Almost a decade after its first prototype drew national media attention, Roshell Industries is bringing its motorized ski accessory to the market.
Originally from Labrador, Roshell is the maker of the Skizee Woodsrunner, a motorized accessory that propels skiers through and over the snow. It’s been nearly a decade since the first prototype was built and it’s now available for preorder.
This is the first Labrador-born venture that Entrevestor has reported on. The company started in Happy Valley-Goose Bay but is currently operating out of The Genesis Centre at Memorial University in St. John’s.
“We hope to return home but in this phase of company development being in St John’s is the best place for us to be,” said the company’s CEO Donna Paddon in an interview.
“This is not a typical product and it’s not a typical business,” she said. “When you talk about developing new technology, there is this whole curve of how are you going to get it to the marketplace. And as good as social media reach is, it’s very difficult to do that when you’re in a far northern region.”
The story of Roshell began when 14-year-old Jim Maidment, now the company’s CTO, cooked up the idea for a machine that would push him on skies up steep hills. At the time, the chairlift at his local ski hill was broken and he conceived of a machine that would propel a skier up and over difficult terrain. He invented the Skizee and has been testing the machine for six winters now.
“It was a childhood dream of being able to fly across the snow,” said Paddon.
In 2009, Maidment built his first prototype and had it featured in Popular Mechanics magazine and on the Discovery Channel. This caused a stir and Maidment received thousands of inquiries about his machine. But he was nowhere near ready to bring it to market.
Then, in 2015, Paddon joined Roshell and turned Maidment’s invention into a real business. The product pre-released this week is much more sleek and user-friendly than the initial prototype. It weighs a little over 100 pounds.
“It will fit in the trunk of a car,” Paddon said.
In terms of funding, the company has received almost $40,000. The money came from the Newfoundland government, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Genesis Centre and The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries.
Roshell is tackling three markets with the Skizee. There is the consumer market of rural winter explorers, industries like search and rescue or military applications, and business-to-business with ski resorts and lodges.
And yes, the Skizee has a ton of safety features. It won’t shred your ankles if you fall. The machine stops if users let go of the handle, which is the throttle, and there is also a lock and key safety feature.
“I’d rather fall using the Skizee Woodsrunner than I would on the snowmobiles these days,” said Paddon.
“And this is not lazy skiing. Like any outdoor activity, it has significant health benefits. I found when I used it, it really worked my legs and my core.”
The Skizee Woodsrunner is available for preorder online at skizee.ca for $3,799.