The wall: in a small New England village, a skateboard park inspires a history lesson on cross country skis
YOU MIGHT not think of Morrisville, Vermont, nine miles north of Stowe, as a ski town. But for downhillers, it sits at the epicenter of what could be called the Northern Vermont Powder League: Stowe, Smugglers' Notch and Jay Peak alpine areas all well within an hour's drive.
That becomes apparent when you look at The Wall.
And you might not consider Morrisville a ski town when it comes to cross country either, what with the major areas like the well-known Trapp Family Lodge and the Mt. Mansfield Cross Country Center in Stowe, and the astonishing operation that is now the Craftsbury Outdoor Center to the north.
But you'd have to overlook the trail systems of the two local high schools, a great backcountry section of the Catamount Trail, which runs the length of the state, a local golf course with groomed trails on sweet terrain--dogs welcome--and a tangle of touring trails below the looming Sterling Mountain, to the west and a recently completed section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, groomed for snowmobiles, snowshoers and cross country skiers, which will someday run the width of the state. https://skateszone.com/flushing-meadows/
About 12 years ago, energetic local kids wanted to build a skateboard park on a town-owned parcel known locally as The Oxbow. A flat spit of land rounded out by the Lamoille River that, until Vermont's Great Flood of 1927, harbored a grainery, lumber yard, foundry and tannery at the north edge of a prosperous village with an architectural abundance of buildings on the National Registry of Historic Sites.
When the railroad built in 1842 went out in 1952, the village predictably took a huge hit. It's that lack of industry and agriculture that made the land available for community endeavors like soccer and, says Trish Follert, Morrisville's Community Development Coordinator, skateboarding. So the townfolk raised some money and Follert went after local donations of wood for the scaffolding and sheet metal for the pipes.
Two years later the skateboard park was done. But the scaffolding was an eyesore, collecting dropped and windblown garbage underneath. What to do? Mindful of the old skis in her garage and having seen a backyard fence of skis, and with a head for reusing and recycling, Follert thought: Shingle it with old skis. What Size Skateboard Do I Need
Make it public art. She sent out press releases, got the word around. Morrisville (and surrounding Morristown) went crazy over the project. Skis started showing up in a steady stream at bins she placed in an alley between the town municipal building and a business next door, indeed turning it into something of a swap meet as a few folks upgraded, trading their donated skis for better or more modern rides.
Over the next four summers skis were attached by crews doing community service for the Vermont Department of Corrections. Most of the crew members weren't skiers, but they could get bindings off and skis put up quickly, although they found that the alpine skis were so durable that they had to be pre-drilled. In order to conform to the contours of the pipes, skis were overlapped, sometimes in three tiers to the top of the safety railing.
I watched The Wall's progress over several years, delivering a few contributions from my rafters. I made (literally) the rounds again on a blistering hot weekend in late June. Alpine and cross country skis were intermingled from the start. The alpine skis were predictable--the usual manufacturers and not a lot of real oldies.
But cross country? A different matter entirely. It became clear that I was walking around an ad hoc, thrown-together museum of skinny skis. Expectedly there were well-known waxless skis from Trak, Fischer and Rossignol. Damn, if the display wasn't Finntastic--plenty of sisu. Take note you guys from Fitchburg Mass. who have Finns in the family tree and may come through here en route to the Craftsbury Marathon--you'll see some familiar skis: Peltonen and Jarvinen touring models. Haka? Yeah.
The shortest ski at the bottom of the scaffolding of the south wall was a worn, still-yellow ski sans tip. But "Finn Ski" was just discernable on its mid-section. The tail was the giveaway--"Harju Sukski." Not to be confused with well-represented Karhu.
For variation of colors, ski pairs were separated. So one Kuusisto was parted from its partner by a Norwegian Bonna 1800 with its distinctive blue stripe. Neither Kuusisto had the rubber inset waxless base that appeared on it and Karhus from around the Sarajevo Olympics era. Karhu was in on that, too--think Nokian tires. If conditions were right--i.e. maddening waxing--they worked well.
The back or east side of the park was least seen, and save for some junior alpine skis, hadn't yet been finished. But there were piles of skis within the scaffolding for The Wall's completion.
On the north side, things went Euro crazy fast. A Plenk? This tourer was made in a united Germany, though their early carbon racers came from the communist side. Welcome Slovenia via Elan touringskis. And Hagan ... Austrian, right? Norway resurged with a dazzling pair of blood-orange Madshus "Lillehammer Skate" skis, harboring that Triaxial braiding technology for which K2 bought the venerable company. A Rossi divided it from a more traditional Norge board in the form of a wide, wooden Kongsberg Fjell ski.
Swedes, it's your turn as Jofa, Sundins and Lindex appeared--the latter made in Estonia. Then an Alpina, another Slovenian offering. Italy? A Spalding puts you there, alongside another Austrian: a Kneissl "Magic" model with a Honeycomb waxless base--nothing sweet about its grip, I recall. And that nearby Fischer Step ski?
Good thing it was followed by the Crown pattern. I guessed that the mysterious silver S2000 GTV WM Loipe was Germanic. Closer examination revealed that it was "Styled by Gattinger. Made in Austria." Close to it, a glaring yellow Erbacher Telemark from Germany (75-65mm), which, in its day, was among the preferred rides of western tele racers, "stein comps" on their feet. Fittingly, a Colorado-made Lovett--waxless via two mohair strips followed it.
The sweep of international brands in a week when Brexit occurred was somehow fitting. The sinuous curve of the now broiler-hot halfpipe made me think of the curve of ski history I'd screamed down. And that a magazine that was founded in Vermont was back in Vermont. Cable Wis., Cross Country Skier's former headquarters, and Jeffersonville, Vt. (its current one) have about the same populations.
A single ski made that connection: a black, white and green citizen race ski from Kneissl, its elongated, star-shaped logo split between the skis. I took a closer look at a worn silver sticker: "Gammel Dansk Bitters product of Denmark Sponsors of the American Birkebeiner XIII February 23, 1985."
And I thought about how that old abandoned railroad was now part of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail system, maintained and winter-groomed by the Vermont Association of Snow Travellers. Thanks to the snowmobilers, I could walk 100 yards from The Wall to it and skate ski 30 km to Height of Land Publications, harboring Cross Country Skier's new offices. And, forgive the old man, but, all in all, it IS all just skis in the wall.
But you'd have to overlook the trail systems of the two local high schools, a great backcountry section of the Catamount Trail, which runs the length of the state, a local golf course with groomed trails on sweet terrain--dogs welcome--and a tangle of touring trails below the looming Sterling Mountain, to the west and a recently completed section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, groomed for snowmobiles, snowshoers and cross country skiers, which will someday run the width of the state. Read more article: https://skateszone.com/colt-cannon/