Chill Factor - - Chillfactor Recommends - BY WATKIN MCLEN­NAN

As you read reviews about skis on­line, and even in this magazine, they will wow you with cryptic jar­gon like “liq­uid metal jacket” and “piezo­elec­tric fi­bres”. Skis are tools de­signed to per­form, and we want the tech­nol­ogy to nur­ture the way we wish we could ski. But some­times we un­der­mine the value of graph­ics. When peo­ple ask me about which skis they should buy, I’ll of­ten tell them to just buy a ski they like the look of. My opin­ion is that most ski brands are good. Most skis are good. Once you’ve fig­ured out which cat­e­gory you want – pow­der, park, carver, etc. – the rest is just aes­thetic.

The ski man­u­fac­tur­ers know the power of graph­ics. They use them to tar­get buy­ers like me who are dis­in­ter­ested in their tech­no­log­i­cal pitch. As the re­cent ski shape innovations be­come more unan­i­mous, the ski graph­ics are be­com­ing an ever more im­por­tant mar­ket­ing tool. Ski graph­ics are up­dated ev­ery year, even if the ski re­mains the same. So with graph­ics be­ing so im­por­tant, we never seem to give them the credit they de­serve. Ear­lier in the year I reached out to some of the creators be­hind three ski brands who have in­ter­est­ing and dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to their graph­ics.

Eric Pol­lard has been de­sign­ing skis for 13 years and his LINE ski range con­sists of some of the most re­spected skis on the mar­ket for their in­no­va­tive shapes, con­struc­tion, and art­ful graph­ics. LINE lever­ages the famed ski­ing of Eric. The skis are en­riched by the story of Eric as a skier and artist. The in­spi­ra­tions for Eric’s graph­ics come from the moun­tains. His art of­ten ref­er­ences Ja­pan and na­ture, seem­ing to sug­gest where the skis be­long. In this way the graph­ics rep­re­sent an au­then­tic aes­thetic unique to ski­ing.

An­other in­ter­est­ing ap­proach comes from Ja­son Levinthal. Ja­son started LINE in 1995 but left a few years ago and started J Skis. J Skis’ model is re­fresh­ingly sim­ple. The com­pany has five dif­fer­ent ski shapes and for each they do lim­ited run graph­ics of around 100 pairs. Two years ago, J Skis pro­duced our very own ski – the “Straya”, cov­ered in pies and kan­ga­roos. J Skis’ strat­egy of small batch graph­ics al­lows for ev­ery­one to find their pair of iden­tity sticks. “I do small batch, lim­ited edi­tion graph­ics for J Skis be­cause I want my cus­tomers to own a unique prod­uct that is not like any oth­ers. The ski graphic edi­tion is ex­clu­sive to the 50 or 100 peo­ple that own them, and once a

lim­ited edi­tion graphic is sold out it’s gone for­ever. So the skiers that own it have a one-of-a-kind, once in a life­time work of art on their feet.”

Black Crows have a slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Black Crows value con­sis­tency across all of their skis. The graph­ics are a con­tin­u­a­tion of a sin­gu­lar brand iden­tity. Un­like many of the big­ger ski com­pa­nies, that build brands for in­di­vid­ual skis to bal­ance be­tween dif­fer­ent mar­kets and de­mo­graph­ics, Black Crows have built a brand that is not de­fined by the style of ski­ing, but by broader cul­tural and so­cial at­tributes. Yorgo Tloupas is the cre­ative di­rec­tor at Black Crows. He has in­flu­enced their min­i­mal yet highly con­sid­ered aes­thetic. “I re­ally wanted to go back to sim­ple, min­i­mal, and geo­met­ric de­signs. The driv­ing force be­hind our aes­thetic is the time­less­ness we aim for. A Black Crows ski from eight years ago should look and feel at home within our cur­rent col­lec­tion, and within our col­lec­tion for the 2025-26 win­ter sea­son, hope­fully.”

There is a lot of thought that goes into a graphic. It’s not just what looks good on your feet. “The main chal­lenge is to cre­ate some­thing that will look good,” Yorgo went on to say, “Both in the shop bind­ing-less, and on a chair­lift when peo­ple take self­ies of their spat­u­las. This has also be­come a strong mar­ket­ing point in the era of Go-Pro views, and thank­fully our logo has al­ways been in a po­si­tion where it’s fully vis­i­ble in videos, even though we launched way be­fore th­ese tiny cam­eras. We also have to take into ac­count the left ski and right ski fac­tor, if we do dif­fer­ent graph­ics on each, and the fact that some of our skis are meant to be rid­den switch. We try to play a bit with side­walls and, even if we’re not the only ones do­ing this, we keep some ty­po­graphic and nar­ra­tive sur­prises for those who buy our skis with­out check­ing ev­ery de­tail.”

It seems that the strate­gies be­hind ski graph­ics are care­fully crafted. In­creas­ingly, rather than ski tech­nol­ogy, they are defin­ing the ski brand. As the ma­jor re­cent ski shape innovations be­come more com­mon and re­fined across the in­dus­try, graph­ics are play­ing a big­ger role. So my ad­vice is: don’t dis­re­gard graph­ics. Just be­cause skis are built to per­form on their down doesn’t mean they shouldn’t per­form on the way up and in the house as well. Your ski could be the tool that in­tro­duces you be­fore you strike up a fleet­ing chair­lift chat.

Ja­son Levinthal with some of the J Ski range. OP­PO­SITE: Just a taste of some of the graph­ics avail­able from (left to right)

Fac­tion, Black Crows, J Skis and an Eric Pol­lard de­sign from Line

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