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Grizzly Outfitters turns to a robot for the perfect tune

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By Amy Wiezalis EBS Contributor

The founders of Big Sky’s Grizzly Outfitters Ski & Backcountry Sports, Ken Lancey and Andrew Schreiner, have been immersed in the outdoor industry for well over 25 years. They constantly seek out the best that the industry has to offer with the goal of optimizing customer experience. Their scientific approach to helping the best gear perform even better is downright academic. Enter the Crystal Rock.

In their quest to offer a more perfect tune, they recently purchased a Crystal Rock fully automated tuning robot from Montana of Switzerland. It is the first machine of its kind in North America, and a team of four representatives from the company traveled to Big Sky to oversee installation.

Schreiner and Lancey chose the Crystal Rock based on its unique components that offer consistent, precise tunes. The machine’s computer divides the ski or board into 10 distinct zones, offering infinite combinations catering to the style and skill level of each customer. It works efficiently, reducing human error and minimizing employee exposure to fumes and particulate. The Crystal Rock also enables Grizzly employees to create a highly customized tune catering to a particular skier or snowboarder.

“I can take a ski racer, park rider, Nordic skier, a child, whoever—then vary the grind and bevels to make their ski or board do whatever they need it to do,” Schreiner said.

Schreiner explained that the overall feel of your ride comes down to the base: “You want a flat surface with a perfectly centered structure.” If your skis or board are feeling “grabby” or “squirrely,” chances are the base is fundamentally uneven. Tune techs slide a precisely flat “true bar” along the bottom to reveal discontinuities.

If the surface is convex, it results in a wiggly feel and will be more difficult to engage the edges. More commonly, the surface will be concave or “railed.” Railed skis feel grabby and resist turning. A stone grind is required to remedy both of these problems.

Base structure is the pattern of grooves running through your base material. As you slide, friction melts the snow into a thin layer of water. “Structure is crucial to properly move water, decrease friction, and improve glide,” Schreiner said. A proper base grind can make your old sticks feel magical again. Even if the powder is bottomless, you’ll still want to channel snow crystals in the right way.

The Montana Crystal Rock utilizes a unique pneumatic system to pick up the ski or board and precisely adjust the pressure applied as it works. The technology also ensures the ski will move through the machine without getting knocked askew, resulting in an off-center grind or uneven tune.

Today, ski and snowboard profiles incorporate several configurations of camber and rocker. Traditional tuning machines force the ski flat during the tune. Montana’s pneumatic suction mechanism suspends the ski or board from above, applying variable pressure in harmony with the normal contour of the ski or board. This calculated base grinding reserves base material and extends the life of your skis or board.

Everyone is looking for a responsive edge that won’t catch too aggressively and cause a fall. Again, this depends on individual style and terrain choice. A World Cup racer will require different edges than a park skier, but both will be floored by the tuning technology exclusive to Montana of Switzerland.

Montana’s GRIPtech is the only tuning system that grinds the side edge in a vertical direction. This creates a consistent angle along more of the edge than a traditional horizontal ceramic wheel can achieve. And Grizzly’s Crystal Rock is the only machine in North America that features Montana’s HTT system to angle and polish the base side of your edges. During their radial tuning process, certain areas are tuned more aggressively than others. The bevel angle is varied throughout the length of the ski in a precise way to maximize safety and performance. The HTT system also finishes edges with no burrs.

Grizzly continues to use Wintersteiger’s Wax Future machine with infrared radiation that helps the wax thoroughly penetrate your snowboard, alpine or Nordic skis.

Tuning robots like the Crystal Rock offer speedy tuning with unparalleled precision, and these robots have elevated tuning possibilities to match the design innovations of the ski and snowboard industry. However, each tune at Grizzly Outfitters is still finished the old-fashioned way, by hand.

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