Colorado homegrown: Icelantic skis moving up

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At the SIA show a couple of weeks ago, the Icelantic skis drew a lot of well-deserved notice. The graphics, which were based on a music theme this year, were stunning, and designed so that each ski made up half of a painting, a first for the company this year. Icelantic, which is relatively new, is headquartered in Colorado, and so committed to their home state that they also do the manufacturing here.

"We all went to Clear Creek High School, and we grew up skiing at Loveland," said Annelise Loevlie, who is in charge of marketing and global sales. "I used to sell candy to Ben (Anderson) at the locker; we've been best friends since we were 12, and we're still friends, so there's not a lot of bullshit."

Anderson is the company founder, and had the idea for making skis since he was 12. After high school, the friends all dispersed around the country. Loevlie went to Vermont and Anderson went to Washington, while Travis Cook, the company's first engineer, went to Pennsylvania. Anderson dropped out after a year and a half, determined to build skis.

"He found investors, solid manufacturers, asked (Travis) Parr to do the art, and asked me to run the business with him, and then we applied for ESPO, and we won that, and that was kind of the launching of it all," explained Loevlie.

Icelantic debuted at SIA in 2005 with the Scout, a radical design that had many at the show wondering if the company was serious.

"We only offered in it one length, 143, and it kind of shocked the industry," said Loevlie. "People thought we were a joke. The whole idea behind the Scout is surface area. Even though it's only 143cm long, in terms of surface area, it's like a 168 shaped ski, so that was kind of our idea: reduce length, weight and bulk so it's very packable and can take you all over the mountain. That's what we debuted in the industry with, and we sold 86 pairs our first year. We had a tipi at the booth, and most people thought we were selling tipis, not skis, so that was pretty funny (laughs)."

The graphics, which are all created by Parr, are based on a theme that the company comes up with in a meeting in April or May. At SIA this year, the theme shown for the 2010-2011 line was music, and included several stunning creations.

"Parr is the artist," said Loevlie. "He is a trained fine artist and went to the Laguna College of Art and Design. He just started making art when we were seniors in high school. He just discovered he was an artist when he was 18, which is crazy. They're all original acrylic on canvas, and we have all the original paintings in our gallery on 8th and Santa Fe.

"Parr will take the ideas and concepts and transform them into really attractive art, so the synergy we have as a team is pretty incredible. We don't have to say anything to Parr; he just kind of takes it, adjusts it, and spits out amazing art. It's pretty unique. There's not many other companies spending this much time and energy on the graphics."

After several false starts, Icelantic further cemented its Colorado ties when it paired with Never Summer Snowboards to have the company make their skis.

"We're super excited about that partnership," said Loevlie. "We went through three manufacturers before we got Never Summer. They were small manufacturers, and we had de-laminating problems all the time. For the first two, three years, we had tons of warranty issues. We all snowboard, and we've snowboarded on Never Summer snowboards, so we've had that relationship. Ben has been trying to get them to make our skis since we started, and it took a long time to convince them, because they are a snowboard company, and finally they committed, and we have a great relationship with them.

"Never Summer is thinking of moving to another facility because we are outgrowing it, and because of our growth as a company, they are that committed to making our skis and keeping it here. They have a 15,000 square feet facility and they're thinking of doubling it."

All Icelantic skis, including the new women's model, the Oracle, have some degree of twin tip design, and all have poplar cores, except for the Oracle, which has an aspen/poplar core to shave weight.

Perhaps the best part of keeping the company and its manufacturing in Colorado is the flexibility it gives the team to take new models out for a spin.

"We got our samples on Friday, picked them up at the factory at 4 p.m., mounted them that night, and were all skiing them the next day in Vail, so it's great," enthused Loevlie. "We were skiing on brand new skis, then we can go to the factory and make changes if we have to. If we were being made in China or Austria or anywhere else, we would not be able to do that. It's pretty hands on. We're lucky."

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