Aspen students earning their turns |

Aspen students earning their turns

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” On Wednesday, 20 Aspen High School students headed to the Sangree M. Froelicher Hut north of Leadville ” most of them on skis they made themselves.

The course, named The Al Johnson Challenge, after a Crested Butte man who delivered mail on skis, is one of 27 Aspen High experiential education trips that occurred this week in lieu of regular classes. Adventures included sailing in Santa Barbara, Calif., serving the homeless in Grand Junction and rafting Cataract Canyon.

The students have been designing and working on their skis since January, said math teacher Jamie Hozack, who is facilitating the course with history teacher Matt Wells.

Students first cut strips of wood to make the core, then glued the strips together before sanding the whole core layer to the desired taper, senior Zach Hendrix said.

Then the wood core, a base layer with metal edges, several layers of fiberglass, a Photoshop-designed topsheet and several coats of epoxy went into the press ” and out came a “square ski” that had to be trimmed, sanded and waterproofed, Hendrix said. Once the skis were ready, students mounted alpine touring or telemark bindings.

Several of the students used their own boots and bindings, but many were donated by community members, Wells said. Black Diamond also donated three pairs of alpine touring bindings, he said.

Making skis is a process not without challenges, as senior Tobie Tsuzuki learned Monday. As he was routing his wood core, the ski popped up, and the router punched a hole through the edge of the wood.

Together, he and Wells decided that he ought to start over from the beginning, so Tsuzuki headed out to the hallway to pick up more wood.

Meanwhile, sophomore Tower Thompson helped freshman Connor Quigley with the difficult task of bending the metal edges around his base layer.

A few tables over, senior Cole Green-Smith winced as Hozack punched drill guide-holes in his skis, to mount the bindings.

“I put well over 20-30 hours into my skis,” he said earlier.

Outside, senior Joeda SIchel showed off her finished boards.

“I’m a math and science person,” she said. “I’m not an artist. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve created in my life.”

Because the course doubled in size, several students ran out of time to finish their skis before the trip, Wells said. Next year, he hoped to write a grant for another press, in order to make sure all the skiers could finish.

But by Tuesday, the students had done all they could on their skis, and were outside hunting for mock avalanche victims, as part of a three-day avalanche course taught by Aspen Alpine Guides.

On a hill across from the high school, they ran through the rotten snow to find buried beacons attached to pickle bucket lids.

On Wednesday morning, students and teachers arrived packed and ready to drive to Leadville and ski into the Sangree M. Froelicher Hut ” where they would finish their avalanche course, as well as spend several days skiing around the hut.

A few days earlier, several seniors had reminisced about past trips, and tried to explain what was valuable about the experiential education week.

“You learn how to work with a group,” mused senior Patrick Semple.

“You learn to get along with different cliques in your school,” added Green-Smith.

“You’re forced to be with the same 20 people for a week straight,” said Sichel. “Honestly, at this point, I don’t know any of the freshmen in here, but I’m excited to get to know them in the next few days.”

Aspen High School is accepting donated telemark or alpine touring bindings and boots for next year’s ski course. Contact or

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