Dear ski shops. Please stop fucking up mounts. Like seriously, knock it off. It’s not cute anymore.
I was getting my gear together to mount yet another pair of skis for a friend when I noticed this thread on the front page of Newschoolers. And for some reason, it felt like a tipping point for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve mounted 12+ pairs of skis already this season for myself and various friends who no longer trust a shop to mount our skis. Maybe it’s because it was almost dinner time and I was hangry, maybe it’s just the finish carpenter inside of me finally losing it over this lack of precision drilling. Whatever the reason, I’m over it. It’s 2020. Ski shops have no excuse to mess up a mount.
As far as I can tell this is a near-universal problem. It happened to me where I grew up, three hours from the nearest skiing. It happens to my friends now, in our town 15 minutes from a major ski destination. It happens with symmetrical park skis, and custom touring skis. Somehow, ski shops still mess up an unacceptable number of mounts all over the world every season. And it needs to stop.
For the Customers
Before we really get cooking, here’s an admonition for every person who needs to get a pair of skis mounted this winter: Make it as hard as possible for the shop to mess up your mount. Take out a tape measure and measure your skis. Make a mark on the topsheet where you want your boot midsole to line up. Write down all your information like this:
-Ski Model and length
-Binding Model (include the DIN range, some bindings change mount pattern between DIN models)
Do all of this in addition to any paperwork the shop has you fill out. Redundancy is good.
Take that information and tape it to your skis before you drop them off at the shop. Talk to the shop about what their policy is for botched mounts. If they don’t have one, they aren’t a good shop. And if you do all of that, and still end up with a bad mount, unleash the fucking Kraken.
To the Shops
Some of you are killing it. Some of you haven’t messed up a mount in 20 years. Some of you have, but took steps to make it right with the customer and ensure your tech doesn’t do it again. Props, way to go. But for the rest of you…
What. The. Hell. How are so many of you so bad at this? There is literally no other profession where you get to make catastrophic mistakes with any sort of regularity and still keep your job and reputation. Even the “good” shops still have a “good” tech who you should take your skis too, and even then it’s a nerve racking process. How is it that I’d be more comfortable doing this with a manual drill and a third grader’s ruler than I would be just leaving my skis with you overnight?
Skis are expensive. You’re looking at around $6-800 dollars for a brand new pair. Plenty of your customers are kids who worked minimum wage jobs all summer to pay for these skis. They probably read a bunch of reviews, maybe made a few threads on NS trying to narrow down their options, saved up all summer, and bought their dream sticks. At $7.25 an hour, it’ll take a kid 110 hours to buy that set of skis. I know the feeling because I earned my first set of new skis making $5 an hour picking rocks out of dirt piles in a housing development all summer. I agonized over my choice, and when they finally came they were my most prized possession.
Not everybody is as blasé about new skis like you are, oh burnt-out tech. Not everyone has access to pro deals and demos and is constantly surrounded by the latest and greatest. Plenty of folks have one pair of skis that means a whole lot to them, that they sacrificed to get, and that carries a lot of memories. And you get to take a drill and put holes in it wherever your careless ass pleases. Make it count. Skis are special, don’t ruin them before they even get used.
Every pair of skis is handmade on some level. As a tech, when a pair of skis comes through your bench, remember that somebody built these. Building skis isn’t fast or easy, it’s a pain in the ass, and it’s a high-end craft. When you’re mounting Moments or ON3P’s think about some guy or gal in Reno or Portland. How many hours did they pour into this pair of skis? How many years have they trained, refined processes, and learned from costly mistakes to culminate in these objects? You’re about to drill holes in them, pay some damn respect to the builders and measure twice, drill once.
Ski shops charge a lot to mount skis, usually somewhere between $20 and $100. It’s a relatively quick process, you should be able to nail most mounts in under 15 minutes. So you’re not paying for time. You’re paying for expensive jigs and testing machines to check releases. You’re paying for the peace of mind that comes from “professional” service. But all that gear means nothing if the tech doesn’t take the extra 15 seconds to google your topsheet graphic and make sure he’s not mounting one of your skis backwards. It means nothing if he’s a damn fool who grabs the wrong jig and starts drilling away. It means nothing if he doesn’t swap out all four boots on the jig so that it stays centered while drilling. And if you read “-2” in inches, instead of cm, get a job in a different profession.
A bad mount isn’t just worthless, it actively depreciates the ski, a lot. A mount might cost $80, but one slip and you’ve got a ski with two mounts that’s worth $150 less than a ski with just one. Yes, it’s barbaric that we drill holes in our skis and screw bindings to them, but that’s where we are, so don’t screw up. Just because you can remount a bad mount correctly doesn’t mean you didn’t mess up that pair of skis for ever.
To the Brands
If you're going to print mount lines on your topsheet instead of stamping them into your sidewalls, you'd better have a foolproof system to make sure they're in the right place every time. And if you require a special bit size, put a sticker on every ski that says so. Nobody likes a surprise metal layer in their skis.
A Culture of Acceptance
I know, it’s not cool to get mad at ski techs, and it’s even less cool to call out local shops, but our culture of being too cool to raise a stink has consequences. Namely, skis with holes in them in places that holes never should have been. And we need to change that culture from the bottom up.
Customers: Be clear and specific with where you want your skis mounted. Draw a line on the ski where you want your boot center to fall. Use a measuring tape and make sure it’s in the same place on both skis. Heck, take a Sharpie and double mark the boot sole center on your boot so that there’s no mistaking that you want this line to line up with that line when the boots are in the binding. And if a shop messes up your mount, don’t be a pushover. A free re-mount doesn’t count. If the shop messes up the first mount on a new pair of skis, they owe you new skis. If the skis they messed up are on backorder, they owe you any pair you want off the floor, with a free mount, preferably while you watch.
Techs: I’m not trying to lay all of the blame on you, but you are the folks holding the drill guiltily, so a lot of this does fall on you. Don’t accept ambiguous instructions from customers or management. Make sure you have written documentation of every mount before you even pick up the jig. I’ve found that having the boot, binding, and ski on my bench all at the same time helps a lot. It takes two seconds to hold the binding up to the jig to make sure it’s the right hole pattern. It takes another two to hold up the boot and eyeball everything, just make sure nothing looks whack. Double-check the midsole marks. You own a tape measure right? It takes no time and makes a big difference.
If the skis have a turned-up tail, google a picture of the topsheet, and look at it while you work. I’ve found it’s helpful to always mount every ski with it facing the same direction. So the tips of the skis are always to my left, the toes of the bindings are always to my left, and the jig always points left. Look at your process and think about ways to eliminate uncertainty. And if you do fuck up, own it. It’s easy to hide a bad mount under bindings. Don’t do it. Let the customer know what happened, and make it right. You’re anal about checking binding release settings, consider being a little more anal when it comes to drilling holes in skis.
Shop Management: For better or worse, shop culture starts at the top. Even if the missmount is just one tech’s fault, it still reflects on the shop as a whole. Own it and find a solution. Every ski shop that owns binding jigs should have a missmount policy and clearly state it to techs and customers. Everyone should know the consequences of a mistake. And those consequences should be dire. Consider a “three strikes and you're fired policy.” Make it hurt to mess up a mount. But of course, make sure you’re setting your tech’s up for success. Build them a system where they’re getting all the info they need from the customer documented in writing. The tech and shop should probably share the cost of replacing a customer’s skis. Hell, if you have a bad reputation for poor mounts, consider implementing a policy where you replace the customer’s skis and pay for them to get mounted at a rival shop. Stop making toothless platitudes and trying to talk kids into accepting a free tune that costs you nothing when you just ruined their new skis.
There are few things in skiing that can be judged so objectively as the binary between a correct and incorrect ski mount. This is a sport that rewards attention to detail. We shovel stairs we’ll never climb just to make our urban rails look more proper. If you find yourself standing over a pair of skis with a drill in hand, hold yourself to a higher standard.