Ski maker hopes for more snow to keep business booming

Jamie Kunka
Jamie Kunka

A luxury ski maker in Perthshire who has been inundated with orders this year has said he is hoping for more snow to keep the area’s “up and coming small business scene” booming.

Jamie Kunka lives in the village of Birnam, next to Dunkeld, where he runs the Lonely Mountain Skis company using his garage as a workshop.

The 32-year-old makes equipment to order for each customer and only has a certain amount of time to do so, meaning he has already had to close off orders for February and has a few inquiries in for next month.

Current coronavirus restrictions have left ski resorts across the country unable to open to the public, despite several days of heavy snow in the last few weeks, but that has not stopped his own personal production line from providing skis for the slopes.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “In January I got more orders than I think I ever had in one month, totalling about maybe 16 sets of skis, which is mad.

Jamie Kunka

“I’ve had to suddenly scale-up production and work faster, also with the sort of unknowns of Brexit and ingredients coming in from Europe it’s been quite exciting.

“I make all skis to order so it involves a wee process with the customer where they decide what they want and it’s usually very customised, they’ve got specific desires for particular types of wood or a type of ski that’s good for a certain condition or even a certain holiday.

“It’s quite a holiday-driven business, like Easter holidays and also a lot of folk go in February/March as well as Christmas time where families tend to go to the Alps and do that if they’ve got chalets.

“There’s usually three distinct peaks in my business here, but this time it’s just all sort of one.

“I think a lot of people are looking for British-made, Scottish-made stuff and they’ve got maybe a bit of extra cash and they want to buy local to support some smaller businesses.”

Mr Kunka came up with the idea while studying product design at Dundee University, where he lived at the time before moving to Perthshire seven years ago.

With ski resorts only 45 minutes away, he quickly “fell in love with the area because it was so beautiful”.

His process takes three weeks from start to finish and although it is organised in set blocks, the businessman jokingly admits he “could probably do it faster”.

So far this year most of his orders have been domestic, with “probably 80% Scottish” customers, and he knows there are other companies in the area experiencing similar boosts because of the current conditions.

Jamie Kunka

Mr Kunka said: “There’s a little up and coming small business scene in the village, and Dunkeld as well and around Perthshire, who do a few interesting things like gin distillers and artisan bakeries.

“A few folk my age and younger decided to move back up here and start businesses, I think because it’s just so expensive to do in the city sometimes and if it’s a kind of rural theme or supporting a rural village, it’s quite lucrative because folk come here for tourism.

“Most years there would be a bit more international orders in there, but this year has been predominantly Scottish – a couple in England and one in Belgium maybe coming up.

“But even people on the doorstep who actually haven’t bought skis before are coming up and bought stuff, so it’s been great… it’s funny I’ve had to turn customers away.

“It feels great for me in a way because that’s me at capacity so I’m quite happy, and even in a strange way it seems to have encouraged the customers a wee bit because there’s a bit of a frenzy.

“I think March is to be colder and if people can start moving about and going to ski resorts again, that could be really good.

“If it snowed again that’d be really good for business but if it rains too much I don’t think we’re getting too many new orders unless people can go abroad again.”

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