Armada: Freeskiing’s original core brand begins its next chapter

Armada: Freeskiing’s original core brand begins its next chapter

Armada. What skiing will become.

I’m not one to believe in premonitions, psychics or fortune-telling, but the original business slogan for Armada Skis couldn’t have predicted the future any better. Fast-forward 13 years to the present, and the brand’s tagline should read, “Armada. What skiing has become.”

Armada formed during a pivotal stage of freeskiing’s evolution, amidst a rebellion against racing-inspired skis and a stale image of skiing that ran rampant in the industry. As such, the brand and its co-founders have always represented revolution, on par with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere. Only in this case, the proverbial patriots were Chris O’Connell, JP Auclair, Tanner Hall, JF Cusson, Julien Regnier and Boyd Easley. These cats were larger than life at the time—five of the most idolized pro skiers in the game and a well respected snow sports photographer in O’Connell.


Jacob Wester. Photo courtesy of Armada

The sextuplet joined together with a group of British investors and additional co-founder Hans Smith, formerly of Oakley, in November of 2002. Armada’s first major move as a company was to upgrade from a basement operation in Truckee, California to a new office in Costa Mesa—a mecca of skate and surf. The two sports significantly influenced the new direction of skiing, from team-focused brand strategies, to the multidirectional shapes of skis, to a focus on style. Southern California just made sense.

According to Smith, Armada’s core ideals have always been to “create things that are interesting, that we think are valuable and to take our influences from places that others don’t even look. [Armada prides itself] on having outstanding athletes, people and creative minds.” It didn’t take long before the budding company had successfully built a rabid fan base of freeskiers who appreciated this take on business.

“I think we’ve always wanted to talk to our core audience—whether that’s big-mountain or park—by owning the hubs of skiing on different continents,” explains Andy Miller, who took on the role of marketing and communications manager with Armada in May of 2015. “Our team personifies what the direction of the brand is: Progression, style and they all have fun. I love watching guys like Henrik [Harlaut], no one has more fun than that dude on skis.” That statement could’ve been bestowed about any of the founding members: JP Auclair’s GT-Racer backflips that intro his segment in Poor Boyz Productions’ 2001 release, Propaganda, and Boyd Easley’s antics-driven seg’ in 2002’s Happy Dayz, set to the tune of KISS’s Detroit Rock City, are both examples of the fun attitude.

Armada was elevated by its elite team, no question; and perhaps nothing put the brand in a better position than having a talent pool hailing from different ski cultures the world over, expanding the company’s reach. Ultimately, the majority of fans—especially the younger ones—more easily identify with their favorite athletes rather than the complexities of ski, outerwear and softgoods design.

Still, producing quality product is an integral piece of maintaining skiers’ respect. Armada proved its commitment to top-notch manufacturing right off the bat, introducing the ARV and AR5 skis. While both were early twin tip designs, neither was pigeon-holed as park-specific, and were meant to excel across the entire mountain, opening their appeal to a wide market. Through the years they’d go on to produce classics like the THall—Tanner Hall’s pro model—and the JJ; the latter has been one of the most popular powder skis on the market since its introduction. As one of the first companies to solely produce twin-tip designs, Armada became a major draw to young skiers who felt the constraints of racing and mogul skiing (or could identify with the idea, at least) and who saw their snowboarding buddies getting creative in the early renditions of terrain parks.

After tremendous success with its skis, Armada delved into outerwear design for the 2009-10 season, growing its appeal even more so. From the start, Armada manufactured a wide variety of outerwear options: Ultra-technical kits, baggy, park-oriented options and price point offerings, each maintaining the brand’s fashion-forward approach. FREESKIER’s 2010 Buyer’s Guide even stated, regarding the Cosmo Down jacket and Blast pant, “Armada elevated the game in the hardgoods category, let’s see how the company shakes up softgoods.” Armada outerwear has been highlighted in every single Buyer’s Guide since—the brand did pretty damn well impacting the outerwear sector, indeed.

Few manufacturers can juggle both outerwear and ski design at such a high level. Smith cites the partnerships that the brand has made—friendships, if you will—as the reason production of high-quality gear, both softgoods and hardgoods, goes so smoothly for Armada.

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