ExoticSkis.com is the World's largest collection of links, information and independent tests about 476 small, obscure, unknown, little-known, unique, independent, microbrew, craft or just plain bizarre skis, ski designers, ski companies and custom ski manufacturers from around the globe.
The "mega" ski companies such as Atomic, Rossignol, Dynastar, K2, Fischer, Volkl, Elan, Head and Nordica and others have captured the bulk of the skiing public's attention through media saturation and brand recognition on the slopes using millions and millions of dollars of marketing efforts and they dominate the racks at nearly any ski shop. They make some great skis, but other brands are out there...maybe built in your neighborhood or near your favorite mountain by a crafty group of people you'd like to meet.
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476 ski builders listed...
213 review posts about 66 small brands....
Jens-Martin Johnsrud started Stereo skis in 2008 by making twin-tip wakeboards and brought his passion to snow skis with design help fron Norwegian ski champions. Jens-Martin has launched a full fleet of powder, freeride and carving skis designed in Norway and manufactured by the modern, renewable-energy powered Skandinavian ski facility at Åre Skidfabrik in Sweden. We were lucky enough to discuss Stereo's skis and their introduction to a wider World market with Jens-Martin and Marshal Olson of the The Reimagining Retail Group who is dedicated to bringing Stereo into select retail shops in North America. (Marshal was previously Sales Director for DPS skis when they exploded from cult status to mainstream brand around the World...so he knows the industry and knows great skis when he sees them!)
Stereo Piste/RS skis sunning themselves in the Green Mountains of Vermont, USA.
Stereo Piste/RS, Stereo Piste V3, Stereo Apex
Marshal arranged to bring in 3 pairs of Stereo's models for us to test (the race-plated Piste RS for high-level GS carving, the versatile Piste V3 for all-mountain GS cruising and the jack-of-all-trades Apex all-mountain model). Needless to say, we were blown away by the quality of the Swedish-built Norwegian designs and the frankly stunning performance each model delivered. Never underestimate the ability of small companies to produce World-class products, and Jens-Martin's Stereo has really delivered. Read the reviews of the Stereo Skis HERE.
Since incorporating in 1968, Onyone has been expanding their outerwear lineup and supplying international ski organizations such as the Liechtenstein national ski team, Japan Professional Ski Teachers Association, Swiss Ski School Association, Ski Association of Japan, Finnish National Ski Team and French National Mountaineering Ski School. Onyone also creates custom althetic sports apparel in many other disciplines, so they have extensive experience and expertise in crafting clothing for active sports.
We recently received a two-piece men's outfit to test and will be letting you know how it compares to other offerings by some of the larger brand names out there. As a side, note, Onyone also contracted with Italian helmet/goggle/wax maker Briko to distribute their products back in 2005!
Image courtesy of Onyone Co., Ltd.
Whitedot's skis for "freetouring" have evolved from their original CarbonLite series of freeride skis to embrace the all-mountain touring demands seen around the World. Whitedot took their skills at designing and constructing lightweight, agile freeride skis and created their Ronde freetour models. These freetour skis have a signature aluminum skin clip tail insert, light construction for efficient uphill performance, and a polyvalent design to handle a wide variety of downhill surface conditions and terrain for alpine environments. The goal is to design a ski to take out all day in the mountains and come back happy since the skis can handle all kinds of situations with reliable performance and predictable behaviors with a spunky fun feel for adventure.
Whitedot's Ronde 96 is indeed a light-feeling, agile and extremely friendly ski for backcountry, and it does a decent job in-bounds for resort iusage as long as you don't expect it to be a hard-charging race carver on the groomers or a rock-solid freight train powerhouse through cut-up conditions after everone has skied out the fresh powder. It's agility and energetic feel in the tight trees makes it a nice choice when you clamp down your heel in woodsy conditions. While a ski this light has some speed limitations in intensely hard, rough boilerplate conditions and becomes a bit loose at high-speed, GS-like pressure situations, it hits the mark as being a ski with a huge sweet spot for 95% of what every backcountry skier wants in a sub-100mm waisted ski for. There are wider skis in the Ronde lineup (110mm and 108 [previous models]) if you adventures dictate a fatter ski with more mass underfoot for your type of skiing and downhill antics. If you watch the sale page on the WhitedotSkis.com website, you can often find their Ronde series on sale for significant discounts.
See the full review HERE.
Whitedot Ronde 96 mounted with Salomon S-LAB MNC 10 bindings for backcountry
Claudio Valsecchi and Andrea Bonacina created Zero Skis in Italy in 2011 to provide high-performance, top-quality skis with rare and artistically created topsheets to the luxury, high-end ski market around the World. We were extremely lucky to get the opportunity to try two different models of their skis in the Alta Badia region of Italy for several days in pristine carving conditions.
Zero Skis is aiming its products at the luxury market where names like Armani, Alfa-Romeo and Rolex are spoken, so this is not a budget-oriented, "value brand.." With retail prices hovering around 1,300 - 1,600 Euros, Zero skis are expensive and specialized for their target audience. Zero's founders promote their brand through marketing partnerships with luxury lifestyle clothing, automobile and travel companies who's clients would be receptive to the stunningly attractive skis Zero produces.
We found the stunningly innovative and attractive slate-covered Zero Sten all-mountain ski and the gorgeously vibrant Zero Lignum race-carver to be superb examples of the high-end luxury ski brand market with hot-rod performance on-snow and art-gallery appearance on and off-snow. These are not fluffy cosmetic show skis, but true, died-in-the-wool Euro carving skis of the highest order topped with painstakingly crafted topsheets showing excellent attention to detail and finish quality. If you want a stunningly beautiful and unusually-topped carving ski with top-shelf performance on-piste, Zero makes them, and makes them very, very well.....now, where did I park my Alfa....?
We were lucky to have Alia Radetti from Dream Beyond Travel volunteer to personally deliver two pairs of Zero's customized skis to us in San Cassiano Italy. Zero Skis works with Alia's luxury travel company to enhance Alia's client experiences by providing exclusive skis for the vacations in the Alta Badia of Italy she arranges. Dream Beyond provides exclusive, high-quality, "all-details-managed" vacation experiences for discerning clients, so providing exclusive, rare skis from an artisnal Italian ski company complements the service offering.
Alia is a long-time ski racer and won an Italian freeride championship, so she knows skiing and what good skis can do for her clients. Alia also picked up the test skis at the end of our trip to the Alta Badia, giving us a sample of the superb service Dream Beyond provides to its clients. High-end skis coupled with high-end vacation planning creates a high-end ski vacation to create memories for a lifetime. Welcome to the world of Zero Skis.
Read our reviews of the Zero Sten and Zero Lignum skis HERE.
Mark Farner is a former Worldcup snowboard competitor and member of the Swiss Snowboard Federation who has assembled a team of craftsmen to design and construct high-quality skis and snowboards in Zurich, Switzerland since 1984. Radical is a super-passionate, small-batch ski and snowboard company dedicated to intensely well built products incorporating the best materials the designers can find. They stand behind their products with a 5 year flex and camber warranty...something we have never seen before. Radical represents a superb example of high-quality ski and snowboard fabrication aimed at intensely effective high performance in a premium product.
In Europe, the piste-carving ski remains one of the primary staples for skiers at neary any mountain, even with the prominent rise of the rockered, wider freeride ski designs of the last ten years. If you visit any lift-serviced ski area, the majority of skiers will often be riding dedicated frontside carving skis. Since the ski racing cutiure is so strong in Europe (some argue it is much stronger than in North America), race-like skis for the masses are extremely popular, but full-on FIS-compliant race skis have too large a radius and are too demanding for civilians and carving enthusiasts who need something to produce intense carving behaviors without requring Olympian-level stamina and conditioning.
These conditions gave rise to the Euro-carving ski designs which display typically race-like grip and response in a more forgiving chassis with tighter radii. Race ski componentry often makes its way into the Euro-carver or "Race Carver" layups in more friendly proportions. Technical carving enthusiasts, instructors and ex-racers tend to love these designs allowing the skier to execute intense angle carves at less than race speeds, yet ski all over the hardpack runs all day without feeling punished by an overly-demanding design. The Radical Race Carver, like similar skis from RTC, AK-Ski, Kessler, Mach, Blossom and other Euro brands, uses race-quality materials and layup expertise in geometries more suited to technical carving at less than race-like speeds on water-injected race course surfaces.
Radical's Race Carver is a stunning example of how a somewhat softer-flexing ski can deliver impressively accurate, intense carving performance. You can ski it relatively slow and easy, or use intense edge angle and pressure inputs to get a slot-car-like grip and turn response in a lightning-quick manner. What's really interesting is the unusuall lightweight feel underfoot. Normally, a ski with abilities to dig intense carving arcs into the snow at moderate to high pressures feels like it weighs like a race ski. Radical's Race Carver feels wonderfully light underfoot due to its carefully proportioned materials. Radical is demonstrating a state-of-the-art carving ski design and construction prowess with traditionally excellent Swiss craftsmanship and quality.
Read the review..
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