New school ski-builders: Amalgam Ski Company

In the past few years there’s been a resurgence of ski manufacturing in Maine. Yesterday I visited Amalgam Ski Company in Freeport, an exemplar of this new trend.

Maine was once home to numerous ski manufacturers, but by 1965 they had either gone out of business or at least ceased making skis. See the little feature story on Paris Manufacturing Company on WoodenSkis.com.

So the recent resurgence is very encouraging to. History repeats itself. But not really.

These companies combine old-fashioned passion for the sport with a distinctly new school approach to materials, construction and marketing.

Amy and Phil Taisey are the principals of Amalgam Ski Company in Freeport, Maine

Amy and Phil Taisey are the principals of Amalgam Ski Company in Freeport, Maine

Amalgam was founded in 2012 by the husband-wife team of Phil and Amy Taisey, who boast strong, lifeliong connections to Sugarloaf. Amy is also a 2002 graduate of Carrabassett Valley Academy, an anchor of Maine’s skiing culture.

For the first few years, the Taiseys focused on design work and building a shop in the basement of their home, which now includes a computer numerical controlled jig, a heated ski press and a tuning machine. Plus raw materials and a tiny inventory of finished products.

This past season was the first for sales. An encouraging 20 pairs were sold, mostly to members of the Sugarloaf community.

I talked about the Ski Museum of Maine‘s upcoming project and exhibit, which will feature half a dozen of our state’s ski and snowboard builders, and Phil and Amy were eager to participate.

[In expanded form, this article will soon be published in the Ski Museum of Maine’s quarterly journal, Snow Trail.

Aspen Highlands, CO 4-10-16

Yesterday was the “official closing day” at Aspen Highlands. That’s traditionally meant partying.

The weather wasn’t promising to start. When I rode up the Exhibition quad, I unloaded in dense fog and spitting snow at the Merry-go-round mid-mountain area. But by noontime most of the clouds had disappeared and the brilliant Colorado sun dominated the mountainscape.

A lady in purple tutu swigs champagne at Aspen Highlands on the official closing day

A lady in purple tutu swigs champagne at Aspen Highlands on the official closing day

I took the pic above at Picnic Point, one of the most scenic spots on the hill. A party was going on, and the lady in purple tutu swigging champagne from the bottle was emblematic of the day’s festivities.

In the pic above, Pyramid Peak is seen to the right of the guy in the pompom hat, and the twin peaks of the Maroon Bells are seen underneath the lady’s elbow. All are Colorado Fourteeners.

I put the term “official closing day” in quotes because Aspen Highlands will actually be open for the next two weekends. But by then it’s likely that snow conditions will have deteriorated and fewer skiers and snowboarders will be in the mood to party.

 

Aspen/Ajax, CO 4-7-16

Yesterday was my first-ever day at Colorado’s Aspen/Ajax, the first of four adjacent mountains that were developed for skiing in the once-decrepit mining town that is now world-renowned as a mecca for winter sports.

Scott Andrews on top of Aspen/Ajax summit

Scott Andrews on top of Aspen/Ajax summit

The annual gathering of the International Skiing History Association began two nights ago, and IHSA members were out in force on the mountain. I bumped into ISHA president Seth Masia at the Sundeck Lodge on the summit, and he took the picture of me above.

Sometime later I also bumped into Suzy Chaffee, the former glamour girl of American skiing, a lady who was an outstanding competitor in alpine racing and subsequently enlarged her legend after switching to freestyle. Suzy was a major driving force in promoting women’s participation in skiing from the 1970s to the present. She was the first woman to serve on the International Olympic Committee and she was a force to be reckoned with in lobbying campaign that resulted in the passage of Title IX in 1972. (Click here to see her bio in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.)

Scott Andrews and Suzy Chaffee at the summit of Aspen/Ajax

Scott Andrews and Suzy Chaffee at the summit of Aspen/Ajax

We took a few runs together and chatted about a few ways that the ski world could (and should!!!) honor women — especially non-athletes who built the sport and industry. Suzy was quite interested when I told her about Sisters of Skade: Women in Maine Skiing 1870-2016, a program that I created for the Ski Museum of Maine. We exchanged ideas on how such a concept could be expanded to become national in scope.

I referred Suzy to the Ski Museum of Maine’s latest issue of Snow Trail, which contains two major articles devoted to women in skiing history.

Monarch Mountain, CO 4-3-16

Yesterday I skied Monarch Mountain, one of the “gems” of central Colorado.

View of the Sawatch Range from the Sidewinder Trail at Monarch Mountain

View of the Sawatch Range from the Sidewinder Trail at Monarch Mountain

It was an old-fashioned experience. Most of my prior Colorado skiing has been at the big, swanky resorts. Monarch is retro in a very positive way.

Due to its location, entirely on property of the San Isabel National Forest, there’s no base area development. Just a nice lodge plus a few ancillary structures. In that sense it reminds me of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Mountain.

Although skiing at Monarch pre-dates World War II, the present-day development occurred mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, as detailed in the Monarch history page in coloradoskihistory.com.

I was particularly charmed by the trio of Hall chairlifts, which form the backbone of Monarch’s operations. (Click here for a history of this interesting New York company that was so important in developing the American ski industry in the period 1954-1982.)

Sturdiness and simplicity were hallmarks of the Halls. Many survive today, half a century after installation. No other manufacturer of this period has so many lifts still in operation. Three pix of the Panorama lift are included below. Let’s start with two view so the base area. First is a distance shot, setting the scene. Second is a closer view.

The bottom station of the Panorama double chairlift at Monarch Mountain with the Sawatch Range in the background

The bottom station of the Panorama double chairlift at Monarch Mountain with the Sawatch Range in the background

Closer view of the bottom station of the Panorama double chairlift at Monarch Mountain

Closer view of the bottom station of the Panorama double chairlift at Monarch Mountain

Third is the classic unloading scene, which shows the lifts simplicity of design and its signature concrete pillar.

Top station of the Panorama double chairlift at Monarch Mountain

Top station of the Panorama double chairlift at Monarch Mountain

Snow conditions were great, with a reported 76 inches at the base. Being located so high up in Monarch Pass, the mountain relies entirely on natural snowfall. Another retro feature.

One really curious feature is this: Monarch sits on the Continental Divide, with the vast bulk of acreage lying on the Gulf/Atlantic side. The upper terminal of the Panorama lift is located about a dozen feet on the Gulf/Atlantic side. Trails that leave left and right actually straddle the divide.

Snowboarding along the Continental Divide

Snowboarding along the Continental Divide

In the photo above, the little tree island sits astride the Continental Divide. The snowboarder on the left is in the Gulf/Atlantic watershed, while the guy on the right is on the Pacific.

 

 

Paul McGuire remembers the Chisholm Ski Club’s junior program

As a youngster in the 1950s, Paul McGuire participated in the Chisholm Ski Club’s junior program. In December of 2015 he wrote a wonderful piece on the program, partially based on his own personal recollections and partially based on interviewing other participants who were there back then. Below is Paul’s entire account. (There’s a pop-out button in the upper right corner that will give a much better view of this embedded pdf file.)

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Sweet, isn’t it?

 

Skelton Flowage 9-19-2015

Yesterday I led a group of 10 MOAC members on a five-hour paddle of Skelton Flowage, a lake created by a large dam on the Saco River.

The weather was a picture-perfect late summer day; yes, there are still a couple of days left in summer.

Group photo on Skelton Flowage

Group photo on Skelton Flowage

Group photo showing Ruth Mueller in bow

Group photo showing Ruth Mueller in bow

As usual, I took a group photo shortly after launch. Top above is one version, while the shot below includes Ruth Mueller, who paddled bow in my canoe.

Jonathan Keck and Martha Mixon paddling on Skelton Flowage

Jonathan Keck and Martha Mixon paddling on Skelton Flowage

Here’s one of Jonathan Keck and Martha Mixon, taken out in the middle.

Jim Hatch paddles by the island on Skelton Flowage

Jim Hatch paddles by the island on Skelton Flowage

Jim Hatch was a new member. He told us that he’d joined about 20 hours earlier.

[I’ll finish this post later, adding some of the swimming pix plus some from Rajiv.]

Presumpscot River 8-19-15 (after work)

Five MOACers paddled a short stretch of the Presumpscot River last night.

Group shot with Rajiv Shankar in foreground

Group shot with Rajiv Shankar in foreground

We launched in Westbrook at the Lincoln Street put-in, paddled north — upstream against a minimal current — and turned back after 50 minutes and returned to Lincoln Street.

The legendary Dan Kidd, a MOAC canoeing icon for decades

The legendary Dan Kidd, a MOAC canoeing icon for decades

Among the paddlers was the legendary MOAC icon Dan Kidd, whose worldwide canoeing experience is unmatched in club annals. He told me this was his first venture on the Presumpscot. He was impressed by the beauty of the river and its extremely rural setting. And its extreme dearth of piranhas is a big plus.

Rajiv Shankar's selfie, with Scott Andrews in the background

Rajiv Shankar’s selfie, with Scott Andrews in the background

Rajiv Shankar, paddling bow in my canoe, took this selfie.

Near the stone arch that supports the former Maine Central Railroad

Near the stone arch that supports the former Maine Central Railroad

Rajiv also took this pic near the stone arch that supports the defunct Maine Central Railroad. It’s located at the town line that separates Westbrook and Windham. Nicole Bissonnette is in the blue kayak close to the arch; Jennifer Brotsky is closer to the camera. (For those who like pretty pix of real nice kayakers, there’s a closeup of Nicole under the Scarborough Marsh 7-8-15 post.)

Pizza followed at Portland Pie Company’s Westbrook restaurant.

This might be my last MOAC after-work paddle of the season. With the sun setting about 7:35, we’ve lost an hour of evening daylight since this series began in May.

Crystal Lake (Gray) 7-29-15 (after-work)

Here’s one pic of the MOAC after-work paddle on Crystal Lake in Gray.

Nancy Meyer took this group pic with her cellphone

Nancy Meyer took this group pic with her cellphone

I left my camera in the car, but Nancy Meyer took the above group pic with her cellphone. Her presence is represented by the bow of her kayak in the foreground. Thanks, Nancy!

Crystal Lake is very small, and we finished in about an hour. Following our exhausting exercise, four of us headed to Goody’s Pizza in Gray Village.

Goody. Goody. Goody.

Royal River 7-22-15 (after-work)

Two pix from the 7-22-15 Royal River “paddle plus pizza”

Group pic taken near the Grand Trunk RR bridge

Group pic taken near the Grand Trunk RR bridge

This group pic was taken a few yards upstream of the put-in, just above the Grand Trunk RR bridge.

Snapping turtle on Royal River

Snapping turtle on Royal River

Half an hour into our trip, we found a solitary snapping turtle enjoying the good life on a mid-stream mass of brush. Unlike most smaller turtles, he didn’t slide into the water as soon as we approached. Maybe he simply knew he was photogenic.

Scarborough Marsh 7-8-15 (after-work)

Photos from the 7-8-15 after-work paddle in the Scarborough Marsh

I am one of several club members who lead after-work mini-adventures on Maine’s largest salt marsh.

Three of the 13 MOAC paddlers who joined my Scarborough Marsh trip

Three of the 13 MOAC paddlers who joined my Scarborough Marsh trip

We put in at the “clammer’s beach” on Pine Point. There are other places to put in that others prefer.

Closeup of Nicole Bissonnette

Closeup of Nicole Bissonnette

Nicole Bissonnette, pictured above, has been on quite a few of my MOAC paddling adventures.

Jean Murachanian paddles my kayak

Jean Murachanian paddles my kayak

Jean Murachanian is on the board of directors; her assignment is welcoming new members.

Jen Welch on a stand-up paddleboard

Jen Welch on a stand-up paddleboard

Jen Welch was the first paddleboarder to join one of my trips.

Paddles high in the Scarborough Marsh

Paddles high in the Scarborough Marsh

With a strong outgoing current, it was hard to assemble everybody into a picture-perfect line-up for my signature “paddles up” photo. So this will have to do.