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