Tom Ross: Is curbside ski recycling coming? |

Tom Ross: Is curbside ski recycling coming?

People line up outside the Steamboat Springs Middle School on Friday night for the annual Ski & Sport Swap. Hundreds of pairs of good skis, many of them rescued from rental fleets and demo programs, are finding new homes during the swap, which continues today.

I did something to a couple of buddies last year that left me feeling a little sad and guilt-ridden. I hauled them out to the curb on trash day. My 204 cm Elan MBX’s, the pals I shared dozens of memorable powder days with, haven’t been heard from since.

After years of storing them and several other pairs of Alpine skis in a rack in a cluttered one-car garage, I was forced on moving day to confront their inevitable destiny.

I could have had a little curbside ceremony to acknowledge everything they’d done for me. But I didn’t want the neighbors to see me weeping. I mean, old skis aren’t just inanimate sticks. Skis have souls too. But I just abandoned my trustworthy boards.

To make matters worse, I didn’t even bother to recycle my Elans in a responsible way.

I tried to find a home for them with one of those guys in Old Town who builds colorful alley fences out of other peoples’ retired skis.

It turned out that their spouses had forbidden them from adopting any more fence pickets. And I don’t think my own HOA is down with funky fences made of discarded skis – you know : property values.

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Today marks the biggest ski recycling day on Steamboat’s annual calendar as the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club hosts its annual Ski & Sport Swap. Hundreds of pairs of good skis, many of them rescued from rental fleets and demo programs, will find new homes, give a little lift to families watching their budgets and extend the use of recreational toys made from precious natural resources.

Realistically, my Elans would not have sold at last fall’s ski swap – their camber was irreversibly flat. They’d given all they had to give on crystal cold mornings in the gladed tree runs of Priest Creek and on immense, pillow-soft powder bumps down the full length of Tornado. Even if someone had been willing to pay $4.95 for my skis, their ultimate destination would have been the landfill.

When you get right down to it, that’s the fate of every set of skis and bindings, except for really classic wooden skis, which will get nailed over a hearth if they are lucky.

I salute the Winter Sports Club for “recycling” ski equipment for all of these years. But if we want to be known as Green Ski Town USA, we’re going to have to deal with the reality that eventually, all skis make that long, sad trip to the landfill.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. It turns out that the Snowsports Industries of America is way ahead of me.

Writer Mary Catherine O’Connor described in her new blog for Outside magazine, The Good Route, how the Snowsports Industries of America began a pilot program last year to recycle skis, boots and snowboards. They were gathered from ski shops across Colorado and put through a process that separated metal and plastic materials. Some of the plastics can be used in building materials.

An SIA spokesman reported collecting 100 tons of equipment last year. However, his organization still faces challenges in meeting its goals of achieving carbon neutrality (in terms of getting old ski equipment to a recycling facility), and in raising the capital to establish a permanent recycling facility.

We should all support this effort. It could be years before we add curbside recycling of skis and snowboards here in Ski Town USA. But you don’t have to wait.

You can go to the Ski and Sport Swap from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Steamboat Springs Middle School, support future Olympians and adopt several pairs of skis for a handful of bucks.

Even if you don’t intend to ski on your new used boards, you can sneak them into the back of the garage and store them until SIA gets this ski recycling program completely wired. You’ll feel better about yourself.

Tell your spouse it’s your moral obligation.