Steamboat wood shop students forge new signs for Emerald Mountain Trails (with video)

Due to wear, weather and other elements, signs go missing or get damaged on the Emerald Mountain Trail Network. This spring, they will be replaced with replicas of the old-school, wooden trail signs.

“Not every trail on Emerald has one of these, but they are pretty cool and they became standard on many trails throughout their construction in the early to mid 2000s,” said Routt County Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin. “They have a cool handmade feel and evoke a rich history of the trail building and advocacy around there.”

The signs will be installed as soon as the trails allow, perhaps mid-May, and will likely be a team effort by RCR and the city of Steamboat Springs, according to Martin.

Degan Kuntz and Wyatt Shaw, sophomores at Steamboat Springs High School, are taking the lead in replacing the signs as part of a class at the high school that is working on community projects this semester.

When their wood shop class instructor Paul Scoppa presented the idea, Shaw and Kuntz both jumped at it. They have been tasked with making about 17 signs that are 18 inches long and 8 inches tall. For trail names like MGM, that’s fairly easy. For signs that read, “To Stairway to Heaven,” the job is a little harder.

Shaw spent a few minutes planning out where to put the letters, then penciled in the trail name. Then, he clamped the plank to the table and started using a handheld router to carve out the letters.

“It took us a couple weeks to get used to it,” Shaw said. “We were very messy, but then we got used to it.”

Learning to use the handheld router and maintaining a steady hand has been the biggest challenge, they said.

The pair spent a few boards practicing before getting to work. They would start with a board, donated by Alpine Lumber, and then write and carve the letters. After that, they spray painted the board to fill the letters with black paint to make them easier to read. Finally, they shaved off the top layer so the only visible black is in the letters.

“From there, we basically sand down the edges so it’s a little stronger, it’ll last longer and can handle the weather a little better,” Kuntz said.

Neither of them frequent the Emerald Mountain Trail System, so they probably won’t get to see their signs once they’re in place, but the students appreciate that they will guide thousands of people around Emerald each summer.

“I definitely think it’s really cool,” Kuntz said.

Shaw said it adds to the pressure of making the signs well.

Scoppa said the two are doing a great job and chipping away at the project at a great pace. He said that the shop takes on community projects as often as they can. In the past, students have made birdhouses for Haymaker Golf Course. Other students are framing walls that will eventually hold art pieces.

“We will do whatever we can at the speed of school,” Scoppa said.

For any community members interested in asking the SSHS shop classes to complete a project, contact Scoppa at

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