Friends James Satloff and Dan Chalfant start talking about making skis over a bunch of beers in BC. It sounds like a good idea at the time.
Liberty Skis is incorporated (and trademarked) after a trip to the SIA ski show (then held in Las Vegas)
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 $24k 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 different 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. 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.
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, 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 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 Powder and Freeskier including one that touts the Helix as “possibly the best all-around ski ever made.” 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 a wider range of skiers. 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 BFF (200mm waist). 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 cores and wind power, 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 insist even fat skis need to carve effectively. We begin production of the 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 an in-house creative director to help with increased artistic demands. The Antigen launches as our first rockered park/urban offering in a lower price range. 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 on the flat-tailed, metal-infused, Variant113, we launch the Variant97 to skiers eager for a narrower option. The all new Liberty Adrenaline A/T binding and Attack Alpine binding are launched. We hire 2 more people at HQ in Avon to help with logistics, planning, inventory, shipping and data analysis. 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.