Why You Should Buy Skier Owned Brands:


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Powder Magazine cover for September, 2014 with a ski guide.

It’s that time of year, the product guides are out, the temps are dropping, and there are even rumors of snowfall at higher elevations. Despite it still being August, ski season is right around the corner. If you ripped your jacket, blew an edge, or lost some precious gear tomahawking down the mountain, you’re probably in the market for some new equipment.

As you already know, you have an overwhelming number of choices when buying ski equipment. Brands big and small, new and established, all over the world, are spending big bucks to compete for your hard earned cash. That makes you, the consumer pretty powerful, and that is why I urge you to be mindful of where your money is going.

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After “cha-ching” and a cut to your local or online retailer, your money goes to the ski company as income and their first expense is employee salaries. Smaller income pools mean smaller salaries as well as lack of benefits such as health insurance and retirement. So why would someone take this kind of a paycut? Because they love what they do. They are willing to forgo the Audi, organic lettuce, and private schooling for their kids in order to be a part of what they love most, skiing. When you buy from a skier owned and operated company, you are supporting people who put their passion for skiing above everything else and I think those people deserve our money the most.

Owner operated companies let their employees ski. When I interned at DPS, on any given week day I could expect to run into half of the office and even some factory employees in the Snowbird tram. They worked long past dinner to be out there almost every day, skiing prototypes, talking to locals, and being part of the ski community. At the end of the day, companies where skiers have the more pull over the VPs and decisions are based on the sport rather than spreadsheet trends are going to make the best product.

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The next cut of your purchase goes toward manufacturing. Although not all small companies manufacture in the US, a good portion of them do. DPS, 4FRNT, Moment, Praxis, ON3P, Fatypus, Icelantic, Igneous, Folsom, Wagner and RMU among some others, all manufacture here at home AND close to skiing. That means somewhere between wetting out the fiberglass and the final base grind, a factory employee is daydreaming about the next great powder day. That’s just more skiers and American workers that you are supporting with your purchase.

I’m not trying to argue that the corporate ski companies such as K2, Salomon, Atomic, Volkl, and Rossi are awful and should go out of business. In fact, they play the vital role of manufacturing rentals and low price point skis for beginners that our industry couldn’t survive without. It’s just that big ski corporations sell 20 times more skis than the average skier owned brand, and I think that gap should be much, much narrower.

The Praxis boys.

The Praxis boys.

So when you reach for that ski on the wall, run your hand over the smooth topsheet, and give it a good flex, take a moment to think about where it came from. Your purchase makes a difference.

Comment(s): 6

  1. Tommy

    Fischer is a great ski company that is Big and Small…Been around since 1924…You get great quality without the high cost of buying a so called skier owed ( most are owned by a big bank anyways) company. Don’t think one is necessarily better than the other…Quality is the big issue I still see coming from a majority of the smaller brands. If you can buy local and afford it I would say go for a local ski company and keep the money in your own backyard.

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  2. Casey CaneCasey Cane

    People like me like unique stuff…the independent companies whether skiing/music/technology suck me in because I can almost feel their passion for their product.

    I started buying Igneous with their original DH ski and by the 3rd year of production with the introduction of the MFF (mid fat fall-line) showed me that small guys can make stuff that I actually WANTED to ski. With the release of the Salomon 1080, I pushed Igneous to make Fat Twins without success but managed to meet Alex Herbert in Christchurch, New Zealand who was making bamboo core Fat Twins in his garage…now his Kingswood skis are sexy as hell and practically bombproof.

    After skiing on Kingswood for a few years, Casey H, who skied at Kirkwood, told us to try out his Fat mega twin the ‘Comi.’ Its all history after that…I don’t even consider using any other brand. Since then I have seen Moment grow to become my favorite company…using artists to create ridiculous graphics, innovative ski designs every season, and witnessing the quality of the production increase tremendously year after year.

    …but I’m also the guy who still buys new vinyl records and obscure Japanese SHUMP games so what do I know.

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    1. Gary

      Japanese SHMUPs and Moment Skis. +1 for both of those.

      Got my first pair of Moments last year – Tahoes – and love them. Picked up a pair of Deathwish and can’t wait to ski them.

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  3. Erik

    The implication that those of us who work for “corporate” ski companies aren’t passionate about skiing is so far off the mark it’s laughable. We’ve also made sacrifices to be in the industry we love…some of us got here by driving tech vans all over ski country, others worked in ski shops all winter and pounded nails or slung drinks in the summer to keep our ski industry dreams alive. Just because we’ve turned our passion into a career doesn’t make us any less passionate. I drive an outback, not an Audi, my kids go to public schools, and we spend every spare moment in the winter on the hill. My four year old skied over 30 days last winter(his 4th winter in skis)…that doesn’t happen without a serious dose of passion, some might say fanaticism. Behind the scenes, many of the small Indy guys use the “corporate” ski companies as their OEM manufacturer thanks to the economies of scale, precision manufacturing and consistent quality production. The Austrians don’t let just any factory worker build a ski, they have to be certified, undergoe a regimented apprenticeship, and only then get to run the ski press…and right outside the factory doors, the Austrian alps tower above the small town of Altenmarkt Austria…a constant reminder of what they’re building, fueling their passion for the sport. Every one of the major ski companies today started out as a small “Indy” ski builder and those of us who work for them here in the US or over in Europe are just as passionate about skiing today as the founders were 50 or 100 years ago. My boss is a former collegiate racer, our product manager competed on the FWT, another co-worker was a USST race tech…we’ve dedicated our lives to the sport we love. See if you can get yourself invited to Powder Week, you’ll see the “corporate” ski flunkies are just as passionate, ski just as hard, and are just as committed as our friends at the “skier owned” brands.

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    1. Liza Sarychev Post author

      Hey Erik! Thanks for your input, everyone has such a different experience and I appreciate you sharing yours. This article is based on my experience at at two companies, one a corporate giant and the other a skier owned brand, it is simply my opinion after getting to know each company fairly intimately.

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