Since 1995 we’ve focused on two things – going skiing and building skis for people that want to have more fun skiing. That’s all we do, it’s all we know, and it’s what has enabled us to progress the sport further then anyone could have imagined ten years ago.
HERE’S OUR STORY
The catalyst behind Line’s creation and our mission still today is the simple concept that a skier needs innovative product to progress their riding and the sport. All of today’s most popular action sports grew in popularity thanks to this evolution in the 80’s and 90’s. Unfortunately, this was not the case with our favorite sport of skiing. Through the years, ski designs hadn’t changed outside of graphics and model names. They were all long, pointy, straight, stiff, essentially designed for elite Olympic racers to go faster on ice around poles wearing spandex.
This was one of the most popular skis of the time
Besides restrictive product, skiing was also promoted as a much more traditional & conservative sport relative to snowboarding. This ultimately drove the majority of new winter sport customers to buy snowboards. Even many long time skiers became bored and made the switch. As snowboarding grew in popularity, resorts began creating “snowboard parks” where snowboarders could hit jumps, rails, ride pipe, while skiers weren’t even allowed in. Can you imagine a time when there were signs at the top of the park that said “NO SKIERS ALLOWED”. The “ski” industry completely ignored what skiing could become. Its future wasn’t looking very bright.
Here’s an example of skiing vs. snowboarding in the early 90’s. See what we’re saying?
It was then that 21 year old Jason Levinthal, as a senior at the University of Buffalo NY, decided to do something about it. He spent too many days switching between his skis and snowboard always wishing his skis had the same performance as his snowboard. His 203cm, 65mm waist, stiff, slalom ski, with no sidecut, and a square flat tail was great for doing spread eagles but simply the wrong design for riding the way he envisioned skiing ultimately needing to go. As a senior semester project, he used the school’s wood shop to create a ski with all of the best assets of his snowboard. It had equal height tip and tail, center mounting, symmetric forgiving flex, deep sidecut and even used the snowboard’s dimensions cut in half, half the width and half the length. He created a very different kind of ski which would someday lead to a very different kind of ski company with the potential to play an important role in igniting skiing’s rEvolution.
1) Sketchbook drawing of the ski designed like a snowboard
2) Car press converted into ski press
3) Water heated on a Coleman propane stove, then pumped through copper pipes in the shape of the ski profile to heat and cure the epoxy
By spring of ’95 the school project/prototype was complete, and he and some friends hiked Holiday Valley resort in Buffalo New York armed with a pair of very different looking skis. By lunch they were sliding picnic tables, skiing backwards and feeling like this could become more than a college project. After graduation Jason moved back in with his parents to start a new kind of a ski company he named LINE, referencing skiing a line. He spent 16 hour days, seven days a week, all summer learning by trial and error how to build the equipment as well as the skis. By fall he had a one car garage, one man ski factory that could turn out one pair in an eight hour day.
1) The first Line press, in Jason’s parent’s garage, summer 1995
2) Family basement turned R&D lab
That winter was all about daily trips between the local mountain, Jiminy Peak Resort in Massachusetts, and back to the garage to evolve the product further. With approximately 20 or so pair sold to friends and family (suckers!) Line was ready to take on the world. That spring he attended the Snowsports Industries Association (SIA) trade show in Las Vegas. This is the biggest show of the year with ski shops from all over the country, and the world attending to see the latest products to place orders for delivery the following winter. With thousands of shops attending, only a handful of people even noticed the small 10×10’ Line booth. Line left the show with zero orders, and barely the shirts on their back… Time to go skiing again.
1) Jason & binding supplier Jeff Caron www.catek.com at the Line super home made booth
2) Jason cutting skis for Japan, summer 1996
Two weeks later Jason received a call from the local copy & shipping store regarding a fax received from Japan. It was an order for 1,000 pair. With only 30 pair of skis ever made by Line, there were more questions than answers as to what to do next. It was quickly realized that this was the best problem a start up company could have. It was time to move out of the garage. Line rented a 1,500sq’ warehouse (bigger garage), and hired friends, family and anyone that wanted to spend their summer playing with epoxy and fiberglass in a hot and humid warehouse. By mid summer, they were producing 15 pair in an 8 hour day… it was a long summer.
1) The Original full time crew: (Matt Strongin, Matt Connelly (current California Line rep The Red Dawn), Jason Levinthal, Tom Doyle
2) Every great ski factory needs a ramp out back
The following winter, the product continued to evolve but there was still no sign of demand in the US. That spring Line went back to the SIA show and this time, to its surprise, Salomon also had their own “toy-like” versions. Thanks to their powerful marketing abilities however, this new type of ski instantly became the talk of the show. Although it was a small step toward the ultimate future direction of ski products and the sport, it was more than what had been done in the past 20 years, and shops and skiers were reinvigorated by it.
1) A strange but true 1st draft of twin tip skis at the 1997 SIA show
2) Mike Nick win’s gold & Jason bronze in skiing’s first ever X Games event 1998
The following winter of 1998, the X Games for the first time ever had a ski event. It was a slopestyle and believe it or not, skiboard only. After you stop laughing, remember that skiing on long skis was still stuck doing back scratchers & raceing while guys like Mike Nick, a highschool friend of Jason’s was throwing cab 900’s, misty sevens and grinding rails, never even considered possible on skis. Thanks to plenty of practice in east coast parks Jason took home the Bronze and Mike Nick the gold in that year’s X Games. Line was instantly credited by shops and consumers as the original, authentic, pioneer of this new rider driven ski product. Suddenly Line was on the map and although the product still had a long way to go people were beginning to visualize where the sport could someday end up, if the product and skiing continued to progress.
1) Mike Nick throwing misty 5 liu-kang, in someone’s backyard, 1998
2) The first published photo of a skier on a handrail taken by Jeff Winterton (former factory employee) of Jason in N.Y., FREEZE magazine RIP Nov 1998
3) Article about “manufacturing the next extreme sport” in the garage, NY TIMES magazine March 1999
With some great momentum under Line’s belt it was time to continue with its vision for the future of skiing. During the winter of ’98/’99, Line joined forces with one of the most progressive skiers of the time, Kris Ostness. Kris worked with Line to develop the first equal height tip and tail, full length “real” twin-tip ski. It was 193cm and even had steezy slanted sidewalls with a sick hand drawn graphic of a dragon done by Kris. This personal pro model was named, The Ostness Dragon and the following year he scored the cover of Powder magazine’s photo annual creating a shock wave across the industry.
1) Kris with his skis summer 1999
2) Kris Ostness riding the one-of-a-kind 193cm twin tip Ostness Dragon, POWDER magazine Jan 2000
3) Skogen gets the first rail photo on a magazine cover, FREEZE Oct 2000
Line continued to join forces with unknown skiers that had the talent and the right vision for the future of the sport. Skogen Sprang, a long time skier turned snowboarder, returned to his skis to tap into the sports unlimited potential. Skogen pushed the level of park riding with technical rail slides, incredibly smooth style, fluid off axis rotations, and an ability to pioneer tricks in terrain parks forward and fakie with style never before seen on skis. Before you knew it, skiing was in the X Games with Skogen on the podium. He continued to win every comp he entered during the 2000 season. Kris simultaneously took newschool to the backcountry, building kickers on natural gaps, quarter pipes, cliffs, step-ups and step-downs. These two riders were setting the stage for the terrain and style of skiing for which the majority of skiing’s future image and direction would be based PARK & BACKCOUNTRY FREESTYLE. All the while, Line continued at a frantic pace to develop and re-develop new and innovative skis to keep up with these athlete’s vision for the future of our sport.
1) Kris Ostness throwing the first documented McTwist in a Line ad, FREEZE magazine Nov 1999
2) Article about Line’s one-of-a-kind ski graphics, AXIS magazine Nov 2003
3) A few of Line’s many unique ski graphics back then
Jason’s brother Matt, a photographer, and brother Doug, a website designer at the time provided Line with easy access to capturing and communicating its athlete’s achievements to the world. Line’s ads in magazines quickly became well known for their pioneering documentation of these athletes never before published feats on skis. Line began using the tag line, “BECAUSE SKIING NEEDS A FUTURE”, their mission was that simple. Line’s product and marketing was always ahead of the game, but so were its graphics. The majority of skis at the time had graphics consisting of a logo with a few geometric shapes or stripes. Remember the picture of the ski earlier in the story? This lack of creativity drove Line to pioneer the use of real artwork on their skis. Weather the original art was created on a computer or painted on canvas, Line’s persevering one man art department, Tim Clayton, always found a way to turn two long skinny planks into a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork, worthy of hanging over the mantle.
Now back to the skiing. Eric Pollard at the time was a 15 year old that grew up riding Mount Hood where snowboarders far out numbered skiers. This only helped him develop his unique style which was a perfect match for Line’s innovative Twelve Sixty ski of the day. It was the first park specific ski designed 100% symmetric, equal height tip and tail, forgiving symmetric flex, and snowboard-like sidecut. This was exactly the 164cm tool Pollard needed to begin to realize his true potential. It would however be years before his super progressive, one-of-a kind style would gain the respect it deserved. Remember, iron cross mute grab 360’s still ruled the scene back then. A zero spin, rodeo or 180 with un-crossed skis in a wide stance was simply not understood or respected.
1) Eric Pollard floating a stylie 180 at Camp of Champions Summer 1999
2) Skogen taking tricks from the park into the backcountry in POWDER, October 2000
3) More recently thanks to consistent growth Line outgrew the garage, kept R&D in-house & outsourced production to larger ski factories overseas
Although Line was known in its early days as leaders in the freestyle park scene, Line was not timid about bringing it’s creativity and enginuity to the big mountain scene. During the winter of ’99/’00 Skogen was invited to Alaska for a Powder Magazine shoot, the only problem was that Line had no fat skis at the time. With only five days before the trip, Line’s ski designer, Francois Sylvain and his R&D team created a pair of super fat prototypes for the shoot by gluing two ski cores together and using snowboard width materials. Skogen took his park skills to Alaska for the world to later see on the cover of Powder magazine. This first prototype pioneered the modern day twin tip powder ski. Line quickly put it into production naming it the “Mothership” for the rest of the world to enjoy. This jumpstarted Line’s expanded focus on creating some of most progressive big mountain and powder skis that today win top awards by even the most conservative of ski magazines.
Although Line is no longer a single skier, building one ski at a time in a garage, our mission remains the same. Our story is less about a business and more about a passion for doing what you love. Line’s actions have always been based on this passion for the sport, and the idea that what’s best for skiing is best for skiers and any businesses involved. Although we had a strong hand in the past 14+ years of skiing’s evolution, there are obviously many more people and businesses all critically involved in making skiing what it is today and what it will become tomorrow. The most important person to the future of this sport however is yourself, because without all of you there is not sport.
So represent the Line name proudly and people will know about you, what they already know about us. . .
YOU ARE A SKIER.