Icelantic, the social ski


So I’m in the line at Wahoo’s waiting to order a shrimp enchiladas and I see an ad for Icelantic skis.  The artwork adorning the top of the skis was so striking I mentioned it to my wife and told her that I wished they sold snowboards.

Fast forward 2 months to my first class. The students are going around the room talking about what they do and Chris Blackett tells us that he works for a little ski manufacturer called Icelantic. This is how small Denver is.

Founded by Ben Anderson in 2005, Icelantic is a combination of a passion for skiing, community and art. After interning with K2, Ben bought a ski manufacturing machine from a failed business and started to experiment with different materials/shapes/lengths at Loveland. He ended up with a shorter/wider (the Scout) design and took the skis to the SIA tradeshow, cleverly hosted in Las Vegas where there is zero snow, and got an order for 500 skis. This was only the beginning.

Fast forward to July 2009 when Chris Blackett joined the team as an intern focused on social media. Chris is an avid skier and knew they needed to participate in Facebook, Twitter and (Newschoolers is a niche social network focused on skiers.)

Icelantic has some amazing fans and have done many things to foster an online (and off) community. Here is a list of some of the things they’ve done.

  • They asked people to pay $360 to join their First Tracks community. Members received pro-pricing on 2 pairs of skis. Voting rights on the artwork featured in future skis and an invitation to participate in monthly conference calls. Also, as a member you’re invited to go skiing with them on their annual international trip which took went to Japan last year. They offered this in October of this year for the first time and got 17 people to sign up. Not bad considering the size of the business. 50% of the people who joined are from Colorado and the rest are scattered from Canada/NY to CA.
  • They created a campaign called The 6th Sense on Newschoolers that allows for members to submit artwork for their skis. The members will then vote on the winner and then be made available as limited edition skis. Some pretty amazing designs. I like the Icelandic Model X by J_Lee.
  • They have a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and participate in the Newschooler forums. Chris mentions that they need to separate Twitter from Facebook because he now knows they’re two separate mediums.
  • They have a-one-of-a-kind artist in Travis Parr making the brand immediately identifiable. I really wish they did snowboards.
  • They create a sense of art and community by participating in The First Friday Art Walk on Santa Fe. With open doors they allow people to come in and take a look at the artwork for the skis along side other featured artists that have nothing to do with the company.

Some thoughts after talking with Chris:

They have done the right things. They haven’t read any “how to books” about social media, they‘ve simply followed their instinct and put themselves in the customer’s shoes. They encourage community whenever/where ever they can and have generated brand-depth at every turn. (These last two sentences have me wanting to insert ski jokes; but I won’t!)

They’ve cobranded with NeverSummer in that NS manufactures their skis and Icelantic has considered making a board. I don’t think I would do this only because the board would need to be uniquely shaped (as their skis are: short/fat). If they took the time to design the board and come up with something unique, I’ll buy one!

My hope is that they become a global microbrand and avoid the traps that Louie Martin of Maui Built talked about.