You know Line Skis, but do you know the person who designs every single ski that Line comes out with?
His name is Jed, and he is one of our favorite people in the ski industry to talk to (we went on the record about this two years ago in our SIA Awards), because he is passionate about skiing and ski design.
He also happens to be really smart and candid, and someone you’d actually want to go skiing with.
Jed’s smarts and candor and enthusiasm were all on display again in our recent conversation, whether he is discussing the nuances of ski design, or what it’s like to work with industry icons like Seth Morrison and Eric Pollard, or when naming some of his favorite skis from other brands (hint: they’re not the skis you’d probably expect from a guy who designs for Line.)
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jed Yeiser:
BLISTER: Tell us a bit about your background: when did you start skiing, and where?
JED: I started skiing when I was two years old, on injected-plastic skis from LL.Bean. Growing up in north-central Vermont, I spent most of my early days skiing at Stowe and Sugarbush, and took a yearly trip to Colorado—usually Beaver Creek.
BLISTER: You raced, correct? Till when?
JED: I started racing when I was 10, with the GMVS ski club at Sugarbush.
I loved skiing before I started racing, but really got hooked when I started at GMVS. I raced through college (I went to Middlebury), then started doing beer league races in engineering school.
I still get up to Alpental once a week or so to do City League races here in Seattle.
BLISTER: How old were you when you first started thinking about designing skis? And did you ever build any of your own, or were you more of a design doodler / drawer than a builder?
JED: Que long story: I’ve been a tinkerer for as long as I can remember – there are very, very few things that I didn’t try to build as a kid, including skis.
The skis I made as a kid were… well, basically 2×4’s that I cut with a jig saw. As a teenager, I’d take every pair of skis I broke and cut them up in my shop at home. As soon as I started to develop an understanding for what goes into ski design and manufacturing, I realized that it was WAY over my head, and I started looking for simpler products that had similar requirements.
I landed on longboards, and spent the next 3-4 years playing with different materials and constructions until I felt like my skills as a ‘craftsman’ were ready to take on the challenge that skis presented.
At that point I was in college and didn’t have much time to dedicate to shop work, but every vacation I had I was back in my barn building jigs, fixtures and a ¾ ton press.
Turning my shop into a place where I could build skis took years, partly because I didn’t have as much time to spend on the project, but mostly because I’d get 80% through building a jig or fixture and realize that there was a better way to skin that particular cat. So I’d start over.
The first skis I started to build were based on a friend’s 183 girl’s Nordica GS skis. I basically took the sidecut from those skis and bumped it out to 95mm underfoot. I used bamboo flooring for the cores, and P-Tex sidewalls. As I was putting the finishing touches on my press, I got my job as a design engineer at K2, and progress ground to a halt. So I never actually built any skis in my shop, but the press, cores, and jigs are still at home waiting for me.
BLISTER: Was your first design job with K2? Or K2 and Line, or K2 then Line?
JED: Well, both, kind of. I work for K2 Sports, which owns both K2 skis and Line skis. I am the only engineer that works on Line skis, and one of three that works on K2.
While I do design work for both brands, the design and development process for each brand is unique, and we put a great deal of effort into ensuring that they remain separate entities.
BLISTER: What are some of the skis you’ve worked on, and what are some of your favorite skis that you’ve worked on?
JED: I’ve designed every Line ski that’s come out since 2012.
I’ve focused on the Men’s All Mountain skis for K2, but also dabbled in some of K2’s freeride skis.
As far as my favorite projects, the Line Influence 115 (now the Supernatural 115) will always be special to me, because it was the first ski that I designed that I really loved.
Since then, the Line Supernatural 108, K2 Bolt, and the new K2 Annex 118 (Seth Morrison’s pro model) have been added to my list of favorites.
BLISTER: Part of your job is to work with K2 and Line athletes, and I assume that some of them are easier to work with than others. Are there any collaborators who stand out?
JED: Working with athletes is awesome, but some are definitely better to work with than others. From a development perspective, I’m really looking for concrete, concise feedback on skis. I’ve given some athletes skis and gotten feedback like ‘Yeah, I like the ski, they’re great’, which gives me absolutely nothing to work with—they liked the ski, that’s about it.
But what about the ski did you like? And why? Is there something else that the ski could do that would help? What aspects of the ski are working, and need to be preserved as we move through the development process?
I’d much rather have an athlete tell me how horrible a ski is—and exactly why that ski is horrible—than have them simply tell me that they ‘liked the ski’.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with two of the most articulate, driven, and invested (albeit— and I’ll just say it—particular and visually-oriented) athletes out there: Eric Pollard and Seth Morrison.
Both of those guys give me immediate feedback that I can work with, and they’re incredibly invested in the final product. Both Eric and Seth have an incredibly clear idea of what they’re looking for, and they can be brutal when you miss the mark. But they’re very clear about how and why the skis you sent them aren’t working.
Eric in particular is incredibly involved. Every ski I’ve developed with him begins with a cardboard cutout he makes, and hours of phone calls and in-person meetings.
He’s also one of the most genuine, fantastic people I’ve had the good fortune to come across. So if it comes down to giving the nod to any one athlete over the others, Eric gets that nod without question. It would stun me if anyone who’s worked with Eric at another company didn’t feel the same way.