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deviation-skis

Deviation works with artists such as Michael Barrington Palmer, who designed these top sheets.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: WHOOPS! Probably shouldn't have reported this news before the lease was signed. Turns out the deal fell through after Deviation and the landlord failed to agree to terms. We will keep this story live as originally published, though, since the background info is still valuable, and it is probably just a matter of time before Deviation finds the right spot in Portland that fits their needs as they grow.

The rising ski and snowboard builder Deviation is all set to move into an industrial space on Hayden Island in Portland to capitalize on a resurgence in specialized gear made in the USA.

The company has been operating out of a 1,500-square-foot space Gresham and testing its boards on Mount Hood year-round since launching two and a half years ago.  A steady rise in orders is enabling the move into a 4,000-square-foot class A warehouse in Portland that will soon be humming with routers, band saws and ski presses.

Deviation's 31-year-old CEO Tim Wells, who grew up in Ithaca, New York and graduated from Cornell, says the team is stoked to move into Portland. They chose Portland over more crowded markets in Salt Lake City and Denver because of Oregon's powerful do-it-yourself culture and the extra-long shred season on Mount Hood.

"Portland is a great fit for us," says Wells. "It's a buy-local place, and we really wanted to stand out and build a personal connection with our skiers and riders. Plus, we can go skiing and riding year-round here. As soon as we finish a new ski or snowboard we can be out riding it the next day."

It's a recipe that has worked for several local manufacturing companies, most notably ON3P Skis, which also has moved into a larger space in Northeast Portland and recently won a Skier's Choice award from Powder magazine and an Editor's Pick award from Freeskier.

Oregon's ski and snowboard gear manufacturing niche is nowhere near as vibrant as the local craft beer, indy rock and bike frame clusters, but it is growing. The 2013 SkiFever and Snowboard show in Portland featured local brands ranging from Choad Cheese Snowboard Wax to Global Grind Clothing, and new companies like Solution Clothing are gaining ground by making products in Oregon and selling them globally online.

Deviation could boost the scene significantly if it takes off as planned. The company consists of six partners: Tim Wells, Matt Hilbert, Peter Wells, Hannah Van Arsdell, Mike Zutz and Mike Zufelt. They build from raw-board lumber to finished product, and they source most of their materials locally.

They build their wooden cores from black locust, basswood and ash plus some poplar for the snowboard cores. The ash is for stability underfoot, while the basswood is quite light and flexible, and the black locust is hard and tough for holding an edge and withstanding impact at top speed. "We're very happy with our core," says Tim Wells. "We feel that we bring out the best in each of the woods we use."

For their top sheets, Deviation designers built their our own sublimation press to produce custom-made graphics in their factory. They can personalize your ride with any design you send them, and they work with artists to offer a gallery of design choices.

Tim Wells says the personalized designs have proven extremely popular. "People just love that custom top sheet. It’s an extra $150, but it's a one-of-a-kind ski or snowboard that is completely yours."

This will be a big year for Deviation as it tries to leap from selling mostly online to getting their boards into shops nationwide. That will take a lot of work.

"It is not an easy industry to break into, but we knew that starting a manufacturing company wouldn't happen overnight," says Wells. "We're in it for the long haul.

"We plan to be in a store in every major ski market for the 2014-15 season."