Effective immediately – our retail price for grinding is being raised to $100 per pair. Batch volume discounting applies to this new pricing basis, and all team pricing will go up as well. Details at the bottom of my explanation.
The last time we adjusted our grind pricing my mobile phone was a Blackberry and Gunnar looked like this. It was 2011, and we had just moved back to Vermont after four years in the west. Fischer’s flagship product was the “Hole Ski”, Madshus Redline was still a couple of years away, and we were making a big bet that Salomon was going to become a legit player in the XC race ski market based on what we had seen from their development direction.
Here’s a brief history of our grind pricing:
2002 – We started up grinding skis in a truck(!) with grinding pricing coordinated with Nat Brown when we worked together with Lars Svensson at the 2002 Olympics, where I picked up my first Tazzari grinding machine. “Basic” (one-layer) structures were $58 and compound or layered structures were $68. According to the US inflation calculator those prices would equate to $95.50 and $112 (roughly) in 2022 dollars.
2004 – We introduced the Z40 and related grinds – the first that I developed independently. Our original structure menu was based on grinds that Lars Svensson developed back in the ’90s. We offered the “Z” grinds at $70. That’s about $110 in 2022 equivalent dollars.
2006 – We moved the operation out of the truck and into a shop in West Townshend VT, and bought the Tazzari RP-23 machine. We also reworked the “Z” structures and the new ZR1 and ZR1XL were offered at $75 (still about $110 in 2022 $$). I also somewhat audaciously offered some special grinds at much higher prices; these involved mapping the pressure zones on the skis and creating different patterns and depths in different areas of the ski. It was a cool idea and I still play with it.
2007 – We moved to Squamish BC for two years, and then to Boulder where we worked with Nathan Schultz and Boulder Nordic Sport. During this time the grind pricing remained $75.
2011 – We moved back to VT, and we’re back to where I started this article. Grinds were set at $80, which is the equivalent of $105 in 2022 dollars.
When I first started grinding skis it was the core of the business and the only revenue stream. I did a huge portion of the grinding work on my own, though I had seasonal help from time to time from illustrious folks like Gus Kaeding (during his PG year at Stratton Mountain School) and Nick Brown (pictured here grinding skis in the truck). I introduced new ski sales to the business in 2004, after a couple of years of selecting skis for customers, but selling them through West Hill Shop here in Putney, in an arrangement that Neil Quinn and I put together. Funny story – Neil sold West Hill in 2004 to Jim and Diny Sweitzer, and then Amy and I bought it from the Sweitzers in October of 2020.
When Amy and I started up in VT in 2011 after returning from adventures out west, ski sales were a bigger part of the business, and we also started selling wax. Within a couple of years we were aiming to limit grind business to a manageable volume. We were “helped” in that goal by skyrocketing shipping prices, and also by a increase in the number of good grinding machines and operators around the country. These factors combined to reduce our volume from outside of the eastern region. On average we try to keep grinding in the realm of 1100-1200 pairs per season (although last year was much higher), which allows us to focus on quality. In the past decade we have slowed down the process dramatically (slower drive speeds, slower stone speeds, lower vibration levels, etc). We’ve also developed grinds utilizing more than one stone compound, and other grinds that require more frequent diamond changes, as well as some specially shaped diamonds. All of this takes time and attention, and is really hard to do in a super high volume environment.
Since 2011 our business has evolved. With increasing volume in wax sales, and increasing pricing on new skis, the contribution of grinding to our revenue stream has gotten smaller (as a percent of the whole). The time and energy we’ve put into grinding has moved a little bit from production toward development and testing. Between wax and grinds we do more testing now than we have at any point in our business. And that testing and development work is what keeps the business fresh and exciting for me. When I started, I imagined that I might figure out everything in about four years, and then do something else. That was 20 years ago.
Here’s the problem. Time had passed. Gunnar now looks like this. Inflation has been high, and all of our costs are up. Amy and I now run two businesses, with a bunch of revenue streams. Grinding remains the core and soul of our ski business, and the process and product that I have the most pride invested in. But I need to rationalize this to the boss. Grinding has gone from producing over 20% of our gross revenue and nearly 40% of our profit in 2011 to producing about 4% of our revenue and 8-9% of our profit. I need to convince her that, not only does our reputation and credibility depend on my grinding business and the constant energy outlay in development, but it’s worth it to continue to push skis through that machine at strange hours.
So – all skis arriving on or after October 1, 2022, will be billed based on this new $100/pair rate. A batch of 6-10 pairs will be billed at $85 per pair. A batch of 11 or more pairs will be billed at $75 per pair. Additional team discounts are available based on yearly agreements. Contact us for more information.