Praxis Skis: Handcrafting skis in the Sierra

Adam Garon laying up a ski. | Keith O’Meara

In the middle of one of the best snow seasons of the decade, it’s not a stretch to find Praxis Skis owner Keith O’Meara out on the slopes, shredding powder on a pair of his custom-made skis.

He’s been in the business for 20 years now. All Praxis snow sticks are handcrafted in Tahoe and made of the finest quality, most durable materials that have been tested by professional skiers, ski patrol crews, employees and returning customers.

O’Meara started Praxis out of his garage in Truckee after graduating from Sierra Nevada College (now University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe). According to O’Meara, he studied business and computer applications, “but really studied skiing.” It was around that time in the late 1990s and early 2000s that he began going to freeskiing competitions and noticed that there weren’t really any powder skis on the market.

“My cousin [Kevin O’Meara] was on the circuit along with other ripping skiers and we started bringing out our new design at competitions. We got kind of laughed at because we were on our own homemade skis, but at that time there weren’t any others available.”     –Keith O’Meara

So, he built a business plan and started making skis specific to Sierra Nevada conditions out of his garage, all while managing to fit 180 days of skiing in a year. His first model was inspired by Shane McConkey’s Spatula, a full reverse rocker powder ski, which was like nothing else out at the time. It helped that his cousin Kevin O’Meara was also on the Freeskiing World Tour, competing on a pair of skis that he made himself in O’Meara’s shop.

“My cousin was on the circuit along with other ripping skiers and we started bringing out our new design at competitions. We got kind of laughed at because we were on our own homemade skis, but at that time there weren’t any others available,” O’Meara says.

Nowadays there is a lot more competition in the small ski company arena, but Praxis’s production process — and its ability to make custom skis — is what sets it apart from the rest.

“A lot of our platform is built on a custom ski model. We can make heavier, lighter, stiffer skis, and we have 150 graphics to choose from. It works well, making skis that people want that are already pre-sold.”

The company hosts a big, custom pre-order sale in April with pairs of skis starting at $600.

Praxis pioneered a method of printing graphics on wood veneers with the digital stain matching the grain, making each pair unique and more lightweight. Praxis also offers 20 pairs of standard models to choose from, everything from carving to backcountry to touring. And thanks to selling directly through its website, Praxis Skis has sold skis around the world.

“The first four years [we started making skis], 50 percent of our sales were international; it was all online through gear junky forums, [Teton Gravity Research] made it more global. But then more smaller companies in Europe started making powder skis and we lost some of that market. Though, more customers transitioned to the U.S. and we kind of became the California ski brand,” he says.

The direct-to-consumer business model also makes the transactions more personal.

“Every day I run into people on Praxis Skis in Tahoe, especially at Alpine. It’s fun because they may not know who I am and I can ask them about how they like their skis. Usually I’ve got my head down in the lift line looking for my skis — that’s who I want to ride with,” he says.

Selling directly through the website allows O’Meara to make upwards of 2,000 pairs of skis per year and still get 100-plus days of skiing in during the season. And customers do come to the factory in Incline Village, Nev.

At that moment in our conversation, Praxis Team Rider Jed Kravitz walked in. Kravitz is one of the top competitors on the Freeride World Tour, most recently he took first place at the 2022 Big Sky IFSA Freeride World Tour Qualifier Final.

“We have a pro model for him,” O’Meara says about Kravitz’s Jedi Mind Sticks. Having friends, family members, ski patrol crews and team riders competing on the Freeride World Tour helps because Praxis skis are really put to the test in terms of their durability in various conditions.

When I ask him what his goals for the company are, O’Meara replies: “Just to continue to have fun with it. I’m fortunate with that, to live in Tahoe and have a fun lifestyle. And we have a really good crew.” |