Armada Skis Co-Founder Hans Smith on the Growth of the Brand

The Move from Costa Mesa, Calif. to Park City, Utah, the ‘No-Trend’ Focus, and Remaining Rooted in Freestyle Skiing

"It doesn't matter how cool you think you are or how cool your products looks, if it doesn't work really, really well, you're not going to make it in any business." A word to the wise, and in this case, words of wisdom from Hans Smith, co-founder of Armada Skis.

14-years in, the ski brand— born from a reckless abandonment in freestyle and park skiing—has come to be one of the more sought after companies with consumers in the next crop of skiing's elite. So, none more fitting than Doug Bishop, GM of Newschoolers, to sit down with Smith at SIA in January for The Sessions, talking shop and discussing where Armada is headed.

"We started the company in Costa Mesa. At the time, snowboarding was taking off and skiing wasn't as attractive to the youth. There wasn't anything going on to counter snowboarding," says Smith. Armada now calls Park City, Utah, home. But Smith attributes those first 14 years in SoCal's "action sports backyard" as the ultimate opportunity to grow Armada beyond the traditional ski culture, feeding off the influences of surf and skate. Simply said, "Being in California served us well."

We started the company in Costa Mesa. At the time, snowboarding was taking off and skiing wasn't as attractive to the youth. There wasn't anything going on to counter snowboarding.

After 12 years in Costa Mesa, Calif., Armada moved shop to Utah. "We needed to be in a place where the mountains were in our backyard…and quite frankly, doing business in California was very difficult." The Park City headquarters has allowed the brand to fully take advantage of product innovation on all tiers. "We have a full prototyping lab and we're able to prototype a ski within 24 hours and then head to the mountain and test it," says Smith. "Because of this, we're able to go to market a lot more quickly and obviously test a lot of new ideas in the process."

Armada has always been a disruptive brand in the ski industry space, and a disruptive marketing strategy came with the territory. Following in the footsteps of surf and skate, the brand focuses on a strong content production strategy, shying away from traditional marketing outlets. "From the beginning, we kind of wanted to create our own media house," says Smith on the constant footage coming out of the brand.

Aligning with content production, Smith outlined a three-tiered marketing approach for 2016, starting with technical outerwear and a Gortex partnership. The growth of the women's series and the recent hire of Pip Hunt, the new women's marketing manager, is point number two, and the development and focus on Armada's ARV Series, an all-mountain freestyle collection that serves as one of its heritage collections, rounds out the third marketing strategy for the brand.

Overall, Smith maintains that Armada will always march to the beat of its own drum. "The way we look at trends is we don't look at them. We're different and that affords us an opportunity to stay rooted and represent this park and freestyle category," says Smith. "The trends are driven from our athletes, and it sets us on a guide to where we're going and where we're headed."

Check out the full interview with Smith and Bishop for The Sessions 2016.

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