U If Rønning, Norway’s only wooden ski maker – and one of a small handful in the world – makes his cross-country skis the same way his father did when he started Rønning Treski in 1936.
“The machines haven’t changed and every ski is still 100 per cent handmade,” says the 68 year old, who took over the business in 1965 after fi nishing military school.
“Back in the ’60s, there were about 25 people making wooden skis in Norway,” says Rønning, whose tiny factory is based in the small town of Skotterud, close to the Swedish border. “Over time, they all switched to plastic. I decided to carry on and for a while things were very difficult – by 1972 we’d laid off our four employees and it was just me left.”
But Rønning’s perseverance with traditional ski making has paid off. All but two of those 25 ski makers have since closed (Madshus and Åsnes remain) – yet Rønning Treski is thriving, and production and sales have doubled in the past four years. He has taken on another employee to help make the 600 pairs of skis they produce each year, all handcrafted over at least two weeks, using up to 50 types of wood.
"Our skis aren’t for the world-class skier,” says Rønning.
“They’re for the person who cares just as much about where they stop for a hot chocolate.” While they’re not as fast as many plastic skis, they’re built to last – Rønning has a pair of skis that has covered more than 5,000km. “And they look nice, too,” he adds. “Many will end up above people’s mantelpieces when they’re done.”
How To Make A Pair
Ulf Rønning tells us how he creates his wooden skis
“Our skis are made with up to 50 different types of wood, typically around 35 per ski – everything from Norwegian birch to German lignostone and North American hickory. Wood is a living thing and the balance of the wood has to be perfect.”
“The whole process will take two to three weeks. We use machines but there’s no robot production. Everything is cut, sanded, glued and polished by hand, or using the same machines that we’ve always had.”
“The final stage is burning the logo onto the ski using a machine that’s like a warm iron.”