Words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten. Sponsored by Skiis & Biikes.
With wheels spinning, emulsion splashing and sparks flying, the imposing new ski-tuning machine at Skiis & Biikes puts on a show befitting its translucent walls. Who wouldn’t want to watch this dynamic performance?
Robotic tuners like this Crystal Magic behemoth aren’t new to the crew here; it’s their 12th model from Swiss manufacturer Montana, the global leader in ski-service technology. What’s novel—beyond its breakneck speed—is the groundbreaking GRIPtech edge-sharpening system.
“In the past, we had grinding belts that typically were positioned horizontally,” says Skiis & Biikes co-owner Devin Montgomery. “But now Montana has placed the grinding belt vertically, so it sharpens the edge with the grinding belt downward, creating very, very small serrations in the ski—almost like a carving knife. So you get extra grip into the snow.”
The GRIPtech system is nothing short of revolutionary. And this new machine in Mississauga is the only one of its kind in Canada.
Flavian Lee Ha, service manager at Skiis & Biikes Mississauga location, has been tuning skis here for 18 years. He’s seen his share of robotic tuners, but is impressed with this new one. “It’s pretty cool compared to the old one, just a lot faster,” he says. “I really enjoy seeing the progress on how it’s built, how it operates, how they’ve changed over the years from electronic motors to pneumatic cylinders.”
The pneumatic system is part of the spectator-sport draw of the thing. After Lee Ha evaluates a set of skis and chooses the appropriate tune settings on the touch screen, a laser scans their specific shape. Suction cups descend from above with a piercing kksshhhh, creating a powerful seal on the topsheets before whisking them off into the main chamber.
Opaque emulsion bursts from nozzles as the skis pass by, lubricating the process to prevent burns and adding an anti-rust agent. As the emulsion continues to splash throughout the space, the skis pass over the grinding stone, which tracks the curve of the ski for an even grind across the entire base. Cut with a pattern by a diamond dressing bit, the stone transfers that pattern to the base of the ski, laying structure into the PTEX.
“Structure is similar to a car tire’s tread,” explains Montgomery. “Water is organized and flows in a certain way. Wax on a pair of skis melts the snow, and structure helps to organize that melted snow. Specific patterns are best with different types of snow.”
“The depth is the biggest factor of the structure,” says Lee Ha. “How deep it is, how far apart it is. If you’re out west where there’s more powder, you would want more of a coarse structure, so it’s spread further and deeper, to handle the coarse snow.”
Choosing that structure is part of the preliminary evaluation process, along with selecting the base and side angle—and the number of passes over the High Tech Tuning (HTT) stones, which sharpen and polish the base.
But between these two sets of splashing, whirring wheels is the star of the show, the innovative vertical edge-sharpening belts. Lee Ha boils down that technology with the key observation: “It just creates a sharper edge. And it stays sharper longer.”
Says Montgomery, “It’s a machine that’s built without compromises. Montana uses mostly stainless steel, with a very high level of accuracy and machining. They put a lot of R&D into new types of grinding processes, and they have a competitive advantage when it comes to how to tune a pair of skis.”
And Skiis & Biikes now has that advantage at their Mississauga location, with plans to bring a second machine to Collingwood next year.
“That’s how we built the company,” Mongomery adds. “It’s just part of our DNA, having the best ski-tuning, the best boot-fitting, great customer service and great products. We’ve always bought the best, and we always want to keep pace with the next generation of technology.”
Skiis & Biikes has also upped their game with a new Montana infrared wax machine, which provides a higher level of wax accuracy and absorption. Add an infrared wax to your next tuning package during their early season 2-4-1 offer, when you can get two skis or snowboards tuned for the price of one. Visit skiisandbiikes.com and @skiisandbiikes to learn more about the deal, only available through October 16, 2022.