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As far as professional snowsports go, Eric Pollard had a pretty sweet deal for the last 20-some years: Design a few new ski models for longtime sponsor Line Skis, film a video segment or two that either explicitly or inadvertently promote said pro model, and watch as powder fiends around the world salivated over his abilities as both a skier and a designer.
But something was gnawing at Pollard. The flashy new topsheets, the endless ballyhoo around revamped ski dimensions—it was all part of a cycle of endless consumption. Pollard was right there in the middle of it, and he wanted out.
“I was encouraging people to trade in each year,” Pollard tells me over the phone from his home state of Oregon. “I thought, ‘these are all practically the same with a little marketing varnish.’ A lot of it just feels like BS.”
And so last year Pollard, along with pro snowboarder Austin Smith and a few industry longtimers including Line’s former marketing director Josh Malczyk and designer Andy Hyjtan, also of Line heritage, created Season Equipment, a ski and snowboard company that stresses the longevity of their products, and encourages riders to maintain their gear instead of buying new. Season Equipment sells just three models of their skis and snowboards, and all purchases come with a built-in maintenance plan through Evo.
It’s a risky proposition, building a company that essentially encourages people not to buy stuff. But, Pollard says, it’s simply the right thing to do. “There’s a bit of hypocrisy in that,” he says with a laugh. “And it’s a lofty goal. But we wanted to move the culture forward a little bit.”
SKI talked with Pollard about launching a new brand during a pandemic, homeschooling his daughter, and who he’s looking to for inspiration.
Max Ufberg: What’s been the biggest challenge about starting your own company?
Eric Pollard: I’ve just been running between roles at the company, conceptualizing products and landing on how we distill an entire industry’s worth of product into three options. Initially, I was just trying to think through how we could create three skiing and snowboarding symmetrical offerings that are distinct.
And then I had to build the brand identity, so shooting the photography and handling a lot of the graphic design. Honestly, it’s been a blur.
Has Covid-19 affected the production?
The biggest curveball has been the pandemic. We’re working with two new factories; not being able to get facetime with our engineers to walk through the product is quite a challenge. That has been the hardest thing, having to design the actual product from a distance.
It would have been incredibly helpful to go meet all the individuals who are actually manufacturing our products and walk them through why we made a lot of these decisions. A lot of the executions and materials that we’ve used received a lot of pushback from the factories we’ve worked with, and it’s been quite a process to get them made the way we want.
And you’re of course still releasing videos, the most recent of which came out in November. Are you filming again this winter?
Right now we’re shooting a short piece on 16-millimeter that’s effectively a commercial for Season. It’s vignettes of four individuals—young and old, skier and snowboarder, guy and girl—who all ride Mount Hood. We’re trying to communicate how people basically come from all these different worlds, and to show the diversity of the community itself.
In terms of further film work, I’d like to create some really concise, succinct cuts that help communicate everything from why we did equipment simplified, to what this product is designed to do. Although I was really enjoying a break from motion work, I’m circling back to it and leaning into it a bit more so I can offer those things up.
You’ve also got a nine-year-old and a four-year-old. How are you juggling running a new company with being a dad in a state that’s still on lockdown?
I live in a farming community that’s pretty well away from everything else, so to a certain degree, things are normal-ish compared to certain urban or suburban areas. I live on five acres, so I can just cruise outside with my kids. But on the school side of things, that was pretty wild.
My nine-year-old is in third grade now. I am her math teacher and my wife is her reading teacher. We’ve created our own curriculum and we’re working out a home school booklet, it’s called the Singapore math method. My little girl and I just do math together.
And I have a cookbook that I created with her, where she’s able to learn a little bit about culture and geography, about which dishes we’re cooking. We built a little bit of math into that too: How to double this recipe, that kind of stuff. We then photograph it, and at the end of the year, we’re going to take a lot of those photographs and do a graphic design thing.
Your skiing style has influenced a whole generation of skiers. Who’s skiing has been influencing you these days?
Candide Thovex is ultra-precise, a little bit wild, and yet completely in control of the scenario. He has a very different style than me, but it’s one of my favorites. And Parker White—feet really, really close together and leaning back, it’s definitely his own style.
When I look at what Phil Casabon did with Nuance, it’s one of the most creative films I’ve ever seen. He’s riding the streets and stuff; I don’t do that, I can’t really relate to it, yet the way he does it is so different.
Is there a common thread there? What makes someone’s style good to you?
For me, growing up and watching Devun Walsh, I was like, “all right, I need to get lower.” It’s important to not synthesize a style or to contrive a style. You should just arrive at it. Style starts to appear the way you kick a soccer ball, or the way you walk, or the way you move up and down on a fretboard.
It manifests in any media that you do or any medium that you’re working in, whether that’s snowboarding, surfing, skiing, music, art, or anything. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have influences, but you arrive at your style from the sum of all your influences.