On Missoula's Westside, in a workshop next to Draught Works Brewing Co. on West Spruce Street, a pile of fresh sawdust lies beneath a shelf of newly cut alpine snowboards. Ronuk Patel, 26, explains that his hand-built boards will soon be fitted with steel edging and a layer of basalt, which he says will replace the traditional layer of fiberglass found in most boards.
"They're supposed to be lighter, stronger," Patel says of his boards.
For three years Patel has been building and selling his line of Big Hip Snowboards out of his garage. This year, he teamed up with the founders of LB Snow and moved his operation into a shop adjacent to the brewery. Now he has two distinct models for sale that represent the type of snowboard he has spent years aiming to perfect.
"This year they've gotten really, really good and how I want them to be," Patel says. "It was really big for me to team up with those guys."
Patel won't sell his gear through any other distributor unless it's out of town, hoping to draw locals into his location. He asserts that his line can meet the quality of any high-end board on the market, but that he won't sell his products for higher than $300-$350.
"I want kids to actually buy my board and ride it," he says. "I'm not doing this just to become rich."
David Bosler, who founded LB Snow with Luke Morris last year, says the company started doing tune-ups on skis and split boards in their basement in 2009. Bosler says they saw a need to bring higher quality service to riders seeking backcountry adventure, a trend he says is veering away from terrain park-style acrobatics.
"Now it's all about who can go the farthest. (It's about) the deepest pow, the biggest line," he says.
Bosler estimates that between all the pro-shops in town, about 2,500 tune-up services are rendered each year. He hopes to eventually siphon half of that business toward LB Snow. Patel, meanwhile, says he will be offering his boards for free demos once the slopes open this season.