Combining work with our passion for the outdoors is a staple of life at SKIS.com. We’re lucky to have a staff that loves the products we sell just as much, if not more, than the customers we sell to. We would like to introduce our ski buyer Thom, a ski junkie who has been skiing almost as long as he could walk.
Name: Thom Phillips
Role: Ski Buyer
Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI
How long have you been with SKIS.com?
I have been the ski buyer for SKIS.com since 2013, but have been with our parent company Summit Sports LLC since 2003, when it acquired Don Thomas Sporthaus, in Birmingham MI, where I had been working since the the age of 14.
How long have you been skiing? How and when were you introduced to the sport?
A little over thirty years, since I was 20 months old. Skiing has always been a big family thing for us; my parents got my brother involved young, and my dad thought 3-years old was too long to wait so I started around my 2nd birthday.
What do you ride/what equipment do you use? And why?
What I ride changes week to week, but my current setup uses Salomon QST 106’s. I like to ski a wider ski, and those particular skis and very playful, very light, great in soft snow and the crud. I prefer to be in the trees, in the crud, in the bumps, that kind of stuff, but they still rail turns on hard pack and I can ski them on hills that are both 200 vertical feet or 2,000, and they are going to perform great for me anywhere. Boots right now, I’m on the Tecnica Mach 1 130. I’m in those boots purely because of the liner. I’m a huge believer in that CAS liner. It’s incredibly dense, it’s incredibly responsive and it doesn’t pack out so you get the same fit on Day 50 as you do on Day 1.
Favorite type of terrain?
My favorite terrain is really whatever I’m on, but if the snow is good I want to be off trail in the trees, big open bowls, chutes. Anywhere steep with fresh snow is really where I want to be.
Where was the last place you’ve skied and where is your favorite place you’ve skied?
The last place I skied was Heavenly (in Lake Tahoe, California). Closed out the season there closing day last year. Favorite place is almost impossible. If I had to pick a top three, Vail (Vail, Colorado) because I grew up skiing there. I’ve spent hundreds of days skiing there, and I just know that mountain better than any other mountain. I’d say Squaw (Olympic Valley, California) just because that mountain is heavy hitting and it’s big. It’s one of the only places in North America that is above tree line and it’s got some really heavy stuff. Third one is probably going to be Alta (Alta, Utah). Just because it’s classic, it’s down-home, it’s ski bum-y, has really good tree skiing but also really good open stuff. It’s just a super, super fun ride there on powder day.
Favorite skiing memory?
Getting yelled at by a bunch of Austrians! I was in St. Anton (Austria), and there’s a ridgeline that follows right underneath the chairlift. It had definitely been snowing pretty hard the last 3 days, and without too much regard for my safety, in younger and stupider days, I decided to head down the ridgeline. I was getting yelled at by people, presumably telling me not to go that direction. I got to the end of where the chutes were stacking up, found one I liked and just pointed it. It was like waist deep powder the whole way down, super steep and it was just an absolute riot of a run. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done it because I didn’t bother to check the snow pack.
Most wicked wipeout?
It was at the Lake Chutes in Breckenridge. I was living out there that season and I got super comfortable with a particular drop-in. I hadn’t really been up there in a week or two and it hadn’t really been snowing, so just with the melt off the drop-off got a lot bigger than I anticipated. Then there was another little rock that had been exposed so it turned it into a little bit of a two-stager. I landed the first one in the backseat and launched the second one with my back on the tails of my skis, and preceded to tomahawk at least 600 or 700 feet down to the bottom. I was pretty rattled.
What is your favorite part of being a ski buyer?
Getting paid to go skiing! It’s pretty simple, really.
What is the best advice you can give to someone buying skis for the first time?
It depends on who you are; there is no one answer to it. It really comes down to your age, where you see yourself going as a skier, whether you plan on traveling and how aggressive of an athlete you are normally. There’s just so many factors that go into it that it should be a personal decision, and should be something you discuss with other skiers or other experts in the industry in order to get the best fit for you.
What products are you excited for this year?
Majority of the stuff I’m excited for this year falls more under the touring world. It’s really, really cool seeing all the lightweight stuff coming out that actually skis well. Five or six years ago, the things that were light lacked torsional rigidity, so you’d get them up on the edge and they didn’t feel as stable, they didn’t feel as in control. In the last two or three years, lightweight skis have come a long way. Stuff like the QST, which aren’t meant to be touring skis, are certainly light enough to do it. Things like the Atomic Backland are incredible just the way they can combine ultralight with just really high response. On the boot side, it really kind of goes the same way. When we start getting into boots, like the Tecnica Cochise, you get all that traditional four buckle power but with the ability cuff on it and super lightweight tech inserts, so it’s a boot you can ski chair lift service all day long and get all the response you need. Same with the new Salomon MTN Series. It’s lightweight, super comfortable for all day on-trail skiing, but just has the ability to do whatever you want with them.
What are some ski trends you have seen develop over the last few years?
The big things are refining materials; using as little material as possible to make sure you’re making the most out of it. A lot of companies are doing a really good job of going to more eco friendly components, which is really cool. Trying to reduce resins, fiberglass, stuff that is very harmful, and just kind of pushing how can we make it as light as possible and perform as well as possible in the all-mountain realm.
What do you listen to out on the mountain?
I throw on an album start to finish every time. Depending on what the snow looks like, it kind of steers what kind of music I listen to. Like powder days, it tends to be a lot more hip-hop. If it’s really firm, I tend to lean more to listening to rock for some reason. It just fits the mood of the day.
Bell’s Two Hearted. Best IPA in America. If I could only have one beer for the rest of my life, that would be it.