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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for January, 2013

Postcard from Home: The Oregon Coast

Posted by Bryanna | January 21st, 2013 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Travel, Who We Are

One of the most scenic landscapes in Oregon spans 363 miles along the Pacific Ocean. The coast is home to sand dunes flowing into cliffs that drop straight to the sea and a rocky coastline that has served as a backdrop for countless Hollywood movies.  Yet with all this majestic beauty so close to our daily life, we barely take the time to truly enjoy all this state has to offer. So I am dedicating this Postcard to exploring home, to taking time to stop at every scenic outlook, tourist trap, trailhead and gravel road.  Because when you abandon being a local, you notice more about your surroundings.

Unlike your typical beach, the Oregon coast is the most magnificent during the winter months. I find it quite suiting that we don’t call it the beach, but the coast.  For the word beach does not describe the natural wonders that live here. From the oversized crushing white waves, to the small fishing towns, high view points and populated tide pools, an hours drive from Portland has so much to offer.

Driving south on the 101 from Cannon Beach to Manzanita, the winding two-lane road creeps up and down a jagged cliff.  Though icicles hang where water once dripped, the sun is at its highest point of the day. The radiating heat from the sun hitting the car makes it almost feel like summer.  We slam on our brakes to soak in every view of the ocean, slide around corners for signs of beach access, and jump under ropes for a closer viewpoint.

As the evening sun sets,  people rush from their condos, cars and storefronts to catch a glimpse of the yellow, then orange, then purple and red skyline. Couples hold hands, kids play in the sand, and the sun slowly fades behind a curtain of splashing turmoil. We wonder to ourselves, are we the last people on the west coast to see the sun tonight? We cheers a toast: Here’s to adventure, to getting out no matter the distance, and taking a finer look at what’s in front of you every day.

Wish you were here.


Engineering the Perfect Ski: An Interview with Pete Wagner

Posted by leighann | January 8th, 2013 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport, Partnerships

Courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis

How do you build the perfect ski? All you need is some sugar maple, Kevlar and the world’s most badass computer algorithm. Oh, and you need Pete Wagner, too. The computer-nerd turned ski-craftsman who started Wagner Custom Skis is single-handedly changing the way an industry makes skis. This week in the Thought Kitchen, we sit down with the man behind the planks to learn more about the number cruncher and his coveted custom boards.

OTG: It’s a bluebird day in Telluride and you’re on the phone talking to me. I’m honored.
Pete: (Laugh) That’s alright, I got out this morning.

OTG: You moved to Telluride in 1998 with a mechanical engineering degree and an impressive career customizing high-end golf clubs. So how does one make the leap from computer nerd to ski-maker?
Pete: Well I bought a pair of telemark skis that I couldn’t demo. But they were the right size, length, width, and they were from a good company, so I bought them anyways. I skied on them for about 70 days, then tried another set and realized I had been crippling myself. At the time, I was working as an engineer developing software for design analysis and manufacturing of golf equipment and I thought, why wasn’t anyone doing this type of fitting technology for skiers? I was spending my energy trying to figure this out in a parallel industry. So that’s what inspired me to create the software for fitting people into the right ski.

OTG: Funny, when I think of making skis, I don’t think of software. And the few boutique ski-makers which do exist in the country mostly rely on precast molds, but you don’t use molds, you use—as you said— software. How’s that possible?
Pete: Our software designs the skis and programs our manufacturing equipment to fabricate all of our parts for the skis. Using high tech machinery, we fabricate all of the components of the skis—the base, bending the steel edges, the wood core, sidewalls, structural layers. Then we use the scrap material from cutting out these different parts—along with our computer-controlled milling equipment—to create the molds for our skis. So every ski gets a unique mold which allows us to go through the same steps each time we build a product, but build a completely unique product every time. It’s a mass customization manufacturing model.

Pete putting the final finish on a pair of Wagner Custom Skis. Image courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis.

OTG: So would you say Wagner Custom Skis are the most customized ski on the market?
Pete: As far as we know. Because every ski we design is uniquely optimized for the individual skier based on length, width, side cut, tail shapes, camber, and rocker. We calibrate the stiffness and flex pattern based on a person’s size and skier preferences. We choose the perfect set of materials, and they get to choose their own graphics.

OTG: You also use Kevlar and Carbon wraps with a traditional wood core. Why do you choose these materials?
Pete: The way we build our skis is the way they built World Cup skis back in the 70’s, and that technology hasn’t changed that much. We take proven materials that work well for ski construction, performance and longevity and we focus on the fit. That way, we can create a design that can help improve someone’s balance, comfort, control, efficiency and power. Ultimately, we create a product that makes skiing easier and more fun for people, and we do that by focusing on the fit rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with materials.

OTG: I think you just answered my next question, but I’ll ask it anyways: How is a Wagner Custom Ski going to change my experience?
Pete: It’s going to help your balance, comfort, control, improve your efficiency, allow you to conserve your leg strength and energy so you can ski longer in the day. It also improves your power, so you can ski with better control and more fluidity. If you look at the best skiers in the world like Bode Miller and Ted Legity, you realize that they aren’t skiing in off-the-shelf skis. They’re sponsored by a company which has a small prototyping shop with a team of dedicated engineers which are making sure that they are on the perfect equipment that will allow them to ski at their absolute highest potential. That’s what Wagner Custom Skis does for recreational skiers. We’re a team of engineers and craftsmen who help people ski their best by making sure they are on their perfect fit equipment.

Courtesy of Wagner Custom Skis

OTG: Well, I’m sold. At Nau, sustainability and performance are two of our core values. And you already touched upon performance as your core value, but how is sustainability reflected in your business?
Pete: We focus on two things: energy and conservation. From an energy perspective, we have a solar thermal system that is on the roof of our building which supplies all of the heat and hot water for our shop. We buy wind energy to run our computers and factory equipment. From a conservation approach, we try and minimize our energy usage by using programmable thermostats and energy efficient lights and work stations to conserving the materials we use and minimizing our waste stream.

OTG: Many people don’t realize that there’s a personal component to sustainability which involves maintaining a sustainable work/life balance, something that’s hard to do as you become more successful. Obviously, you’ve done just that, so how do you strike a balance?
Pete: One thing that we do to help us stay focused on that balance is that we have a Powder Day Clause. So if the snow report for the Telluride Ski Resort shows five inches or more, we work from 1pm to 9pm so that we can get out and take advantage of the best skiing.

OTG: Excuse me, I think I need to go convince our GM to include a Powder Day Clause.

On the Border of Syria: A Dispatch from Mercy Corps

Posted by Guest | January 2nd, 2013 | Filed under Partners for Change, Partnerships, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Hasna and her seven children fled the civil war in Syria with practically nothing. Mercy Corps-distributed clothes, blankets, mattresses and gas heating supplies will help them through the winter. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

This week in the Thought Kitchen, Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development and Communications Officer for Mercy Corps, one of our longstanding Partners for Change, travels to Jordan to give us a first hand account of the Syrian refugee crisis and what we can do to help.

Mafraq, Jordan — I am sitting on the floor of a cold, crumbling single room dwelling just on the Jordan side of the Syria-Jordan border.  I’m sipping Turkish coffee, surrounded by a family of Syrian refugees.  The coffee isn’t warming me up much: it is December and it is freezing.

My host is a lady named Hasna Erhael.  She’s a 36 year old mother of seven, six of whom are girls and are sitting with us.  Her oldest child, a 15-year-old boy, is out collecting recyclables to make some money.  Hasna and her family fled Syria a few months ago when their town came under attack by the Syrian army.  Her husband is back in Syria fighting the regime and says he won’t stop until they have taken Damascus.

They came over the border with nothing, and nothing is pretty much what they still have.  They rent this room with help from relatives.  No work.  No school.  No toys or art supplies.  No furniture. No electricity or heat.  No running water.

I don’t want to make Hasna sound like a victim — that’s certainly not how she sees herself.  She tells me she and her family just need to be able to eat a little bit and they’ll be able to hold out until the fighting ends and they can return to Syria. But she is nervous for her girls: “They have nothing to do.  They miss school and they are totally bored.”  They are clearly struggling, and that’s where Mercy Corps comes in.

We are working with a local religious leader to identify Syrian refugees — more than 15,000 of them are hunkered down among the 60,000 permanent resident — and help meet some of their basic needs.  Right now, we have the money to help about 1000 refugee families in Mafraq get prepared for winter: that means we’ve giving them winter coats, blankets, kitchen supplies, food packages, gas heaters and gas.  In general, we are a “hand-up not a hand-out” kind of operation, but in times like this we do our best to bring struggling people some measure of material comfort.  Mercy Corps is providing similar support to Syrian refugees throughout the region.

Mercy Corps is proud to be a partner of Nau.  Support from Nau and its customers allows us to meet the needs of people like Hasna and her family.  For more on our response with Syrian refugees, click here.  

Jeremy Barnicle at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. Mercy Corps drilled the well, which will serve all 40-plus thousand Syrian refugees in the camp, plus tens of thousands who live in neighboring communities.