be-poles

ZAG Get out of Ubac and re-invent ‘free-rando’

Text: Nomades & Anne Bessaguet - Video: Nomades - Music: Woodlize - Photos: NomadesAntoine Ricardou & ZAG DR

“Our commitment? Preserve our playing field which is now threatened. We are responsible for the impact that we have on the mountain area. ZAG Green, launched recently, is a program that really has as a primary goal to protect it.” 

caroline de wailly, ceo of zag skis
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A mixture of freeride and ski touring. That’s Zag, isn’t it?

Caroline de Wailly

We were originally in freeriding. But back in 2010, we'd already had the idea to create a touring range because we realized that people were very motivated to go ski touring with the ZAG brand. 

We wanted to bring some skiability to the world of ski touring.

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So, wide skis?

Caroline de Wailly

Exactly. And it was by mixing our freeriding skills and our new technology for lightness that we created Ubac. An instant huge success. In early January, we were already out of stock. We did not expect such a huge success. And over the years, the success of Ubac has been constantly increasing because we make it more versatile every time and really good in all snow conditions. The first model was very good in powdery snow but a little less so on hard surfaces but these latest versions are perfect on hard snow surfaces too.

Freeride and freerando, the two sides of the brand.

Caroline de Wailly

Today we manage to balance our volumes, between freeride, freerando and touring with the same values of authenticity and commitment. But only a few years ago – when we released Big, the flagship model of the brand – we did not expect we'd make skis weighing less than 1kg 10 years later.

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Is this related to changes in technology or your research?

Caroline de Wailly

Both. We did not know how to make things so light at the time. But we also follow trends and customer expectations. It is because we go ski touring, that we always need to have super thin and super lightweight skis. Originally, on the one hand there were free-riders and on the other, tourers. We have sought to target the customer in the middle to bring these two worlds together. We wanted to bring some skiability to the world of ski touring. I've always been ski touring and skiability was rather poor while today, with Ubac and now Adret XL, you can really enjoy going downhill on all types of snow.

Did this come from the momentum of people for outdoor and trail? From their desire to leave the tracks?

Caroline de Wailly

Exactly. Not everyone is interested in crowds, packages and ski lifts. And then there is also the notion of effort that is increasingly sought after.

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The beauty of effort...

Caroline de Wailly

Yes, in surpassing oneself. In a wild setting it's also soothing. It responds to a need for surpassing oneself and well-being.

This is a global approach that we put in place with the ZAG Green Program. There is eco-design, of course, but there is also the eco-responsibility of the brand as such, the team and all that revolves around ZAG.

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How is the production carried out?

Bastien Saillard (director of research and development of zag)

We are fortunate to have an in-house prototyping workshop. In 2 days, you can test a prototype and make changes quickly; if we find it too flexible or too stiff, we know that 2 days later, we can ski with it again. Validation of the prototypes is mainly carried out in the Chamonix ski area. Afterwards comes the factory part where we travel to our three production sites. We are dedicated to putting everything in place so that quality is always prioritized.

You are just starting out on the ZAG green range. How do you incorporate new materials to avoid greenwashing?

Bastien Saillard

We are going to review all our ways of working within ZAG, review our offices, our work with suppliers and so on. There is eco-design of course – if I can improve the performance of skis with green materials, it's great – but there is also the eco-responsibility of the brand as such, the team and all that revolves around ZAG. But we can also talk about design, where we come from.

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What year did you start working with be-poles?

Bastien Saillard

In 2013, with ZAG blue and orange. Do you realize? All the design work that we have done. Frankly, when I look into ZAG stock and I see naked girls on skis and monsters (laughter) ... the amount of progress is amazing.

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Yes, it may have played a part in the brand’s growth...

Bastien Saillard

We've created a real visual identity for ZAG over the past three years thanks to be-poles. Today, ZAG skis get noticed, they are colorful, the segmentation is clear between freeriding, ski touring and free-rando ranges and each has its own story. 

It's the be-poles way of working. Drawing in relation to the work of shapers and R&D.

Bastien Saillard

Having fun doing beautiful graphics on skis is not enough for be-poles. I know that they believe that the exterior must also express all the technical nature and inventiveness of the ski. That contributes to the success of the brand and the explosion of our volumes – and with what be-poles is presenting us for the coming years, I can only see great prospects on the horizon.

So what remains to be done?

Bastien Saillard

Commitment and responsibility are two aspects that we wish to develop. Responsibility, for example, through training of all young – or not so young – people in off-piste skiing.

And your commitment?

Bastien Saillard

Preserve our playing field which is now threatened. We are responsible for the impact that we have on the mountain area. ZAG Green, launched last month, is a program that really has as a primary goal to protect it. It is dedicated to climate problems and the degradation of our environment. We are going to put a lot of things in place every day, in our processes, in our efforts to ensure that, in the long term, our playing field is preserved. Over time, this program will make more and more sense.