UMaine New Media graduate Chris Bagley stepped outside of the box in 2009 when he switched from a Web-based capstone to start a local business premised on building environmentally responsible skis. The do-it-yourselfer built his own ski press in his garage and began turning out prototypes–and turning heads on the slopes. As the Bangor Daily News reports, this will be the first season his skis will be available to the general public, custom-built for both East Coast skiing conditions and to customer specifications.

Bagley Capstone Press smaNew media are more than Web sites and DVDs–they include the social and ecological networks that power creativity in the do-it-yourself age. Bagley’s network includes his contacts at Sugarloaf and Sunday River, but also the bamboo and pines that supply sustainable materials for his skis.

As Emily Burnham reports in the Bangor Daily News,

He picked the name Yeti early on, combining a childhood Bigfoot obsession with a nod to snow culture. He also decided that his skis needed to be made of sustainable, environmentally friendly materials. Forgoing the maple or poplar often used in skis, Bagley opted for super-strong bamboo, a fast-growing wood with a low environmental impact, which he sources from a California flooring supply company. He also chose a pine-based epoxy, as opposed to an epoxy made with harsh chemicals.

“Bamboo has more strength per weight than almost any other wood, and it’s incredibly sustainable. It re-grows so quickly. You’d have to do something totally insane to destroy it,” he said. “It costs more for me, but I personally feel better about what I do using the pine sap epoxy, for example, rather than something else….

“The response really has been overwhelming,” he said. “People are willing to pay a little more for something that they know is not only made in Maine, but is made with good environmental practices in mind. It’s not astronomically high. We want the average skier to be able to afford it.”

Not surprisingly, the approach Bagley took to his capstone echoes findings of a recent study of maker culture by Carnegie Mellon:

“Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University share the results of a year-long survey studying DIY projects, communities, and cultures. The first ever large-scale survey of six DIY communities (Instructables, Etsy, Dorkbot, Ravelry, Adafruit and Craftster) explores the motivations and practices of 2600+ respondents….Findings highlight creativity, learning and open sharing as key values embedded in modern DIY culture.”

Beginning with something you love is also the first “cylinder” in publisher and open-source advocate Tim O’Reilly’s four cylinders of innovation:

The First Cylinder of Innovation: Have Fun.

The Second Cylinder of Innovation: Hey, we can change the world!

The Third Cylinder of Innovation: Build products, business models and entire industries.

The Fourth Cylinder of Innovation: Keep the Ecosystem Going, Create More Value than You Capture.

It will be interesting to see if Bagley can get any of the other three cylinders going in his innovative new startup. You can keep up with his progress at YetiSkis.com.

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