We're that friend who introduces you to the type of people who just might become your best buds. On one side, we build relationships with local skiers like yourself. On the other, we build relationships with great brands. Then we introduce you both to each other and hope tath you invite us to parties.
One of the toughest parts of being a small shop is deciding what brands to carry.
If we want to have lasting relationships with our customers, we can't just bring in junk that makes us a buck in the short term. A lot of thought goes into it, and some great relationships are formed when it goes right. So, here's a look behind the curtain at a few of the best brands we've teamed up with over the years.
"For us to carry a product, it has to be the best or the best for the price. It has to be something we'd use ourselves." Jonathan Mikitka - Fresh staff
These days we scour the ski industry for brands we want to feature, but when we opened the Original Freeski Shop in 2001, it wasn't easy to convince everyone to jump on board.
The Salomon 1080 gave freeskiing a major boost at the turn of the millennium. But it wasn't easy for a tiny new shop, like Fresh, to convince Salomon to start an account. Steve (Fresh's founder) remembers, "The sales rep wouldn't even return my calls at first."
It was a good thing that Steve had gone out to Whistler to ski in the Momentum Camps. There he'd befriended some influential pro skiers. "Mike Douglas put in a good word, and Sarah (Burke) helped with that, too."
Mike Douglas remembers that time, "Steve's a smart dude. He came to Momentum and spent a bunch of time hanging out and chatting with people. And we all kind of hit it off with him."
"He was figuring it all out and knew that getting the cool brands was important, so he went right to the source."
Fresh team rider Chris Rubens & Alexis Godbout refining Salomon skis
Salomon wasn't the only brand Steve pulled from those trips to the Whistler. Armada didn't even exist yet, but it was about to make a splash. Brad Stastook was one of the first Fresh employees, and he remembers the origins,
"I was at the Whistler Summer Camps in 2004 and Tanner Hall was riding around wearing an Armada hoodie, but still on Rossignol skis. He was elusive about what Armada was. I came back and told Steve about it (Steve met Tanner on the glacier as well). Steve phoned Tanner and asked point-blank what it was. Armada was still in stealth mode as their athletes were under other contracts for a few months still, but Steve swore us to secrecy and let us know they were forming a new ski brand with two models, the AR7 for park and their fat ski (the 90 mm waisted) ARV. Steve put in an order right then and became the first shop to carry the core-est and arguably the coolest brand."
Armada has been one of Fresh's strongest brands every year since. But in particular, Steve remembers, "The Armada JJ, when it came out, was the most exciting powder ski ever in Fresh. People loved it!"
Line was another one of those ski brands that has been right on the cutting edge making great versatile skis for our kind of skiing while also pushing the boundaries. The older crew will remember that Line actually started as a snowblade company but slowly saw the light and embraced the early freeski scene. (it's kinda humorous that they now make the Line Blade, which could be described as an old man/woman ski for people who probably remember the original Line blades).
Like Armada, Line grew along with freeskiing until they were a mainstream, bigger brand. And then they kept innovating. Not everything worked, though. Line actually tried to manufacture a binding, which is a highly complex product to develop and deliver. It didn't work, and it very nearly sunk the brand until K2 stepped in with the cash to buy and save the brand.
Some of Line's innovations pushed the industry forward. They were all over the fat twin tip boom and went fatter than most, for sure. Their swallowtail powder skis, mostly designed by Eric Pollard, were popular right away and have been copied by a number of other companies. To create durable, affordable skis for urban jibbers, Line innovated the Afterbang, a plywood ski a lot like the simple design of a skateboard. It was a cool idea, but it didn't stick.
Other ski companies, too, have struggled with the urban skier paradigm. How does a traditional/old ski company that built its brand on winning ski races and making precisely tuned equipment embrace skiers grinding their skis sideways on a metal handrail? Or stopping on semi-dry pavement?
our friend Rob Heule testing out some Lines
Rossignol, for example, embraced twintips early (and we embraced them) with the PowAir. On the Pow'Air Grind, their jibbing solution was to insert pieces of plastic under the foot and have the ski's metal edge curve into the base to protect it while the plastic bit slid. It didn't take long to figure out that plastic under your ski boot didn't hold a carve even as well as metal edges that have been dulled. And perfectly protected metal edges didn't work buried in plastic weren't any help.
Armada now makes the BDOG Edgeless which might be the final word in this categroy, as long as you don't ever ski hard snow.
Rossignol went on to make the insanely popular all-mountain twin, the S7, followed by the Black Ops line.
a classic Rossignol quiver
K2 was the first company to have a freeski team back in the late 90’s when Seth Morrison, Kent Kreitler, and Shane McConkey all had pro models. In some ways, they set the stage for every other company's pro teams right there, but even before that the best skiers were promoting their boards.
Scott Schmidt, Glen Plake, and Mike Hattup made us all dream of shredding K2s down wild mountains from Chamonix to Squaw Valley by showing them off on the big screen in Greg Stump movies of the early ‘90s, and with them, the professional freeskier dream was born.
K2 continues to rock one of the best teams out there and to build great skis for the rest of us to emulate those pros on.
With so much time spent analyzing other company's products, you'd think we'd start making our own at some point, right? Let's talk about that in our next post!