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January 25, 2016

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Lonely Mountain Skis / Kinross / Ski Maker / Eco-friendly Skis
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Founder and Designer Jamie Kunka established Lonely Mountain Skis as a Scottish ski company specialising in hand made skis utilising local timber, natural fibre composites and bio-resins. With an emphasis on quality and sustainable materials Jamie takes a sustainable approach to micro batch ski manufacture.

 

Lucy and I both had the joy of meeting Jamie at his Ski workshop at his Birnam Launch party in November 2015. Inside hosted a main workshop, a resin room and an office. When we arrived we were welcomed with the smell of wood smoke from an oil drum wood fire and inviting tones of Reggae house-music emitting from the car-sized entrance into the L.M.S workshop.

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Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

 

Since making his first solid red pine skis in University in Dundee Jamie spent two and a half years of prototyping. His skis now boast a hardy eight layer laminate in which there are natural and synthetic fibers bracing a laminated hardwood core. The bases of the skis are a racing sintered 7000 ptex and the whole ski is capped in a one-of-a-kind hardwood veneers. The wood and natural fibers in the ski can absorb any shock and vibration and provide a smooth ride.

 

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“We want to make skis that will last a lifetime and be beautiful enough to hang on the wall between the seasons.”

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Felled in an FSC certified forest, Jamie receives his ski core timber into his Birnam workshop. Using a large mouth bandsaw, Jamie rips the core material into thin strips for layering and gluing into a ski-specific sandwich. Once the layup has 'cured' jamie profiles the skis into their discipline length and shape.

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Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Makers Monday 04, Banton Frameworks

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

Seen above, Jamie is preparing a resin mix in his workshop resin room. At this stage the ski profile is layered again, this time using natural fibres and bio-resin. This 'stack' supports the core using the structural properties from natural flax fibres mixed with a sustainable bio resin. The flax fibres themselves are proven to be stronger than carbon fibre, further strengthening the ski as well as it's ecological integrity.

 

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It is known that ski manufacturers to use carbon fibres in their skis, a costly man made fibre that uses energy to create before it is even used in the ski. Flax on the other hand processes oxygen and CO2 during its life cycle, costing comparatively little to cultivate and harvest. By using flax, Jamie has reduced the overall environmental impact of his handmade skis.

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Careful and even distribution of the flax : resin mixture is vital for even flexibility for the skis performance. Seen below, Jamie is rolling out the ski stack before it is vacuum pressed.

 

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

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A bespoke enclosure made from silicone is hooked up to an industrial vacuum pump. Once engaged, the vacuum extracts the air from the enclosure producing an equilibrium of negative air pressure. This draws the bio-resin evenly through each layer ensuring even resin thickness and consistency. With only a singular vacuum bag enclosure, each pair of skis has to go through the ‘curing’ cycle individually. This process binds all of the timber strips together whilst providing the tip, tail and curvature for the ski known as camber. Camber allows the ski to be controlled in a springing action, able to turn effectively over snow and ice.

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Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

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Once cured and released from their vacuum bag, the skis are then smoothed and rid of any resin ‘flashes’. The process for profiling and smoothing is carried out through multiple stages, both by hand and machine. Seen below is Jamie’s workspace and machinery.

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Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

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After many hours of smoothing, sanding, shaping and finishing, Jamie then manually marks each ski with bespoke hot iron brands. Baring his company logo and the ski model, each ski’s top sheet is left exposed showing its natural lustre.

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Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

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“Where we can, we try to keep a low carbon footprint, which is why we use as many sustainable and natural materials as possible. From the wood and bio-resin that holds the ski together, to the flax fibres that give the ski spring and smoothness, 80% of our materials are from grown sources. This way we know we're not negatively impacting the environment that gives us snow. For every ski we sell, we aim to plant two trees to offset the CO2 we may produce when making the skis.”

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The results of Jamie’s craftsmanship and his years of prototyping are evident. Unlike most skis on the market usually smothered in polymer top sheet art work and graphics, Lonely Mountain ski’s bear refreshingly minimal branding. A ‘less is more’ approach seems prudent for such beautiful skis. Reassuringly stiff, even flex, the bases smooth and edges sharp; you face a dilemma of what ski binding you would mount, if at all...

 

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"On one hand you wouldn’t want to besmirch the skis finish with a mass produced metal and plastic binding. On the other, it would be sinful not to use them for what they were lovingly created for."

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In the ski lift queue you are going to get some stares from onlookers and it’s for all of the right reasons. With three ski model in his range, Crua 90, Sneachda 100 and the Pudar 110, each model adopts Gaelic in their titles.

 

Crua : Hard

Sneachda : Snow

Pudar : Powder

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis, Birnam, Scotland, Makers Monday, Banton Frameworks

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Jamie’s workshop is in Unit 6 Birnam Industrial Estate on Station Road in Birnam. If you are close by, we strongly suggest you detour through the lovely Birnam village and stop by for look at his range, a ski service and maybe even some of that home brewed Lonely Mountain craft beer. It was a pleasure to have met Jamie back in November and we congratulate him on having just won an ISPO award : link

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www.lonelymountain.ski

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