A window into the strange world of ski names
Ski names are like bipolar drag queens – they can be a lot of things.Some are pretty cool (Volkl “Vertigo” – high mountain altitude makes you dizzy, so does skiing two feet of powder in a whiteout); some are a bit mysterious (Dynamic “ZR57” – which features the ever-popular texalium cross step 300); some are obviously named (Atomic “Sugar Daddy” – which retails for $949.95, bindings not included); and some are downright funny (K2 telemark “Hippy Stinx” – what, they didn’t want to include “Every” in the title?).The weirdest part of the whole deal is that, in many ways, a ski’s name can make or break its success. That is to say, if a ski’s name doesn’t fully grab you, chances are you won’t buy it.So ski companies go to great lengths to give their products the proper identities.”Just because it’s the No. 1-selling ski, doesn’t mean it’s the best,” said local professional telemark skier Brian Moon. (In other words, if marketed properly, a piece of crap can become the hottest thing going.)Moon has seen the ski name phenomenon from a number of sides. He started as a downhill racer, later took up freestyle competition, then spent a season selling skis in a retail shop.
Now, not only is he the production manager for tele bindings manufacturer Bomber Industries, he also is charged with marketing startup Donek Skis, which sponsors him. (The name came from the donek bird – a sleek diving hunter.)Moon’s goal in this capacity: coming up with “something catchy that captures what the ski was designed to do.””When I’m sitting down thinking about coming up with a name of a ski,” he said, “I’m thinking about someone talking to their buddy about the ski.”Going out on a limb here, but I gather not everyone in the industry works that way.Otherwise how would you explain some of these favorites?– Bad Bitch – This was Research Dynamic’s (RD) women’s ski in the early ’90s. Also included in the line was Bad Dog (for men) and Rad Dog (for kids).
— She’s Piste – Although not as bad as some of the others in the industry, K2’s famous women’s tele board intrigues when you define it literally. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “piste” means one of two things: either “the track or tread a horseman makes upon the ground he goes over”; or “a ski run densely packed with snow.” Regardless, she sure doesn’t look like either one.– Kiddy the Cow – Rossignol’s top children’s ski is colorful, available in orange, blue or green, but you have to wonder here, Does a tough little hotshot skier really want to be seen on Kiddy the Cows? Also: Who is Kiddy? Does he ski on his farm? What happens when Kiddy the Cow becomes Kiddy the Filet Mignon? Does he lose his ski line?– Machete Huckster – It’s obvious where Volant was going with this, trying to attract the radical freestyle crowd, but why the need for “Machete”? On the other hand, maybe these are the skis to take with you when bushwacking to that 40-foot couloir in the Amazon … ?– Diablos – Before tele manufacturer Tua went out of business, Diablos were some of their top skis. Why someone would want to ski on a pair of Satans (“Diablo” is Spanish for “devil”) is beyond me, and it was part of a rather disturbing trend at Tua. Also in their product line were “Razors” and “Ghosts.”The alternative to taking the catchy name route is to take the letter-numbers route. This is at least part of almost every ski manufacturer’s strategy. Volkl G4, Atomic C11, Rossi T4, etc. It’s not uncommon, either, to see the letter “X” incorporated in a ski name. Dynamic’s X-Over Power and XR37, Rossi’s Bandit XXX, etc. Some say this is because X signifies something futuristic and evolving, something on the cutting edge.
Just how important is hitting it right with image, especially to the younger generation of skiers? “It’s enormous,” said Moon.While few would argue that, not every image association is bad when it comes to ski names. In fact, there’s one from K2 that could well be the most catchy name around – especially because skiers have been known to relinquish steady jobs for a single epic powder day.I like to call it marketing’s ski-industry equivalent to the “Girls Gone Wild” video series.Without further ado: “Work Stinx.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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