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Boutique Vs Big Brands: Which do you prefer? - Page 3

post #61 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by FergusInFrance View Post
 

 

..I'm no cheerleader for Rossignol... I switched from Rossi 9s's to Heads because they moved from a metal race plate to a horribly flexible plastic pile of crap... which I can only think was accountant driven. My assumption is based on 1) experience of Vielhaber (I come from near where they were produced and skied them as did many of my school friends) 2) a general trust in mass produced over small scale (as a famous UK car journalist once quipped, "saying a car is handmade is just another way of saying the doors will fall off").

 

I don't claim all 'boutique' brands are the same, or bad or worse than the big brands...  just that if I'm going to spend €800 on something I prefer to place my trust in a big brand, with a big, highly paid R&D department and a brand image to maintain rather than in a man in a shed with the best machine he could afford to buy with limited funds.

 

So your assumption is based on one failed company that had poor quality control? Seems rather thin to me. 

 

And your characterization of what a small ski company looks like is rather off, as well. Are there random outfits of a couple guys who are making skis in their basement? Sure there are. There's one guy near me who makes skis individually to order, he runs WhiteRoom Skis. Although his skis are off the charts awesome, and you pay for them. 

 

But most small ski companies these days are not in a basement. Outfits like ON3P, Icelantic, G3, RMU, 4FRNT, and the like are making hundreds or thousands of skis per year. They have just as much of a brand to protect as the big guys. Even more so, since one bad pair of skis represents a much greater market share for them than Rossi or Salomon. If an outfit like Icelantic puts out 100 pair of bad skis in a year, that's a huge hit to their bottom line in warranty claims and bad reviews/publicity. If Salomon builds 1000 pairs of bad skis in a year, it doesn't make a difference to them. 

 

The ski industry today is a lot like the American beer industry. Back in the day, you had a couple of big guys who made everything Anheuser Busch(Salomon), Miller(Rossi), Coors(K2), etc. Then there came a wave of home brewers(builders). And that segment was the wild west for a while. But now you have a handful of smaller craft brands that have emerged from that as outfits that are doing a somewhat higher volume and putting out a consistent product. Dogfish Head(ON3P), Stone(Icelantic), Oskar Blues(RMU), etc. Are there still the tiny operations that could be suspect? Yeah. But they don't fit with the more established independent brands. And some of those tiny outfits like Lawson's Finest Liquids(Whiteroom) are putting out a product that is as good as pr better than what anyone else in the market is putting out. 

post #62 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by FergusInFrance View Post
 

 

..I'm no cheerleader for Rossignol... I switched from Rossi 9s's to Heads because they moved from a metal race plate to a horribly flexible plastic pile of crap... which I can only think was accountant driven. My assumption is based on 1) experience of Vielhaber (I come from near where they were produced and skied them as did many of my school friends) 2) a general trust in mass produced over small scale (as a famous UK car journalist once quipped, "saying a car is handmade is just another way of saying the doors will fall off").

 

I don't claim all 'boutique' brands are the same, or bad or worse than the big brands...  just that if I'm going to spend €800 on something I prefer to place my trust in a big brand, with a big, highly paid R&D department and a brand image to maintain rather than in a man in a shed with the best machine he could afford to buy with limited funds.

Your perception of what these companies are working with is way off. 

post #63 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

 

So your assumption is based on one failed company that had poor quality control? Seems rather thin to me. 

 

And your characterization of what a small ski company looks like is rather off, as well. Are there random outfits of a couple guys who are making skis in their basement? Sure there are. There's one guy near me who makes skis individually to order, he runs WhiteRoom Skis. Although his skis are off the charts awesome, and you pay for them. 

 

But most small ski companies these days are not in a basement. Outfits like ON3P, Icelantic, G3, RMU, 4FRNT, and the like are making hundreds or thousands of skis per year. They have just as much of a brand to protect as the big guys. Even more so, since one bad pair of skis represents a much greater market share for them than Rossi or Salomon. If an outfit like Icelantic puts out 100 pair of bad skis in a year, that's a huge hit to their bottom line in warranty claims and bad reviews/publicity. If Salomon builds 1000 pairs of bad skis in a year, it doesn't make a difference to them. 

 

The ski industry today is a lot like the American beer industry. Back in the day, you had a couple of big guys who made everything Anheuser Busch(Salomon), Miller(Rossi), Coors(K2), etc. Then there came a wave of home brewers(builders). And that segment was the wild west for a while. But now you have a handful of smaller craft brands that have emerged from that as outfits that are doing a somewhat higher volume and putting out a consistent product. Dogfish Head(ON3P), Stone(Icelantic), Oskar Blues(RMU), etc. Are there still the tiny operations that could be suspect? Yeah. But they don't fit with the more established independent brands. And some of those tiny outfits like Lawson's Finest Liquids(Whiteroom) are putting out a product that is as good as pr better than what anyone else in the market is putting out. 

 

In which case I question the use of the word 'boutique'... independent sounds right.

post #64 of 91

Is Kastle the Sam Adams of  the ski industry?  That's my favorite beer. Pretty good skis too.  I live in  Gloucester, MA and drink the local fisherman's brew, which is pretty good too.

post #65 of 91

Our current list:

 

Ramp  - Boutique or no?

 

Palmer  - Boutique or no?

 

Zag - almost definitely

 

Maxell - probably not

 

RMU - I'll go with independent

 

Revision - no idea, pick a term

 

Blossom - independent I'd say.

post #66 of 91
RAMP is gone, as is SkiLogik.

The ultimate boutique company in the industry is Daleboot. The custom boots will fit right even if a customer has two different sized feet with low volumes and fat calves. The boots are innovative and pretty much component in that all the parts are replaceable. The deceased founded once held the bulk of the good boot patents.

In the ski space DPS is a botique that is expanding and Fat-ypus is still doing its thing.
post #67 of 91

I prefer which ever ski band I think will work the best for what I want that ski to do.  In the last couple years I bought Rossignol E88's, Nordica Enforcers, RAMP Bigbambooski, and a pair of RAMP Kumoniwannaskiya.   The Rossi's were because they rated well that year and seemed like a perfect ski for my skiing, the follwoing year I wanted to round out my collection and got the Nordica Enforcers because they were going to fill a gap in my ski collection. Finally the RAMP's were driven by fellow patrollers who really liked theirs and the crazy sales that RAMP was having at the end of last season.  Surprisingly both pair of RAMP skis ended up being very enjoyable to ski and were well worth the bargain prices I paid.  I've been eyeing Head, Liberty, and Nordica again for this year.. but I don't think the wife will let me add another ski to my collection till I get rid of a pair.

 

The closest thing I have to a brand preference is towards Rossignol. Before I got the Enforcers, I had been on the Rossi S5, two different Scratches and a racing type over about 8 years.. I think I had some Dynastars that could turn on a dime before that.. and before that I don't remember. I really don't care who makes my skis so long as they work for what I want them too.

post #68 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by lakespapa View Post
 

 

 

Which it is. Here's the company link (https://renoun.com), and I can direct you to independent reviews of the product, which support the marketing claims. 

 

At the risk of veering into P&HT... did anyone notice Renoun making these?

 

https://renoun.com/products/trump-vs-hillary-ski

post #69 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lakespapa View Post
 

 

 

Which it is. Here's the company link (https://renoun.com), and I can direct you to independent reviews of the product, which support the marketing claims. 

 

At the risk of veering into P&HT... did anyone notice Renoun making these?

 

https://renoun.com/products/trump-vs-hillary-ski


Oh, yes. Bipartisan.

post #70 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post
 

 

At the risk of veering into P&HT... did anyone notice Renoun making these?

 

https://renoun.com/products/trump-vs-hillary-ski

 

Looks like each ski wants to go it's own way -  perfect recipe for the splits and a faceplant.

 

post #71 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by quant2325 View Post

RAMP is gone, as is SkiLogik.

 

but were they independent or boutique ?

post #72 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post
 

 

but were they independent or boutique ?

That depends on your definition. SkiLogik also made custom tops and skis. That should put them in the boutique category.

post #73 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by firebanex View Post
, I had been on the Rossi S5,

 

Which S5?  

 

I just retired a pair of S5 Jagos.    They still had plenty of camber; if they hadn't been drilled 5x they'd still be on for slush bump duty.

post #74 of 91

To paraphrase Ghost's comment I would like a quality ski at a reasonable price.  For whatever reasons, I have never been around to demo any skis that were on my "buy" list. So I do my research and read reviews from skiers I respect.  Based on that, I normally buy a new pair each March while they are heavily discounted.  Luckily, that has always worked for me. 

Maybe I do not ski well enough to be real picky about what a ski is doing or maybe I am good enough to make any ski my b!tch ;) but I am generally happy with every purchase.  I have had plenty of indie skis, but have found better deals going with main stream companies. 

Kind of looking at some Kastle MX89's, but for $875 shipped, I think I may go in the other direction and buy some Billy Goats and splurge a little this year.  I have a few months to think about it and ski what they would replace to decide.

post #75 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by liv2 ski View Post
 

To paraphrase Ghost's comment I would like a quality ski at a reasonable price.  For whatever reasons, I have never been around to demo any skis that were on my "buy" list. So I do my research and read reviews from skiers I respect.  Based on that, I normally buy a new pair each March while they are heavily discounted.  Luckily, that has always worked for me. 

Maybe I do not ski well enough to be real picky about what a ski is doing or maybe I am good enough to make any ski my b!tch ;) but I am generally happy with every purchase.  I have had plenty of indie skis, but have found better deals going with main stream companies. 

Kind of looking at some Kastle MX89's, but for $875 shipped, I think I may go in the other direction and buy some Billy Goats and splurge a little this year.  I have a few months to think about it and ski what they would replace to decide.

 

Maybe take a look at the MX 88 — discontinued, so discounts abound. I've skied the 89 and liked it, but I hear the 88's as good, if different.

post #76 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by liv2 ski View Post
 

To paraphrase Ghost's comment I would like a quality ski at a reasonable price.  For whatever reasons, I have never been around to demo any skis that were on my "buy" list. So I do my research and read reviews from skiers I respect.  Based on that, I normally buy a new pair each March while they are heavily discounted.  Luckily, that has always worked for me. 

Maybe I do not ski well enough to be real picky about what a ski is doing or maybe I am good enough to make any ski my b!tch ;) but I am generally happy with every purchase.  I have had plenty of indie skis, but have found better deals going with main stream companies.

 

See, I have the same assumptions but different reasoning.

Most prices are reasonable if I like the ski and if I keep it long enough.   I also am generally happy with every purchase even if I don't bother demoing (and especially since I couldn't care less about other peoples' reviews  - I have been extremely happy with panned skis and very unhappy with glowing-reviewed skis).      

 

IMO, the only thing reviews are good for is selling a used ski I didn't like.    Which makes buying whatever ski I want twice as safe, even if I don't demo, even if it's an indie brand, even if I don't get "a good deal" - because it's all a good deal if I keep the ski.    At a 100+ days of use - does it really matter if I'm paying $8 per day or $10 per day or $6 per day?   Buying 2 cups of brewed coffee is a bigger daily like/dislike risk.

post #77 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post
 

 

Which S5?  

 

I just retired a pair of S5 Jagos.    They still had plenty of camber; if they hadn't been drilled 5x they'd still be on for slush bump duty.

I had the S5 Jib model. I skied them for about 3 seasons before they had been skied out and I sold them at a ski swap and got the E88's.  Those S5's are so far my favorite skis i've ever owned or skied on, I took them through all sorts of terrain.. easy groomers, bumps, trees, the chutes off the top of Alyeska.. I am still looking for an all mountain twintip that skis like that pair of S5's did.  Bonus reason I loved them was the top and bottom sheet graphics, so unique compared to all of the other skis I had seen!

post #78 of 91

What about Volant, boutique or mainstream?   They were bought out by Atomic some years ago (or Atomic's parent company - I don't follow these things too closely), but still marketed as a specialty item).

post #79 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
 

What about Volant, boutique or mainstream?   They were bought out by Atomic some years ago (or Atomic's parent company - I don't follow these things too closely), but still marketed as a specialty item).

 

maybe 'haute couture'

post #80 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
 

What about Volant, boutique or mainstream?   They were bought out by Atomic some years ago (or Atomic's parent company - I don't follow these things too closely), but still marketed as a specialty item).

 

I would have called them "boutique at present", if I hadn't come across fleabay listings by some outfit in Salzburg who have quite a few retired rentals.

post #81 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by FergusInFrance View Post
 

 

so, I come back to my original post which put forward the view that having a great ski design and an enthusiastic entrepreneur is not enough. Consistent production (as per in the example I cited and which I had direct experience of) is crucial but must add costs to a business which by definition is small and in all likelihood less able to absorb them than the likes of Rossignol...

 

 

I think you're wilfully not getting it.  You must have heard of Whitedot? Good enough to get Eva Walkner 2 consecutive FWT titles.

 

But a boutique brand manufactured in one of Europe's major snowsports factories. Not a huge corporation a small group of guys with some good design ideas and great word of mouth recommendation (plus a bit of iconic design).  They manage by not overreaching themselves i.e. while they'll experiement with new layups etc they'll only attempt one model update/replacement per season.

post #82 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post


I think you're wilfully not getting it.  You must have heard of Whitedot? Good enough to get Eva Walkner 2 consecutive FWT titles.

But a boutique brand manufactured in one of Europe's major snowsports factories. Not a huge corporation a small group of guys with some good design ideas and great word of mouth recommendation (plus a bit of iconic design).  They manage by not overreaching themselves i.e. while they'll experiement with new layups etc they'll only attempt one model update/replacement per season.


Key phrase here is "manufactured in one of Europe's major snowsports factories." If I have some experience competing, and a few buddies, and a computer, I can design a ski. It may be a really good ski if I can play around with hand made prototypes. But to reach and hold a mass market, I have to reproduce that good design, over and over and over, inside of some decent tolerances. Which, unless I want to toss half my production, requires a modern factory. A rented industrial box outside of town with some gently used milling machines and hand-built presses and belt sanders won't cut it, however well meaning me and my buddies are, however well we ski, however cool the concept. For every two purchases driven by the cool concept, there will be 20 driven by the ease of buying a more durable ski for less money from the big snowsport factory in Austria.

As humans, we cannot reproduce those tolerances as well as an automated machine can. Sorry, but that's a foundational dilemma facing our entire workforce, not just ski makers in garages. It ain't outsourcing that's killing manufacturing jobs, it's the ever-more efficient technology that comes with capitalism. Ask any economist. (Who may then go into some gibberish about positive global trade balances and retraining; this loosely translates as "we're assuming your local McDonald's is hiring" and can be safely ignored.);) 

post #83 of 91

Since I'm pretty ignorant but interested in good ski demoing, for me the most useful way to describe brands is as "big" and "longtime established," versus relatively "newer," or "independent." Not sure what to do with "Boutique" except make jokes.  It makes me think of woman hairdresser establishments, some of which are pretty fun too, I guess.  I once had a daughter-in-law who worked in a busy one, and there were more young women not in a hurry in there per square foot than anywhere I've ever been probably.   :D

 

Some of these "independents" have had enough connections and/or cred to end up contracting or manufacturing in some established ski company factories and thus gain real consistency of product, but some few didn't, and actually build skis on their own and are learning as they go, seems like, a little like Taylor Guitars started independently of Martin or Gibson, or any of the established classical guitar makers in Europe.   

 

Examples of piggybacking on an established companies' factory and know-how that come to mind are Armada on Atomic and Kastle on Head.   @fatbob 's description of a "small group of guys" with "some good design ideas" sure fits Armada:  Tanner Hall and some guys wanted to do it, so they did.   And they're not all that small anymore, though they must still be dependent on Atomic for their production.

 

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like ON3P is more and more an example of an Indie doing their own work, and at this point, getting real quality and consistency also - the most I've seen, and more than many bigger manufacturers, as described very well earlier in this thread by @freeski919.    

post #84 of 91
OK maybe better to think of them as Indies. Faction were in that space with access to another good factory to build bomber skis from early on and are now quite a big deal, Black Crows seem on the verge of that same breakout with a push into N America.

All these companies have in common a focus on a segment of the market not trying to be all things to all people.
post #85 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbob View Post

OK maybe better to think of them as Indies. Faction were in that space with access to another good factory to build bomber skis from early on and are now quite a big deal, Black Crows seem on the verge of that same breakout with a push into N America.

All these companies have in common a focus on a segment of the market not trying to be all things to all people.


And Black Crows have been getting great reviews, e.g., http://www.realskiers.com/ski-reviews/ (it's alphabetical).

post #86 of 91

Black Crows were pretty common to see in Chamonix when we there there 2 seasons back.  Guy we skied with had 2 pairs and seemed to like them a lot.  I did not get a chance to try any.

post #87 of 91

That's about half way there to how I look at 'boutique' products - they are finished, distributed and priced to sell in a boutique, i.e. a small shop in a high rent district.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ski otter View Post
 

 Not sure what to do with "Boutique" except make jokes.  It makes me think of woman hairdresser establishments, some of which are pretty fun too, I guess. 

post #88 of 91

First Boutique ski was a 2009 Icelantic Nomad which I mounted with Dynafit bindings.  So impressed with that ski that I bought a second pair off spindrift on here for inbounds ski.  Still have both pair, but will be selling the 2nd.  

 

The Icelantics led me to buy a pair of 184 Fatypus D-Senders.  Man I loved those skis.  Sold them a couple years ago.

 

Replaced the Nomads as my touring skis with Nordica Hell & Back and added a pair of Nordica Enforcers (185) on the Starthouse deals.  Those have been my primary do everything skis for the last 4 years.

 

3 years ago added some 182 Moment Jaguar Shark as a powder touring ski.  This year they will be my inbounds powder ski.

 

Last year bought Blizzard Spur for my trip out west, but will sell them as I don't have plans for heli, cat, extended big mountain resort skiing this year.

 

Bought Blizzard Zero g 108 as my do everything touring ski with a West Coast emphasis-going to be in BC for a couple weeks mid winter.

 

Overall my trend is towards big brands (Nordica/Blizzard) and away from boutique (Icelantic/Fatypus/Moment).   I think for touring that is likely to continue as the big brands will make better products for a price I like.  

 

I would be very happy to ski a Praxis, ON3P, Moment, Black Crow, J Ski and I would be likely to look at one of them for my next inbound ski.  Fortunately that seems far off as I really like my Enforcers and the Jag Sharks will be good enough for East Coast powder dumps when I am riding lifts.

post #89 of 91

Time to weigh in.  First, if I haven't tried it, I won't buy it.

See what folks think.  First my Teles.

1.  G3 Tickets.  Bulletproof Sugarloaf Carvers.  Have people waiting in line for them

2.  Ramp Groundhogs.  A bit burly for me but trying to make the 22designs a bit less active this season on this pair.

Had some K2 Antipistes for years but decided they were too short, but they were fabulous early wide carvers.

 

Alpine. 

1.  Real Volkl Mantras with ~95 days.  Have been around the world on these.  NZ, Big Couloir etc.  So hard that I stress fractured an edge under foot last spring so they are on borrowed time.

2.  Elan Spectgrum 105 alus (will be replacement for the Mantras)

3.  Elan Amphibio 88's  Whay can i say, ELAN IS BACK!!!

4.  A couple of pairs of Head Slalom iSl's because I LOVE these things.

 

Lots of great product out there.  To each his own.

 

The wife is a bit more mainstream being so tiny (an area the small companies neglect)

Head Team Sl's, K2 Paybacks , and Blizzard Sambas

post #90 of 91

So now that I've firmly established my cynicism toward indies, time to do an end-around:

 


These are J Skis Metal. Just ordered a pair. Will report back in December when we have enough snow to try them out. 

 

Vis-a-vis this thread, they represent IMO the strengths of an indie operation (personalized attention, rarity, creative design) with the weaknesses minimized (my $700 bet anyway). They're based on a proven design (Line Prophet series) that's reconfigured, instead of starting from scratch; they have received unusually strong reviews everywhere, they are made in small batches (100 skis per topsheet, 2-3 topsheet designs per year), making it reasonable for a few guys to spend more time on each ski without driving up the costs to exotic ski levels;  and they're made in North America (Canada to be exact); I've had good experiences with Canadian QC. Will they be in the same QC league as Kastle's or Stockli's or Heads? Doubt it. Will they be comparable to many major brands like Salomon and Rossignol that are in the same price range or a bit more? I've bet that and then some. We'll see. 

 

Finally about the personalized attention: Ordered them but then had misgivings about the (middle) length. Did the online chat thing, gave them a bunch of data points, was ultimately referred to a size table that was equivocal. The guy on the other end then said he thought Jason should talk with me. And to my surprise, two hours later, had a detailed email from Jason Levinthal, who apologized for being out skiing at Killington, referenced my personal data, gave a unequivocal recommendation for a longer length, and said he'd hold up shipment until I decided. I went with his recommendation (who in their right mind wouldn't listen to the actual designer?) and he walked the next to last pair in the new length to the shipping room. 

 

That, my friends, is not something I'd expect from the owner and CEO of Atomic, whoever he is. ;) 


Edited by beyond - 10/27/16 at 7:04pm
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