Lonely Mountain Skis are a Perthshire based ski brand. Their handcrafted, custom-built skis have won an industry Gold Award and a Scotland’s Sports Innovation Challenge. Naturally, we wanted to hear more about them, so this week, we spoke to the man behind the brand, Jamie Kunka, to learn more.
What motivated you to start making skis in Scotland?
As I matured as a skier in my mid-twenties I came to realise we have such a rich ski culture in Scotland and so many amazing mountains on which to ski. I was also passionate about the idea of making my own skis and decided to create Lonely Mountain Skis, a brand which would be based in Scotland and celebrate our ski culture. The ski names are rooted in Scots Gaelic and the ethos of the company is about exploring with a focus on ski mountaineering.
What’s the process behind designing and making a ski?
I start by going to my local sawmill Brodies Timber and hand-select hardwoods that I think will make good skis. The rough timber is then sawn to size and laminated into ski cores which form the backbone of the ski. The ski core is reinforced with composite fibres and glued together with a ski base and steel edges on the bottom and another layer of wood on the top. There are 7 layers in total in the ski vertically and 7 horizontally.
Why do you choose the materials that you mentioned?
I want to use as many natural and sustainable materials as possible, not only because they have a low carbon footprint but they are genuinely the best materials for a ski as they offer low weight, high elasticity and great vibration absorption. In contrast to my natural materials, I have very modern carbon fibres running at particular angles to make the ski strong but flexible. This combination of materials in the ski make a very strong and dynamic ski that will last many years and most importantly they are repairable.
It’s amazing to see you innovating locally, and choosing as many natural, local materials as you can. Why is it important to support local makers?
Mass manufacturing of sports and other products seems mostly like a race to bottom in terms of ethics and quality. I think it is great that many small British makers are saying no more to low quality imported products and consumers are again enjoying the thrill of a product being made for them, from scratch and in the UK by someone who is putting all their passion and care into the product.
I think it’s great that consumers are again enjoying the thrill of a product being made for them, from scratch and in the UK by someone who is putting all their passion and care into the product.Jamie Kunka, Lonely Mountain Skis
We love that ethos! It’s so important to spread this message. But we also know you’re a big fan of backcountry skiing in Scotland. Why should people try it?
The backcountry skiing movement seems to be booming around the world and especially in Scotland. In simple terms, it is about combining the skills of navigation, terrain, snow and skiing to find the best skiing in remote locations.
Finally, what makes your skis different?
Apart from the rare fact they are made in Scotland from start to finish by one person they also have a unique feel with their hardwood construction offering a noticeable lightness and dynamism to the skiing experience. Another fun aspect of using wood is that no two pairs of skis end up looking the same as the woodgrain changes with every cut of the saw.
Lonely Mountain Skis have recently collaborated with the National Museum of Scotland. Jamie’s award-winning Sneachda skis provide an example of how the Scottish landscape influences local crafts. The skis are both inspired by and designed to function in the local Scottish environment which has itself, enabled the backcountry skiing community to flourish. However, the skis also represent the fragility of the environment as skiing in Scotland is increasingly unreliable as a result of our changing climate. Lonely Mountain Skis skis will soon be on display in the Natural Museum of Scotland.