Take two guys born years and mountains apart but with, between them, over four decades of ski design experience. Put them together and what do you get? A unique ski design story, the reincarnation of THE SKI. And a philosophy or two.
STYLE ALTITUDE talks EXCLUSIVELY to The Ski's creators, the legendary Sun Valley hot dogger, Bobbie Burns, 79, its original 70s designer and SCOTT’s French product manager, Hervé Maneint, who took no shortcuts to reintroduce it as the most versatile - and successful - ski in the SCOTT quiver.
Hervé, tell us how you met up with Bobbie Burns to recreate The Ski?
Hervé: This story is amazing: In my past, as a teenager, I was really impressed by some Freeskiers who landed straight from the USA equipped with The Ski, SCOTT boots and Spademan bindings; they were hot dogging, doing freestyle ballet and aerial jumps. In my ski resort (La Plagne). These pioneers were the first in Europe to start a new trend of freedom skiing. This was the early 80s
The Ski (created by Bobbie Burns in the 70s) was, for me, a kind of mythic ski; inaccessible for the universal alpine skier that I was. Years later, I was on summer time testing a new quiver ski with Dan, my engineer. The ski that we were testing was so universal, so easy and versatile but I couldn’t decide on a name.
Finally on the way back from the glacier I had a light go off in my head: ‘This is The Ski’.
So I asked my contacts in the USA about Mr Burns and how to find him and discovered he was living beside my best friend in Sun Valley. Meanwhile, through my friend Mat, Bobbie Burns had asked: ‘Who’s that Frenchy looking for me?’
Once it was explained who I was, he said, ‘I guess this is the beginning of my future troubles!’
When I met Bobbie in the autumn it was like I had met an old friend after several years; we immediately connected. It was a great, great meeting and I will never forget that unique time.
Bobbie Burns and Hervie Maneint, just like old friends
Bobbie, what made you decide to create The Ski in the 70s?
Bobbie: I had a disagreement with my first ski-making employer after several years of creating race skis. I wanted to make soft skis, a bump ski – and they told me, maybe, I should go look for a new job. The owner of the company then asked me to come back, which was very difficult, because this company was my first love! I had a great amount of respect for the owners and they were like family. But after many years, it was time to leave.
Driving to Sun Valley from Seattle, I noticed lots of sagebrush on the side of the highway and I thought, I could make a ski out of sagebrush. Have you ever tried to break sagebrush? The sagebrush ski would not break! Then it was a case of creating a soft high-performance bump ski.
SCOTT was making a one buckle ski boot in many colours. I decided that I would call the ski, ‘The Ski’. No name on top. And use the colours of SCOTT boots in blocks on the ski top and bottom.
So I learned how to make the ski mold. And that was the birth of The Ski of 1971 and winner of 33 World Freestyle Championships!
How do you like today’s SCOTT version?
What can I say? I could not ask for more. It’s like a dream and more is coming. Want to ski better? You should ski on The Ski. By SCOTT. Hervé is great. A special person and friend. And wow can he ski!
'Wow can he ski': Hervé Maneint
Was there an original connection between Bobbie Brown and Ed Scott?
Hervé: There has always been a strong synergy between The Ski and SCOTT philosophy through products; Ed Scott in the 60s was checking the bindings and skis of a certain young racer, Bobbie Burns in Sun Valley. Later Mr Scott continued his collaboration when Bobbie Burns and The Ski was launched. SCOTT poles, SCOTT boots and SCOTT goggles were the must for every Freeskier’s equipment.
Bobbie, you are known as the ‘original hot dogger’ once described as a ‘handlebar-moustached, steel-thighed skier attacking a field of moguls like Errol Flynn attacking a band of pirates’. How did you earn this accolade?
Bobbie: I didn’t start to ski until I was 21/22 years old. I was a springboard and platform diver and I did several years of ballet. And I found my balance point was to stand tall and let my body follow my head and eyes (with ankles’ pressure forward). I also had to sit back when I hit bumps because of stiff skis - if I did not sit back, the skis would stick in the bumps.
Hervé what ski do you ride?
Hervé: Depends. But I still use a universal ski in Chamonix adapted to our long runs: the Scrapper; or mountaineering skis like the Crus’air. which is versatile and safe. I spent 50% of my season last winter on Black Majic ‘every when and everywhere’.
Bobbie, do you still ski? Errol Flynn attacking pirates style or more sedately, these days?
Bobbie: Yes. Slower. l only skied 133 days, last season. But always smiling!
Bobbie Burns always smilling (when not yawning)
Any Freestyle tips?
Bobbie: Hands. Eyes. Ankles. And always be able to see both hands in your ‘peripheral’ vision. Never lose sight of your hands.
The SCOTT slogan, this season, is ‘No Shortcuts’. Hervé, what does this mean to you?
Hervé: It means a lot because it is a true philosophy; how the company runs its employees and product developments. A good example is at lunch time when you see all the workers going out, running, biking with no shortcuts, together. In product design it’s about integrity, respecting each step, doing things the right way for the right reason; not taking shortcuts just to fit a marketing story.
‘Be the best you can be and have fun no matter what’. Bobbie, do you live up to your quote?
Bobbie: Yes. But there is more: ‘It is amazing what a person can do when you know no better than to try’. And: ‘When skiing always smile, you will ski better’. Try it!