Micro Marques

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Small, but perfectly formed. Their annual output might number in the hundreds but one thing that stood out at the 2003 Mondial du Ski were the number of small ski manufacturers who have established themselves over the last couple of years.

It seems that just as the big boys have got everything sorted, superb skis for every possible occasion, we’re looking for something more, a certain je ne sais quoi, something that speaks for us as an individual not as a focused grouped, productized market segment. But even amongst the micro-marques there is a certain snobbery: at the haute couture end of the market are PMGear? and Boheme? while Zag and Movement aim to be exclusive Pret a Porter.

La Bohème (happiness). Most English speakers know the word from Giacomo Puccini’s opera. These skis are as beautiful as an opera from Maria Callas herself. Boheme are more of a feeling, a philosophy than a ski manufacturer. The skis are built and finished using exotic wood. But don’t worry too much about the rain forest, out is currently around 30 planks a year. Boheme are experts in the Bonneval Backcountry and although the skis have a retro look they are at home in the vast fields of powder found in their favourite spot.

The skis start at around 1100 €, but that includes a Fritschi Diamir Freeride? binding. Our testers found them excellent on their home ground of powder but they are not really skis for hard, icy pistes. To ski Boheme you need to have the spirit of the snow.

small ski manufacturers

Nope, you can't beat a good bit of Hickory

Movement and Zag are the big fish in this small pond. Both have output hovering around 2000 pairs. Movement use Duret for their design expertise and manufacturing.

The graphics on all the skis are a long way from the crazy patterns and thermonuclear colours of the big boys. Sage mais Sexy (restrained but sexy) as the French say. They certainly stand out and get comments in the queue for the télépherique. We particularly liked the Movement Freeride Thunder. Movement are imported into the UK by Noble Custom.

Bourg St Maurice based Zag has made the crossover from the world of snowboarding which they felt had stagnated of late. Stephane “Zag” Radiguet, the designer still works as a consultant for Niedecker Snowboards and had access to their extensive resources for the design. The influences are clear, the lines give an almost asymmetrical look (they are not) that left opinion amongst our testers divided. As Franck Bernes, Zag's Pyrénées representative explained, you have adopt a different style with the Zags, more like snowboarding, riding the skis with weight slightly backwards. This is obviously not for everyone. The Zag Gold is the tool for freeride skiing, 191 cm long but close to 1000 € in the shops. It is available in a strictly limited edition.

Franck Bernes-Heuga on the slopes at La Mongie

Franck Bernes-Heuga on the slopes at La Mongie

A number of points stand out with all these skis. Construction uses more traditional materials. The wood cores make them suitable for mounting Telemark bindings, Boheme and Movement all had Telemark skis to test and Zag tells us that telemarkers also use their boards. Going against the trend, all the skis aimed at off piste were available in larger sizes. Of course surface area equals floatation. We were surprised at how light the skis were compared to the titanium ribbed, Kevlar reinforced designs of the big manufacturers. But this is an important point if you have an hour's yomp ahead of you.

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