Inside SSCV's Clubhouse, the World's Best Ski Techs Work
When hundredths of millimeters in base depth and tenths of degrees in edge bevel can mean the difference between success and failure, an athlete’s ski technician can be as crucial as a coach. Not only does Paul Suomi get that responsibility, but he embraces it. The 38-year-old Michigan native has worked on skis since he was 16 and oversees one of the country’s most extensive technical-service programs as Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s equipment manager.
“Our biggest strength is very precise and specific stone grinding and edge work,” he says. “What we do for a ski is what you’re going to see World Cup techs do.”
For nearly a decade, that service was reserved exclusively for club athletes and staff, as well as professional freeskiers like X Games halfpipe champion Kevin Rolland and world slopestyle champ Tess Ledeux. SSCV’s techs have also done prep work for Ted Ligety as well as local pros like Sarah Schleper, Alex Leever, and, on occasion, Mikaela Shiffrin (Suomi remembers scrambling overnight to put a precise base bevel on Shiffrin’s skis before a world championship race in 2015).
This winter, for the first time, Suomi and his staff of four assistants are taking their talents national—from the same basement shop they’ve used since 2019, when they moved from Minturn to SSCV’s new clubhouse at Golden Peak. “We’re expanding our offerings and opening it up to clubs across the country that come to Vail to train,” Suomi says. Now they are working on skis for teams from the East Coast to the Midwest to Steamboat Springs. Their expansion is designed less to give the competition an edge—no pun intended—than to take advantage of the sport’s annual convergence on Vail and a world-class shop available to serve it.
SSCV’s most precise service is performed by the Ferrari of ski-tuning machines: the Wintersteiger Mercury MSD, which costs about $290,000—a bit more than a Ferrari F8 Spider. “We’re running the full-on race software, so we can tailor the machine to do anything we want to do,” Suomi says. “We’re accurate up to two hundredths of a millimeter on depth, and we can adjust into the tenth of a degree for edge angles.” That translates to winning skis and is why the shop’s year-round, full-quiver “Elite” package costs $2,950 for U14 athletes and older. A la carte pricing (club members get 20 percent off) runs $90 for a full tune and $30 for an edge and wax. The service is not open to the general public.
The shop prepares about 2,000 pairs of skis during the summer and fall and tunes more than 100 per night during the winter, when the staff works 15 hours a day. “There’s only a handful of shops nationwide doing the same thing,” Suomi says. “You have to be a specific breed to do this job. It’s really monotonous.”