Eco-serious, powder obsessive Chamonix residents – ZAG Skis – have been producing some of the most innovative, high performing freeriding skis that money can buy since 2002.
As fellow locals, we’ve kept up with their journey and have been impressed by their endless strive to produce the best they can. Imprinted on their office walls is the motto –Climb High or Stay Home– an inspirational reminder that they’re in the game of producing lightweight skis that enable previously unreachable powder.
Especially when there’s a pair of skis in ZAG’s range that weight just 1kg!
This week, we sat down with Antoine Malatray from ZAG Skis to talk us through the challenges they’ve overcome to get to this point, how their sponsored riders are getting on and their mission to ensure that their eco-footprint is as sustainable as possible. Let’s get to it!
Night Slides (NS): Antoine, thanks for joining us today and welcoming ZAGs to our platform! So first off, it’d be great hear about where the idea to start making your own skis from?
Antoine Malatray (AM): Thanks Mark, glad to be hear with you and Night Slides! Well originally, ZAG Skis founder –Stephane Radiguet aka ZAG– was a designer for Nidecker Snowboards for 15 years shaping snowboards for a living. His vision was that he wanted skiers to have the same sensations as snowboarders when out on the mountains and soon after that the ZAG brand was then one of the first to add some rocker on its skis!
We hit the ground running with our first award as brand newcomer back in 2003 at Munich ISPO:ZAG Skis ISPO Munich 2003 – Brand Award
Our primary goal is to design very intuitive and high-performing skis – Antoine Malatray
NS: They certainly perform differently to the typical bigger brand manufactured skis. So in creating ZAG – the brand – did it originally have a certain type of skiing style it wanted to focus on?
AM: The claim of the company used to be the pure freeride company. Certain skis have become emblematic like the H-112 which was ‘H’ for Hospital and the number 112 was referring to the emergency number and the SLAP range. We want the skiers to discover a unique riding experience. The first touring skis were launched in 2012 (Adret and Ubac) and were a great unexpected success for us all.
NS: I remember testing a pair of Ubac in my ski instructor days in Verbier, they were insane! And of course with ZAG being based in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts behind the move and the research and development process.
AM: So the brand was relocated to Chamonix nearly a decade ago back in 2010 and we decided to open our Concept Store. Our main office is now 200m away from Les Grands Montets resort. ZAG opened ZAGLab in 2015 and we are now able to create all of our prototypes and test them in record time which has helped speed the process up really quick.
We always had the goal to satisfying the many different tastes of our customers. Always hungry to improve, the R&D team spends its time studying innovative shapes, constructions and materials. Being so connected with the environment has always been a great source of inspiration for us all at ZAG.
NS: Since you were founded back in 2002, the ski industry has changed a lot in a number of ways, what have you found to be the biggest challenge over the past 17 years?
AM: It sure has, and it hasn’t been easy at all throughout that time. As a small brand, we have decided to stay focused on our niche market: freeriding and touring skis. ZAG is now well-known in the industry for its skiability. That to us means we have succeeded in our mission by having great skiability in both our freeriding and touring skis alike. And that’s a good feeling!
NS: Over the last few years we have been enduring some changeable weather patterns over the global winters/summers too. With that, there has been an increased focus now on our environmental impact to the planet. What steps is ZAG taking to contribute to a solution?
AM: We launched the ZAGreen Program in 2017. With that, we commit ourself to reducing the environmental impact of our own activity and that of our community. These actions are carried out internally and target both ZAG’s organisation and its products. The connection to nature pushes ZAG’s R&D team to create products that are respectful to the environment, especially through the use of new materials or design.
The compliance of our touring range with the standards of 1% For The Planet permits ZAG to achieve its goal: to preserve the outdoor playground and dedicate itself to the preservation of Chamonix Valley.
NS: Recently, at the final stop of the Freeride World Tour in Verbier, Switzerland, your team rider Wadeck Gorak won the event. This must have been great to witness, knowing that all the time and effort spent in development and testing has worked.
AM: Yeah for sure it felt great! We started our collaboration with Wadeck two seasons ago. He was very impressed by the behaviour of our SLAP 112 and managed to qualify for the Freeride World Tour on the last stage thanks to his serious season. His feedback is very appreciated and has helped us to find small improvements in the way we develop our models. Working closely with riders like this has been invaluable to our progression.
NS: Finally, what can the world expect to see from ZAG Skis over the coming year?
AM: The new H-Patrol line represents our goal to develop intuitive and performing skis. Between the many skis offered in this range, we aim to create the perfect ski for every kind of skier. On-piste or off-piste, everyone will find what they are looking for!
NS: Thanks for your time today Antoine and all the best with ZAG – we can’t wait to ride the new range!
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