Renoun Skis’ Cyrus Schnek on Shaking Up the Ski Game and Hitting the Second “Diviest” Bar in TownBy Tricia Mirchandani
Cyrus Schenck is shaking up an industry that has remained largely unchanged for 40 years. As the founder and CEO of Renoun Skis, he’s built a revolutionary ski using Hyper Dampening Technology (HDT), a technology he designed with a reactive material that increases stability as speed increases. He’s also changing the way people buy skis and engage with the companies who make them.
“In a typical season, I’m hitting at least one ski resort every weekend for a demo day,” says Schenck who often uses his hotel room as a launching pad for spreading the word about his business.
Marriott TRAVELER caught up with Schenck as part of the TownePlace Suites YouTube series Stories from the road to talk about skiing, innovation, being on the road for extended stays and the beauty you’ll find at the second “diviest” bar in town.
Can you take us back to the moment you first decided to build a better ski?
The idea first came to me when I was driving back to Clarkson from a ski trip in Vermont. My friends and I talked about it, but you couldn’t innovate with existing materials. All of the innovation in new designs and shapes had been exhausted. It wasn’t until three or four years later, sitting in a material sciences class on a Monday morning, that I learned about this non-Newtonian polymer that now makes up what we call HDT. That moment was exhilarating. I knew someone needed to try this out.
What has kept you focused on that exhilarating feeling when your business has met challenges?
From the start, we’ve wanted to prove people wrong and create space for innovation in this industry. We wanted to prove that a small company could take on the big guys and be successful. Winning the ISPO Gold medal for innovation also kept me going. ISPO is the ski industry’s most prestigious show, and winning gave us a lot of authenticity. It proved that we aren’t like everyone else in the industry.
What would you say has been the most important thing you’ve done to put Renoun on the path to success?
We looked at the industry, how ski companies have operated since 1973, and we ignored it all. We take rule breaking to heart, both in the design of our skis and in our business.
What do you think is the most important part of traveling for your business?
We talk to our customers face-to-face. Our feedback loop is incredibly tight for this industry. If something doesn’t seem quite right, or if something is going well, we know about it right away. Most ski companies operate through dealerships, with so many links between them and the customer. We get feedback quickly and make changes based on it.
Do you have any travel necessities or routines that keep you going?
Having fast internet access is one of the most important things for me. With internet access I can run Renoun from anywhere. A good night’s sleep is also important. To stand out in the cold for hours, you need to wake up refreshed and ready to go.
What are your top three favorite places to ski, and where do you dream of skiing that you haven’t been yet?
Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont is my favorite on the East Coast. They are a rock-solid destination, and their brand is airtight because they don’t dilute it with partnerships.
Aspen is amazing. The skiing is great, and the town is fascinating. Mad River Glen is also great. They are a co-op resort that hasn’t needed to be bought to stay afloat. By tapping into the emotion of skiing, they’ve created a following that they haven’t had to pay for.
And my dream place to ski is Niseko, Japan.
Do you have any tips for how to feel like a local when you’re traveling?
Walk up to a random, everyday person in the street and ask them to tell you the three diviest bars in town. Don’t go to the first one because it is really a dive! But go to the second one and talk to people. It totally works.
We did this once on a camping trip in a tiny town in Calgary, and the bar owner invited us back to stay at his place. We stayed up drinking wine and talking with him and his wife, and the next morning he made us breakfast. So that’s my tip: Don’t be afraid of the second diviest bar in town.
How has traveling changed your perspective on the world?
The world is so small. I run into people and make connections every time I travel. You always need to keep a positive vibe.
What’s next for Renoun?
We want to be the company that shook up the ski industry forever. People will know that at some point around this time, the ski industry was tipped on its head, and we were the ones who did it. It’s about more than selling a ski. It’s about shifting perspective.