Exclusive Interview with Liberty Skis’ Tom Winter about the brand’s new partnership with Ski Arpa
You’re a big fan of skiing in Chile, when did you first visit the country?
“Wow, it’s been so long that I don’t remember the exact year, but I think it was back in 2000 or 2001 when I was a full time ski journalist. I ended up on a media trip to Portillo, and conditions were amazing. We skied the Super C, which ended up being a story in Powder and then traveled south to Chillan, and the conditions were amazing there, too. I came back the next year for a month and had similar conditions, big three or four day long storms followed by a week of stable weather. We went back to Chillan, but also tried Valle and hit Lonquimay. That’s when I really fell in love with the Andes, the Chillean people and the empty landscapes of the country. Since then, I’ve tried to go back every year.”
When did you first visit Arpa?
“I had heard of Arpa and so we went up there, I think about ten years ago, with some of the guys who were on The North Face team, Dana Flahr, Sage, and Ian McIntosh. As soon as I visited my reaction was, ‘this is the place.’ Arpa is such a pure experience. I spent a ton of time hanging out with Toni on that trip, and we really connected. He was very open about the challenges he’d faced and his stories just blew me away. I think every skier dreams of owning their own ski area, but let me tell you, talk with Toni first and you’ll understand that it’s a lot more work than you’ve ever dreamed of.”
How did the relationship between Liberty Skis and Arpa come about?
“After that first visit, which was for a Freeskier Magazine story, I kept coming back on photo shoots, and those guys were so great to work with. I’d give them access to all the images I’d take and we started to develop a pretty good relationship, not only a ‘working’ relationship but also on a personal basis.
When I started working with Liberty, doing something with Arpa became inevitable. It started with getting Anton Sponar on our skis, then getting Toni on a pair of our new Variant 97, which is a perfect ski for him, technical yet able to handle crud and powder because it has tip rocker, and then after a conversation with Anton, it was obvious that we could get a demo program rolling for Arpa, which is actually better than free skis to ski on, because it provides an additional revenue stream for the cat operation.”
Tell us a bit more about that.
“Well, and a lot of people don’t know this, but I used to be pretty involved with Ski Area Management magazine, writing about how the industry works. When you’re covering all sorts of different ski areas, from tiny local hills to Vail, you start to figure out pretty quickly what are good practices when it comes to mountain and resort operations. It’s well known in the industry that rental and demo programs can be real revenue drivers, paying for themselves three to five times over in a single season.”
And because of your position with Liberty you could help make this happen? By the way, what do you do for Liberty?
“I’m the guy at Liberty who oversees all the marketing, promotions, brand management, social media stuff, brand partnerships, all of that. My official job title is vice president of marketing. Liberty is ten years old, and the brand has a global presence. But make no mistake about it, the company is still intimate and everyone pitches in when needed. (Laughs) Just the other day I had a broom in my hand and was cleaning the warehouse!
But helping Arpa get a demo program rolling was a no brainer. And I am the guy in the hot seat at Liberty who is supposed to make things like this happen, so I did! (Laughs). But the way that the deal is structured minimizes the risk for them. The goal is to support the cat operation, not to make money for Liberty.”
But it’s a good deal for Liberty, too, right?
“Look, any time we can partner with skiers who share the same approach to the sport that we do, it’s a good deal for us. No, we didn’t give away a demo fleet to Arpa, but they’re not a charity and they don’t need a donation.
We’re going to get some of their clients on our skis, which we know ski well and are a great product. We’re going to get some cat time. And we get to collaborate with a cat operation that is special and does special things. We are really appreciative of the opportunity to work with them and we’re excited about it. Hopefully the larger skiing community is appreciative of the partnership and what we are doing together and hopefully some of the folks who ski up there demo some Liberty skis and then consider the brand when it’s time to make a new ski purchase.”
Which Liberty skis are going to be on offer at Arpa this year?
“Their demo fleet will have three models this year, the Helix, Double Helix and Envy Powder. It’s a good mix of skis. All three of these models have won magazine awards, with the Envy Powder being a two-time Editor’s Pick by Freeskier Magazine. It’s my hope that if the program is successful this year that we can add the Genome and Variant into the mix for next year.
But the skis they have right now should cover most of their needs. The Helix is 105 underfoot, has our bamboo core, and stealth rocker and is amazingly versatile. The Double Helix has a 150-121-140 footprint and is incredibly light and nimble for a ski that size and the Envy Powder clocks in at 135-105-122 and keeps winning magazine awards, so it has to be considered one of the best women’s skis on the market today.
Both the Envy Powder and Double Helix also have rockered tips and feature our ultra light bamboo cores, so it’s a good line up for them and I’m pretty sure that their clients will like the skis.”
So are you going to ski at Arpa this year?
“Oh yeah! I’m headed down to Chile in August and I’m sure that just like every other time I’ve visited, my visit to Arpa on this trip will be one of the highlights of my year. If you’ve never been there, you need to go. Every skier should ski at least one day at Arpa in their life. It’s so amazing to be up there.”