Flashback: Ski and Ski Lift Makers

Flashback: Ski and Ski Lift Makers

With Tahoe having received a whopping near 4 feet of snow in the last 24 hours (!!!), my mind can’t help but to drift to Makers we’ve profiled in the magazine who are snow enthusiasts.

In MAKE Volume 10, we featured the folks behind skibuilders.com: Kam K. Leang (Big Kam), Kelvin Wu, and Kam S. Leang (Little Kam). These 3 friends, all avid telemark skiers, are on a mission to show that building a pair of skis (or a snowboard) is not as hard as it sounds, especially if you’re the average garage tinkerer with basic woodworking skills. Pictured above are a row of their handmade skis. Their site features a great how-to section, including the Intro to Ski Building overview video, and detailed instructions on building the equipment you need: a ski press, core profiler, and edge bender. This is definitely an open source project, folks, as these gentlemen are generous with all their combined knowledge. From the article, here is a picture of Wu’s pneumatic ski press:


And the makers with some fresh skis hot off the press:


Taking it to the next level of DIY skiing is maker Troy Caldwell, who we featured in MAKE Volume 08. In 1990, Caldwell got a sweet deal on 400 acres near Lake Tahoe, between the Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski areas. (He actually owns about 70 acres of Squaw, including KT-22, which the ski area leases from him.) A former member of the U.S. Ski Team, Caldwell is a maker with the dream of building his own private ski facility. As a matter of fact, he welded all the towers for his handmade ski lift in his own garage, with the help of a series of pulleys and hoists to move the heavy pieces. From the article, here he is in his garage, next to his snow cat:


He placed the towers on the mountain over a two-week period with the help of a helicopter and 30 volunteers:


A lawsuit filed by Squaw Valley had put this makers dream on hold. SF Gate reported on his progress last year. We’ll have to check in with Caldwell to see if his awe-inspiring dream has (hopefully) become a reality.

You can pick up back issues of MAKE Volume 10 (the Home Electronics issue) in the Maker Shed. However, MAKE Volume 08 (the Toys and Games issue) is sold out, but if you subscribe, you can have digital access to all 17 scintillating volumes.

Insider Scoop: Look for a DIY Splitboard project coming up in MAKE Volume 19 for all you backcountry riders! (And a DIY Surfboard project for the wave addicts.)

4 thoughts on “Flashback: Ski and Ski Lift Makers

  1. confused says:

    why would you curve the back of a telemark ski? i thought they were freestyle skis at first…. seems like going backwards in a tele binding would be a bad idea.

  2. skibuilders says:

    Twin tips aren’t just for freestyle skis anymore. You can tele backwards just as easily as with alpine bindings. The twin tips also make cool rooster tails of snow as you ski.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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