NERDS + FUN LOVING KOOKS = KOOK STICKS
Welcome to the Kook Stick! Below you will find a deep dive into the making of this dream ski. Some of it is “nerd to know” stuff but why else make dream skis if not to nerd out, try new stuff and have fun! You can get the quick story by watching the video but we suggest you dive deeper into the post below. Read on for why Lib Tech decided to make skis, the legacy of innovation that brought these Kooks to life and why kooks have more fun!
Words by Lib Tech Co-founder and proud Kook Pete Saari
Historical Crap and Innovation
Lib Tech Co Founders Mike Olson and Pete Saari grew up on skis and were able to tap into some of the amazing fun, creativity and joy that lived in the freewheeling 70’s freestyle skiing. It was a special time. The 80s brought heavy litigation and a push towards conservatism at resorts with potentially “hazardous” jumps being destroyed as fast as you could build them. Skiing was still amazing but design was very stagnant. Snowboards burst on the scene and became the outlet for the creative minded, fun and energy that had faded in ski. Snowboarding was the home to alternative design concepts and human snow interfaces. Lib Tech’s Mike Olson is credited with developing the first deep sidecut hardpack focused finless snowboards designs under the Gnu label in 1983. That initial deep sidecut snowboard design worked amazingly well. I can still remember early test days and looking down from the chair and our seeing our deep trenched perfect carved turn marks in the snow for the first time ever. We knew we were onto something special and snowboarding would transition from the backcountry to being a legit hardpack resort friendly mainstream sport. Skiing followed 10 years later with its adoption of deep sidecuts and the shaped ski revolution. We were excited for ski to finally wake up! We had discussed introducing deep sidecuts to ski design in the late 80s but were so wrapped up in snowboarding and building our business that we didn’t take on the project 😊 would have been fun if we had.
We finally had the time and energy to dive into making skis 15 years ago. Our ripping surfer/skier friend and Mt Baker local Tory Bland kept begging us to get it going and we decided to make his dream sticks. We had missed the opportunity to directly introduce deep sidecuts to ski but we were excited about the potential to contribute to ski evolution and bring our serrated edge Magne-Traction® technology to the highly technical world of skiing. We had the priviledge to work with highly talented skiiers over the years and had some amazing successes with Timmy Dutton winning the World Freeskiing championship in Valdez and Jamie Pierre and Mike Wilson both getting heavily involved in our ski designs.
These days we are completely dedicated to our ski program. The addition of our CEO Anthony DeRocco who spent his life as an engineer and GM at K2 has brought a wealth of forward facing knowledge and experience to our sideways sliding minds. We work closely with ripping Bend Skiier Lucas Wachs and the Mt Baker crew on our ski designs. We hand build every pair of skis and are constantly improving our construction, geometries and overall design.
What are Kook Sticks and why are they more fun?
The concept of our Kook sticks began with a frustration with the conservative nature of current ski shapes and graphics and a desire to bring some of that wild creative 70’s freestyle fun into ski again. A ski design that would make an average day at any resort radically amazing. An easy skiing, deep carving ski with a playful freestyle edge…ripping cat track wall hits like a snowboarder, hitting jumps and obstacles switch like Lucas, carving fall line groomers like a World Cup skier, blasting through moguls like Wayne Wong and ripping pow like Bobby Burns on his Black Magics. I began working with our engineer Steven Cobb on a fun and functional shape, carve minded sidecut. We settled on 97 underfoot as a very versatile resort width that would still work in soft snow, a carvy but not overcooked 17 M sidecut and mild early rise.
Kooks are cool
During the course of development there was some internal concern that we would offend actual kooks or people who were concerned with being kooks themselves. When we explained that the heart of fun lives in not giving a shit about what anyone else thinks but at the same time caring deeply about others and that kooks really do have more fun that all melted away. Kook Sticks aren’t really for kooks they are for ripping, creative thinkers who enjoy experimenting on the leading edge of design and performance… technology is fun.
More gifts from snowboarding to skiing
This internal naming discussion stirred up just enough controversy excitement to bring Mike Olson’s attention to the project and he suggested we add one more layer to the Kook concept that we had discussed for skis in the past but never acted on…Banana Technology or rocker underfoot in the ski contour to bring to life the “dead” un-pressurable area between your bindings. Our Patented Banana tech hybrid contours were originally developed for snowboards to improve performance by putting a positive curve in the large space between your feet and varying levels of cambers to the contact points. The results were amazing…it was introduced on the experiMental Lib Tech Skate Banana model 13 years ago and launched snowboard contour design revolution similar to the shape ski revolution. Snowboard design improved radically overnight with better carving, float, more catch free freestyle and general ease of use. The rest of the snowboard industry scrambled to catch up.
Rocker Activated Drive R.A.D.
For the Kook Sticks we developed and tested a unique, smaller, milder ski specific version of “Banana Technology” rocker under foot. Initial tests on existing ski models in our line went really well. We gave this special application of Banana contour theory its own name that felt more descriptive of both the physics of the technology involved and the feeling you get skiing them…Rocker Activated Drive aka R.A.D technology.
Initial R.A.D tests on our existing skis went amazing The Kook sticks officially made it through the red tape and opinion mogulfield that exists in a line development process. Any conservative internal concerns about the new technology not being accepted by the ski establishment could easily be dismissed as a wacky experiment. Those who knew that experimentation into the unknown is where opportunity lives and had no concerns about dignity could tighten up their DIN settings and send it… win win!
Initial theories and tests all pointed to awesome… When we applied our R.A.D. tech to the actual Kook stick geometries and contours the the real magic of the design became very apparent. Ski performance was significantly elevated on multiple fronts with no negative performance impact. The more even efficient pressure along the entire ski that results from the integration of a positive curve under foot reduces the amount of load at the tip and tail required for turn initiation resulting in a very effortless light feel at the tip and tail that easily rolls on edge and at the same time holds in very positive, powerful carves as the RAD middle contour engages under foot. The ski feels nimble and very easy to ski in a wide variety of resort conditions. The mildly de-pressured tip offering a confidence boosting, catch free easy turning ride on hardpack and ice which is ideal for recreational shredders. At the same time the tip and tail are freestyle friendly, the ski floats nicely in soft conditions and when you really put the ski on rail and drive through turns on hardback and ice it holds with unbelievable power and has a performance sports car feel that keeps rippers entertained all day long.
Don’t believe us? Listen to the kooks over at Powder Magazine…
The Kook Stick was selected as one of Powder Magazine’s Best All Mountain Skis of 2021. Here’s a snippet of the review by David Page:
As it happens, the Kook Stick is not just irreverent for the sake of it. It’s nimble and easy-turning, but it also offers a surprisingly long effective edge for surfing big wave groomer turns at high speeds with a proud gaper gap and a wide grin. “I don’t totally understand this ski,” wrote a puzzled Sam Cox, “but it was easy and fun.” Also, like the rest of the Lib Tech line, the Kook Stick is crafted in the Pacific Northwest and friendly to the environment. With zero hazardous waste or toxic attitude, if you ever feel compelled to grow up or get serious—why would you?—you can just bury these in your garden with a bunch of old moldy tomatoes and live ever after on the bounty.
After putting a full season on our Kooks with R.A.D tech it became clear Rocker Activated Drive technology is a very simple and obvious progression step in the development of ski contours and pressure distribution optimization. The Kook sticks rip and flow effortlessly through all kinds resort terrain and really are more fun. What felt like a RADical innovation a year ago now feels like a nerdy old friend you love and can’t live without. Look for more RADness across the line in the future as we continue to develop and refine and integrate R.A.D into other models in the line.