“I started a local ski recycling program for the greater Seattle area a few years ago and it’s doing well. I’ve partnered with Stevens Pass, Sturtevants, and Seattle Ski. I turn the skis into functional ski art for the home, such as coat racks, bottle openers, bookends, shelves, candle sconces, toilet plungers, beer flights, you name it. The skis I don’t use, I give away to other craftsmen making their own projects (usually ski fences).”
If you ski or snowboard in Washington state and its time to put your old gear out to pasture, don’t just toss it into the recycling bin where it may or may not end up in a trash heap, donate it to this dude Brian Geppert of SkiArtistry where it will be upcycled into a dizzying array of home decor and functional items.
Brian’s story of building his first bench from old skis to running a thriving business using discarded gear is best told in his words, so I’ll step aside a let a true ski entrepreneur share the origin of it all:
Efforts at a true ski recycling program began in Colorado where the Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) launched a pilot program in 2009. It grew to 65 stores and collected over 700,000 pounds of equipment by 2013.
The program would take old equipment and put it through a large shredder (ski+bindings and all). The hope was that the bits that came out could be used in various construction materials. The shredder was mounted on a railcar and moved to various locations. In the summer of 2015, Sturtevant’s had arranged to have the shredder sent up north for recycling but received news in July that the recycling program was discontinued. The program had problems finding a revenue source since it cost approximately $0.35/pound.
The idea for local ski recycling started after I decided to build a bench from old skis. I had driven by the Cascade Nursery along Hwy 2 many times and seen their tremendous ski fence. It occurred to me that maybe they had a few leftover skis they wouldn’t mind parting with. I stopped one day and spoke with the owner, Jake Sharpe. He was happy to give away a few skis from his vast collection. After donating the bench to Mission Ridge, I couldn’t help but wonder where old skis go after they outlive their useful life.
At that time, Goodwill would have an annual ski sale in October at the Monroe site. They were storing up skis all year, transporting them to Monroe then trying to sell them. I figured they would have plenty of unsold equipment that would need to be disposed so I approached the head of the Puget Sound Goodwill, Randy Strong. He was eager to recycle their skis. In 2015, though, the Everett warehouse manager that stored the skis (Alex Smith) decided to cancel the Monroe ski sale because it was too costly. He was not interested in recycling skis and did not want to receive any more skis because he all too often would have to throw them away. In speaking with the individual stores, such as the Everett Goodwill (Israel Juarez), I learned that they still send their skis to the warehouse if they cannot sell them. The individual stores say they cannot recycle them because they are required to send them to the warehouse if they cannot sell them. The warehouse does not want them and claims to not have room to store any skis of any quantity for recycling.
I then decided that I should pursue other venues. I approached Tracy Gibbons of Sturtevant’s to see if they would like to participate in ski recycling. I figured if anyone would be open to ski recycling, it would be the premier ski shop in the Puget Sound, Sturtevant’s. They were enthusiastic about ski recycling and remain the top recycler in the area.
Stevens Pass participates in a different way. Although they don’t act as a collection point, they do end up with many skis/poles from either abandonment, lost & not found, or damaged rental equipment. Stevens Pass donates all of their unusable ski equipment to the ski recycling program.
In a year, it can be several hundred skis that get picked up. I build as many items as I can from the old skis and sell the functional ski art through Etsy. Most of the skis find uses by others craftsman or individuals looking to build their own ski fences. I work through Craigslist to find other artists and upcyclers that need skis for their projects. I’ve had inquiries from as far away as North Carolina from artists looking for skis for their projects. Usually the people are much closer to Seattle, but some will drive up from Oregon in search of skis.
Skis make for a great building material for projects because they are so strong. Each ski has different uses depending on it’s characteristics.
Long skis are good for shot skis since you need enough shoulder room between shot glasses. Skis with beautiful graphics near the tips would lend themselves to wall-mounted ski-tip bottle openers. If a pair of skis has interesting graphics and has a flat stop surface near the tail, then they could be made into bookends. The flat top surface is needed for the tip and tail to be joined. Skis with larger graphics lend themselves to wine bottle racks.
And shorter skis are best for coat/towel racks/hooks. Fat skis provide a lot of material so that a single ski can be cut and assembled into a bird feeder. Ski poles have two pieces that are useful – the handle and the basket. The handle and pole can be used as a beer tap handle, attached to make a custom ice scraper, or a toilet plunger. The pole + basket can serve as a coat hook on a ski. If the pole is unsalvageable, then the basket and handle can be removed and the aluminum pole truly recycled.BUY HERE.
If you’re interested in donating skis, ski boots, ski poles or snowboards and doing the planet a solid you can do so at any Sturtevants Store.***If you have something specific in mind that is currently available Brian takes custom orders so let your imaginations go wild: pps you can also buy these super rad light saber poles for 69.47: