Spiritual skis give a lift on the slopes
At $3,500 for a set, Zai creator Simon Jacomet hopes his skis will appeal to discerning skiers seeking quality.
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(CNN) -- Just as they have done for centuries, the bells in the tiny town of Disentis, nestled in a valley beneath the Swiss Alps, call out to monks.
The sleepy village may not appear to be a place full of innovation and change, but it is home to Simon Jacomet, a former ski engineer who has used his birthplace as inspiration to develop a business based on his love of skiing and design.
Jacomet left Disentis to work for some of the world's biggest ski manufacturers, but he became frustrated by the constraints that came with mass production.
He decided to draw on inspiration from his roots, and established Zai, a business based around handcrafted skis.
"They say that people living here have heads like stone -- like granite, the stone we have here," Jacomet told CNN.
"And in a certain way I think it's that way. If you live in the mountains you get influenced by nature maybe in another way."
Crucial to the construction process of Zai skis is a sandwich of tungsten and ash wood, surrounding a filling of several secret ingredients.
The end result means the skis are very light but strong, so the skier is less aware of the appendages strapped to their feet.
"Behind the philosophy of Zai there are different reasons. One reason is for sure to create a tool which enables people to ski easier and to have more fun but also to forget about the skis and be creative themselves in the snow," Jacomet said.
He said inspiration for the business came from what he learnt at the monastery school in Disentis where he learnt Buddhism from a hang-gliding abbot who taught racing skiers how to achieve their Zen moment.
Jacomet has made this philosophy central to his business. He said his aim is for skiers to not only forget about the skis on their feet, but for them too to experience the "Zen" moments he often does.
"When the ski set-up is not good I never get these Zen emotions -- it's not possible," Jacomet said.
"But often I step into the binding and without having done one meter of skiing I feel fine I know this is right. And it's strange to explain but it happens."
With a price tag of $3,500 -- including bindings, poles and ski bag -- Jacomet hopes Zai skis will appeal to discerning skiers in search of quality -- and perhaps a philosophical relationship with their wallet.
And in the name of quality control, Jacomet tests every set of skis personally.
It's the company perk he treasures most -- seeking his own Zen moment in the mountains he calls home.
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