Tim Willoughby
Aspen Times Weekly

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April 14, 2011
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What to do with those old skis?

You know you are in a ski town when you walk through residential garages or peek into condo storage lockers. Piles of skis gather dust. The longer someone has skied, the more extensive the collection. Skiers keep their skis, thinking they will use them for rock skis. Discarding scratched-up skis is a low priority. Seeing an old pair brings back fond memories; you can't throw away your old friends. As the years go by, the oldest pairs stay because you think they are museum items. You intend to donate them, not realizing that ski museums are inundated with rusting relics.

New Year's resolutions, put off until spring, result in a trip to the dump, where you gaze upon the final resting place for most skis. You spot straight skis and wonder how anyone managed to manipulate them, and brands that have long since gone out of business, some with bindings and others stripped of their hardware.

Clever craftsmen recycle skis, turning them into colorful Adirondack chairs. Skis are a perfect building material for outdoor furniture made to survive winter. By adding hooks, skis can be turned into kitchen pot hangers. Bars, restaurants and homes are decorated with ski chandeliers, coat racks and wall displays.

When I was a kid we had our own ski-recycling program. Since skiing had not been a popular sport for long, closets were not cluttered with skis. Manufacturers changed the cosmetics occasionally, but once you had a pair of wood skis you used them until they lost their edges or their camber. Children's skis were passed on to younger siblings. Even so, a ready supply of rejected skis (broken Blizzards, Kneissls and Kastles) could be found, if you knew where to look.

Aspen Sports threw away the most skis because they had a repair shop. Some skis were beyond repair because metal edges ripped out, leaving gaping holes in the bottoms. The most common end to a wood ski was a broken tip. That fix was simple: if the store had one good ski salvaged from a previous broken-tipped pair of the same brand and length, you could ski with an unmatched pair. Most of the time, the store sold you new skis, so the pair (both the broken ski and the unbroken ski) ended up in garbage cans behind the ski shop.

A perfectly good ski was too much of a temptation for a kid. Since none of us could ski on just one ski, we came up with other uses for the skis that we rescued from the dump. We built sleds of various designs: some slid on multiple skis, but the two-ski sled worked best. Our most common design flaw was not elevating the bottom. Often we ran two-by-fours perpendicular to the skis near the tip and near the end. The two-by-four, only half an inch above the ground, caught snow like a snowplow, slowing the sled.

Our carpentry skills and equipment were limited, but it was not difficult to drive a nail or drill a hole through a wood ski. A few boards plus two skis (fairly close to the same length) was enough to construct a sled. Building the sleds was more fun than using them. The ultimate was to build a structure that put the rider inside a wood shell. I remember one I built with friends, a long triangular wedge that was aerodynamic in appearance, but with the snow-catching flaw.

We pushed our sleds, some very heavy, as far up Little Nell as courage allowed, which was not very far. Then we rode them to the bottom, which at that time was an empty area long enough to stop the sled before you reached the street. Most rides didn't go far. Either the sled fell apart (we were child craftsmen), dragged in the snow and stopped, or it turned over.

There was only one direction a sled could or would go: downhill. Our steering device was to screw two sticks, one on each side near the rear, that we pulled on to effect a turn. They usually broke off, and when they didn't they were inadequate for the task.

Building sleds formed the foundation of my carpentry skills. I think I'll clean out my shed full of skis and build an Adirondack chair.


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The Aspen Times Updated Apr 17, 2011 08:22AM Published Apr 14, 2011 11:17AM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.