Custom Topsheets: A Deeper Look at the Process + Some of our Favorites

Each year we build hundreds of custom skis for people all over the world. Each ski varies in length, width, sidecut, tip/tail shapes, rocker/camber profiles, and is made up of a different handpicked combinations of materials with diverse stiffness/flex patterns. But what makes each ski even more special to its owner is the unique custom ski graphic they help design and pick, what we call your topsheet design. We offer stock graphic options, wood veneers and custom ski graphic designs—which is where things get really fun.

Heather Baltzley, who has been working with Wagner Custom Skis for over eight years, helps turn client’s ideas into reality. Baltzley graduated from Syracuse University with a major in Communication Design as well as Painting and Art History minors. She worked in Boston before moving to Telluride in 1999. Her advice for the process? Think about what you want, collect artwork, draw out ideas and take your time to source third-party pieces.

Baltzley can turn an idea into a design, but she can also turn a friend, artist, photographer or family member’s artwork into a topsheet-friendly blueprint. Commissioning original artwork for a pair of skis can be a long process, but she notes it’s always worth it. Baltzley has worked with some inspiring illustrators, painters and photographers over the years and their pieces are the perfect inspiration for a ski topsheet.

With each unique topsheet, Baltzley helps cure the process for the perfect custom ski. Here are some of the memorable topsheets she helped design this season with a brief description of what makes each of them so unique to her.

This ski is a great example of how we can brand skis for owners of businesses. White Road is an investment company, and this is their actual logo, resized, tweaked and re-imagined to fit on the skis.

Our former production intern, local teen Jack Plantz, won the 2016 BootDoctor’s ski design contest. This topsheet is inspired by the aspens off of Chair 6 in Telluride, and I love that Jack worked both San Joaquin and the CO flag into this particular version.

This father’s family has an inside joke about yetis. Each yeti on this ski has been customized to a particular family member! Everything has been chosen/designed to have some meaning to the family, and even the dogs, Jeep, cabin and Mt. Rainier have significance to the owner of this ski.

The bear was drawn specifically for these skis by the son of the owner of this ski. The original layout of this ski (as proposed by the son) broke down each bear into parts, but I think this version is a more successful representation of the artwork.

ANDY WARHOL! Need I say more?

I love the serenity of these skis. I enjoyed finding the trees (and color matching them) to resonate with the bear artwork.

Old ski posters and skis are a logical combination, and I like the juxtaposition of “old” style art to “new” ski shape. The artist is a famous Italian painter who specializes in pin-up girls!

The “Great Wave off Kanagawa” is one of my favorite paintings, and the artwork is considered “public domain.” I’ve always wanted to make a “Great Wave” pair of skis for myself, and this is what they would have looked like.

I love abstract shapes and negative space. If you don’t know what “Suerte” is, or don’t know its rabbit, you won’t be able to put the image together. But once you’ve seen the whole rabbit, you won’t ever un-see it.

We’ve done a lot of Grateful Dead skis through the years but these are my favorite, as they are the most subtle. The owner of these skis got the rights to use the image from the wife of the (now deceased) artist.

These skis were a surprise gift from a daughter to her father. The daughter drew the graphic–all the family members are represented–and she documented the entire process. She gave the photo album (including photos of us at Wagner) to her dad when she presented him with the skis.

Another good example of branding. Often, brands have a very limited amount of art to use (usually just a logo and corporate colors). This company has quite a few elements in their branding, and it was great to have so many options to use.

Nacho cheese, corn chips, and jalapenos. And, the cheese dispenser on the tails of the skis really ties it all together. – Pete Wagner

Love this graphic inspiration? View more here and here.