Generations of skiers actively competing or skiing recreationally from the 60s to the 90s recognize Auclair’s name. The company built it’s legacy during that era, growing roots deeply embedded within the world of alpine racing, amongst other competitive snowsports. In 2020, the brand will be celebrating its 75th year as a company. In these 75 years, Auclair has been the official glove supplier for Alpine Canada, been a member of the pool for the U.S. Ski Team, and is now the official supplier for the Canadian freestyle, nordic, and speed skating teams.
A family business until 2011, history has defined Auclair’s legacy. Now, the glove makers look to rewrite that legacy. After a brief period of absence from the alpine market, the brand returns, looking to revolutionize the product currently seen in the hands of elite athletes across borders. With respect to where they’ve been, they now focus on where they are going.
“History is always going to be part of Auclair,” says Philippe Koyess, the Vice President of Product Creation. “We are proud of that, but we don’t want to be old. We’ve got the expertise, but by no means does that mean we want to be a retro-brand. We’re glove makers, and we want to be the best and have the best quality.”
Koyess joined the Auclair team just three years ago, bringing with him a background in industrial design, 15 years of experience developing protective equipment in the hockey sector for CCM and Reebok, and a wealth of knowledge. As a man who prides himself on high-quality and intentional creation, Koyess came to Auclair’s table with an idea – one to rebuild a presence in the racing world Auclair used to call home.
Young and current athletes are seeking a glove more suitable to handle the high-intensity, high-volume programs the system now requires for them to be competitive at elite levels of their sport. Ski racers need a glove that can withstand battery gate after gate, while not sacrificing warmth or adding too much bulk.
Koyess and his team saw the gap in the market, took this knowledge, and in turn redefined what it means to be a glove in the race market. How? By utilizing the benefits of D3O technology in their innovative new product, the Race Fusion glove. D3O allowed Koyess to develop a foam-based protection system for alpine racers, similar to those used in football, hockey, and Motorcross racing. An additive that can be inserted into plastic that increases impact resistance by 30%, and allows the material to bounce back after impact. The result? A wider range of motion, and a glove that feels like a second skin. The athlete hardly notices it’s there. That’s what makes the Race Fusion unique – protection equivalent to other brands in the market, minus the bulk and the weight.
“This glove has a super comfortable feel to it, very warm and roomy. The leather is not stiff, and the padding is lower profile than my previous gloves, while still providing protection in all the key areas, knuckles, and fingers,” says Team America athlete, Garret Driller.
Driller and fellow Team America athletes, Sandy Vietze and Tucker Marshall have been actively competing on the NorAm circuit and the World Pro Ski Tour throughout the 2019/20. All three men are operating under heavy loads of training and racing, and trust the Race Fusion to protect their hands from week to week.
The current glove model these guys rock is the ISPO 2019 Snowsports Award Gold Winner, an honor that recognizes the gaps the glove has filled in the market. Alexa Dehmel, a member of the Active Sports Design & Consulting jury that voted on the Race Fusion, complimented the glove’s softness, mobility, and thorough protection, saying “we have never before experienced anything comparable in the racing glove sector.”
Although current athletes testing and using the product are happy thus far, Koyess and the rest of his team are fully aware that their first model is not perfect. According to Koyess, athlete feedback is of the utmost importance, and if Auclair expects to be the go-to product for elite-level alpine racers, the product must fit their needs at all levels.
“We want to learn. We want to put it on the hands of guys and girls so we can get feedback and in turn, grow with them,” he says.
Checking in with the athletes, even in the beginning stages, they don’t have much feedback to offer. Minor tweaks in the wrist and thumb area and Driller said the glove would be absolutely perfect. Right now, active athletes such as Canada’s Alex Harvey, who competes in Nordic skiing, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters and Mikael Kingsbury who compete in moguls, and Max Parrot who competes in slopestyle and big air, trust the gloves enough to compete with them on the World Cup circuit. Koyess hopes that by getting athletes competing at an elite, yet somewhat grassroots level in alpine racing, will help propel Auclair’s mission to once again be a big player in the racing sector, and continue to constantly innovate their product’s material, fit, and function.
“You test it with the best, and if it’s good enough for them, it’s more than good enough for anyone else, that’s why their feedback is so important,” explains Koyess. “For sure there are going to be things we need to modify as we go along. Right now, it’s brand new, but we need more feedback. Working with as many athletes as possible will help us accomplish that.”
The last thing a ski racer wants to be worried about on race day is whether or not their gloves can stand up to whatever level of impact is thrown at them. As Auclair says, “when the gloves go on, it’s game on.”