What Is in the Power of a (Ski) Model Name?

What is in a name?
The power of a model‘s name is tough to measure. This difficulty doesn’t just apply to ski models, but also to automobiles. One case in point is the Acura Legend. At the time, an owner of said car did not say they had an Acura, or even an Acura Legend, they would just say “Legend.” For this reason, the biggest word with the largest font on the ass end of the car was “Legend”, not Acura. And then they arguably made one of the biggest missteps in automotive history by changing the flagship Legend to RL. People lost their identity with their Acuras, and to this day Acura sales have never been the same. This is the type of blunder that make ski manufacturers’ marketing managers lose sleep and wonder, why risk change at all? Because when you ask skiers what ski they have, they will just say Mantra, Secret, or Laser Aye-ex.

There can be as much power in a model name as the brand name itself. When that’s the case, the right model name is like capturing lightning in a bottle. The question is, when do you let go of that name, and when do you double down? Or when do you bring back a previous model name to recapture that momentum? We will address these questions and more, so keep reading.

The more things change, the more they stay the same … or do they?
When a brand dramatically changes a ski, should they keep the same name or change it? When does a model name lose its place in the market? We will use Rossignol as an example. When the original Rossignol Experience collection arrived in the early 2010s, they were a unique series of skis. With its broad shovel and flared tail, Rossignol brought the Cascade tip technology over from their race skis. The Experience collection, ranging from 78-100 mm underfoot, was a collection of wide carvers with a distinct personality and limited, but loyal following like SkiTalk reader UTskier, a high level instructor.

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When Rossignol redesigned the Experience in the mid 2010s, they dramatically changed the design to make the shape more relaxed with a longer tip rise and a rounded tail. UTSkier was excited to try the new version, only to be disappointed. Not that the ski wasn’t good, it just wasn’t the Experience he expected. That disappointment could be compounded if a skier made the purchase based on name only, with no demo. This past season Rossignol again redesigned the Experience, and in its third generation it incorporates the best attributes of the previous two generations. But, will the consumer who liked one of the previous two become a fan of this melding of characteristics from both generations? Time will tell.

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The Völkl Mantra is now on its 6th generation. To commemorate that, the newest version is called the Mantra M6. It is not uncommon for me, when in the shop, to hear a customer say, “My buddy has a Mantra and says I should get one.” (Note, he just said his buddy has a Mantra, not his buddy has a Völkl Mantra). If he’s asked, “Which Mantra?” then he will look at me like I am an idiot and say, “The Völkl Mantra!” I will then reply, “There were 6 generations of Mantras, each with their own personality.” Völkl is smart enough to know that, even after two decades on the market, the Mantra name is a tremendous calling card. On the women’s side, Völkl had the Aura. Völkl recently abandoned the Aura name in favor of the Secret. According to Völkl’s Barklay Rappaport, it was time to rejuvenate the women’s segment by creating a Secret 92. This was not just a narrower Aura, so it was worthy of a new name.

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Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends

Bringing back a model name can be tricky business and this is where the ski industry does better than the automotive one. Do you remember the new versions of the Chevrolet Nova, Pontiac Le Mans and Ford Maverick? Many people don’t. We have seen the resurrection of previous ski models with much better acclaim. K2’s Four, Dynastar‘s Legend series and Head‘s Monster series are examples of success. Why? Because the characteristics of these models/collections fit people‘s perception of the name. We have seen this trend in boots too: Nordica‘s Grand Prix or GP boots and Lange‘s Banshee, which was resurrected for a second tour of duty. Lange was also successful with their limited pink XLR (Due to copyright, we cannot call it the Pink Panther) and purple haze XR9.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we witness some brands go back in time to recapture their youth. Most brands have iconic model names like Bandit, Explosiv, Recon, and X-Scream waiting to be rekindled. (Notice I didn’t even have to say the brand; you knew exactly what manufacturer I was talking about). Please feel free to add some of your favorite names in the comment section below.

When a model is so strong that it takes over a collection
The Blizzard Black Pearl was, for a few years, the number one selling ski in the world out of both men’s and women ‘s skis. Let that sink in. There was a time when there were women’s skis just to appease the market. The Black Pearl was not one of these. At 88 mm underfoot, it was part of the Blizzard women’s freeride collection which consisted of, at various times, a 78 mm Cheyenne, 98 mm Samba and a 108 mm Dakota. All of these were great skis that were far from sales successes, and I would venture to say, combined didn’t sell half of what the Black Pearl 88 sold. What did Blizzard do? Blizzard doubled down on the Black Pearl’s momentum and changed the Cheyenne to the Black Pearl 78, added a Black Pearl 82, of course kept the wildly popular Black Pearl 88, and changed the Samba to the Black Pearl 98. Now, not unlike the Mantra, when a woman is interested in the Black Pearl, she needs to be asked, “Which one?” But this time, the waist width needs to be distinguished, rather than the model year.

Evolution or Revolution.
When a brand does change a model, are you excited or unsure? Open or apprehensive? Did you, like some readers on SkiTalk, react with gloom and doom when Fischer introduced the newest Ranger collection? Were you one of those who were exclaiming, “Oh my God, they changed the Ranger! Ihave to stock up on the old ones because the new one will be awwwwful!” All that blood-curdling damnation before even clicking into a binding is unfounded because it isn’t a new Ranger, or the old Ranger, it is a completely different ski. I talked to Brian Landrigan, National Marketing Manager for Fischer, and asked if there was any consideration in changing the name of the series and maybe bringing back an old name like the Watea. Brian said because of the momentum the Ranger had, that was not a consideration.

What does all of this mean for you?
Simple: caveat emptor. Know before buying or even demoing. Also understand while some things stay the same, many things change. With this in mind, you may need to do an extra level of research before your purchase. So with all of the real time information you have access to on Skitalk, just ask. As we say, there are stupid questions, but those people who don’t ask questions often get stupid results. Or think about it this way: You are not just asking the question for yourself, but for the thousands of eyes reading who might have the same question but are afraid to ask. So, take one for the guy/gal out there, you are also helping them. And for the reader who does not have an account, sign up, so you also can ask these questions. It’s free.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Some ski names are more successful than others. For every Dynastar Mythic Rider, there is a Nordica Blower :). Both were very good skis by the way.
 
The automotive analogy leads me to the Porsche 911 a product of consistent evolution over 60 years at least and a great example of evolution over revolution. Yet, the 911 almost died in the 70’s as the plan was to replace it with the 928 , a car which was a radical departure from the traditional Porsche platform. Consumer reaction was generally negative towards the 928 despite itt being easier to drive precisely because it was easier to drive. It wasn’t a “Porsche”.The quirky, somewhat antiquated nature of the air cooled 911 was what most people wanted -and expected -in a Porsche. Porsche listened and another 40 years of evolution ensued yet the latest model shares the DNA of every 911 before it. Like a lot of premium skis , the 911 is an aspirational /status acquisition and is rarely utilized to its full potential . So, I wonder , what is the closest skiing equivalent to the 911?
 
So, I wonder , what is the closest skiing equivalent to the 911?
For me it has always been the Kastle MX series. With a collection ranging from 70-108mm at times, it was like the 911, 911S, 911 Turbo, GT2, GT3 ... The FX collection was like the Boxster/962, lighter, more playful and some will now argue, better 911's.
 
Interesting industry branding article. This is more on the boot side, but do you think in 2-3 years people will have brand recognition for the K2 Revolver\Method\Diverge ski boots that are part of the K2 Fl3x collection? Or will they still refer to them by the former brand (Full Tilt)? It takes a long time to build brand awareness. I tend to prefer continuity. Everybody knows what a Corolla, Tacoma, and 4Runner are and their purpose.
 
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Interesting industry branding article. This is more on the boot side, but do you think in 2-3 years people will have brand recognition for the K2 Revolver\Method\Diverge ski boots that are part of the K2 Fl3x collection? Or will they still refer to them by the former brand (Full Tilt)? It takes a long time to build brand awareness. I tend to prefer continuity. Everybody knows what a Corolla, Tacoma, and 4Runner are and their purpose.
Great Question. FullTilt has created a ton of momentum and a brand, it was a marketing mistep in dropping the Full Tilt name, at this point we are on the fourth name for these boots, Raichle Flexon>Kneissl Flexon>Full Tilt>K2 FL3X. All of this just adds to consumer confusion and risk that you might lose your customer to a Dalbello or even Roxa 3-peice.
 
I am not a marketing professional by any means. But marketing professionals follow me around. Im the kiss of death for any product. If I like it, I mean really really like it, the marketing pros know immediately that it's a failure and immediately discontinue that product. Some examples:

  • Volkl P50 Platinum. I've always loved the feel of a race ski, but actual full-on race skis are a bit too much ski for me. So a toned-down rec version of a race ski has always been my taste. This was the last Volkl that I know of that was a rec version of their race line. The P60 and Racetiger series didn't include a rec version.
  • Volkl Mantra. I had the original Mantra, cambered ski, no rocker, 94mm underfoot (pretty wide at the time), stiff as a board, railed carved turns like no one would ever expect a wide ski to do. In a few years, replaced with a full rocker 98 mm underfoot ski that didn't hold an edge for beans. With the M5 and M6 back to being the Mantra, but it took a decade.
  • Dynastar Course TI. The carviest ski I've ever been on. You had to really work hard to make these things skid, so of course they were almost useless in trees and steeps and bumps, but on blue groomers nothing I've ever been on before or since has been as much fun on corduroy. Discontinued, and replaced with the Course Pro, which just wasn't quite the same thing.
  • Volkl TIgershark. Great ski. If you took the best characteristics of both the Mantra and the Course TI and meleded them into one ski, you'd have the TIgershark.
  • My current daily driver is the Blizzard Comp 76. A toned-down race ski with lots of metal and wood and carbon fiber. Discontinued for this season - Firebirds are only race skis now, and the Thunderbird series may or may not have the same oomph as the Comp 76.
Do the names make any difference? Maybe not. Very different products are marketed with the same or similar name. I just hope that when it's time to replace my boots that Nordica is still making the Doberman Pro 130, and that it's still the same basic idea.
 
@Mister Tea all of them other than the Mantra, I would almost refer to as "one hit wonders" of skis. They were around for basically one generation then gone. I some cases, I will agree with you, many of these ski met an untimely death without getting a chance to establish their place in the market and create any momentumn.
 
@Mister Tea all of them other than the Mantra, I would almost refer to as "one hit wonders" of skis. They were around for basically one generation then gone. I some cases, I will agree with you, many of these ski met an untimely death without getting a chance to establish their place in the market and create any momentumn.
The Volkl race skis debuted with the P9. Followed by the P10, P20, P30, P40, P50, and P60. So lot's of longevity in that line. Not sure how many version of the PX series had a toned-down rec version, but they stopped making one at the transition from P50 to P60. The current Race Tiger series has been around for a while too, but no rec version of those either.

Seems to be a marketing thing. At one point they could sell a wimpy non-race ski to us punters if it had similar graphics as the dudes and dudettes on the podium. Despite their best efforts, this doesn't seem to be working.

Case in point: the last ski race I watched on TV was a downhill, with the ~40 meter sidecut ~190cm skis being utilized by all the competitors. And when they cut to the shot of the leaders on the podium, the geezers were sitting there holding a pair of ~170 cm ~15meter radius rec carving skis.

Nice try, but the marketing bros seem to be more successful at selling us punters 130mm underfoot "powder" skis, which are as inappropriate for what most of us do on a daily basis as the the ~40 meter sidecut ~190cm long stiff-as-a-board race skis.

As a very successful sailboat salesman once said, "I'm not in the business of selling boats. I'm in the business of selling dreams."
 
Nice try, but the marketing bros seem to be more successful at selling us punters 130mm underfoot "powder" skis, which are as inappropriate for what most of us do on a daily basis as the the ~40 meter sidecut ~190cm long stiff-as-a-board race skis.
130mm pow skis were short lived but One-Oh-Something are still all the rage
As a very successful sailboat salesman once said, "I'm not in the business of selling boats. I'm in the business of selling dreams."
sizzle sells the steak.
 
Seems to be a marketing thing. At one point they could sell a wimpy non-race ski to us punters if it had similar graphics as the dudes and dudettes on the podium. Despite their best efforts, this doesn't seem to be working.
I disagree, the Head Supershape collection is a perfect example if a brand taikng a race motif to a consumer collection. I think part of the sales success ie popularity of the Stockli Laser AX was that it was the Laser AX, it will be interesting if all of the motentumn comes over to the Montero collection.
 
The Volkl race skis debuted with the P9. Followed by the P10, P20, P30, P40, P50, and P60. So lot's of longevity in that line. Not sure how many version of the PX series had a toned-down rec version, but they stopped making one at the transition from P50 to P60. The current Race Tiger series has been around for a while too, but no rec version of those either.
Someone mention Volkl???
I like the P50 Platinum!

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Well, the Laser name seems to have worked for sailboats. It's the most popular boat in the world and has spawned a bunch of other models that are called "Lasers" but aren't.

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What's a mystery to me is how Stockli managed to avoid being sued like everybody else connected with Laser.

See https://forums.sailinganarchy.com/threads/lasers-applying-a-blow-torch.145562/ for more than you ever wanted to know about that.
Well likely because skis are not boats. Therefore there is no confusion to Laser the boat.
 
Well likely because skis are not boats. Therefore there is no confusion to Laser the boat.

Guns are not cars and yet GM had to rename the Beretta.

The lack of confusion principle is a weak defense unless there is a third usage more common than either of the disputed ones. Neither the ski nor the boat are the laser - and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that.
 
Guns are not cars and yet GM had to rename the Beretta.

The lack of confusion principle is a weak defense unless there is a third usage more common than either of the disputed ones. Neither the ski nor the boat are the laser - and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that.
I never much cared for their 9mm pistol, the car or the TV Show...
 
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Back when 80mm under foot was considered wide, I had a pair of Fischer Big Stix. I don't know if the name resonated with the pubic but I can testify that it sure resonated with lifties. "Here comes the Big Stix" is what I most commonly heard when loading at different chairs on different mountains. The skis were bright orange in an era of not very flashy graphics but I think it was the Big Stix name that really clicked with people, especially very bored lifties.
 
For me it has always been the Kastle MX series. With a collection ranging from 70-108mm at times, it was like the 911, 911S, 911 Turbo, GT2, GT3 ... The FX collection was like the Boxster/962, lighter, more playful and some will now argue, better 911's.
To continue the analogy, i rarely see skiers on the MX series ski them to their potential. Much like drivers in a 911.
 
Back when 80mm under foot was considered wide, I had a pair of Fischer Big Stix. I don't know if the name resonated with the pubic but I can testify that it sure resonated with lifties. "Here comes the Big Stix" is what I most commonly heard when loading at different chairs on different mountains. The skis were bright orange in an era of not very flashy graphics but I think it was the Big Stix name that really clicked with people, especially very bored lifties.

There were several numerical designators for mid-70s waist to 80-something - and then they brought the name back in the 2010s and had several Big Stix - 98, 100, 110, 122

I kind of liked the mid-70s models but other skiers thought them limp and lifeless. I really liked the 100+ models.
 
Interesting industry branding article. This is more on the boot side, but do you think in 2-3 years people will have brand recognition for the K2 Revolver\Method\Diverge ski boots that are part of the K2 Fl3x collection? Or will they still refer to them by the former brand (Full Tilt)? It takes a long time to build brand awareness. I tend to prefer continuity. Everybody knows what a Corolla, Tacoma, and 4Runner are and their purpose.
Many still refer to the Full Tilt models as Raichle…from which they originated and still emulate.
Those 3 piece accordion fronts look identical to the original Flexon models that started them off.
 

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