Pushing boundaries. Bespoke designs. Munro-defying weights. As a nation we may have less than a handful of ski manufacturers to our name, but what they are producing is truly world class. Matt Clark has the lowdown
Locally sourced. Shop local. Buy British. Sound like something emblazoned across your local parish newspaper promoting the greengrocers down the street? It may seem like marketing guff, but when it comes to ski gear there are good reasons to buy British. These brands support the UK ski scene, so every pair of skis sold means more resources for dry slope clubs and grass-roots coaching, a better competition scene, more sponsorship for up and coming talent, and better recognition internationally for British athletes, guides and instructors.
Anyone starting a ski business in the UK is up against it from the word go compared to their competitors in the Alps and North America, which is why these three brands are all the more deserving of recognition. They’re in it for love rather than money, but against all the odds they’re smashing preconceived notions and building skis that stand up with the best internationally.
Nine years ago Leeds-based Whitedot erupted onto the ski scene, their distinctive graphics and progressive freeride-orientated shapes sending shockwaves through the industry. Back then they were the new kid on the block, but now they’re an established brand and a force to be reckoned with.
British skier Ben Briggs showcases Whitedot | Daniel Wildey
Team riders like Austrian FWT champion Eva Walkner, UK Olympian Emma Lonsdale and biggest cliff drop world record holder Fred Syversen showcase their skis at the highest level, however Whitedot have always been committed to supporting grass-roots skiing too: they were instrumental in setting up the Coe Cup freeride comp in Scotland, and work hard to support under-the-radar UK chargers like Sam Allen and Ben Briggs.
Right from the off Whitedot have stood for uncompromising innovation. Skis like their oversized all-mountain Preacher are now considered classic designs, but played a big role in making fat off-piste-orientated shapes accessible to mainstream skiers when they were first released.
More recently Whitedot have been at the forefront of the ‘light is right’ movement, and have been key in the development of new ski constructions and materials. It’s not an exaggeration to call their flax and carbon Carbonlite series revolutionary, cutting weight by 25% while maintaining a powerful flex, leading a trend that left industry giants like Salomon and Blizzard scrambling to catch up in the last two years.
Whitedot’s skis, now considered classic designs, played a big role in making fat off-piste-orientated shapes accessible to mainstream skiers
Now firmly established and enjoying widespread recognition, Whitedot have developed a mature line-up to match their deserved reputation. Split into three categories dubbed Cam. Series (all-mountain), R. Series (all access) and Z. Series (big mountain), old favourites like the flagship Redeemer and Preacher are joined by the One, Zero.One, Ranger, Director and Ragnarok to conquer all niches from slopestyle to touring and competitive freeriding.
Lonely Mountain Skis
Lonely Mountain Skis is a micro ski company based in Perthshire, and they’re as Scottish as 16-year-old Lagavulin single malt whisky, tartan and horizontal rain. They specialise in handmade custom skis, and everything from the cores to the tools are built in-house at their workshop in Birnam. Lonely Mountain’s whole line-up is inspired by the Scottish highlands – after all, a ski that’s light enough to climb the gullys and Munros but stable enough to blast through Scotland’s trademark blend of heather and ice will handle anything you care to throw at it on any mountain in the world.
As Scottish as single malt whisky…
Jamie Kunka founded Lonely Mountain in 2014 after watching an episode of Ray Mears, where a Swedish ski maker built a pair of skis from dead pine. He was studying product design at Dundee University at the time, so was able to experiment and build his own pair of traditional skis in the workshop. Despite how basic that first pair were, Jamie fondly remembers the intense satisfaction of riding skis he’d built himself, and so Lonely Mountain was born.
Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength, winning first Scotland’s Sports Innovation Challenge, and then an ISPO (industry) Gold Award for their all-mountain Sneachda model. The skis scream quality, from the sustainably-sourced wood and bio-resin to the obvious craftsmanship and attention to detail – they look as good hanging on the wall as on the snow.
Lonely Mountain Skis are built in-house at their workshop in Perthshire
After 30 months of prototyping, Jamie’s grown the line-up to three models, all built with a hardwood core wrapped in flax and carbon and capped with a gorgeous hardwood veneer. They all have an obvious off-piste focus with a backcountry/touring slant, but the Sneachda is the workhorse of the range. At under 2kg a ski, with a 102mm waist and subtle tip rocker, it’s a ‘do everything, everywhere’ ski that’ll make a statement in any lift line. The narrower and lighter Crua is aimed more at ski touring and expeditions, while the 123mm Ord is built for deep days.
Pure Freeride Designs (PFD)
We generally consider skis to be ‘tools not jewels,’ but PFD blow that concept right out of the water. Founder Rupert Gammond started the company in 2012 to “design skis that would complement the backcountry environment both in terms of performance and aesthetics.” Since the first designs, he wanted to step away from the mass market and create bespoke, completely handcrafted freeride skis for passionate skiers. The innovative use of ethically-sourced bamboo results in unique skis: light, agile and responsive yet smooth and powerful.
PFD makes just 100 pairs a year| Ross Woodhall
Gammond has taken a conscious decision to keep PFD exclusive: with a price tag of £960 and only 100 pairs made a year they’re aimed squarely at the most passionate and design-conscious skiers, but the substance is more than skin deep. Beneath the glossed bamboo veneer topsheets lies an intricate layup of carbon, fibreglass, rubber and… more bamboo! Gammond custom-built PFD’s workshop and machines himself, and this is reflected in his approach to ski building. He offers three basic ski designs, but almost every aspect can be customised to create truly bespoke skis.
PDF’s bamboo skis are aimed at the discerning big mountain powder charger | Ross Woodhall
PFD skis are aimed at capable off-piste skiers, and the three models are known as the All Mountain Charger (101mm underfoot), Big Mountain Charger (116mm) and Powder Charger (124mm). With camber underfoot, large turn radii and long, low rocker profiles they’re designed for stability at speed and high performance in all conditions.