Icelantic Skis founder Ben Anderson started making skis in high school, and now his brand is the #1 selling 100% made-in-USA ski in America. So stop dreaming, start doing kids! Even better for us, Icelantic is available in stores downunder this winter too.
You got the idea to make skis in high school as a 15 year old, where did that come from?
I don’t know, it came from the heart, I committed to the idea early on that I was going to start a ski company, and started learning about the whole process.
Did you just tell the careers counsellor, hey, no college for me, I’m off to make skis?
As a senior I worked the system, I got to graduate early, so I had the whole 2nd semester of school off. I contacted two brothers in Boulder who were making skis in their backyard shed, I called them up and said I’d really love to learn the process how to make skis, and they let me come down there and help them a couple of days a week. That’s where I really learnt how to make skis and the materials.
I did that for about 6 months, then the Career’s Advisor wanted me to go to College, so I did Industrial Design in Washington State. I did that for about a year and a half, every project was related to skis. Then I stopped going to school, but continued learning the CAD and design programs. I called up K2 and did an internship at Vashon Island. I got to go to a different department every time I went there.
So you called up the biggest ski company in America and they let you come down and just learn what they did? It sounds like the guys from Toyota getting shown round General Motors in the 1950s. Didn’t go well for GM that one.
Yes, I guess they weren’t too worried about a 19 year old kid. I called them and said I was interested in starting a ski company, and they said sure. It wasn’t too formal, I just got to meet a different department every time I went out there, and got to learn a lot about the industry – the sales cycles, the marketing, the construction, the product design, and all that stuff.
After that year I moved back to Colorado and started pressing skis in my parent’s garage. The guys in Boulder pretty much gave me their equipment, it cost me like a $1,000 when it was worth maybe $40,000. I pressed skis for about 3 years experimenting with materials and shapes.
Were you working a real job as well to survive?
Yes, I was working in a ski shop, and a bakery baking bread.
Cooking skis. Did you start selling to friends then?
Exactly! No, I would just ski them till they would explode, delaminate or break or whatever, then I would go back to the drawing board to find what the problem was. Friends would ask me can I ski them, and I was like “Hell no, we are not ready!”
I was working with Travis Parr the artist who does all our graphics, and on a name and logo and stuff, getting ready. I wrote a business plan and got investors on board and we went to market in 2006.
There were already guys like Armada and Line taking off then.
Yes, they were maybe 4 years before us, we were still at the beginning of the smaller brands coming out, that really helped. There are a lot of different companies now, but in order to be successful you’ve got to really do things different on every level, from product to art to marketing.
What’s been the hardest thing to go from scratch?
Cash flow! And getting the cycle to be sustainable, and creating a brand. It’s a tough industry. K2 are our biggest competitor, so it’s like how do we get people to trust us, and differentiate Icelantic from the others.
Yep, there are so many brands out there now – old and new.
You have to do things differently. We’re the number #1 USA manufactured ski company, by quite a margin, that’s a big selling point. Then there’s the artwork, the performance, and the people behind the brand, we have an amazing team that takes a personal approach. People love it.
You’ve moved past some well established older brands?
We’re number 13 overall in the US. Among the new brands only Line and Armada are above us.
Are you much bigger in the west?
Yes, but we’re having a lot of traction on the east coast, that’s our biggest growth area right now.
What about internationally?
We distribute in 15 countries, all over Europe – Switzerland, Austria, France, Norway, Sweden, and in Japan. And in Australia now of course!
How many employees have you got?
About 10 here in the States, then there’s reps and stuff.
So you’re still pretty much going at it 24 hours a day personally?
Pretty much, I’ve learnt to go home and breathe, but still putting a lot into it.
For Icelantic Skis stockists here check with Uber Sports call 0418682145
What are some highlights from the new Icelantic skis range you recommend for our market?
“The Nomad 105 has been the #1 seller in our Freeride range, a good, fun, all mountain freeride tool. So we’ve added to that with the new Nomad 115, 125 and Nomad 95. The 95 has got 2mm of camber underfoot, a bit of early rise tip and tail, when you’re skiing it flat it’s a really fun, playful ski, but you roll it on edge you get full edge contact and it can really lock up. It’s a replacement for our park specific Denali, a freeride tool that’s good in the terrain park, perfect width for you Aussies at home. ($AUD 1099 & $AUD 1049 respectively)
The 115 is good for freeride, more of a big mountain application. Then the new Nomad 125 replaces our Gypsy. It’s fully rockered, but the radius of the rocker is the same as the sidecut radius, so it skis like it’s flexed, ski it flat really playful, roll it for full edge contact. Perfect for smashing trees in Japan.” – Ben Anderson
WIN Icelantic skis at the Melbourne & Sydney Snow Travel Expos – May 22 & 29. Get along to SnowAction stand and enter – Stand 80 in Sydney this weekend, thanks to all who entered in Melbourne last Sunday.