High performance art: a chat with competitive skier and award-winning designer Andreas Pichler

By Michelle Johnson | 14 Apr 2022 | Leaders, Design

The Italian visionary founded Foil to deliver the most luxurious bespoke skis in the world. Here, he tells us about the quest for perfection – and love of Alpine living – that drives him

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For many designers, the adage ‘form follows function’ is the beating heart of innovation. But just because a design needs to meet its objective doesn’t mean it can’t also be a piece of art. This is the credo of Foil, the bespoke ski company founded by award-winning designer and former professional competitive skier, Andreas Pichler.

Foil creates skis that are, in Pichler’s words, “high performance art”. Using exquisite materials and designed to the buyer’s exact specifications, these bespoke wooden skis are as at home racing down the slopes as they are displayed as a piece of art upon the wall.

With famous fans including Arctic explorer Inge Solheim and actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, Foil is perhaps most widely known for its limited-edition Oro-Nero skis, which went viral when announced in 2018. The decadent edition is crafted from 8,000-year- old certified Bog-Oak with 14 carat gold plated bindings. Each order comes with a handcrafted leather carry, poles and inlays, and priced at an astonishing $65,000 (£48,000).

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“The Oro-Nero skis really represent my love for this lifestyle, rather than being just a gimmick,” says Pichler. “These really are the Rolls-Royce of skis. I wanted to use the most precious wood I could find, which is this Bog- Oak that costs $550,000 per cubic metre for the wood alone. The material and gold binding don’t change the performance, but the finishing is beautiful.

“For me, I wanted to know how far I could go in perfecting a product, and this is truly a piece of art that should be kept on the wall,” he adds. “Although, I do have clients who use them every day.”

Foil’s story begins with the combination of Pichler’s two passions: skiing and design. A fifth-generation artist and designer from the medieval town of Doellach, Austria, he joined the country’s ski team at a young age, competing professionally until the age of 20 in events including the Alpine Ski Europa Cup.

“I grew up in the Renaissance era of skiing,” he says. “My dad built his own skis, so I was surrounded by fascinating wooden and vintage skis. They didn’t have any real lifts in the town, so we prepared our own slopes to have races. It was really beautiful.

“But I was struggling with whether I wanted to be a skier or a designer. I was evaluating my gifts and, ultimately, the ability to be a great craftsman and designer was more appealing to me than pursuing a skiing career.”

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Pichler moved to Los Angeles at 25 to work with musicians, creating custom guitars and design concepts for companies such as Fender and Red Bull. However, while his career went to new heights, Pichler did not ski for a decade until, aged 30, he hit the slopes with friends.

“When I picked up skiing again, I realised how much I love the whole lifestyle,” he says. “I found an amazing custom ski-maker in Italy – Alessandro Marchi – and I was totally blown away. The difference in performance made me fall back in love with skiing.”

Pichler teamed up with Marchi to co-found Foil, offering the ski-makers bespoke, high performance approach with his own flair for sleek design and rare materials.

Two-and-a-half years later, the first Foil skis were hitting the slopes to great acclaim. Schwarzenegger said: “Foil Skis are one- of-a-kind. I have never before seen such craftsmanship, nor have I experienced such balance and ease of control on a pair of skis.”

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The quality of custom skis is night and day, says Pichler, who explains that Foil takes height, weight and physical form into consideration when designing for their clients.

“Often, with generic racing skis, it feels like you’re battling against all the forces. Our custom skis are in perfect balance with you, so they respond to you,” he says. “When your skis are in tune to your body and your ability, skiing feels effortless. You just dance down the slopes.”

Foil’s two central models are an all- mountain ski, which is perfect for any slope conditions and a racer-style ski for those with a competitive edge. “When we begin the customisation process, we ask how often you ski, where you ski, what you preferred conditions are like. All this is important to making sure your skis fit like a perfectly- tailored suit."

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In addition to creating super-bespoke skis, Pichler is determined to ensure Foil is curating truly luxurious options for stylish skiers. With a lifestyle offering based in Courchevel, skiers can rent Foil skis and benefit from one of the brand’s own ski instructors. Soon, Foil will offer customised boots, outfits and more to complete the experience.

“We want to offer the whole experience,” Pichler says. “Skiing is becoming more and more of a lifestyle. So, our vision is to create a small club, more like a family, which offers all the benefits of Foil’s high-performance products and instructors – a kind of concierge service.”

Pichler’s competitive nature certainly drives his quest for perfection, but when asked about his own favourite places to ski, there is a romance that shines through, too.

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“I always like to ski where there’s a lot of sun,” he says. “There are so many beautiful places in the US, such as Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and Aspen in Colorado. In Europe, the lifestyle of the French Alps is amazing. You get the whole experience: perfect slopes, the social aspect – you can connect with nature and with people.

“That’s what skiing means to me,” he adds. “When I compare today’s plastic skis to the wooden skis of old, I miss the superb art of the product. I want to create the Steinway Piano of skis, to represent the absolute pinnacle of this lifestyle – which is timeless beauty.”