…The thing you first notice about the founder & main driving force behind the United States Ski Pole Company a.k.a USSPC is how refreshingly straightforward he is. In the world where we all are increasingly afraid of inadvertently offending somebody, being direct is a luxury a few can afford. Sportsman, coach, writer and entrepreneur – meet Andy Liebner, the guy who is trying to change the cross country ski gear industry, one pole at a time.
“I’m an opportunist and seized an opportunity to acquire a former golf club factory and re-engineer it into a ski pole factory. I’m from Soldotna, Alaska. Competed in both skiing and Biathlon in the U.S. and Europe. Author of Wild Shot (a ski book). Earned a Coaching and Nutrition degree from Northern Michigan University and passionately coach on the side. Taught a Peruvian Roberto Carcelen to classic ski, who competed in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and I as his coach….”
We do not believe in lenghty reads here at the Dailyskier, so have decided to split the interview with Mr.Liebner into two parts. that would be published separately: in Part 1 he talks about ski poles themselves – in the second part, addresses what he sees as unfairness of the current market practices – and what’s to be done about them, in his opinion. Answers ( and questions) were left practically unedited – hopefully, you would be able to feel a raw power of the guy’s character through the way he speaks.
– Let’s hear it directly from the source: what makes good poles to be good? And what is that we, skiers, need to take into consideration when choosing them?
– Not all skiers need the same stiffness, not all skiers need the same weight.
– Too stiff of pole will have a higher probability to punch through. Too soft for others won’t provide enough in hard packed.
– Too light and a side wind can cause more swing issues.
– Balance is important.
– The thing about “Top models” is that a pole should be fit for the skier demand. We’re hoping to educate skiers about a better pole fitting rather than assuming a pole quality is not dictated by price.
– We’re also developing poles for different distances just like track and field spikes.
– What do you see as advantages that the USSPC poles have over competition?
Deluxe Thermal Straps (4 quick size settings like no other brand).
– Foam anti-chaffing grips (also ergonomic (wider for better performance)).
– Super light and stiff shaft quality.
– Custom graphics for individual, team or shop marketing.
– Year-round tip with real Pennsylvania carbide (super durable) 3 basket size options.
All are sold at very competitive prices and 2-year no-questions-asked warranty on all products.
– Would you actually go on record and say it loud & clear: the USSPC poles are good enough for Jessie Diggins or Alex Harvey – the only reason they are not using them is marketing?
Oh yes, we make world class poles. We as a small company cannot yet afford to pay the steep sponsorship fees of the teams, then the athletes need payment on top of that. Even when that day comes, its smart business to be able to publicize and market those teams and athletes to receive proper benefit of the entire marketing cycle to support sustained growth by sponsoring any national team athletes which require large sums of cash for their use
– Skiers keep on hearing about “Internal Pressure Molding” ( one brand) , “Titanium reinforced shafts” ( another – and it sure helps to promote the product. What’s your take as a competitor, a rival producer of ski poles: do they really have proprietary technologies that work – or is it all but a marketing mumbo-jumbo?
I’d need to know more information about those statements before responding. General response- take a look at what’s on the shelf and do what’s necessary to actually use the products before buying. There are features of a pole that are equally important as the shaft. All brands just promote the shaft properties, primarily because their grips, straps, and baskets they can’t innovate well because they’re all made in Asia. Ask any of our customers of our most recent products about the importance of components and you’ll discover they realized after using ours, they’ll never use any product that doesn’t have equal or better support by the hand connection and better functioning baskets. Yes, a basket can make a huge difference too. If you’re punching through, your product is failing. We’ve got this covered better than any brand of all time with our patented quick release basket system that skiers can conveniently carry baskets with them and snap them on and off within seconds.
All our baskets lay flat, so they will fit in pockets. They also have 2 return airways to remove any suction of baskets like most of the big brands.
– You are, obviously, primarily aiming at the North American ski market– do you sell outside the US and Canada too?
Yes, although we have not advertised outside of the U.S. or Canada. We’ve sent orders to Asia, Scandinavia, Europe, and Russia.
– Top question on every skier’s mind: poles are expensive and fragile . Is it possible to make unbreakable poles? What would it take?
We began development on the unbreakable pole this summer. With more sales growth we can progress with innovation faster. It wouldn’t be the first where Americans were the first to innovate.
any idea when it would arrive to the stores – and what it would cost?
No idea yet.
Stand by for Part 2 where Andy talks about marketing, competition and what he sees as unfair business practices & what he intends to do about them.
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