Nix Snowsports is a London based custom ski and snowboard maker. With the new winter season starting up, we checked in with the founder, James Mechie, to find out more about this home grown company – and what goes in to making a custom set of pow ripping planks.
What first inspired you to set up Nix Snowsports?
I had the inspiration for Nix during my first ski season in Les Deux Alpes. We were in a pub, talking about gear, and everyone had an opinion about what they’d change about their gear to make it work better for them. I figured that we should be able to have our gear made specially to fit us and so set up Nix to do just that.
That’s a great story, and proves that conversations in the pub can lead to great things! Can you explain to us your creative process?
It all starts with a conversation. Usually we chat about where / when / how often you ride, what kind of terrain you like or dislike etc. This lets us build a profile of you as a skier or snowboarder which we use to hone specific aspects of the design. For example whether you need a twin tip or a directional shape, whether you’re planning on touring, or if you have any old injuries that we need to account for. This information is fed into our software, along with your height, weight, ability etc, which in turn gives us the core thickness, flex profile and specific materials needed for the build.
It certainly sounds in-depth, and rather technical. From these conversations and software magic, how do you then take a ski from drawing board to final product? How long does that process take?
Once we have the ski or snowboard specification finalised, we make a 3D computer model of it using CAD (computer aided design). From here, the model is sent to our CNC (computer numerically controlled) milling machine, which mills the bamboo core blank to its finished profile. This profile is what gives the ski or snowboard many of its final characteristics.
The bases are cut using a computer controlled knife, after which we’ll hand bend the hardened steel edges and attach them ready to be pressed.
Before we can put everything in the press, each layer of the ski or snowboard is saturated with a non-toxic epoxy resin, and layered in order in what’s known as a sandwich, starting with the base and followed with a unique combination of composite layers and finally the topsheet graphics. At this point, it’s put into the press which compresses it into the required profile and heats it to cure the resin.
This is about the half-way point. After it’s fully cured, it’s taken out of the press and allowed to cool, before being trimmed to shape. It then goes through several stages of base grinding, sidewall shaping and sanding, before it’s ready to be hot-waxed, polished and packaged up.
The whole process typically takes between 15 and 20 hours (spread over 3-5 weeks) depending on whether it’s a Made to Measure model or a Bespoke design.
Quite a few steps and materials involved then. It’s nice to know what goes into making bespoke skis and boards. Where do you source your materials that go into your skis and snowboards?
All over the world! Some of the industry-specific materials are only manufactured in Europe, while others (eg. the bamboo for our cores), are only grown in Asia. We use some of the most technically advanced materials available, but wherever possible we try to source them from as close to the UK as we can.
You offer bespoke skis and boards for those who want that extra special gear. What has been your favourite custom project to work on so far?
That’s a hard one! There have been so many exciting Bespoke builds. Generally speaking they’re all good fun, as it’s all about working out the perfect design for an individual. In terms of graphics, the most fun one we’ve had was probably the beer ski – the customer had tried 1000 beers in eight months and saved the labels from them all, and we turned his favourite into a collage graphic for the topsheet.
How far afield are you skis and boards being purchased?
The majority of our customers are based in the UK or Europe, however we’ve had skis out all over the world.
Do you sponsor any riders? If so, who do you sponsor?
Yes! This year we have 3 riders skiing for us. We’ve got two freerider skiers (Oli Jeffs and Julian Meyer) who both compete in the Freeride World Qualifiers, and a freestyle skier (Simon Spilka) who’s absolutely killing it at the moment.
If you could drop everything and go to the mountains right now, which country/resort would you go to?
Wherever the best snow is! Although I’ll always have a soft spot for Meribel and Les 3 Vallees, as it’s where we did our early product testing and where Nix began to find its feet!
Oh, us too! We love Meribel – definitely our favourite resort in the Alps. So lastly, we have to ask – Ski or Snowboard?!
I couldn’t possibly say!
You can find out more about Nix Snowsports and see their full range of skis and boards at https://www.nixsnowsports.com/