Jim Satloff and Dan Chalfant decide to start a ski company based in Colorado. Liberty Skis is incorporated and trademarked after a trip to the SIA ski show (then held in Las Vegas). We get a storage space in Avon (next to Beaver Creek and Vail) and start checking out as many designs and materials as we can. It is fun work, but nobody is quitting their day job yet.
Reality sets in. We have lots of ideas but need to learn about manufacturing, materials, costs, etc. We know we want to make high performance twin tips and search for the right materials: carbon fiber, different wood cores, bamboo, extra large edges, etc. We contract with a Canadian factory to produce the first Liberty samples after winning $32,000 at the Mandalay Bay craps tables at the SIA show in Las Vegas. One roll of the dice leads to another.
We realize we need more control over manufacturing to implement the non-traditional ideas we now have about ski design. Established factories don’t want to hear our new ideas. We test many factories and new materials, spend a bunch of money and recruit like-minded skiers to the Liberty cause. We set up HQ in Edwards CO and start to look like a real company. Our first SIA show as a manufacturer comes and goes with lots of excitement. Based on the performance characteristics found in handmade fly rods, we settle on bamboo as a core material and soon realize the full potential. Other materials are still in the testing stage. Liberty begins a partnership with manufacturing veterans in a dedicated, new factory where we can control all aspects of the process. We feel confident enough in our new production that we offer an industry-leading 3 year warranty.
Liberty comes of age as our reputation grows and we set up distribution in Europe and Canada. Our team grows and Liberty riders and staff start to contribute innovative ideas about ski design and materials. Some work, some don’t, but we learn from each one. We debut the SB and Phil Larose models. We get valuable feedback from our first ski magazine tests with Freeskier on our home mountain of Vail, and set to work finding the best materials from around the world for each component of the ski. After months of testing, we finally have the right mix of materials and manufacturing skill to make great skis. Current COO Chris Sears wanders into HQ at exactly the right moment. He gets the job he may later regret.
The search for quality starts to pay off as Liberty wins accolades worldwide for our innovative use of bamboo coupled with progressive ski shapes. New models like the Jinx and the soon to be legendary Helix come out of our new factory to eager consumers. Liberty is a finalist for the ISPO Brand New Award and gets invited to Munich for the big show. We refine the bamboo laminate core and use it in all Liberty models. Liberty begins work on a new HQ in Avon, Colorado with much more space and beer on tap. Prototyping equipment is moved into the new space and we begin working on some really fat shapes that later become the Double Helix. We test skis with reverse camber, early rise and other shapes. Sales in Europe and Canada increase with skiers hungry for new shapes and technology not available from the traditional race-oriented brands.
Liberty feels some growing pains as we struggle to keep up with demand. Materials lead-time, petroleum prices and shipping deadlines are all issues as we expand our line and increase production. New edges, sidewall material and topsheet are used. We continue to refine our products and get much-appreciated awards from industry magazines, including one from Freeskier that says the Helix “might just be the best all-around ski ever.” Liberty riders like Larose, Belanger, Hornbeck, Redd, Lesh and Fortin contribute to product design that is lighter, stronger and dialed in to progressive skiing styles. Skiing magazine features Liberty in a multi-page, feature article, contributing to our growing appeal to mainstream consumers. We begin a relationship with Japanese distributors, giving us our first Asian market. Liberty also expands to Chile and Argentina with small batches of skis being sent to our agents there over the summer. The Double Helix expands our line, along with many experimental skis like the 200mm waist BFF. The idea for the Genome is born.
New lines (LTE, Genome, Bindings, Poles) and expansion of existing lines fuels excitement in our booths at ISPO and SIA. Orders roll in based on strong reviews, excellent customer service and aggressive pricing. Dealers are now finding us and want to be a part of the program. We are oversold by a large amount and have to scramble to arrange an emergency production run late in the summer to fulfill orders. Even with increased production, we can’t keep up and sell out in October despite a sour economic mood worldwide. The Genome is launched to great excitement and we make the necessary investments to handle greater production and shipping. We re-focus on quality as our production grows and institute new manufacturing methods and QC to deliver the level of product customers have come to expect from Liberty.
Growth from our distribution partners and domestic markets means an expansion of lines and a rethinking of existing models. Liberty continues to innovate by developing new models with eco-friendly materials that raise the performance bar for twin tip skis. To our existing bamboo and poplar cores we add basalt fiber, naturally sourced topsheet material and radical new shapes, as well as new rocker/camber profiles. Rumors of another huge new ski circulate and new team members are added to help with a dedicated women’s line. To cope with growth, we hire a Sales Manager to help our rep staff service our dealers. Excitement is high as we begin production of 2011 skis and start prototypes for 2012 product.
Liberty solidifies our position as the leader in bamboo innovation with skis like the massive Mutant, and best selling Helix and Double Helix. We continue to refine rocker concepts and prove that even fat skis need to carve effectively. We begin production of the directional, metal-reinforced Variant ski, representing a new direction in our ski line and expansion into a wider market. Binding and pole accessory lines see strong growth. We hire Jake Ender as in-house creative director to help with increased artistic demands. The Antigen launches as our first rockered park/urban offering with a lower price point. We sell out in 2 months. Factory expansion and a new warehouse in the Netherlands help with production and delivery challenges.
The year starts with dismal snowfall in most of North America and Europe, but sales remain good, and even increase in some areas. On the strength of the flat-tailed, metal-infused, Variant113, we launch the Variant97 to skiers eager for a narrower option. The all new Liberty Attack Alpine bindings are launched. We hire 2 more people at HQ in Avon to help with logistics, planning, inventory, shipping and data analysis. Dan Coppa and Adrianna Simpson contribute greatly to our success, but our kegs seem to empty much faster than a year earlier. We hire new Agents in France, Germany and Austria as we continue to grow these markets and need more professional representation. New Reichmann tuning machines are added to the factory, providing ride-ready factory finishes.
Liberty continues to grow, and adds new distribution to our established markets in the US, Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia. Rocker mania is in full swing, but we stick to our belief that thoughtful application of long low rocker to skis with camber and full sidecut make the best all-mountain performers. Shannon Kennedy takes over our in-house graphics work and improvements at the factory continue to raise the bar for the look and durability of Liberty products. Others notice the improvements as critical acclaim from magazines and skiers around the world piles up. We add the Adrenalin AT binding and adjustable poles to the lineup as backcountry and sidecountry usage increases. Colin Sutherland joins the Liberty team as the Demo Tour Manager. Our intrepid man in the van crisscrosses the western US and Canada to get people on our skis. After proving himself on the Demo Tour, Colin is hired as Team/Content Manager for Liberty for the next season. Our social media gets much more compelling, and we get a little more Canadian, eh.
10 Years Deep! We celebrate our tenth anniversary with a new factory, new models, new technology, and a renewal of the product-centric focus that brought us this far. We might have a had a few celebratory beers after a pow day, too. We add paulownia wood to the already light women’s cores to reduce the weight further, and launch what will become a defining ski in the Origin. The innovative artwork and performance of the Origin will set the stage for our most award-winning series of skis ever. The awards roll in and we add Liberty dealers across the country. Realizing that we need a professional sales staff to service our new dealer base, we hire Tim Dyer as our National Sales Manager. An eastern transplant, Tim doesn’t miss an opportunity to ski powder, but learns the hard way that plug race boots may not be the best option for standing around on a mountain top waiting for a sunset photo shoot.
Our skis get narrower, stronger, and lighter with the addition of carbon fiber in the Origin models and Titanal in the expanded Variant line, featuring the frontside-oriented Variant87. The now legendary Helix and Double Helix get a carbon fiber boost, along with the redesigned Transfer. Our new production facility is now firing on all cylinders, with the quality and finish of our skis second to none. We add a Denver warehouse to deal with the increased production. Even as we add more performance frontside skis, we stay true to our roots with a powder specific Pro Model for Joe Schuster. The women’s line expands with the new Genesis, and proves so popular that we make plans to expand the series to more all-mountain widths. Our sales staff adds key industry veterans from around the country as we acquire more and better Liberty dealers.
The Origin design grows to a full line as the success of the bamboo and carbon fiber core is proven. We add Origin models down to a 96 waist with more in the design phase. Jonathan Ellsworth from Blister Gear gives the new Origin96 a full test and is blown away. His two word summary is “Holy Sh*t.” He goes on to say “..it feels like I can make this ski do anything I want it to.” We make plans to bring this design to more models and to the women’s line. We also launch a new women’s Variant87, which quickly becomes our most popular women’s model. Magazine awards continue to roll in, but we are most gratified by the personal stories of customers making their days on snow better with our skis.
We bring Titanal together with carbon and bamboo on the new Variant series, and bring back the directional charger Variant113 for good measure. The women’s Variant line now comes down to a front-side-friendly 80mm waist in an ultra light construction. The Origin line expands to 5 deep with options from the flat-tailed Origin90 all the way up to the powder-specific Schuster Pro. The women’s freeride line is all new, with 4 Genesis waist widths available. Sydney Elliott steps up from a 2016 summer internship to Liberty graphic designer after college graduation. Our new website launches and we partner with the best retailers in the country to bring Liberty to a wider audience.