By Alicia Dziak
Ski and snowboard season is well underway, and if you haven’t been out on the slopes yet, the fresh powder is calling! In order to get optimum performance out of your equipment, having those babies tuned up before you go is a must. Enter Springville Ski and Snowboard Service.
Owner Sam Johnston, who “started tuning on the side about five years ago, hand filing and hot waxing for a few friends and acquaintances,” has turned his passion of all things skiing into “a mobile operation with a trailer that can set up with nothing but an extension cord.”
Johnston, who resides in the Village of Springville, has a long history with skiing.
“I started skiing when I was 14 because the neighbors that I spent most of my summers with had been doing it for years,” said Johnston, who is originally from Cattaraugus. “I joined the school ski club that year and have been a huge loyal follower ever since! I had to take Tuesday nights off from the neighbor’s dairy farm where I was working at the time and with that money, I saved up for my first set of skis.” Johnston noted that his future wife, Jessica, was in that same ski club; little did they know then that they would reunite 18 years later, get married and start a family.
Of those early years, Johnston continued: “As soon as I got my driver’s license, I got a season’s pass at Holiday Valley and continued to take my lessons. When I was 16, I decided to try out to be an instructor. I passed!”
Johnston went on to say that during his time as an instructor, he made a friend during a two-day clinic. “He was a UB student at the time that later became one of the biggest names in skiing, Jason Levinthal, the original owner of Line Skis.”
During that time, a close friend of Johnston’s had started helping out at the Ski Depot, which used to be on Washington Street in Ellicottville. “The Ski Depot was on the cutting edge of skiing during those years and with the business being so busy with sales, rentals and repairs, they needed more help.”
The following season, Johnston and two of his friends started working there.
“That’s where I learned all the ins and outs of the business, from some of the best racers and freestylers in our area,” Johnston said.
I learned how to hand tune from Kevin “Father” McKnight, a race coach at Holiday Valley who was a Salomon- sponsored athlete that worked through the Ski Depot.
At that point, snowboarding was starting to take off, and the name of the shop was changed to Winter Sport Depot. “As this was seasonal work, I was looking for something else more full time,” Johnston said of his next step. “That’s when a local snowboard manufacturing company expanded and moved into a factory in Ellicottville from a small operation in West Falls. This was Function Mfg. I started out as a production grinder, taking the boards from the press, cutting them out, tuning the edges and grinding the bases to a complete finish, as well as waxing.”
Johnston worked his way up to production manager.
“That’s where I met up with Jason Levinthal again,” Johnston said. “He came to us for some manufacturing advice as Line Skiboards were going into full production outside of Albany. I was the only guy (he knew) that snowboarded and skied, so he gave me a sample set! I fell in love with the things at the time!” (Levinthal now does custom short batch hand made skis, www.Jskis.com.)
As the 1990s were coming to a close, Function closed up shop and Johnston headed west. “I moved to Salt Lake City and worked as a manager at the Sport Stalker at the tram plaza at Snowbird. I met many great people there and skied nearly every day.”
After that season was over, Johnston went to Hood River, OR. Function Mfg. was bought out by Heelside Snowboard boot company and went back into production. “I skied that summer regularly at Timberline on Mt. Hood. That was a blast!”
From there, Johnston found himself in places such as Phoenix, AZ, Huntington Beach, CA,and Philadelphia, PA before landing back in WNY.
“I found myself at the City Garage (in Ellicottville) tuning skis again,” he said. “Their business was really taking off and I really enjoyed being in one place and working in the shop again.”
From there, he found other year round sales jobs.
“I then met up with my future wife that I had known since we dated in middle school. We got married right away and started our family here in Springville,” he said.
Johnston and his wife have instilled their love of skiing in their three sons. “Henry, my oldest, was on skis at four, then Roland, who we also started very young, and this year, Arthur, our youngest, is going to get started,” he said. “At the ski areas as a young man, I noticed so many happy families skiing together and having fun. I thought to myself, when I settle down and have a family, we are all going to ski together! I still am envisioning all of us coming in weekend mornings and plugging in the Crockpot, suiting up and cruising down the hill as a family! Very soon the boys will be ready and then we can all race to the bottom together and blow snow on each others’ skis with a rock solid hockey stop just before the lift line!”
Johnston is currently an Inside Sales and Production Coordinator at Springville Manufacturing Company.
“I missed the (ski) business and decided to give it a go as something on the side and here I am!” he explained.
Johnston offers full tunes on skis and snowboards, as well as on telemark and cross- country skis. “I can also do some boot fitting,” he said.
Johnston runs a mobile unit that has a Grindrite ST500 side and base edger and Grindrite ST600 14-inch ski and board base grinder with auto feed.
A far as what sets Springville Ski and Snowboard Service apart, Johnston said, “I think my long list of vast and diverse experience, including my outside sales experience, puts me in a good position to take care of nearly any issue that may come along.” He added that having a central location, especially close for people living in Springville, is also key. Johnston also offers pickup and delivery service to make it even more convenient.
To make an appointment and get your skis or board ready for optimum performance out on the slopes, call or text Johnston at Springville Ski and Snowboard Service at (716) 225-0035.