Liebe Skii, Ski Love

Published
Aug 16, 2021

Words
Mandy Lamont

Photos
Mandy Lamont

The only Australian made ski brand, Liebe Skii focus is on design, engineering and the use of high quality materials to make high energy, high performance custom skis that last.

Where it all began

An industrial designer and lecturer at RMIT, Gavin spent 10 years in China working in his own industrial design firm. “Nine years in and a whole series of events lined up to make me question whether I’d stay or go. And I decided that I would leave on my 10 year anniversary.” One of the reasons was to spend more time with his family, but Gavin was becoming disillusioned with China. Having very high expectations, he was finding the quality of his designs was being compromised. “I look at design and sustainability in a holistic approach. There’s a fine line between merely good design and great design, both taking more or less the same amount of time. Spending two extra weeks of design to resolve some seemingly insignificant problems, can make all the difference to elevate that good product to great. Making it last decades longer. But I wasn’t seeing that from our manufacturing partners and we were creating loads of projects. Overall I just got a bit disillusioned by it all.”

It also became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to keep the business running if he wasn’t there to run it. So Gavin decided to come home and considered starting a furniture business. Instead of spending his time purely generating designs on a computer, he would use his hands making prototypes that could potentially be reproduced in China.

Returning to Australia

On his return to Australia in 2015, after 10 years in China Gavin was burnt out. Needing a bit of ‘me’ time he bought a go-kart and spent his weekdays at the track trying to rejuvenate himself. It was at this same time that he went to the snow with a buddy. “I started skiing and just fell in love. Hence the Liebe Skii (German for love). My passion for skiing was born and a heap of things that go with that. Beyond that feeling you get whilst actually skiing. You’ve got all the niceties of being isolated in the mountains, a kind of disconnection from the world. You’re in nature which is the biggest perk. And I think there’s something about the altitude, even though here we don’t get super high altitude. But it seems to make a difference. I still remember my first time seeing snow fall in Beijing. I was really amazed by it all.”

Getting to work

So Gavin started making skis straight away. Working with fibreglass since he was 10 making remote controlled planes. He started researching carbon fibre in 1992 when Chris Boardman won gold on his special Lotus bike in the summer Olympics. “It really inspired me to get into carbon fibre. And so for many years I’ve been researching it and understanding it and working with it.” Designing a titanium bike frame for Serk Cycling.

Discovering a straight forward sandwich construction of skis, it was then a matter of reverse engineering the design. Using formulas and geometric shapes in Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to generate designs from the ground up. “Once you start using geometry to define your products, you find that things just flow and it builds itself. As an industrial designer that’s how I like to work because once you’ve got the fundamentals down pat, you can keep evolving them.” Realising you could just strap a fence paling to your foot and ski gave Gavin confidence, he couldn’t fail. “Well, there is a failure point if it doesn’t perform as well as you’ve hoped, or doesn’t perform as you want it to. But ultimately anything you make you can strap to your feet and it will allow you to slide down a mountain. So the barrier to overcome was very small.”

The prototypes

Three ski variations were built to test the fundamentals of the ski design. “There’s not a lot of information out there on how to really design skis. So these three skis allowed me to do the initial testing to make sure that my design philosophy was actually working.” The design changed minimally from the very first ski that was made in 2015. Since then there have been many skis made and tested and now launching to the world.

Every ski is made to order from completely bespoke custom skis to 4 models in the core range. The Carve ski (Carve), Carve All Mountain (CAAM), Powder All Mountain (PPAM) and Freeskii. “These core models are the rudimentary, elementary skis allowing you to test the performance and determine what works best for you. They can be tailored to suit the rider. Making a product that is more durable, we’re looking at skis that will last hundreds of days, not tens of days, before they start to lose performance.”

Liebe Skii, Ski Love

With a love of making good quality technical high performance products. A love of the sport. The love of the mountains. The love of doing what you do and being able to make a business out of it. Gavin is grateful for the sequence of events that led to him making skis. “I couldn’t think of anything else that I could be doing that is as achievable. Where I can really put my talents to work. My ultimate goal is to build a racing vehicle, but step by step.”

Gavin is also opening a skii laab where you can make your own skis at his workshop in Footscray. A four day intensive, learning the fundamentals of ski design. A hands on guided tour using the tools and making your own skis. It’s also completely open if you want to get custom skis made and come in and be part of the process. For more information head to liebeskii.com

You may also be interested in reading about hand made Terra Rosa Gear here

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