How handcrafted skis and snowboards are made,
a visit at the Borde Ski workshop
Mauro Boninsegna followed his dad’s passion to handcraft wooden skis and snowboards. It’s a part-time job for him, carried out not for making money but precisely for the inherited passion. At the beginning, he builds skis for himself and some friends, then customers’ orders start to arrive more and more frequently from Italy and abroad.
After a full day of ski touring in the forests of Primiero, in the late afternoon we pass by the Mauro’s workshop in Imer (Trento) for a chat. We are in the heart of Dolomites, northern Italy.
D. Mauro, how is going with the production ?
R. It’s quite OK, but I am almost alone for the time being, only occasionally can I rely on my dad’s help. Hence I cannot expect to achieve big numbers … However, in the last couple of years there was an increasing demand of all models for freeride and ski-touring.
D. How many skis and snowboards do you manage to build ?
R. I would say around 20 in a year. I start making a ski or snowboard upon a customer’s order, of course we make totally customized products. We agree with customer the characteristics of the ski or snowboard, the size and cut, the materials, and the graphics. When everything is OK, I start the production which requires 2 to 4 weeks, depending upon the degree of customization.
D. You obviously build the core in wood…
R. Absolutely. I normally use two types of wood, for example ash tree and fir; these are cut in longitudinal strips and glued together, as to make up the core of the ski or snowboard. In ordet to achieve the required structural characteristics, I will add carbon, kevlar, and glass fibers. It took a long time to choose the best glues, based on epoxy. Then I add two small aluminum plates in the areas where the ski bindings will be mounted. No titanal sheets or the like.
D. The most important piece of machinery is the press…
R. Yes, and I decided to build it myself ! Obviously, in wood. It was a challenging task, but worth the effort. Initially I made only skis for alpine ski, then I made some modifications to the press as to produce also freeride and touring skis, which have specific camber, rocker and shapes of tip and tail.
D. For how long has the ski to cure in the press ?
R. Depends on the type of ski, 8 to 10 hours on average at temperatures around 60 – 70 °C. Very different from the industrial production, where skis are cured at much higher temperature and stay in the press for a few minutes.
D. How do you make the top sheet ?
R. I utilize sheets of 1-2 mm thickness, of a wood type that offers the required aesthetic features; for example walnut, cherry, larch, and also yew. The latter is a protected species, therefore not easy to find. There may still be some availability after the forest destruction by the Vaia hurricane of 2018.
As for the graphics, a local craftsman engraves for us the top sheet by hand, then painting is added according to customer’s design. A specialized graphic designer makes up a drawing which is submitted to customer for approval prior to the production phase.
D. I can see that the upper side of the ski is well rounded, how do you make it ?
R. Eh … expert carpentry by hand, using file and sandpaper, one by one …
D. Which is the weight of your touring skis ?
R. Depends on the making, indicatively we are around 1400 g for a 170 cm ski. We do not pursue the absolute lightness. For example, the ski base in p-tex and edges in steel are 1,7 mm thick, therefore not very light, but at least you have enough material for several years of maintenance. It’s a choice. Handcrafted skis and snowboards are exclusivce products that should last in time…
D. Can you supply skis complete with bindings ?
R. Of course, we normally supply Vist bindings for alpine skis and Kreuzspitze for ski-touring. Both companies are located near us, have top products and we partner with them since many years. But we can also supply other make’s bindings.
D. Your products are delivered fully ready for the snow (ski base, edges, etc.) ?
R. Yes and is indeed something we value a lot. Our skis and snowboards are prepared by an expert skiman, who carries out a perfect smoothing of the base, the imprint of the same, and the mirror-finishing of the edges.
D. How much cost your products ?
R. Depends on the model, the chosen materials, and the degree of customization. To give you an idea, we start from 700 euro for a pair of skis, but we can go to twice us much or more.
D. Where can be purchased your products ?
R. Except a few shops who act as retailers, most clients contact us via internet and buy directly.