like Scott Schmidt, Plake, moving on to Micah Black, Seth Morrison, and Will Burks and those kind of big mountain skiers.
Photo: Sam Watson
We all know about Pep Fujas the skier, but what do you do when you’re not on the hill?
Well these days, I’ve been going to business school. I was working for my family business for the last nine months. I’m doing operation management, so I can manage their systems.
I have two daughters now, of two and four. I like to spend as much time as I can with them. Going to the park, going on fun hikes and teaching them a thing or two about this and that. Every weekend I take them skiing and my daughter skied her first black diamond last winter. That was pretty monumental. I like to go biking, be outdoors, and just travel.
Do you have a message for anyone reading this who has ambitions to emulate what you’ve done as a skier?
I think I can just add, for the youth and the people that are really passionate about skiing: Just do it, follow your passion!
Trip: I would go up to Golden Alpine holidays in BC. Given optimal conditions anyway!
Trick (or four!): I always love a switch flat 7 or a Zero Spin is always a fun trick. There are also not too many better feelings than just doing a flat 3 or a super corked 3.
Track: I’d go with… the last thing I listened to was Payday by Israel Vibration.