16 March 2017
The vocation of a region can make a decisive contribution to the success of a product. An example of this is Zai, a manufacturer of superior skis that was founded in the heart of the Swiss Alps by the designer Simon Jacomet in 2003. Zai, which in Romansh means “tough”, is synonymous with handcrafted quality and very high performance. We are at Disentis, in the canton of Grisons, where the arts of woodworking and carpentry are a living heritage of the community and skiing is a lifestyle. Zai exploits the skills of the local workers, combining them with a remarkable drive for innovation: experimentation with new materials, cutting-edge production facilities and a constant refinement of the methods of construction that is achieved by having the prototypes tested by skiers of different ages and abilities, under different conditions of snow and with the aid of the most advanced technological instruments. Natural materials like granite and other kinds of stone, cedar or hazel wood are combined with vulcanized natural rubber, carbon nanotubes (CNT) and Dyneema® and Zaiíra® fibers, obtaining exceptional levels of performance. Currently seven models are available, for sale or hire: Scadin, Testa, Spada, Laisa, Zai for St. Moritz, Franco and Onza, each with its own character but all united by their versatility: it is the boast of Zai skis that they can adapt to any circumstance, ensuring maximum stability, precision and durability (they lose only 5% of their torsional stiffness after 100 days of use, whereas a mass-produced model loses on average 25% after just 30 days). And satisfaction is guaranteed at all levels, and for every technique: whether you are a freerider, a sprinter on hard-packed snow, a beginner or an expert. Even the aesthetic aspect is out of the norm: clean, severe and of great elegance. The ambition of the company’s founder Simon Jacomet, former coach of the Swiss national team and once a student at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence, was to move the goalposts in the design of the modern ski, constantly renewing the concept of perfection. A challenge that since 2009 he has been striving to meet together with his CEO (and friend) Benedikt Germanier. With success. A guided tour of the workshop, accompanied by a trial of the skis on the slopes, completes our exclusive experience of the zai brand.