Skis that rock

26th March 2015, by DaveA

WTSS's Dave Ashmore visits the Swiss factory of cult ski brand Zai

WTSS's Dave Ashmore visits the Swiss factory of cult ski brand Zai

High in the Swiss part of the Rhine valley, where the routes from the Oberalp and Lukmanier passes meet, lies the town of Disentis. This strategic and peaceful location is the home of Zai skis.

Zai’s base is only small, but their focus is on quality not quantity, with their team producing less than a 1,000 pairs of skis a year. As their CEO, Benedikt Germanier, explained when I visited their workshops earlier this week, each pair is designed and built carefully using the finest materials, with an emphasis on making the best skis possible.

In the 12 years since designer Simon Jacomet founded the company they have developed quite a reputation and it is easy to see why. Each ski is compiled of several carefully selected layers, put together by hand, before being machine pressed, then shaped. Further refining is done by hand and a finished ski will take several hours to produce.

Benedikt Germanier, CEO of Zai skis

Benedikt talks enthusiastically about the care put in to making each ski and it is clear to see that the Zai team take pride in what they produce. He says that rather than trying to make savings on materials or in their manufacture to cut the price, they would rather make the best skis they can and then work out what they cost.

This attention to detail and choice of top-quality materials comes at a price however, with even their most modest pairs of skis commanding €3,000. At the top of the range are their Bentley skis, an affinity with the luxury car manufacturer, which sell for considerably more.

The ski press

But are they worth it? Luckily the following day I was able to join Zai’s sales manager, Pascal Schweiger, on the slopes of Laax to try and find out. I wondered whether, as an average skier, I would notice any difference from a standard pair of skis, but I have to say that when I strapped on a pair of their Spada skis I was impressed. These innovative skis feature not only shock-absorbing rubber, but also surprisingly a pre-stressed granite/carbon-fibre stone core. Even getting off a chair-lift you could feel their smooth ride. At times I felt like I was gliding across the snow. They literally rocked!

At €6,000 a pair they might not be rushing off the shelves of the only place in the UK you can currently buy them — the Snow + Rock concession in Harrods — so those ancient routes across the Alps from Disentis won’t be full of noisy lorry loads of Zai skis anytime soon, but Zai aren’t about the volume, nor do they want to be.

Dave Ashmore visited Zai and Laax with Graubünden Tourism.

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