Eric Pollard / ph: Justin Wiegand 2010
THE LINE STORY PART 1
Since 1995 we’ve focused on two things - going skiing and building skis for people that want to have more fun. 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 18 years ago. . . This is our story
Popular mags, and products during the height of action sport’s progression
During the the 80’s & 90’ action sports evolved out of some of the most traditional sports thanks to an explosion of product innovation. The more innovative the product, the more the athlete can do, the more they inspire others to participate & the sport grows.
Popular mags, and products during the height of action sport’s progression
Skateboards became twin tip & symmetric. Mountain bikes
were created by beefing up road bikes. Wakesboards evolved from of water skis. BMX bikes evolved into freestyle bmx bikes. In-line skates from roller skates. Even snowboards were created because skiing simply wouldn’t change.
Typical skis of the day (Green Rossi was Jason’s personal pair)
At the time Jason Levinthal, Line’s founder was a teenage & core consumer of all these sports, living, breathing & observing the product’s and companies evolution daily. His favorite sport….skiing had not beyond the age old long, pointy, straight, stiﬀ, designs.
Photos and ads of the day didn’t had difficulty inspiring young people to choose skiing over snowboarding
The imagery, tricks, and most importantly product of skiing
lame compared to the youthful, rebel, constantly progressing sport of snowboarding.
Which would you choose?
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 entire “ski” industry completely overlooked what skiing could become & jumped on the snowboarding bangwagon.
Jason’s first drawing for his plans to build a twin tipped ski based on cutting snowboard dimensions in half
By 1995 at age 21, Jason Levinthal was a senior at the University of Buﬀalo NY studying product & graphic design and decided
to do something
about it. His 203cm, 65mm wide, stiﬀ, slalom skis, with no sidecut, and a square flat tail was great for doing spread eagles but the wrong design for riding the way he envisioned skiing ultimately needing to go.
Boiling water on Coleman camping stove was pumped through copper pipes to heat & cure epoxy. Pressure was applied using a car jack.
He built a ski, designed like a snowboard using the schools wood shop. The skis had equal height tip and tail, center mounting, symmetric playful flex, deep sidecut and even used the snowboard’s dimensions cut in half - half the width and half the length.
This was the first ski pressed. Jason scavenged for materials literally pulled edges off old skis, made a wood core from lumber, bought boat epoxy & fiberglass, and got some plastic from a local snowboard company, “Function”.
By spring of 95 the school project/prototype was complete, Jason & his friends hiked Holiday Valley resort in Buﬀalo, New York armed with a pair of
twin tip skis. By lunch they were sliding picnic tables, skiing backwards and progressing more in that single day than ever previously possible.
The Levinthal’s one car garage turned ski factory on Ableman Ave. in Albany, New York
Feeling like, this could become more than a college project, Jason moved back in with his parents after graduation to start a new kind of a ski company he named LINE, referencing skiing a line, a bump line or just a path you take. He spent 16 hour days, seven days a week, all summer long learning by trial and error how to build the equipment to build the skis.
! Jason’s home made ski press built from scrap steel
Jason in the basement when running out of space in the garage
By the winter of 1996 it was a one-man ski factory that could turn out one pair in an eight hour day. Jason would make daily trips between the local mountain, Jiminy Peak Resort Mass. or Stratton Vermont and back to the garage to evolve the product further.
Mike Nick throwing Misty 5’s on the side of the road jump near Jay Peak . . . WAAAAY AHEAD OF HIS TIME!
Jason Poaching the “snowboard” park at Stratton. No skiers allowed signs, snowboarders chasing you out & ski patrol pullingl your ticket if they caught you. . . Worth it!
He’d literally wake up, go skiing, come back & build a new ski with changes from what he learned and the next morning go back to
to test it again only to repeat the process the next day. Eventually, you figure out the best possible design.
Line 10’x10’ booth at 1996 SIA tradeshow. Left - Jeff Caron from Catek who built Line’s bindings which let the ski completely flex under foot & mounted using inserts like a snowboard
With approximately 20 pair sold to friends and family (suckers!) Line attended the ski
industry’s biggest tradeshow, SIA in Las
Vegas. Ski shops from all over the country & world attended to see the latest products & place orders for delivery the following winter.
Jason on the home phone calling shops and digging for ways to get the business started from the bedroom of his parent’s house. Notice his pair of Raichle Flexon boots - ten years later he would bring them back to life as “Full Tilt”.
Thousands of shops attended, only a handful even noticed the small 10x10’ Line booth. Line received zero their back… Time to go skiing again.
orders, and barely the shirts on
One of the decks Jason built for people to cover the costs of making skis
Jason moving out of his parent’s garage & into a 1,200 sq’ bigger garage to build the first 1,000 pair order
Two weeks later Jason received a call from the local copy & shipping store regarding a fax received for Line. It was a 1,000
order from Japan. With only 30 pair of
skis ever made by Line, there were more questions than answers. However Jason quickly realized this was the best problem a start up company could have.
Jason taking a break for a Peanut butter & jelly sandwich he’s known for
Highschool friends turned factory employees – Matt Strongin, Matt Connelly (now California sales rep), Jason, Tom Doyle
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 warehouse.
Jason working at the presses
They produced 15 pair a day. It was a long summer but all 1,000 pair were shipped to Japan in the end.
Jason cutting out a few day’s worth of skis
Still no one building full length twin tips
The following winter of 1997 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, “toy-like” versions.
Salomon & others had their own
1998 Wintersport Business ski industry magazine includes special edition focused on covering this new segment of the sport
Thanks to Salomon’s powerful marketing abilities, this new type of ski instantly became the talk of the show. Although it was a small step toward the ultimate future, it was light years ahead of what had been done in the past 20 years, and shops and skiers were reinvigorated, calling it a “skiboard” for lack of a better term to describe it.
Skiers would constantly asked Jason, “why would you want to go backwards?”
At the time Line was the only company making “real” twin tip skis with equal height tip and tails. It was such an original concept that Line even received a design patent for the first twin tip ski. Enforcing it was not Line’s goal, we felt everyone should have the opportunity to build twin tip skis. . . for the good of the sport.
Jason won Bronze with a 540 & his high school friend Mike Nick gold with a 900. (Mike now runs Orage outwerwear)
The winter of 1998, X Games first slopestyle ski event was “Skiboard slopestyle”. 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 switch cork 900’s, misty sevens and grinding rails, never considered possible on traditional skis.
Line was instantly credited as the original, authentic, rider high performance pioneer of this “newschool” style of skiing.
Every real ski factory needs a half pipe in the back
Producing over 40 pair a day, 5,000 pair a summer in Albany, NY
Suddenly Line was on the map & demand grew. We moved to a larger
factory (garage) 2,400sqâ€™ and Jason rallied every family and friend he could convince to build skis all summer long.
Jason in the super mainstream Newsweek magazine. Must have been big news!
Although the product still had a long evolution to go, people were beginning to realize there was a new future of product & riding continued to progress.
the sport possible if the
! Kris testing skis during the summer of 1999 at the Camp Of Champions . COC was the first summer ski camp to allow skiers into their parks. Big shout out and thanks to Ken Achenback! Kris was also the first to throw a McTwist, one of his many pioneered ski tricks in Line ads of the time.
With great momentum under Line’s belt we continue with our vision for skiing’s future. During the winter of 1998/99, Line joined forces with one of the most progressive skiers of the time, Kris Ostness to develop a full length 193cm real twin tip that was years ahead of it’s time named, The
Kris’ personal pro model was named, The Ostness Dragon and the following year he snagged the cover of Powder magazine’s photo annual creating a shock wave across the industry. This was the first
“twin tip” ski on
the cover of a magazine and reinforced Line’s position as an authentic pioneer in the category.
Jason gets the first published photo of a skier on a rail in Freeze Dec 1998
Mike Nick continues to dominate competitions
Jason and Mike Nick continued to believe in the future with actions that spoke louder than words. Together they continue to pioneer innovative products that enabled innovative skiing, essentially more fun on snow. They even created their own winter & summer camps to teach others how to ride park and spread the word.
Legendary Skogen Sprang one-of-a-kind style
Line continued to join forces with unknown skiers that had the talent and the vision for the future of the sport. Skogen Sprang, a long time skier turned
snowboarder returned to his skis to bring progressive
technical rail slides, incredibly smooth style and first ever oﬀ axis rotations. Today, Skogen is the US Olympic freeskiing team coach. Cheer on his team, they’re kind of good and stuﬀ.
Classic Skodeo at Camp of Champions summer 1999
Before we knew it, skiing was in the X Games and Skogen was on the podium. Skogen Sprang won every big air competition he entered during the 2000 season. He pioneering the switch rodeo which no one else could do and a combination rodeo/flat spin that became known as the “skodeo”.
TO BE CONTINUEDâ€Ś the year 2000 (when the world ends)