Every fall it’s the same cycle. New models of skis and snowboards make their way onto the pages of magazines (well, screens now) promising superlatives like improved edge control and heightened float in waist-deep powder. The changes from previous years’ models are usually minimal. A few millimeters added here, a fresh graphic there, a new base colorway for no reason. By mid-season most all are on the clearance rack. Rinse and repeat.
Simply put, this approach to snow equipment is dumb, wasteful, and dated. And exactly the antithesis of Season Eqpt., an all-new brand launched this week by influential veteran professional snowboarder Austin Smith and multihyphenate skier-designer-artist Eric Pollard boasting a minimalist lineup and a lifetime of machine waxing and tune-ups with partner shop EVO.
To date, a number of ski brand have snowboard lines and even fewer snowboard brands make skis. Season Eqpt. makes both, and it may be the very first time it's felt authentic—and a good brand fit. Even with bigtime ski brands like K2, Salomon, and Rossignol being home to long-held snowboard programs, you’d be hard pressed to find overlap in the creative and marketing departments. It's as if the only thing the two sectors share is a brand name.
With Season Eqpt. skiing and snowboarding are placed on the pedistal as equals. And Smith and Pollard’s connection is genuine. Afterall, Pollard’s snowboard-influenced style of skiing showed a generation of skiers a new way of approaching terrain. And Austin, well, he's been doing things a bit differently for a while now.
“It wouldn't have been possible to bring this ethos to the brands that we previously rode for,” says Smith. "Nitro couldn’t start making skis and say the products are on equal footing. We knew if we wanted to do this we would have to start from scratch.”
Smith, friend of FM, Firetruck camper-dweller, and your favorite pro snowboarder’s favorite pro, first linked up with the highly influential pro skier Pollard (who’s probably your favorite pro snowboarder’s favorite pro skier, if you follow) in the mountains. Both Oregonians, the two crossed paths many times over the years while filming in the backcountry. After a trip to South America with a mutual sponsor, they began realizing a shared vision for what a snow brand could be.
"Snowboarding has given me the ability to look at mountains and skiing from a slightly different perspective" - Eric Pollard
To launch Season Eqpt. the pair each left longtime board and ski sponsors, brands they had been with for much of their careers (Smith departed Nitro after 12 years, while Pollard ended a 21-year relationship with Line Skis). Throughout the years Pollard and Smith were each highly involved in the design and development of their own pro models. With Pollard racking up nearly 50 pro model skis throughout his career.
“We’ve both had the flexibility to explore and make a lot of variations of equipment, graphics, and shapes. But the offerings from brands were getting larger, more complicated, and seemingly unnecessary," says Smith. "We wanted to create a simplified menu."
Season Eqpt. offers skis and snowboards in three models for three use cases (snowboards start at $499 and skis $699). The Aero is designed for ripping hardpack. The Nexus handles a wide variety of mixed snow conditions. The Forma is the go-to for deep powder days. Blacked out graphics and bases (the best for speed and longevity) will carry over from season to season, creating a timeless appeal.
“All of the shapes are sort of married together so they can work off each other," explains Smith. And with the three models spanning sports, "you can kind of have a shared experience," say if your buddy is riding the same model skis as board you are. Or vice versa.
Season Eqpt. is producing its skis and snowboards in two of the top factories in the world. For snowboards, it's the SWS factory in Dubai—same facility that produces Arbor and Jones Snowboards—and on the ski side, the brand tapped the renowned Amer Sports factory in Austria, where the likes of Salomon and Atomic are made.
With retail partner Evo, the differentiating Season Pass option includes unlimited machine waxing and a free tune up every fall for the lifetime of the product, plus a free first mount (an offer excluisve to first year supporters). It’s the simple idea of doing a lot more with less. A welcome change for the brand’s founders.
Smith grew up skiing and never really felt the need to perpetuate the dated beef between snowboarders and skiers. He might even get a few more ski days in this season thanks to the new brand. Meanwhile Pollard credits his experience snowboarding with making him the skier he is today.
“Snowboarding has given me the ability to look at mountains and skiing from a slightly different perspective,” says Pollard. “I constantly draw upon my experience sliding sideways to transpose maneuvers, and re-design skis to translate sensations.” Pollard’s unique snowboard-informed style of skiing led him to push ski design into new territories over the years, bringing a terrain park influence into the backcountry and pioneering switch powder skiing.
"We knew if we wanted to do this we would have to start from scratch.” - Austin Smith
Much of the creative direction for the company comes from Pollard, whose art has covered his Line pro models for years. The new brand is the equivalent of begining a new piece of art with a blank canvas. “Starting from scratch affords me the leeway to curate the entire brand aesthetic and narrative,” says Pollard. “I just want to focus on doing less and offer up a more potent perspective to the community that I love and respect.”
By partnering with retail and service partner Evo, Smith and Pollard believe their vision of longevity for their products will be further enhanced. The less-but-better approach leads most consumers to take better care of their wares. With Evo, Season Eqpt.’s service package makes it possible for gear to perform at a higher level with a longer lifespan thanks to waxing and tuning.
After all, there’s nothing worse than being slow on a powder day.