How to make bespoke skis with Nix Snowsport Co.
Getting inside the Nix workshop isn’t easy. Not because of its exclusivity, although selling bespoke skis from £1,375 does mean it only caters to a certain type of snowsports enthusiast. No, it’s difficult in a physical sense.
You have to simultaneously duck down beneath a door frame and lift your leg over a low wall to step onto a ladder. Only then can you clamber off a North London street and into the windowless, subterranean space where James Mechie works his magic.
James Mechie, founder of Nix Snowsport Co.
The idea of bespoke skis, Mechie says, welcoming The Jackal below stairs, is to ‘approach an old problem from a different angle. Instead of trying to find a ski to suit you, we build one from scratch.’
We basically have a big conversation,’ says Mechie. ‘We’ll ask where in the world you’re going to be skiing, the type of terrain you like, the level of aggression you ski with – as well as your measurements and weight.’ If customers have any video of themselves in action, that helps too.
Bespoke skis made by Nix Snowsport Co.
Mechie, who graduated from Brunel University with a degree in industrial design, then puts the information into a proprietary formula which spits out the dimensions and characteristics of the customer’s ideal ski. For example, someone who skis fast on European pistes is likely to want a rigid ski. Someone headed for the deep powder of Hokkaido will need something wide, to help them float. But the shape and profile of the ski can be fine-tuned much more precisely.
A CNC machine (a high-tech computer-controlled cutting device) then cuts and mills a piece of compressed bamboo to create the core of the ski. But this is just one part of the ‘sandwich’.
Other layers are applied. Usually several of woven carbon fibre and flax (the former shrinks in cold conditions, the latter expands, dampening vibrations). Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene forms the base of the ski, while the custom graphics are transferred to the ‘top-sheet’. After the hardened steel edges are put in place by hand, it’s all stuck together with an environmentally friendly epoxy.
Once the sandwich is fully loaded, it’s placed inside a pneumatic press that applies five and a half London buses worth of pressure. What emerges is a ‘ski block’ – a single piece of material in which the skis look trapped, like Han Solo encased in carbonite. They are cut out by hand, then all that’s left is to clean the ski, sharpen the edges and apply three or four coats of wax to the bases. ‘Then that’s it,’ says Mechie. ‘They’re ready for the mountains.’ For The Jackal, meanwhile, it’s just a matter of climbing back up those stairs.