There are over 50 widely recognized ski manufacturers in the world.
And that’s just the ones I know of. Like trying to count the number of people living in rural Vietnam, there’s a lot that slip through the cracks. Maybe we’ll bump that number up to 100 to be safe, but now that we have an even bigger number, how the @#$!@# do we decide on a pair of skis to buy? I just went through this process. All I wanted was to go to sleep and the experience be over.
We took a look and talked to some folks at three ski companies that, in our opinion, are some of the raddest out there for a few reasons. Number one they each make great skis, that was a must; number two, as you’ll find out below, they each are doing something wildly unique; and finally, they are contributing to something much bigger than just producing a set of skis. The list is a dandy. Let’s dive right in.
For Ben Anderson, Icelantic’s founder, inspiration comes from a simple, yet remarkable transformation.
One degree celsius, the “moment when water molecules begin to crystalize into snow and ice” is the brief moment in time that drives every pair of skis from their factory doors in Denver, CO. Rocks and cliffs become fluffy pillows and forests become a dizzying maze hiding the freshest lines. In winter, every inch of ground that a snowflake touches transforms. You’ll discover the transformation on the logo, in your skiing, and in your mind, all pulsing from deep within the company’s culture.
Icelantic’s goal is to make great skis and transform the surrounding community into one big playground just like the snow does to the landscape around us. For starters, the company pours relentless time and energy into putting on one of the biggest outdoor concerts of the winter. This past January, Winter on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheater brought in electronic artist Zedd, jazzy funkyfied rapper Anderson .Paak & The Free National, and comedian/rapper Lil Dickey. Who does that?
Using the success of a pair of skis to put on one of the wildest concerts every winter in Colorado didn’t happen over night, though.
The story goes a lot like the entrepreneurial stories we love the most–a young man in his parents garage starts churning out skis that catch on like contagious laughter. It’s that grassroots origin story that flew from its nest but never forgot where it came from.
Icelantic’s founder, Ben Anderson, continues to keep his company grounded by reaching out. Take the aforementioned concert for starters, but continue looking and you’ll discover gems like the work of local artist Travis Parr who has been with the company since day one, churning out some of the most iconic pieces of work on sticks you’ll ever find on the mountain.
“Parr’s goal is to create and maintain an environment that supports the multiple facets of Icelantic: community, lifestyle, and the idea of evolving the human existence through an appreciation for the arts, good business practices and the connection with nature.”
When you look down at your skis on the lift or when you’re on your back, tips to the sky, laying in a foot and a half of powder in the woods, these guys hope you take a moment–a moment to think about what you’re doing, where you are, and who you with. We ski to gain a new perspective of the natural world and a good pair of sticks can get you there.
That’s right a good pair of sticks.
Nomad Freeride collection garnered awards from both Powder and Freeskier magazine.
So they’re not only some of the most beautiful skis I’ve ever seen, but they perform magically, too.
When Ben Anderson set out to start a ski company, he set out transform the skiing he saw around him. Ski some Icelantic’s and see how he did. You’ll understand soon enough.
If trucks ran on dudes with monster thighs on skis the world would be a better place, but they don’t–they run on petroleum.
With one of the strongest commitments to the environment in the industry, Meier Skis hopes to cut down on the amount of time those trucks see the road. Sorry truck drivers, but your rigs kind of suck at preserving our sport. Using trees already killed by an invasive beetle just down the road from where the skis are made, however, will.
Matt Cudmore, Meier’s co-owner said it best.
“It’s super cool. You can go up to Steamboat, be on the top of the mountain, and look over a couple ranges and where the wood for the skis you’re standing on came from.”
That wood not only includes pine beetle kill, but goes on to employ the snappiness of aspen wood in their cores–trees which, by nature, have a prodigiously sustainable future.
As one of the largest living organisms on Earth, aspen trees grow with a single unified root system. “What does this mean?” the company goes on to explain. “Cut down one aspen and three will grow in its place.” Like the case with the aspen, it’s a myth that leaving trees where they are is the best way to preserve a forest. With our current state of affairs that includes widespread pine beetle kill, wildfires, and dying aspen groves, Meier Skis hopes to shed light on a ski company’s ability to have a positive impact on the forests around them (literally, right around them) through proper forest management.
To sweeten the deal even more, the skis come with custom-made top sheets that are clear, highlighting the beautiful Colorado wood below your feet. Also, the top sheet and other parts of the ski are made with environmental impact in mind. Meier uses minimal graphics and special ink, which means less toxic chemicals used to make those skis look pretty. Then there’s the resin to hold it all together made out of pine oil and recycled vegetable oil.
So if that isn’t enough, the Denver factory also has a bar. Make no mistake, this is no boutique ski maker. The theme here is pretty obvious–connection. The closer a ski company can get its customers to the skis under their feet the better, and what better way to understand a ski’s origins than to watch it all happen…over a pint.
Oh, and last but not least, the skis kick ass. It’s well worth your dollars.
For more, head to their website
Skis used to be like that braindead girl or boy you went on a date once upon a time.
You know the type–bland, boring, and maybe even monotone without any inkling of excitement, kind of like a stale wafer. For hundreds of years that was skiing. In the 90s, the same style of ski was used for every condition, ski form was stiff and uninspired at best, and the thought of going backwards was as crazy as the idea of holding a computer with one hand.
Jason Levinthal couldn’t bear it any longer. In the wood shop at his school, the University of Buffalo, NY, Levinthal got to work developing his own ski. The result? The first twin-tips. A far cry from what we see today, his ski looked a little more like a ski skate, but by 1999 LINE had developed the first full-length twin-tip ski. Then one year later in 2000, LINE became the first ski company to have their twin-tip skis featured on the cover of Powder Magazine.
Fastforward to 2017.
LINE was purchased by K2, Levinthal continued to grow the company, started Full Tilt Boots, and then finally in 2013, he made his departure from LINE to give birth to JSkis, his beloved brainchild.
With experience under his belt, Jason finally had the chance to build the ski company he wanted and give the people what they wanted. It’s a little more difficult to buy his skis because they can only be bought direct, but in a way that not many companies do, JSkis is in very much in touch with his customers.
JXYOU is one such way. While the construction of the ski itself is up to Levinthal, which by the way is bomb proof, you can have a hand in the way it looks. JSkis has opened the door to possibility by allowing any person passing through the website to submit ideas for topsheet design, something only a small company like JSkis can do. It’s a bit like an open source common area where creative minds can come together and collaborate. On the hill and in the shop, skiers see top sheets first and are swooned. Why not open graphic ideas to all skiers then? It seems to be working so far. I’ve seen a few designs and they are downright sexy.
Then you start thinking, dreaming about being on the JSkis team.
Turns out you can jump aboard pretty easily, no tryouts, no record labels, no frills. Just be a skier, rep JSkis, tag them on Instagram, and get some sweet stickers. When you spend some time looking at the skis and listening to Jason speak, you get a feel for what this company is about.
Yes, LINE grew big and when K2 bought the company they became enormous. I see LINE skis all the time, but now that that baby has flown, there’s the chance for Levinthal to settle down and focus on what’s important–skiing. I’m not trying to say LINE was about anything other than that, but staying small maintains the integrity of that true skier feel.
“It’s just skiing” the website says in bold letters. He’s right. There’s nothing flashy or complicated about the sport that we’ve all grown to love. JSkis brings us back down to Earth on some extraordinary skis that can take you to new heights whether you’re hitting the 80ft pro line or cruising a groomer. There’s a place for everyone in this sport. Go get some sticks.