Alex Adema, EMBA ’12, grew up as a competitive skier, hitting the slopes in Elicottville, N.Y., and traveling the country with his family to places like Alta Ski Area and the Snowbird resort in Utah’s Wasatch mountain range.
Today, he can see those same mountains out his living room window, after relocating to Utah in 2015 to take on the role of chief operating officer at DPS, the leading domestic producer of skis.
He had been hesitant to uproot his family from Buffalo, a city he loves, but after turning down the opportunity at DPS a few times, he talked it over with his wife, Jennifer, and they decided to go for it.
“At the time it didn’t make sense to move with a young and growing family,” says Adema. “But eventually we said: ‘Let’s just walk through this door. It keeps opening for us. Let’s see what’s on the other side.’”
What awaited was a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that opened in 2011 after six years of exclusively overseas manufacturing. Since then, the company has expanded the factory twice and now employs more than 55 local workers.
DPS has also developed products that bring innovation to the centuries-old sport, including their signature spoon-shaped skis and Phantom, a permanent treatment that replaces the traditional wax on the bottom of skis and snowboards.
As the company grew, so did Adema. He was promoted to president and CEO in 2019.
Like most businesses, DPS was hit hard by COVID-19 in early 2020, but Adema led the company to quickly shift gears and began producing much-needed face shields. Since then, DPS has delivered 80,000 shields to the Utah Department of Health, and is continuing to provide them on a smaller scale to schools, businesses and even to the University at Buffalo for its fall semester start.
“It really impressed upon us the importance of being adaptable and scrappy in times of distress,” says Adema. “Realizing we could convert everything into a totally different industry with new products and customers was really eye-opening.”
Before joining DPS, Adema spent 15 years building his career in New York, beginning with a brief stint as a research analyst at a young internet startup in New York City, followed by eight years in a number of roles at M&T Bank back in Buffalo, beginning as a financial analyst and ending as product manager.
After his time at M&T, he co-founded Restoration Church, where he spent six years as executive pastor, followed by a year as director of finance and operations at Launch NY before making the move to Utah.
When he’s not in the office helping DPS skis come to life, you’ll likely find Adema on the slopes using them.
“I wouldn’t have moved across the country to take an insurance job or build toasters, but skiing is a whole different thing,” he says. “Now I get to ski at Snowbird or Alto with my daughters and son any time we want.”
Written by Kevin Manne