OnTheSnow caught up with Hans Smith, president of leading ski manufacturer Armada. Find out what Hans tips to be 2013 best-sellers, how they come up with new ski designs, and his ideas on what skis might look like in the future.
OnTheSnow: Can you tell me about the process of designing Armada skis - how did you get inspiration for this year's ski line?
Hans Smith: Our design ideas come from the athletes. We’ve found that if you give the athletes the forum to develop their ideas, you’ll get a lot of good input that will help us determine what works best. Not to mention, we have guys like Tanner and JP who are co-founders, so they are certainly involved on a greater level and are motivated a little differently. To a certain extent, being small (Armada has 19 full-time employees) allows us to have these conversations on a more frequent basis as we are all very accessible. Furthermore, having a diverse group of athletes that excel across a variety of disciplines affords us the ability to determine what works best for the various terrain and snow conditions the end-user expects to encounter.
OnTheSnow: Any new trends in Armada's hard/soft goods this year?
Hans Smith: In outerwear, there are more urban influenced styles this year with more muted colors, fits that are longer and slimmer, and more premium trims to set them apart and add value. We see the market demanding more technology in outerwear. End users, especially among the younger demographic we design for, are figuring out it pays dividends to have high performance waterproof and breathable outerwear. We see the market only becoming more educated in the future, so we want to offer the best technology and performance available; a reason why you see GORE-TEX® built into our Men's and Women's collections this year.
On the hardgoods side, we are introducing morevariations of our Elf Shoe Rocker throughout the men's, women's and junior lines. Dealers and customers are more open minded to trying new things then they have ever been in the past, which affords us the opportunity to be more innovative with our technologies.
OnTheSnow: What do you predict to be Armada's best sellers in this year's ski line?
Hans Smith: The TST and TSTw (Women's) Dimensions @ 174 cm: 118-131-101-122 – This is the second year these models have been on the market and they have really gained traction as was evident on the future orders side and we expect the same results with regard to sell-through. These skis are incredibly versatile due to their 4 dimension Elf-Shoe All-Mountain Rocker (Tip Rocker and Taper, but no Tail Rocker), which gives the ski more effective edge and therefore control in harder snow conditions. However, the tip rocker and taper still give you the flotation you would expect from a wider ski. These models are also very light in weight, allowing them to resonate well with people who are interested in touring, but don't want to sacrifice downhill performance when skiing what they just hiked up.
For softgoods, we expect the Men's Shifter GORE-TEX Pro® Jacket and Fixed GORE-TEX® Pant to be strong sellers. With the introduction of GORE-TEX® to our line, we are now able to offer users Armada's distinct styling in a technological package we haven't been able to offer until now. As a result, we are seeing considerable interest from these end-users for this collection.
OnTheSnow: Is there anything Armada is particularly proud of in its 2013 ski line?
Hans Smith: We are particularly proud of our patented Elf Shoe Technology, which continues to evolve this year and is built into some new models. The ARG was the first (commercial) design to apply Elf Shoe Technology, which is a patented 5-dimension design. To break it down, that's a combination of rocker, reverse sidecut in the tip and tail and sidecut underfoot -- literally one millimeter of sidecut. We're now applying these design principles with numerous variations to the JJ, VJJ, Alpha, Halo and the new Magic J. Additionally, we have hybrid versions of that profile where we are applying a 4-dimension design composed of tip taper and rocker, traditional camber, but no tail rocker; this shape can be found in the TST, TSTw and the new Norwalk.
We are also excited about our expanded junior ski line, which includes two new models: The Triple J and Tantrum. These two models utilize our Elf ShoeFreeride Rocker (5-dimension, dual rocker design) and Elf Shoe All-Mtn Rocker (4-dimension, tip rocker design) currently found in our adult models, but are now being applied for the first time to our junior models. Thinking back to when we were kids, had we had skis shapes like this, it would have drastically improved our experience. Being able to extend these ski technologies to younger kids is going to allow them to ski in ways they wouldn't have been previously able to do on traditional skis, something that is pretty exciting to watch from our end.
Our women's outerwear collection has evolved into something we are all very excited about, as has been the retail trade. In the past we've built and focused our product stories around the male consumer;however, today Armada has what we believe is one of the best female designers in the industry and her designs are really resonating well with female end-user on fit, function and performance.
OnTheSnow: How do you think skis will evolve in 10 years time?
Hans Smith: We'd be naïve to say we know what skis will look like in 10 years from a shape perspective, as no one really knows. What we can say, with some degree of certainty, is that we expect the raw materials used to make a ski will likely see some changes. The majority of raw materials that comprise current skis are oil-based. And despite the slight reprieve in oil prices as of late, over the long term, the cost of oil will rise and in turn, so will the cost of the raw materials used to produce a ski. We suspect you will see a shift from some of the traditional raw materials used today in their current form, to newer and more environmentally-friendly ones. These materials may be developed specifically for skis, or come from existing materials being used in other industries, something we are already playing with today.
Read OnTheSnow's 2013 Armada Ski Reviews