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What's up with all of those 'smaller' ski companies?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi,
I was just wondering what the differences are between the really popular brands: Atomic, Fischer, Head, Völkl etc. - And the less popular brands: Hart, Stöckli, Volant etc.

Why would you ski a less commercialized brand? - Why aren't those small companies commercialized?
Without the money - do they have anything to put up against the technology of an Atomic ski?
etc. etc.

I'd like to know

Thanks,
Kasper
post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrooK View Post
Hi,
I was just wondering what the differences are between the really popular brands: Atomic, Fischer, Head, Völkl etc. - And the less popular brands: Hart, Stöckli, Volant etc.

Why would you ski a less commercialized brand? - Why aren't those small companies commercialized?
Without the money - do they have anything to put up against the technology of an Atomic ski?
etc. etc.

I'd like to know

Thanks,
Kasper
Why would anyone pre 2002 buy a MAC? Same answers apply - in a generic sense.:
post #3 of 15
Same reason folks like to buy anything not mass-produced, I would guess...

I try to keep up with happenings at over 180 different ski companies (that does not include the "big companies like Atomic, Head, Rossignol, K2, Salomon, Fischer, Elan etc.) at ExoticSkis.com as a hobby, and they run the spectrum from bizarre science experiments to museum-quality replicas to Rolex & caviar luxury artwork to hand-built race skis to personalized custom geometries and construction to wacky "who-can-build-the-widest-pow-ski" brands to specialty hypercarvers to "topsheet-of-the-week" designs...you name it...it's out there!

After researching and trying some of these little-known brands and owning way too many "big name" skis over the years, I found the big companies tend to have big budgets to try new things and bring them to market each year with huge ad budgets...typically abandoning many of their "innovations" in one or two seasons for something "new" they invented to revolutionize their skis....although many stick with a good formula (like race skis), merely fine-tuning it over a few seasons. Nothing against the big ski companies...they definitely can turn out some GREAT skis, and always will.

I like the smaller companies because they are usually run by a small crew of people who love skis. You'd probably like to share a beer or two with them. They want to make something their own way. In the era of mega-corporate conglomerates, it's nice to know there are still small companies, usually run by friends and family, who can make really fun skis and make a living doing it. I like the idea of giving them my $$ rather than "super mega ultra multi-brand". I also like the idea of having something unusual. It may work exactly the same as a big-name ski (maybe worse, maybe better), but it's kind of cool to be able to e-mail or call the folks who made your skis and tell them "thanks...I had a great day today on your skis!"

Anyway...lots of folks like alternative stuff....sometimes because they want something the big market does not offer....sometimes because they want the "image" of an "indie" brand...sometimes because they're gear junkies always wanting something new and different to "discover"....

Bottom line is, the small companies can really make some cool skis that work great, and there are TONS of skis out there to try....he who dies trying the most toys...wins....

Why small companies?........because they're fun and they can make great skis!

(but always keep you eye out on Ebay for killer deals on the mega-brand leftovers.... ;-)
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Exoticskis - thank you
post #5 of 15
Why? Because big companies aim for profit first, and small companies aim for product first. Look what Volant and now Praxis/DPS are doing - bomber skis, better construction than a lot of the big brands, and new concepts. The big brands are playing catchup with the small ones - look how many rockers are appearing in the 09 lineup...
post #6 of 15
Sometimes the "less popular" brands are indeed popular in other parts of the Globe. (like Stockl). Some just don't have the $$ to compete for advertising saturation and concentrate their money on skis instead of ads. It all depends. Why are Buicks more popular than Ferraris or Alpha Romeos?
Name recognition and rack saturation are bought with good ads and good dealer margins, reputations are made from good recommendations of skiers.
A small amount of money can indeed produce a very nice ski design and performance.....


Quote:
Originally Posted by GrooK View Post
Hi,
I was just wondering what the differences are between the really popular brands: Atomic, Fischer, Head, Völkl etc. - And the less popular brands: Hart, Stöckli, Volant etc.

Why would you ski a less commercialized brand? - Why aren't those small companies commercialized?
Without the money - do they have anything to put up against the technology of an Atomic ski?
etc. etc.

I'd like to know

Thanks,
Kasper
post #7 of 15
You're sort of asking two sets of questions. First, what are the performance differences between larger and smaller cap "name" companies (say Rossignol or Volkl vs. Stockli or Scott) and second, what are the differences between companies that make their skis in large modern factories (say Volkl) vs oversized versions of a garage (most of the indies).

IMO, the differences in the first comparo are just marketing and feel. In fact, I'd argue some of the smaller guys like Stockli or Blizzard make higher quality skis than the big boys like Rossi or Volkl. OTOH, in the second comparo, I've found so far that the indie skis I've owned/demoed share a lot of similarities in feel because they tend to be sandwich build without system bindings or much metal. Maybe a bit of carbon here or there. So they're damp, fairly light, fairly smooth, can vary in stiffness but seldom do well at speed on hardpack. And they're not cheap. That said, I think they can offer all of us a realistic alternative to the ever beefier/carvier fats being produced by the majors. (In case you don't fantasize about running Nastar on Hellcats.)
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by toiletduck View Post
Why? Because big companies aim for profit first, and small companies aim for product first.
hahaa...case in point: At the recent Outdoor Retailier show in SLC, during the last day of the show, while other vendors are trying to get orders, meet sales quota's, etc....PMGear puts up a "gone skiing" sign at their booth and goes prototype testing at Solitude.
post #9 of 15
Personally, I've always liked to be a little different, playing up the psuedo eccentric angle, if you will.

I was a long time Rossi skier until a few years ago. When I began the arduous task of demoing, I started with the "big" companies, Rossi, Fischer, Volkl. Then I stumbled upon Line. Then Armada. At this time the bulk of the easily accessible "small" ski companies came in the form of park skis. The more I demoed, the more I learned. When I learned that Line and some other skis were actually made in China, I balked and started the demo process all over (even though I already had bought a 2 pairs of Volks and a pair of Armadas).

I actually stumbled upon Exoticskis.com by accident and then began investigating which of the smaller companies they had listed actually had skis available in my area. I started out with quite a long list of small, "exotic" skis to demo, but due to logistics, the list became quite small. I actually ended up purging all of my Volkls and got 2 pairs of AK (No Ka Oi and King Salmon), a pair of Blizzards (Titan 9) and over the summer, on a whim, bought a pair of Lib Tech NAS (they are skis made by Lib Tech Snowboards up in Washington State).

The major skis I've ridden--K2, Line, Volkl, Fischer, Head, Rossi--all had at least 1 or 2 models that I dug. But at the end of the day I decided that I didn't want to have the same skis that everybody else was riding. And you know what? For the most part all of the smaller, exotic skis I've purchased were cheaper than the mass produced, big company skis.

I'm nowhere near an expert in economics, but please tell me why I can buy a pair of small company, limited production skis for $400 when a pair of major company, mass produced skis cost $1000?

For almost a 1/3 of the price I get to ride a well crafted set of planks that very few people on any given mountain will be on.

For example, since I bought my No Ka Ois 2 seasons ago I have only encountered 3 other people on those skis: 1 @ Alpine Meadows, 1 @ Mammoth, and 1 @ Grand Targhee.

Since I bought my King Salmons I have not met anyone on any of the mountains I've ridden who rides a pair.

I hardly ever see anybody here on the West Coast riding Blizzards.

And after 2 days on my Lib Techs (at Keystone and Grand Targhee) I haven't seen anybody else on those and have gotten a lotta strange looks.

Since I'm forced to conform to society's whims on a daily basis by having a job, paying rent, car insurance, shaving, showering, and doing all the other things that have come to be expected of an upstanding member of society I figure the least I can do to buck conformity is to ride some unique planks.

That and the simple fact that many of the small companies are really, really, really good about customer service. One of the major reasons I started demoing small company skis is that in all cases--Prior, PMGear, Lib Tech, Armada, Blizzard, AK, Fatypus, Moment, Icelantic, heck even Hendryx Skis in Sweden!--these companies are on top of their customer base. They reply to emails many times within hours, go out of their way to set up demoes, are more than willing to take the time to talk to you about skis, etc. Last time I emailed a big ski company (Line) I had to email them a dozen times and they still never got back to me. Every one of the companies I listed above replied to my email queries lickety-split and many even carried on extensive email conversations over a period of weeks.

I have yet to have one of the small companies blow me off, even if I don't end up buying their skis. For example, while I didn't particularly care for the Icelantic Skis their demo day last April in Loveland was so cool that I totally recommend them to people to at least try. I mean at their demo day I got to try their two powder planks, speak with the founder, and they even bought me a beer after I rode their skis. When was the last time the Rossi or Volkl demo day did that (let you talk to the person who designed the ski and then bought you a frosty cold brew?) Ditto for PMGear. I'm not terribly fond of the Bro (doesn't suit my skiing style) but I've ridden with Pat, one of the founders/owners, and I've met Tyrone (another founder) and both are nice guys. I've also been privy to how they take care of their customers and the fact that they have gone out of their way to hook people up with skis, set up personalized demos, heck they have even been known to allow folks to come down to the shop and build their own skis! As with Icelantic, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend those skis to somebody based soley on how I have seen them handle business and by how cool I've found a couple of the folks who are behind the brand to be.

I'm pretty much sold on small company skis now and wouldn't hesitate to support any of them as long as i can try their product before buying (again many of these small companies are really good about getting their skis out there and letting folks ride them, knowing that word of mouth is a strong component of builing a successful ski company).

Finally, who wouldn't want to ride some skis that are hand-crafted in Reno or Truckee or Washington State or Switzerland or Whistler or Colorado? To me it's kind of cool to post on a message board and then learn that a frequent poster lives with the guy who designed my Lib Techs. Makes the degrees of separation a lot smaller to say "I know a guy who knows a guy who built my skis" rather than saying "Yeah, my skis were built in some massive factory over seas somewhere."

But then again, that's just me. And I tend to be a little weird (or so my longtime friends say).
post #10 of 15
I like the Bugatti but had to settle for a ford But I got the Bugatti for my skis Ya gotta have hart. Can ya see the resemblance!
post #11 of 15
In my case, I heard a rumor that Stockli was a better ski, straight sidewall and hand made.

At the time all of the citizen race gear that I was on was crap. My Rossi SL's ..... Volkl GS & SL's ..... would get shaky at any speed over recreational ....

Chased the Stockli's up to VT just to demo them and to make a short story long .... there was an accident .... big rock ... but I was impressed.

Bought the Stockli SC in about a 170 and they were faster & smoother than any Volkl I had been on (P-40's).

They did the job of the SL & GS

Later moved down to the (mens 156 SL) .... fun ski with no bad habits.

Sure ..... the big boys are back selling straight side wall skis. But screw em' they sold out ten years ago to "cap crap" ... and yes I tried to get race stock Fischer & Volkl but got tired of kissing butt and making phone calls that went unanswered.

It had nothing to do with being unique or being different .... it was all about a ski that at speed on ice and hard groomed getting all nervous chattering like a monkey at feeding time in the zoo.

Gimmie' smooth with great edge hold, bases that last ..... my Stockli stash is getting old but it will go a few more years .... cause they last and I don't get impressed by graphic crap.

Hard headed Swiss .... hard to deal with .... but damned good skis.
post #12 of 15
[quote=ExoticSkis;848782]Same reason folks like to buy anything not mass-produced, I would guess...

I try to keep up with happenings at over 180 different ski companies (that does not include the "big companies like Atomic, Head, Rossignol, K2, Salomon, Fischer, Elan etc.) at ExoticSkis.com as a hobby,.........


thanx for that link. very informative.
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces View Post
....PMGear puts up a "gone skiing" sign at their booth and goes prototype testing at Solitude.
YES !!!!!
That's the ticket....gotta love it...
post #14 of 15
Here's a small custom ski company. www.wagnerskis.com
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DropCliffsNotBombs View Post
Here's a small custom ski company. www.wagnerskis.com
Sadly I don't have that kind of money
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