Local children meld skiing and art to create Icelantic phenomenon Daniel Vardamis
A lot of small, boutique ski companies are out there, but only one that has been named the official ski of Colorado. If you’ve flown out of Denver International Airport lately and walked the concourse to Terminal A, you’ll see a prominent display of this ski company, that thousands of world travelers pass daily. By combining its passions for skiing, art and music this ski company is slated to put on the first-ever winter concert at Red Rocks.
Welcome to the crazy world of Icelantic Skis, handmade just down the road in Evergreen, Colorado. Icelantics are hard to miss. Their graphics are artistic and bold, and their ski designs are revolutionary. They’ve succeeded by doing things different from the mainstream ski industry.
It’s a local story, or at least quasi-local. The founders of Icelantic Skis, Ben Anderson, Travis Parr and Annelise Loevlie are from Idaho Springs, went to middle school together and skied for Clear Creek High School, a traditional rival of Nederland High School.
We sat down with Icelantic Skis marketing director Annelise Loevlie last
week at the Denver headquarters to find out more about the company. Loevlie’s a busy lady these days. Last week she was in Switzerland launching the brand in Europe, and she’s going back next week, but despite her busy schedule she was a picture of positive energy and skiing stoke. She looks like the prototypical skier — blonde and strong with a beaming smile — and she talks like one too. She says “awesome” a lot more than “marketing strategy” and her graciousness was refreshing; the Mountain-Ear might as well have been the New York Times based on the time she gave us for the interview.
We talked a lot about the company’s origins, ski manufacturing and melding art and sport. Here’s what she had to say.
“So you all met in Idaho Springs?”
“Yeah, we all met in middle school — Ben Anderson, the founder of the company, myself, Travis Parr who is our artist and Travis Cook who is the original engineer of the skis. Ben and I have been best friends forever. We all went to middle school and high school together at Clear Creek. We raced on the ski team together. I remember we had these enormous blue team helmets we had to wear! I wish I could still get one.”
“So how did Icelantic start?”
“Ben is the creative genius behind it all. Even in high school he wanted to make skis that fit our style of skiing that we did at Loveland. He started experimenting. He got an internship at Journey Ski Boards in Boulder in high school. He then went to Western Washington University for a year and did internships with K2 and learned all about ski manufacturing. He dropped out of college his sophomore year and got serious about starting Icelantic.
“Parr was the first person he called up because he needed a graphic. About a
year later he called me and asked me if I would help him get the business off the ground.”
“What kind of skis did you guys originally produce?”
“The first ski we made was called the Scout. It was 143 cm long. It was based on the concept that you could get the same amount of surface area on a 143 cm wide ski as you could get on a 185 cm narrower ski. The first year at the ski trade show we only had the Scout and a big teepee in our booth. It was so funny. Everybody thought we were selling teepees. They were like, are these guys serious? There was definitely resistance at first but not anymore. They know us now.”
“It seems like there is a unique melding of skiing, culture, music and art
“Definitely. Art is a huge part of the company, our brand message and even the evolution of us. The ski graphics from each year have a different theme and it follows the evolution of Icelantic as a company. The first year was about discovery of new thoughts and lands and ideas. It was about opening your eyes. The next year was migration. Year three’s theme was warriors which tied into our emphasis of fighting to push Icelantic Skis through. Last year was music, which was amazing because people love music and it’s so universal. This year we have power animals.”
“Yup, power animals! Each ski represents a different animal. It’s about connecting with nature and adding some spiritualism to the ski industry. I guess part of the spiritualism thing is me coming out in the company, partially because I’m a girl and that’s who I am. It’s cool to see people gravitate towards us for reasons more than just skis. There is a lot more to it. It’s this whole aspect of the company I can’t really put into words. It’s more of an experience and tapping into something.”
“The yearly art theme is very unique in the ski industry. What inspired
The first skis we started out with were the Scout, Pilgram, Nomad and
Shaman. The Scout was our Rocky Mountain ski. The Pilgrim was our East
Coast carving ski. The Nomad was also our Rocky Mountain ski — it’s the same
as the Scout, just bigger. The Shaman was our West Coast ski. I think just the names — Scout, Pilgram, Nomad and Shaman — told a story. They are all characters. The combination of that and the geographical ideas helped create artistic themes. The first Shaman graphic was obviously a shaman tripping out, the Nomad had this kind of wandering person and so on.”
“Does your artist have complete creative freedom to come up with a concept?”
Parr comes up with most of the concepts and then we all decide. It’s a very collaborative effort. It’s amazing. Everybody here is completely free to express and carry out things they want to.”
“Do people buy your skis specifically for the artwork?”
“Oh yeah. We have some people who buy a specific ski every single year even if their old ski is in great shape because they want the new art. It’s almost like a collector’s item.”
“Are there any universal traits to an Icelantic ski?”
“They all have a two-year warranty and bomber construction. Our bases are way tougher than most. We use the strongest P-tex base on the market. We make all our skis in Colorado.”
“In just six years Icelantic has become a well-known, decent sized company. How’s that growth process been? Are you still having fun?”
“Oh hell yeah! We’re growing, but I honestly think the perception of our company is bigger than we actually are. We’re producing 5,000 pairs of skis this year, up from 3,000 last year, but by comparison, Never Summer Snowboards, who are considered a small snowboarding manufacturer, sells about 20,000 snowboards a year. Fisher skis makes 1.3 million pairs of skis a year. I think it’s a testament to good marketing and other ideas to get the word out, like hosting the first-ever winter concert at Red Rocks. The whole city is behind it. It’s really amazing.” “Icelantic recently went to Europe to launch the brand. How’s that going?” “It’s awesome. We’re using Switzerland as the pilot market to launch Icelantic in Europe. We’re targeting the top ten shops in the country. I got tapped into the Swiss ski mafia when I was there — basically the people that run the industry. We met the best shop owners and some really amazing people. We’re going to go to free ride friendly locations in Switzerland like Verbier and Laax and start little pods with our skis. We’re also teaming up with the best bars and huts in the area to have a galley of art so there will be a multi-dimensional Icelantic presence. We hope to expand out from there. I’m pretty stoked about it.” “Taking it back local, the skiing in Nederland is super variable and windy with tight trees. It’s sort of like going to battle sometimes. What ski would you recommend for the readers of this paper?” “The Shaman or Nomad. They turn quick, can handle a bunch of crazy conditions and are super tough. Some of our new skis like the Keeper and Gypsy require some room to maneuver, so they might not be ideal for your area. The Pilgrim is awesome too. It’s a little darter and is great on ice.” “What’s your favorite ski personally?” “The 161-centimeter Shaman — it’s such a good ski. It’s so much fun. It has the shortest turning radius of all our skis. It’s like a fat slalom racing ski.” “Do you have any advice for the kid who dreams of making skis and starting a company?” “Ask people for help. That’s so important. You never know who has answers for you. When we started this I would call up companies and ask them how to do certain things. They would totally help us out. Now people call us all the time to ask for help. For the kid like you described to talk to Ben — they’re super nervous — but Ben loves it. I’d also say be persistent and take action. Don’t have plan B if this is what you want to do.” For more information about Icelantic skis visit www.icelanticboards.com. If you want to try some of their skis out and see what these Power Animals are all about, head up to Loveland Ski Area this Saturday, Nov. 11, where you can demo them. There are no plans yet for an Icelantic demo day at Eldora this winter, but if you’d like to see it happen, let Icelantic and Eldora know.