“See those ones?” I ask my son, Griffin, 11, pointing to a futuristic-looking pair of yellow skis with exposed, silver damping mechanisms. “That’s the Salomon X-Scream. It was the ski back in the late ’90s. I had a pair just like that once. I totally destroyed one edge on my second day skiing them.”
Griffin laughs, but his attention is drawn to a pair of rough-hewn wooden skis about 9 feet long with thin leather straps for bindings. He asks Richard Allen, the owner of Vintage Ski World, when they were made and is amazed to learn they date to the late 1800s, when materials like metal edges and P-Tex were unheard of.
The wooden skis and the X-Screams are just two (or four) of the hundreds of skis and other snow sports–related artifacts on display at Vintage Ski World’s warehouse, which opened just east of downtown Carbondale last September. The collection—most of it for sale—makes for a great run down memory lane for any longtime skier.
In one aisle, I find a pair of skinny Rossignol FP Comps, one of the first skis I could call my own back when I was Griffin’s age. Amid a row of ski boots, I spy a pair of the five-buckle Koflachs I had loved as a teenager skiing Mad River Glen, and over there—oh my!—are a few different models of the Snurfer, the precursor to the snowboard. My brothers and I used to crash Snurfers while sliding down our house’s steep, winding driveway when I was 8 or 9.
Part retail store, part museum, Vintage Ski World is an astonishing chronicle of ski history. In addition to equipment, you’ll find everything from classic posters, patches, and pins to ski-related DVDs, games, and jigsaw puzzles. The skis on hand represent every stage of the sport’s evolution, while many of the old Day-Glo one-pieces—from Bogner, Obermeyer, White Stag, and others—seem hysterical today. The new home has made it easy to view the vast array.
“It’s made a huge difference,” says Allen of the warehouse. “It’s the first time I’ve had the whole collection under one roof. People have been coming in to shop every day, and we almost had Antiques Roadshow interested in covering it, but we were too organized.”
He became interested in ski paraphernalia after discovering some of his parents’ and grandparents’ old gear, says Allen, who moved to Snowmass Village in the 1970s. He started Vintage Ski World in 1996, and three years later hugely boosted the collection by procuring the unsold inventory of a shuttered Portland, Oregon, sporting-goods store. “That was a big score,” Allen says. “Over the years, they’d just put all their old stock down in the basement. I went there with my buddy, and what we saw was just incredible.”
In 2002, local ski mountaineering legend and graphic designer Lou Dawson helped Allen start an online business. Two years later, with backing from philanthropist George Stranahan, he opened a retail space on Aspen’s Cooper Avenue Mall. Rent proved too high, however, and Allen closed the store in 2006, whereupon his collection was dispersed among three storage sites and mostly hidden from view, until now.
Pay a visit to Vintage Ski World and you’ll likely find some old favorites, too. As for me, I’m thinking of buying one of those Snurfers so Griffin can experience wiping out the old-school way.