Words by Matt Masson
“You never really know what’s going to happen when a company gets sold to a big corporation, but coming here to Utah, everybody is back, they’re getting the band back together. The ideas are flowing.”
That’s how Mike Hornbeck described Armada’s athlete summit, which took place last winter at the HQ in Utah, following a couple of challenging years.
Armada is a company close to many skiers' hearts. It was the first rider-owned and rider-driven manufacturer to be born from ‘Newschool Skiing’, when it was formed in 2002. Founders included skiers Tanner Hall, JP Auclair, JF Cusson, Julien Regnier, Boyd Easly and filmmaker Erik Iberg, alongside Chris O’Connell and Hans Smith, who ran the day to day business. Since then, they have been a part of so many of the most memorable moments in skiing’s revolution.
Countless seminal moments in the history of skiing, such as Tanner’s fateful accident (and subsequent redemption) at Chad’s gap and Harlaut’s game-changing nose butter triple cork 1620 at X Games 2013 went down on Armada skis. The iconic image of multiple pairs of AR5s being held aloft above the X Games podium will never be forgotten. Indeed it was recreated with Henrik’s pro-model in the wake of the madness of 2013, one of Dollo’s many career defining moments. History was made again in 2011, when another Armada skier, Torin Yater-Wallace won a Superpipe silver and became the youngest ever X Games medalist, at the age of just 15. Speaking of X Games, the current team alone has graced the podium a total of 29 times, with 15 golds. In a totally different realm of skiing, Frenchman Tof Henry is currently redefining the way way people are skiing steeps, using his Armadas to tackle some of the most challenging terrain imaginable.
Put 'em up! Tanner Hall's iconic X Games slopestyle win
Armada’s skiers are nothing if not versatile. As well as dominating contests, the same skiers have regularly featured in legendary movie segments. Tanner’s aforementioned mishap where he undershot Chad’s gap and broke both of his ankles, featured in Poorboyz Productions’ 2005 offering: Pop Yer Bottlez. Their team has starred in countless other movies over the years. Tanner’s early days with Poorboyz progressed into his own movies, from Believe in 2007 all the way to this season’s hotly anticipated Here After. 'BE Inspired', a 2 year project by Armada skiers Phil Casabon, Henrik Harlaut and movie director Eric Iberg is a standout movie in the history of skiing, an instant classic, surpassing Phil and Henrik’s already high benchmark. And those few are just the tip of the iceberg. Chances are that you’ll see a pair of Armada’s in pretty much every ski movie from the last decade. Armada have even produced plenty of their own content, with 2014’s Oil and Water another standout moment for the brand.
Tragedy struck the family in 2014, when JP Auclair, one of Armada’s founders, died in an Avalanche in Chile. The Canadian freeski pioneer left a hole in the community but the company he helped found, have tried to continue the traditions that he helped to set in place. Wherever they go the Armada spirit has always been there; constantly pushing the boundaries on and off the hill. This has created a generation of skiers who grew up with Armada and have been desperate to push their own boundaries, using the same gear as their heroes.
Many of us feared that when Armada was bought by Finland-based Amer Sports in 2017, that the Armada-spirit would be lost. Now, a year down the road, the dust has settled and while some things have changed, the team, fundamentals and mission of one of the pioneering freeski brands have emerged more focused than ever.
THIS IS ARMADA: The Manifesto, drops today, alongside Armada’s new website featuring all the 2019 gear. In the video, Tanner, Edollo, BDog and the rest of the Armada family remind us that the mission remains the same and that with added support, the future looks brighter than ever.
The Manifesto also marks the start of a new series of videos. The series, This is Armada, will focus on the AR Family members, with six different episode dropping throughout the season. It was filmed at the Armada Athlete Summit in Park City where the whole team, from athletes to in-house employees met up to renew Armada brand articulation and set the vision for all future product development and marketing concepts. It’s no secret that the years prior to the takeover were tough and perhaps a little bit disjointed. Winter 2019 feels more like the Armada we know and love.
“It was time for a change, but Armada has been changing the game every year." - Tanner Hall
Despite the takeover, the majority of personnel have remained on board throughout the transition, ensuring brand integrity remains intact and the athletes are well taken care of. Armada Brand Director, Tom Suesskoch says that everybody in the whole organisation is “Aligned like never before and just really fired up to add to the ideas and vision.” The Utah-based company has never been afraid of trying new things.
“Armada was a revolution in the sport and it always represents the progression of what’s next.” - Sammy Carlson
That progression shows no sign of slowing down and, if the Armada family are all pulling in the same direction, that can only be a good thing for everyone that loves skiing. As Armada GM and co-founder Hans Smith puts it. “The added financial security resulting from the takeover became essential to allow us to grow, and yet retain the core values that have made it great in the first place. Armada’s strength has always been in brand building and product development.” Being there from the birth of the company, Smith knows the philosophy better than most and it wasn’t something he was willing to compromise. "We are still 100% in charge of running the business. Amer justs adds financial strength and provides operational efficiencies, which in return frees up the resources to really focus on what the company does so well. The very things that sparked the founding of Armada back in 2002.”
Henrik Harlaut sums up the feeling at HQ nicely, where Armada see themselves at “the birth of another golden era, we all see so clear what needs to be done.” If he’s right about that ‘golden era’, with the band back together and the added behind-the-scenes support, these are definitely exciting times for Armada.
Check the new website out now: https://armadaskis.com