Situated slap bang in the largest ski area in Switzerland, home to some of the most challenging terrain out there, and the only town to host the Freeride World Tour every year since its conception in 2008, Verbier is arguably the global capital of freestyle and freeride. It comes as no surprise then that it is also the birthplace of The Faction Collective – a ski and apparel company who have emerged as one of the fastest growing independent brands in the global ski market since the company began in 2006.
I was fortunate to be able to have a sit down with Faction’s Marketing and Team Manager and fellow Scot Beanie Milne-Home to find out a little bit more about the high rated and innovative brand….
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from and what your role is at Faction.
I grew up in Scotland and that is where I spent my formative years on skis which led me into instructing whilst I studied at University. After University I started to compete in Freeride and Freestyle comps and met Tony McWilliam, the founder of Faction in 2005 when we shared a flat. I enjoyed competing but always wanted to be involved in the design and development of the brand so when Tony offered me a place on the Faction team with a supporting role of brand ambassador with a view to becoming more involved I jumped at the opportunity. In 2010, yet another knee injury put me out and I moved to Verbier in the summer to work on the social media side of things. Two days a week became five, then full time, and now I am Marketing and Team Manager for the brand.
Give us some background on Faction - how did the company start and how has it developed in recent years?
The Faction Collectve was formed in 2006 by a group of skiers with backgrounds in design, marketing, sales and a lot of skiing. They wanted to build skis that they wanted to ski. At this time only the big brands were building skis and they were reluctant to progress the "freeski" market so Tony and friends thought they would do it themselves.
In a competitive marketplace, what do you think makes the Faction brand stand out?
Our motto is Design, Technology and Innovation. We want to make products that inspire and excite us and work with new technologies to keep moving the sport forward. There are always things out there to be discovered and developed and that is what motivates us. For us, manufacturing quality is also incredibly important. We only want to produce high quality products that are within an affordable range for your average skier. This is why we offer our two year warranty and are one of the first independent brands to do so.
Faction are jointly based in both Verbier and Breckenridge - is the manufacturing done in Switzerland and what happens at the other base in Colorado?
Verbier has been our headquarters since the start. It is the main hub of the brand with the design and development taking place here. Breckenridge is at the heart of the North American ski industry and as a result there is no better place to be to ensure that we are on the pulse of developments in the industry.
Faction are linked with perhaps the most exciting skier on the planet right now - Candide Thovex - how did this association come about and what does it mean to Faction to have him on board?
A mutual friend put us in contact as he thought Faction would be a good fit with Candide due to our interest in design and developing new products. Through discussions we got on incredibly well and Candide's desire for lighter skis led us to develop the Candide Superlight Series which we will be expanding in 2013.
You must get thousands of applications to be on the Faction team - what do you look for in a potential rider and what does it take to get on the Faction team?
There are definitely no shortage of team applications that's for sure. When it comes to potential riders I look at a number of factors: videos obviously are a good indicator in terms of skiing ability but to be a pro rider, you need to have more than just that. A potential rider needs to show me that they are media savvy and can promote themselves across a number of media platforms from Twitter to Instagram to working with photographers. A well drafted and professional sponsorship letter rather than "Oi, sponsor me I'm better than X or X rider" will definitely get you a lot further. Competition results can be very helpful but again, they are not everything. One of the best ways to get sponsored is to meet people on the ground in the ski industry - other team riders, reps, and distributors who can see talent first hand and vouch for personalities.
Working as a Team Manager for one of the hottest ski companies on the planet sounds like a dream job - what are the best bits about it?
Working for Faction skis has been amazing. One of the best bits of my job is the diversity - as a growing company we all cover numerous roles and are able to get an insight into every aspect of the business. Watching the team riders and actually the company itself, grow, develop and succeed is incredibly satisfying.
The Freeride World Tour landed in Europe this week - do Faction have athletes riding in the tour and who do you think we should look out for this season?
We have three Canadian team riders in the Freeride World Tour, Laurent Gauthier who took fourth place in Revelstoke and is off to a strong start this winter. Luke Nelson and Ben Ogilvie are also competing, both incredibly strong skiers who bring their own style to the competition, so I recommend that you watch them all!
What's new for Faction this year and how do you see the brand developing in the future?
As always, there is lots going on here at Faction and we have many exciting developments planned. We have been working closely with Candide to advance his 2013/2014 range as it has been enormously successful thus far. There are also changes taking place across the product range that will be launched at this month's tradeshows. I can't give too much away at the moment but check back in with us soon. Alongside all these developments we have developed a full range of technical outerwear that communicates specifically to us as skiers. So as you can see it is an exciting time at Faction with lots happening.
Verbier has an amazing reputation for freeride - as a local can you tell us a little bit about the skiing in Verbier and some of your favourite runs in the area...
Verbier's freeride is second to none. Every winter the terrain changes with the varying snow conditions and something unskiable one year becomes a favourite the next. There is so much good lift accessed terrain and with short hikes you can open out whole new areas. You can go two weeks after a snowfall and still find amazing conditions not too far from the pistes. It is such a huge area when you incorporate the whole of The 4 Valleys and I think I am only just beginning to scratch the surface. This year I have been riding the Attelas colouirs and Bascombe trees a lot which are all within the Verbier area.
Do you have any personal goals for 2012/2013 either on or off the snow?
Personal goals, not really, just to try and get out skiing as much as possible and have good days in the mountains with friends.
And finally - in your product line-up is the retro Monoski - talk us through that!
The Mono! Well, it started as a joke.....we thought it would be pretty funny to introduce a Mono to the line-up, but once we got underway we wanted to do it properly and so we introduced Rocker technology, flat camber and our STP technology which helps reduce weight and improve edge performance. Once we added all these elements it resulted in a high performance Mono that is lots of fun compared to the traditional models as the Rocker and flat camber make it easier to turn. We have also discovered lots of avid Mono skiers out there - VIVE LE MONO!!
A big thanks to Beanie for taking the time to answer our questions.