Jason Levinthal, founder of Line Skis, has been around the industry long enough to know a thing or two about ski design. Having been at the helm of Line for 18 years and founding Full Tilt boot company along the way, he changed course in September 2013, starting fresh with his new brand, J skis. Launching the direct-to-consumer company brings Levinthal back to his entrepreneurial roots, and he’s excited about the undertaking.
￼Much has changed since he began selling skis out of his parents’ garage in the mid- ’90s. Taking advantage of digital advances, from social media to design software, allows Levinthal to be nimble and to cater to consumers’ opinions in record time. He can form an idea, post it on his website, receive instant feedback and offer a new ski for sale in a matter of days—ultimately putting the end product in consumers’ hands in just a few months, a process that traditionally took years.
“I’m moving at the speed of thought,” says Levinthal. “I can bring new and innovative products to market in a fraction of the time compared to more traditional business models.”
“When I come up with a new concept, I put it out to the public to gauge its popularity and for them to provide suggestions. I’m basically collaborating with every skier out there in the general public,” he explains. “Everyone has the opportunity to drive the direction of my ski graphics, the model, the performance—whether it’s through social media or face to face.”
Steve Stepp and his pro model. Photo by Jordan Harper
Levinthal is using a small-batch approach, which means that each line of skis he produces is a limited edition. He personally collaborates with media, artists,athletes,musicians—evenwhole countries—to create one-of-a-kind skis that are inspired by the latest styles and trends. They’re produced in runs of 50 to 100 pair, and once they’re sold out, they’re gone forever.
When it comes to collaboration, Levinthal draws upon relationships that he has cultivated over a career that spans nearly two decades. “Basically, I just work with friends who also happen to be the best people I’ve ever worked with or come across in the ski industry over the last twenty years,” he says.
There’s Steve Stepp, for example, a skier who produces some of the most engaging and amusing Internet content. There’s Francois Sylvain, who spent years engineering planks for Line, and Mark Frankhauser, who created Ride Snowboard’s edgy graphics for over a decade. With the production of his first powder ski, Levinthal is collaborating with Adam Haynes, an artist who has worked for companies such as Nike 6.0, Dakine, Under Armour and ESPN.
The bottom line: Levinthal believes that by selling the majority of his product factory direct, he’s able to operate a smaller, simpler and more streamlined business that keeps costs competitive while producing a top-of-the-line product. “The traditional distribution model requires huge sales volumes, thus lower raw material costs to support the increased number of middle men. All the tiers siphon money,” he explains. “Because I’m selling the majority of my skis direct, I’m able produce smaller, limited edition quantities and put more into the product’s materials and performance without increasing the cost.”
Those words manifest in the product, and the reception has been positive, as he’s sold out of the majority of collections—an impressive feat for such a new brand.
“I’ve only been at it for ten months, and I’ve made it this far,” he tells us. “I’m really looking forward to what I can do a couple of years down the road.”
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