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Smaller shops?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
With Trotski's poll up, I began to wonder. Everyone knows the big makers of skis. What are some of the smaller shops around that everyday people do not hear about, or the mags don't write up, that make killer skis, and what makes them a little better, or a lot better. . I have heard of the bros, but do not know much about them, what else is out there that is worth looking into.


Lee
post #2 of 18
To the best of my knowledge (which is debateable at best) these are some of the cooler ones still making skis in small batches and mostly locally/domestically, with a few exceptions:

Moment - Reno

Scottybob - Colo

AK - Europe

Lib Tech - Washington/Canadian border

Praxis - Tahoe

Liberty - Colo

Icelantic - Colo (great guys...i demoed their planks at Loveland last season and while I don't cotten to them, they're interesting rides and the kid who makes 'em is mad cool).

Prior - Whistler

DP - ?

High Society - Colo

Movement - Switzerland

Faction - ?

Ninth Ward - ?

Alotta - Colo

Igneous - Jackson Hole


You can check out exoticskis.com for a more comprehensive list of "smaller" ski companies.

As for whether or not they are better, that's debateable. I personally ride a pair of AK King Salmons. I didn't know anything about them until I read about them on a few posts around the Net and found out that they were available to demo at Kirkwood. After riding them for a day I plunked down on a pair as I enjoyed their feel and response. I actually ditched my Mantras in favor of these.

I have demoed the PMGear 188 Bro. Wasn't my style. But I've met Splat and Tyrone (a couple of the owners/principles) and they're cool peoples. Plus a lot of folks I've ridden with over the last season ride the Bro and love it. So I will always be intrigued by their skis and am willing to give 'em another go (looking forward to trying their new fattie this season).

I think the thing that's really cool about all smaller companies is that they're really attentive to the customer. Most of the companies listed above I have contacted via email at one time or another and they tend to get back to you within 12-24 hours with a personal email, not some computer generated form letter. Additionally, many of them do hands on demo days and/or are willing to ship skis out to folks so they can test 'em out. Perhaps being smaller they know that word of mouth can make or break them a lot quicker than a bigger company, so they seem to go out of their way to keep a more personal vibe going. I've found that in many cases just contacting them about their skis will illicit a response like "Next time you're in our neighborhood, give us a call and we'll get you on a pair of our skis." That, to me, is cool.

For example last season at Loveland I stumbled upon an Icelantic demo day. I got to ride two of their models and in-between I got to chat it up with the kid who started the company. I picked his brain for a good 30 minutes (I basically interviewed him without recording it...bad habit as a journalist). Not only did I get to ride his skis for free, he even bought me a beer and loaded me up with stickers just for taking the time out to try his product and provide him with my feedback. Now that's cool.

Not to slag any of the bigger companies, but usually at their demo days you can try a few pairs and talk to the local rep. While that's cool, it's not half as cool as being able to talk to the kid who makes the ski, designed the ski, and then have him buy you a beer.

Also, there's a certain cachete of cool to having a small ski. Less people will have 'em on the hill and thus make you that much more unique. But that's a small part of it. The bottomline is that the ski should vibe with you and your skiing style. Not much point in having a cool, small company ski if it aint' the right ski for you, eh?
post #3 of 18
Kingswood - handmade skis from Christchurch NZ

Oh and Prior - yeah I was in Whistler on a demo day and they called it off on 'account of winds' but it didn't have anything to do with the 30cm of fresh that had fallen and the fact that they were skiing the demo skis for the rest of the day. Some smaller companies are just as 'head up their b*&t' as the bigger companies.

Best rep at that demo day - Blizzard - 'I can fit you in for 45 minutes between a journo and a sponsored pro - don't wreck the skis on me please'. Result a great 3-4 runs on a pair of Titan Nines which I then bought. Could have been a pair of Priors and I bet $1000 means more to their margins than it does to a big corp like Blizzard (didn't pay $1000 for the Titans either - like I said a good rep).

Will I ever try to ski Prior again - no there is enough variety out there and great 'try our stuff' attitudes like you met with Icelandic that I don't have to and don't want to.

Oh yeah and I visited the Stockli factory to tell them how much I thought their skis really performed and helped my skiing improve; response - 'Oh you really honestly like our stuff and you are working as an instructor, how would you like a good deal on our skis?'. well the last time I checked bears do s%$t in the woods and the Pope is still catholic so now I ski on Stockli. Some bigger small companies are cool too. And their skis really do rock!!
post #4 of 18
Sounds to me like Prior's priorities are in the right place.
post #5 of 18
The Ski is another. If you wanted to demo some, all you used to do was to call Bobbie and he would leave a pair by the back door for you.
post #6 of 18
What about G3's.
The siren was recommended to me by a Bear, and it seriously has my interest piqued.
post #7 of 18
Don't forget the Valchiavenna's own Blossom skis. http://www.blossom.suinternet.com/. Not really my own cup of tea, but they would give you local cred in our neck of the woods. Had a pair of their SL's used and thought they rocked, though.
post #8 of 18
Call me crazy, but I didn't think Blossom is all that small. Great skis though.
post #9 of 18
Blossom is making skis for quite a few "labels".
post #10 of 18
At Gorsuch in vail, aspen, keystone and beaver creek, you can test some of the highend small manufactures. Virus, zai, bogner.. I have tested about every model they have in these brands.. The Virus is a hardcore carver and you have to work it that way. The Bogner is similar but I just did not like it unless I was going super fast. The Zai models were all fun and different but as a rule it is ez to over ski them. I am not a fan of the toe higher then the heel mounting.
post #11 of 18
can't speak on the Prior cancellation of a demo day, but it sounds like they live by the "Ain't no friends on a powder day" motto. probably not the best motto if you want to sell skis, though.



my only interaction with Prior has been via email and they have always been quick and attentive to my queries, so until they blow me off in person, they're good in my book.

i know over on TGR there's a legion of fans of the PMGear Bro, but there's also a few folks who hate it and the company's customer service. The bottomline is that you can't please 100% of your consumer base all of the time. i would hedge a bet that if you're pleasing 75% then you're doing pretty well.

i just know from experience that companies like Armada, Prior, Scottybob, AK, Lib Tech, and Blizzard were great to deal with via email, asking questions about mounting points, demo days, and whatnot. AK set me up with free demos (they only have them at a shop in Kirkwood for $40 a day demo fee, AK's US rep waved the fee, which I thought was cool of them). Both Prior and Scottybob have told me to look them up whenever in their area and they'd set me up. Armada was great about giving me pointers on mounting points, even though I eventually didn't like their skis, they had great customer service. The Blizzard rep I dealt with went out of his way to track down season old skis for me at a great price).

Conversely, I sent innumerable emails to Line skis. Never once heard back from them. Ditto on Volkl and Rossi. I'm only human, so if I send out a letter to 5 companies and only 2 get back to me, then I'm going to deal with the two who recognized me.
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post
can't speak on the Prior cancellation of a demo day, but it sounds like they live by the "Ain't no friends on a powder day" motto. probably not the best motto if you want to sell skis, though.



my only interaction with Prior has been via email and they have always been quick and attentive to my queries, so until they blow me off in person, they're good in my book.

i know over on TGR there's a legion of fans of the PMGear Bro, but there's also a few folks who hate it and the company's customer service. The bottomline is that you can't please 100% of your consumer base all of the time. i would hedge a bet that if you're pleasing 75% then you're doing pretty well.

i just know from experience that companies like Armada, Prior, Scottybob, AK, Lib Tech, and Blizzard were great to deal with via email, asking questions about mounting points, demo days, and whatnot. AK set me up with free demos (they only have them at a shop in Kirkwood for $40 a day demo fee, AK's US rep waved the fee, which I thought was cool of them). Both Prior and Scottybob have told me to look them up whenever in their area and they'd set me up. Armada was great about giving me pointers on mounting points, even though I eventually didn't like their skis, they had great customer service. The Blizzard rep I dealt with went out of his way to track down season old skis for me at a great price).

Conversely, I sent innumerable emails to Line skis. Never once heard back from them. Ditto on Volkl and Rossi. I'm only human, so if I send out a letter to 5 companies and only 2 get back to me, then I'm going to deal with the two who recognized me.
I can't speak for the new Blizzard guys, but the old Dalbello/Blizzard guys always did right by me. If the Volkl guys will also be handling the Blizzards, I am afraid they will end up being the red headed step child in the the demovan and on the sales floor.
post #13 of 18
"I can't speak for the new Blizzard guys, but the old Dalbello/Blizzard guys always did right by me."

Yeah, that's what I should have clarified. I haven't dealt with the new Blizzard folks.

When I was searching for some of the piss green Titan 9's I emailed Blizzard. Several weeks went by and finally somebody from the then Dalbello/Blizzard office back East reached out and said that they'd been forwarded my email from the home office in Germany. Apparantly the German's didn't know how to respond to my queries, but at least they forwarded it to the American branch office. From there I had great service (it helped that the customer service rep was familiar with the website I work for, but still they were cool).
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Is blizzard a small company?
post #15 of 18
I would lump Blizzard in with Stockli. Not necessarily small over in Europe, but small here in the States (as in good luck trying to find a shop that carries Blizzard skis near you...there are none in the San Francisco Bay Area and only 2 or 3 up in Tahoe that even stocked Blizzard skis and in most cases they only carried 1 or 2 models).
post #16 of 18
Just a comment to Andrew R about Prior: I ordered a pair of Doughboys from them (reviewed them here last spring), picked skis up at the factory, have nothing but good things to say about how the folks there worked with me. They also have a very good reputation locally. So maybe there really WAS a wind problem. It's a mile up the bowls, y'know. I had days where it was clear in the village, foggy half way up, and blowing fresh pow at the top. I'd buy Priors again.

Also have contacted Obsidian, DP, helpful, prompt, seem like standup types, but can't speak to their skis.
post #17 of 18
Oh, and have sent innumerable emails to Volkl, ALWAYS get a thorough response within a few days. Go to the website and hit the "Ski Guru" button.
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post
Just a comment to Andrew R about Prior: I ordered a pair of Doughboys from them (reviewed them here last spring), picked skis up at the factory, have nothing but good things to say about how the folks there worked with me. They also have a very good reputation locally. So maybe there really WAS a wind problem. It's a mile up the bowls, y'know. I had days where it was clear in the village, foggy half way up, and blowing fresh pow at the top. I'd buy Priors again.

Also have contacted Obsidian, DP, helpful, prompt, seem like standup types, but can't speak to their skis.
I am glad that you had a good experience and I am sure that 90% if the time Prior are great. I trust that you really enjoy skiing on them.

But on the demo, No I was up the mountain (Fresh tracks pass) so I had skied a few lines before they had even turned up. An average wind, nothing worse than an average blustery winter day at Whistler. I knew they had/ have a good local reputation but they were just in the 'no friends on powder day' mode and that means from me - no Priors in my garage or on my feet ever.

I am sure that they are not bothered but neither am I as there are lots of other great companies producing skis with exactly (or near as for government work) dimensions and capability as their skis. The point is that when people ask me what I would recommend for a fat ski/ powder ski the word Prior is just not going to come out of my mouth. If someone asks me what I think if Prior because they are thinking of buying a pair, I will answer honestly 'Not much, but I have heard that they are pretty good skis'. At the end of the day when I am working a client is more likely to go with something that I have skied on personally rather than something I have heard about.

The good part of my story is that I ended up spending less on the Titan Nines which I got some great skiing on and I also got a good price for them second hand.

So I will stick with my very nice Stockli DP Pros and if I want/ need a really fat ski for powder/ heli skiing I will get a pair of Kingswoods (bamboo, environmental friendly epoxies etc blah blah blah) as Stockli do not make a ski for this niche and I really do like supporting the proper little guy.

PS Stockli are small in the context of the usual big names, 40000 pairs of handmade skis per annum. Slightly more than the really little guys but they are small enough to change production based on in season feedback.
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