Colorado startup launches product to facilitate ski-to-ski binding switches with bare hands
March 16, 2018
Picture this: You show up to the mountain for first chair and ski icy trails for a few hours before heavy snowfall begins to pile up. Noticing the accumulation of powder, you decide you want to go back to your car to swap out your all-mountain skis for your powder skis.
And when you do, rather than picking up a different pair of skis with a different pair of bindings, using your bare hands you slide your bindings off of your all-mountain skis and click them onto your powder skis, ready for piles of freshies.
If a Colorado startup business called Crossover Technologies gets its way, that'll be a common scene on powder days to come across ski resorts in Summit County and beyond.
"The concept of having one universal cohesive element that goes between things is not new," Crossover Technologies co-founder Kyle Rajaniemi said. "Think of power tools — they all have one battery and can go through different tools. If you cycle? Your cleats and your pedals work across your road bike and mountain bike. And then surfboard fins, too. You can take your same surfboard fins and go through 10 different boards if you want."
Crossover Technologies is a Front Range-based startup comprised of a pair of co-founding childhood friends and the recent University of Denver mechanical engineer graduate they stumbled upon who is now their lead engineer.
Those childhood buddies from Littleton, Rajaniemi and Cameron Nazminia, first conceived of the idea that would become the product they believe will enable that hypothetical parking lot ski-swap scene: their Crossover mounting plate.
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It's a 5.5-millimeter glass-filled nylon plastic mounting plate that Crossover Technologies and its lead engineer Tim Thompson believe will provide avid skiers with the ability to use one binding across multiple skis.
"We didn't set out to reinvent the binding," Nazminia said at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Sunday, March 11. "We are trying to reinvent the thinking and psyche around this marriage (of binding to ski)."
"Because the model is," Nazminia added, "you buy a ski, you buy a binding, you marry 'em. But if you take (a binding) apart and you take an older binding apart, all it is, is a spring in there. And we looked at this and said, 'this is nuts.'"
"Boots you can use with any binding," Rajaniemi said, "so you should be able to swap bindings too, because they serve the same purpose and functionality."
"My biggest thing is," Thompson added, "I'll go into a ski shop and I'll see a new pair of skis that I want, but I'm really torn about buying them because I would have to un-mount one of my old pairs of skis (from their bindings). And if I really like them, I don't want to have to choose between the two or pay $300 to get a new pair of bindings."
The Crossover Technologies trio brought the Crossover mounting plate product to Breckenridge and skied on it on March 11 more than a half-decade after Rajaniemi sketched his first drafts of the idea. In the six years since, Nazminia said the concept has gone through eight iterations, with Crossover Technologies only perfecting the product when Thompson came on board.
From first sketch to now, Rajaniemi and Nazminia say they've reduced the weight and height of the plastic mounting plate system significantly while also switching from a two plate-per ski model to the current single plate product. That breakthrough came a year-and-a-half ago, when the engineer Thompson told his new business partners he had a more efficient way to do it.
"We have not affected the performance of the binding in any way, shape or form," Rajaniemi said. "It was one of our principles throughout this entire process, and as Tim went to modify and design this, (the main variable) was that the binding works just as it should out of the factory. And that if you bring it to a ski shop, they'll be able to mount this, they'll be able to set the DIN tolerance to your weight and skier level, and it'll function exactly like it should (without the Crossover plate)."
The latest incarnation of the Crossover mounting plate that the trio is ready to bring to market is a five-millimeter wide standard glass-filled nylon plastic product that, they say, will be cut to a specific shape to seamlessly fit most any standard downhill binding. At an expected cost of $65 to $75 for the Crossover "Package A," consumers would get two Crossover mounting plates. The trio added that a three plate Package B and additional a la carte sets are planned to be available when they launch.
The company's goal is to ship the Crossover products around August, in time for avid skiers to have them for next ski season. The trio adds that they are also looking into and working on mounting plates for non-downhill bindings, such as alpine touring bindings.
"I think it's fair to say (Tim) has a portfolio right now and those things are currently in build out," Nazminia said.
But in order to launch by next fall, Crossover Technologies plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign sometime in the next two weeks. To this point, Rajaniemi said he and Nazminia have funded the entire project out of their own pockets. For launch, though, they said they'd need at least $50,000 to move forward with manufacturing.
As for how the Crossover mounting plate actually works, rather than screwing a binding into a ski, the Crossover plate bed is adhered to the ski.
On the bottom of the mounting plates, little holes are visible. It's from the length of one of these holes to the other where a titanium rod provides the tension as a retaining and securing device for the bindings.
Crossover Technologies will then provide consumers custom lock nuts, to screw onto their bindings until they are tight. With the lock nuts in place, consumers then plug the lock nuts into the four holes on the Crossover plate, sliding the bindings forward on the toe piece and backward on the heel piece to lock the binding onto the plate and, in turn, onto the ski.
Rajaniemi said the system relies on those "positive stops" on the toe and heel to prevent any movement for the ski boot or binding.
"You literally can't not move once you are in there," the co-founder said.
"The retainment keeps the binding in place so it's not flying off when your skis are flying off," Thompson added.
Once the product is available, the trio will begin with sales online at their website: Xoski.com. Down the line, they have sights on expanding into physical ski shops, from large retailers to small mountain town mom-and-pop boutiques.
And it's there where Thompson sees some of the most opportunity for growth in an evolving ski industry
"All of these small pop-up shops are coming out, and they don't produce bindings." Thompson said. "They are just producing skis, and what's holding them back is people not buying their skis because they have to buy another pair of bindings. So a big market for this plate is smaller ski companies, those that want to sell more pair of skis, so that they can pair these plates with their skis."
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