Lonely Mountain Skis started life as a fictional company as part of Jamie Kunka’s Product Design course in Dundee. A year after graduating, Jamie set up his micro ski company to develop handmade, wooden, freeride skis in his Perthshire workshop.
Jamie’s ski designs are inspired by the terrain of the Scottish Highlands, particularly from his childhood of backcountry skiing with his dad. His aim is to make skis that will last a lifetime and be beautiful enough to hang on the wall between the seasons.
“I got interested in design through woodwork as a teenager,” says Jamie. “I was especially drawn to the work of Charles and Ray Eames and their experiments with bent wood. Their innovations remain a philosophical benchmark for me when it comes to creating ‘high tech’ products from wood.”
After two and a half years of prototyping, he had developed a ski made of an eight-layer laminate, combining natural and synthetic fibres bracing a laminated hardwood core. The whole ski is then capped in a one-of-a-kind hardwood veneer. Three ski shapes have evolved from this process and with a new one developed each year. In 2016 the Sneachda ski was awarded an ISPO Gold Award, acknowledging the best in international sports innovation, for its “subtle look and the eco-friendly construction.”
“There are two reasons I use wood in my skis,” explains Jamie. “The first is the look of the ski on the eye and the feel of it in the hand. It’s that visceral pleasure of holding a nice wooden object. This aesthetic harks back to the golden age of skiing before ski lifts, neon clothing and throwaway plastic culture.”
“Ironically the wood really makes them stand out in a market flooded with shouty graphics and meaningless technical jargon,” he adds. “The second reason is that wood is a powerful structural material offering great elasticity and strength for not much weight. This means that I can design strong and powerful skis that are very lightweight. The wood and natural fibres I use are also fantastic at absorbing vibration, creating a smooth-running ski over bumpy terrain.”
Throughout the process, Jamie tries to keep his carbon footprint to a minimum, limiting any impact on the environment. He uses as many sustainable and natural materials as possible. He says, “From the wood and bio-resin that holds the ski together, to the flax fibres that give the ski spring and smoothness, 80% of the materials used are from grown sources.”
Jamie is keen to show that sustainable materials are beautiful, high performance and desirable. “Hopefully this will encourage designers to think about the relationship between the materials in their products and the message that they are putting out for the future,” he says. “I think designers have a huge role to play in steering the consumer away from throwaway culture.”
“I find my skis to be a fascinating intersection of high-tech materials and natural materials. I want to continue to technically innovate and produce some exciting, never-before-seen skis. My long-term goal is for my skis to be the first tried out on Martian snow!”
We are delighted to welcome Jamie Kunka as a V&A Dundee Design Champion, recognising his passion for beautiful, sustainable and high-performance design.
To find out more, visit www.lonelymountain.ski
The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.
We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018.
V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.
Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.