Freeskiing is devoted to the unadulterated pursuit of pleasure and absolute freedom. Freedom to ski, but also to innovate and to pioneer. The black crows story is foremost about a group of friends determined to fulfil their ambitions and unafraid to challenge the norm. During the winter of 2005, Camille Jaccoux and Bruno Compagnet, two professional skiers and long-time friends, dreamt of a ski which would be the antithesis to the skis then on offer in the freeride ski market. Their vision was a powder ski which combined a wingspan big enough to withstand high-speed turns and a shape which could endure sudden changes in direction. As the general trend in the market was for narrower and flared-out skis, the two riders just couldn't find a model to meet their demands…
It was around this time that they met Christophe Villemin in Chamonix's grands-montets cable car. He was an industrialist, passionate about skiing and mountaineering, who took a keen interest in the technological challenges of mountain equipment. One evening they found themselves around a table in a restaurant in Chamonix, and over a glass of Valpolicella the two skiers described their dream ski and the market which currently failed to reflect the diversity of the freeskiing world. Over the course of the meal an idea germinated to differentiate themselves and create a ski under their own brand. That was the birth of the project for the future Corvus model and for a brand which would soon be known as Black Crows. “At the time we would often have the same conversation about how the ultimate freeride ski didn't exist and how none of the freeride brands around at the time really inspired us... gradually the idea that maybe we should just make it ourselves took hold. by the end of the meal Christophe had offered to back us financially and that was the start of it all,” remembers Bruno. The Corvus, the first black crows model, was conceived as a big ski, that would reign supreme in deep snow and yet be capable of spritely short turns. To find the perfect balance, the two accomplices were first inspired by the numerous freeride skis that they had the chance to demo. “We tested most of the skis in the range we were targeting, and were inspired by certain specificities, flexes and sidecuts. We combined all this, but we messed up and ended up binning the first mould. It was only with the second mould that the wonder child was born,” explains Camille.
The Chamonix community quickly took the first Corvus under its wing. The model was perfect for the long descents on offer in the Mont Blanc massif. When a ski is skied in Chamonix, the capital of freeriding, inevitably, it gets skied elsewhere. soon the word was out on the freeride scene about this new type of ski: big, sturdy, but incredibly easy to handle, a pink and black machine as visually striking as it was efficient. The Corvus was a success with fans of big mountain skiing and black crows struck a chord with the freeskiing world. The launch of the Corvus had another, indirect, consequence. The event held for the launch of the Corvus 196 attracted a lot of people and rapidly turned into a memorable party. The idea was born to associate Black Crows with musical events on particular dates during the winter season. “The party was a big success so we decided to host a series of black crows parties: season-opening, season-closing, pretty much any pretext to reunite freeski lovers. For us, apres-ski goes hand-in-hand with skiing,” explains Camille. “It was also a way to develop our identity and corporate communications. In the same vein, we decided to create a music festival focused on the pleasure of skiing rather than just one night. That's how the Black weekend which is now The Unlimited Festival was born in Chamonix”.
The name, Black Crows, was dreamed up by Camille and alludes to the alpine chough, those black birds with yellow beaks and red claws which belong to the corvid family. Choughs are one of the few birds which can fly at an altitude of over 4000 meters, and provide a reassuring presence for skiers and mountaineers facing the solitude often felt in the high mountains. With a ski and a brand sorted, next up the friends needed to find the right look. It was up to Camille to use his contacts in the art and graphics worlds to find the future black crows artistic director. One of Camille's contacts was Yorgo Tloupas, a well-reputed french designer living in London who was particularly passionate about snowboarding. It was thanks to the name black crows and the concept of a community of skiers that Yorgo developed the design base and the look for the first model. “One day, just as I'd started to lose all hope, Yorgo gave me a call and said 'I've got an idea'. He explained his thinking behind using chevrons and his commitment to having no gratuitous graphics on the skis,” recalls Camille. “We knew that we were on to something straight away and since then we can't seem to get rid of his chevrons!” The first Corvus, 195cm of pink and Black chevrons with a pink base imprinted with 'Black C,n rows' in big black letters, was rolled out to the public in Chamonix in December 2006.
On the back of this first model, the range developed with a line of playful, efficient and reliable skis. the novel designs rapidly seduced the international market thanks to their subtle mix of performance and elegance. Winning multiple awards in numerous specialist magazines, the brand has also made a name for itself via its marketing, with innovative publicity campaigns, music events (both urban and alpine) and unorthodox partnerships with other brands and concept stores. Black Crows' ascent is also down to its squadron of ambassadors: passionate skiers who have ensured that authenticity remains emblematic of the brand. If you were to sum up the black crows spirit, it would encompass an unwavering openness to the outside world, steadfast dedication to performance and adamant independence. With 83 models produced since 2006, today the small Chamonix brand has well and truly grown up and now has a strong presence on the international scene. As well as skis, black crows now offers a line of technical ski wear in collaboration with goretex. Yorgo Tloupas and his design team are still the masters of adornment and pro skier Julien Regnier has come on board to bring his scientific knowledge to the ski conception. Bruno Compagnet and Camille Jaccoux are still on their skis and involved more than ever in the development of the brand and the product.