By Chris Meehan | Jan 06, 2015
Skis and Snowboards
Employees: 12 full-time
CEO Annelise Loevlie and founder Ben Anderson are carving perfect turns by making skis in Colorado.
When Icelantic began making skis in Colorado nearly a decade ago, it was one of the first ski companies to manufacture in the U.S.
The company was founded by friends Ben Anderson (who began building skis in his parents' garage), Travis Parr, and Travis Cook. Annelise Loevlie, Icelantic's CEO, was also friends with the founders but came on in an official capacity later."We all grew up together in Idaho Springs and Evergreen," Loevlie says.
When the founders decided to start a ski company there were no domestically manufactured skis in the U.S., according to Loevlie. Knowing the barriers to entry, especially manufacturing equipment, were as steep as a black-diamond slope they knew they had to find a manufacturing partner.
"It took three or four years for Never Summer to start making our skis," Loevlie says."A lot of us grew up riding Never Summer snowboards and Never Summer has always been a really well respected manufacturer in Colorado."
The Never Summer partnership and quality has allowed Icelantic to offer their "Bomb Proof" two-year, no-questions-asked, warranty."A two-year warranty is a big deal in the ski industry."
Icelantic has distinguished itself from the competition as it grew to produce 6,000 units in 2014."The barriers to entry in the industry are mega, so you have to be different," Loevlie says. Being made in Colorado and the warranty are two distinguishing factors, as is the eye-catching artwork on the skis by Parr.
"Every year we have a theme on skis that tells the story and sets the stage for everything we do," Loevlie says. For 2014-15, it's a "Return to Nature" theme. "All the artwork on our skis tells the story through animals, Mountain Mother, Father Ocean, and the connectedness between everything in nature."
Symbolic of the company's evolution, Icelantic's logo is a representation of 1 degree Celsius."It is the temperature of change, it's a catalyst, and it represents us," says Loevlie."We're starting over in a sense. We're going through a recapitalization and we're growing. It started as a group of friends running a business and now we've created something more substantial that needs more solid foundation, because we want to keep growing."
Icelantic's clothing and accessories are made in the U.S. through collaborations, including a retro pack made by Golden-based Mountainsmith and shirts made by Stock Mfg. Co. in Chicago. The company has partnered with companies like Jeep and Oskar Blues to make custom skis with a starting price of $549. Icelantic also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including Winter on the Rocks, an annual concert at Red Rocks during the SIA Snow Show.
"We're creating a brand, not just a business. For the brand we're building, it's really important," Loevlie asserts."It's engagement with your customers and it's a lifestyle association, music and skiing and outdoors, they all go together. Whenever somebody sees a 1 degree Celsius logo, we want them to feel something. That type of marketing and exposure is a lot different from traditional channels."
[read about more Colorado Lifestyle & Consumer manufacturers here.]
She also hopes that once customers experience Icelantic skis, like they'll choose other models like its Gemini splitboard or its recently introduced Vanguard ski for the backcountry, which coincidentally won Freeskier's Editor's Pick for 2015 and a Skiing Magazine nod for Best Indie Ski of the year.
"The whole aim of what we're doing is to create a customer for life," Loevlie says."We have some customers who buy the same model every year. . . . They buy it to ski it and archive it."
Challenges: "It's a hard industry to break into. It's controlled by the top 5 companies that have been here for 50 years," Loevlie says."Our biggest challenge is probably creating a reputation that people trust."
Opportunities: "Gaining market share in the industry. We're not even close to half a percent of one percent," Loevlie says.
Icelantic is also pushing further into international markets, Loevlie says. "China is gaining more access to disposable income than ever before and they're building all these ski areas. Japan has always been good for us. Now Korea -- even North Korea -- has a luxury ski resort. There are 3 billion people in Asia."
Needs: "Snow, we always need snow," Loevlie says. "We're like farmers. It's a direct correlation between snow and ski sales."