“There’s only one thing you need to know about Icelantic skis,” a friend told me on the chairlift in Alyeska, Alaska. “They are short and fat.” I was still curious enough to try them, and soon realized her assessment fell short. I put a pair of 173 cm Shamans on my feet and let loose on a field of heavy, past-its-prime powder. I was still able to rail stable Super-G turns down the crud so efficiently that it seemed like cheating, and they still held their own on the groomers. A few months later, I visited Icelantic’s Denver, Colorado gallery to find out more.
Icelantic’s headquarters sits in Denver’s Santa Fe art district—a place where upscale galleries sidle up to crumbling warehouses and liquor stores. The space serves as a retail store to sell their skis and clothing, and also as an art gallery that displays the work of one or two artists that change on a monthly basis. After a few minutes in the Icelantic gallery, we are in for a shock. Four cop cars surround the storefront and force a young man to the ground at gunpoint. It is all the result of a hit-and-run—a kid had crashed his car and tried to escape the accident scene on a bike he grabbed from his trunk.
“This has never happened before, I swear,” laughs Ben Anderson, founder of Icelantic, as cops with drawn guns surround the area.
An urban neighborhood may not seem like a typical ski store location, but the contrast suits the art-driven company well. Ben first got the idea to start up a small ski company when he was studying industrial design at the University of Washington. Having spent years building skis out of his garage, in 2006, the then 23-year-old teamed up with artist and childhood friend Travis Parr to launch the company. Icelantic now produces 2,800 pairs of skis per year out of Denver’s Never Summer Snowboard factory. The skis quickly gained attention for their unorthodox shapes—the Shaman has a spade-like 160 mm tip and a 110 mm waist. The six-person company has developed a loyal following by hosting a staggering number of free demo days (80 total last season) and getting people to try their skis, which more often than not gets them hooked.
The unmistakable Icelantic aesthetic is all the work of Parr, who comes up with a defining theme for each season of skis. Part fantasy, part nature, each scene is painted in dark but eye catching colors that stand out from the pack—no neon, female silhouettes, or skulls here. The theme for 09/10 is Awaken Your Senses, and each model is painted with a topsheet that corresponds to touch, hearing, taste, sight, or smell.
If you are in Denver, stop by and check them out. On the first Friday of each month, they host the opening of the latest artist’s gallery show and give out free beer. And say hi to Thor, the wolf/dog that roams the gallery and chews on a plastic beer bottle. He’ll probably protect you from any gunshots.
[948 W. 8th Ave. Denver, CO 80204, icelanticboards.com]