A Coach’s Path to Precision. The “Sidecut” Story

The ski industry if filled with very interesting and inspiring people. Take Chris Hillier for instance. Chris has a rich history of skiing and coaching with a very interesting path leading to his tremendous success in the ski world. He started his ski career at a small ski resort named Chicopee Ski Club located in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His humble beginning on this 200ft vertical hill launched his passion for the sport.

Chris worked as a ski instructor in Falls Creek, Australia and later developed his coaching skills at the Windermere Valley Ski Club Panorama Resort in Invermere, BC (1992-1996) where he was a U14 and FIS coach alongside Shelley Thomsen (Ben Thomsen’s Mother who’s a downhill skier for CAST).

As a CSCF (Canadian Ski Coaching Federation) coach, Chris was grateful to have a great mentor by the name of Gord Brown. Chris became the youngest CSCF Level 4 coach in Canada. Quite a tremendous accomplishment for those of us in the industry.

For Chris, it wasn’t enough. “Money did not drive me”. He wanted to share this CSCF methodology internationally and set off to Perisher Australia where two Australian women wanted him as their coach. Chris became the National Team Coach for the Australian Women’s ski Team where he spent eight (8) years coaching at a national level. During this time, he lived in Austria (kind of a nice gig) and spent a few years in Norway as well. Chris continued his journey with the Men’s Dutch EuropaCup Team and New Zealand Women’s Team. He also had the privilege of coaching Jack Gower (British Ski Team) in a one-on-one capacity.


Jack Gower (World Cup Skier)

“Trusting your gear is paramount to your success.
The Sidecut tools give you increased confidence on edge so you can go faster.
****CAUTION: You’ll carve like never before!”

Jack Gower (World Cup Skier)

While Chris was in Norway, he noticed and appreciated the country’s enriched culture passion for skiing. He mentioned how the Norwegian and Canadian cultures were very similar in many ways.

And then it started…. Chris  had the idea to run ‘tuning workshops’ to build his Sidecut Brand

Where Did It All Begin?

Sidecut was born from humble beginnings in a high-end precision machine shop in Waterloo, Ontario. Founder Chris Hillier, the son of an engineer went to his father with an idea to design some tools to tune skis. Hillier spent the summer nights of 1992 turning out parts on his families CNC machinery. This is where it all began.

Sidecut

Chris’ family had a precision machining business from 1936 and sold in 1997. A very interesting past where his Father built off-road race cars and Porsche 911s. Chris was around high-end precision parts all his life. He actually started a used car dealership while in high school (Entrepreneurial much?).

As a test-driver for the 911’s, Chris did many rebuilds on dirt bikes and snowmobiles. That is the impetus of Sidecut. He loved working with machines and it all transformed into the world of skiing and coaching. As a youngster, Chris would have full access to the company’s machine shop. (unknown to his Uncles:) ). With the assistance of some of the company’s machinists, Chris would work on small projects in the shop. It seemed like a natural transition to go from a machinery family business to building a precision list of product for the ski industry. A clear path to start Sidecut.

All in thanks to his Father and Grandfather. 

Chris recalls making a small sketch in Alberta based on a ski coaching experience. He then started manufacturing file guides, gate-keys and tru-bars for the ski industry. He would sell his sought after products to local athletes in the Kooteneys in British Columbia. The tools he was designing morphed from his experience in the tuning rooms during the European race circuit. 

In 2013, Chris stopped coaching and wanted a little break. SO, like many adventurous individuals, what do you do? You take a break and go surfing in Malibu and Australia of course !

When he returned from hangin’ 10, he continued in the ski industry touring from ski resort to ski resort providing unique precision tools for the local ski athletes.

Precision Work in both industries

During our discussion with Chris, it was clear that his passion for skiing and coaching spilled into his focus to build a precision tuning tools for skiers. Or, was it the other way around?

A Well Tuned Pair of Skis

Chris knew that we so often as skiers work on our technique, our fitness or mental preparation, but one area that many recreational skiers perhaps don’t think about as a way to improve their skiing is…. a well tuned pair of skis. Imagine racing your car in the Indianapolis 500 with bald tires. Huh?

The mission: to build a simple set of precision tuning tools that anyone can use in order to help improve their skiing and increase their fun on the slopes.

The original vision was to design the highest quality tuning tools and provide the knowledge that snow-sport enthusiasts need to reach their maximum potential.

Christian Hillier

Chris understood the importance for recreational skiers to know more about tuning their equipment. He realized the need to create a set of tools that works all together; to make available a do-it-yourself tuning kit; develop usable tools for recreational skiers; and provide a set of tools that would impact the amount of fun we could have on the snow.

A simple approach could make all the difference to a skier’s progression and fun-factor.

3 Simple things skiers should know about tuning skis

  1. We need tools, knowledge, guidelines to help us tune and maintain skis
  2. It’s necessary to incorporate a daily regime
  3. We need to understand the repercussions of lack of maintenance

There is still a strong need for our ski shops to setup up our skis and prep them for the season. The proper ski setup and ski geometry by the ski shops can go a long way. After that initial setup, there seems to be a gap between the time we pick up our skis and our next required tuning.

There’s a simple solution. We either have the ski shop continue to sharpen them OR we as skiers begin to understand and control our own ski tuning so we may maintain and tune our skis on an ongoing basis. Adjusting as you go and tuning your own skis based on your skill level and understanding of what a ski does on the snow will result in a more continuous and even-level of tuned skis and less variance in our skis ability to perform.

Once we have the knowledge, the guidelines, and the tools to maintain our own equipment, the more we can have a well maintained and correctly tuned pair of skis under our feet.

A dull pair of skis will reduce ability to grip, reduce confidence and question your ability to improve.

Andrew Elsdon
Pierre Ruel tuning

Once you have a well-tuned set of skis, you begin to realize what you were missing. It builds confidence and accelerates your skills and understanding of how the ski reacts on the snow. Tuning our own pair of skis gives us control on how to adjust them and how that adjustment in tuning changes our own performance on the snow.

YOUR EDGE – Tune it, or Lose It !

If you have ever wondered how to tune a set of adult skis, check out our next article where we spell out the four simple steps by Chris and Sidecut It will be a helpful guide to help all of us at all levels of skiing, build confidence and simply have more fun on the slopes.

Educating and applying what I’ve learned about ski tuning has increased my confidence 10-fold”

Andrew Elsdon

Summary

A Coach’s Path to Precision. The “Sidecut Tuning” Story
A sincere thank you for chatting with Chris Hillier from Sidecut. It was a privilege to speak with someone in the industry who is passionate and completely qualified in the sport.

“Thank you Chris for your insight and inspiration.”


Resources

  • Sidecut.com
  • Interview with Christian Hillier

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2 comments

  1. Randall Jang

    I’ve known and used Sidecut tuning tools for a long time – once you start tuning and maintaining your skis, you really won’t go back – it’s a simple game changer!

    Rj

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