How HEAD tapped the core ski community for the launch of its new freeride skis

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The word Core is defined as the central, innermost or most essential part of anything. In skiing, it has two meanings. The first, is the “core” of the ski, which is made up of wood and is the first step in determining the behavior of any quality ski. The second, is a rather abstract use of the word, but is defined as those individuals that make up the backbone of skiing—the ones that truly embody the skiing lifestyle.

When creating its brand new KORE series of freeride skis, HEAD decided to center everything around that word. From the construction process to the entire marketing strategy, the family of skis—set to hit stores in fall of 2017—it’s all about the core… or KORE, as HEAD markets it. The KORE series replaces HEAD’s line of Flight skis which, although always a favorite at FREESKIER ski tests of the past, wasn’t resonating as much as the brand would’ve liked.

The HEAD KORE 105 (topsheet and base).

“The Flight series is a great family of skis, but it didn’t bring any unique qualities to a very competitive market,” says Andrew Couperthwait, senior business manager at HEAD Wintersports.

And so, the team at HEAD went back to square one, with the intent of producing a ski that was efficient above all else: lightweight enough to be maneuverable, easy in the air, not tire out its user and be a reliable touring ski, but without any compromise on downhill performance.

“We stripped the ski down to the core, rethinking every material used in its construction,” says Couperthwait. “The KORE line is the result of what we have learned from using strong, lightweight materials in ski design over the last five years.”

HEAD looked at its use of Graphene—a material that allows the ski profile to be thinned, reducing weight, without taking away any stiffness—in its women’s Joy series, as well as the Monster line. It examined the implementation of Koroyd, a lightweight, strong and damp material, in the cores of the Total Joy and Super Joy skis. The engineers weighed the benefits of carbon, whether stringers or triaxial woven layers were more beneficial, ultimately deciding on the weave.

In the end, HEAD utilized a combination of Karuba wood and Koroyd in the core for a incredible strength-to-weight ratio, Graphene in the tip and tail for further weight savings without loss of strength and a two layers of triaxial woven carbon sandwiching the wood for the strength and feel of titanal without the bulk. The result is a ski that truly straddles the line between high-performance skiing and efficient ascending.

The initial goal—three years in the making—was achieved: “We wanted to build a unique product that really fills a niche in the market,” says Couperthwait. “There’s lightweight skis and then there’s downhill performance skis, let’s blur that line and find that product.”

With the product realized, the next step was to get the word out about the skis, which takes us back to the second definition of “core” listed above. In order to create a groundswell of interest in the new KORE series, HEAD turned to key influencers in ski towns across America—people ingrained in the skiing culture who are looked up to by others. They would get them on the product with the stipulation being to post to social media one to two times a month, sharing thoughts on the KORE skis and using the hashtag #ToTheKORE.

“We went after key influencers within their local ski community. When they’re in the lift line everyone is looking at what’s on their feet,” Couperthwait explains. “I went to our reps and said, ‘You guys let me know who your key influencers are in your regions, who will have the greatest presence on the mountain but are also social media savvy.'”

Once it had its roster of ski town rippers, HEAD wanted to truly make them feel like they were part of a team. In turn, the brand sent them a very special gift: A black box that reads “Welcome to the KOREporation,” containing a pair of KORE skis, Tyrolia Attack bindings, a T shirt, hooded sweatshirt and hat. Zach Fenn, a Lake Tahoe-based skier who is part of the #ToTheKORE team, said the gift really fired him up to ski on the product.

The HEAD KOREporation welcome box. Photo: Owen Ringwall

“Talk about a welcoming. The folks at HEAD rolled out the red carpet for those of us who were selected for the KORE launch,” he explains. “Skis, bindings and swag are rad enough to receive at the beginning of the season, but to have it all bundled in a box labeled up like a Nascar rig really made the movement take on an excitement all its own.”

The social media groundswell that’s ensued has been astounding. As of today, there are over 1,000 posts using the hashtag. “That’s over the course of really two and a half months,” Couperthwait explains. “We’ve had people contact customer service asking, ‘how do we get these skis? What are these skis? Why can’t I find them on the website?’ What we sought to do with this is working quite well.”

And besides the publicity, the performance of the actual skis is the real deal. When some skiers first got their hands on them, the lack of weight made them nervous. “I was worried about how light they were. My first thought was that they could only be used for powder, as a ski this light couldn’t possibly keep a line in crud,” Fenn recalls. “I was wrong, these skis saw daily action on the famed KT-22 lift at Squaw Valley in every condition and had me smiling the whole time. In fact, twisting the throttle was hard to resist even in crud that would make most skis deflect and whimper.”

Fielding Miller, an Aspen local, believes the ski is a fit for any skier, equates the lightweight performance of the ski to an epiphany. “It makes you realize how much extra energy you expend skiing on normal, heavier gear.”

Double heli 🍼 #tothekore #prizm @head_ski @oakleyskiing @lekiusa @polartecfabric @the_freakstagram

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Miller believes the ski can appeal to everyone, but specifically those looking to step up to big lines. “[They should appeal] to the modern skier who’s looking for a real ski to ski big lines. I think there’s a case to be made for it being the most versatile ski on the market considering they’re fun, solid and super lightweight.”

But, what Fenn notes as the biggest takeaway, which is the goal HEAD had all along, was that he could ski for longer. “They are so light and they ski so easily. I was able to relax my skiing style due to the KORE doing what is asked of it with little effort, allowing for more laps in a day, something we all want.”

If the KORE ski can help the average consumer stay out on the hill till 3 p.m. instead of 1 p.m., or allow for more laps in the backcountry, then it’s done its job. Be on the lookout for the KORE line this fall, and be sure to follow #ToTheKORE on Instagram for a sneak peek.


Related:

Gallery: Next year’s skis, as seen at our 2017 Ski Test

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