LYNNWOOD — How many things can you make out of cast-off skis? Maybe a bench or a fence, if you’re handy with tools.
To date, Brian Geppert has made at least 50 different products out of old ski gear. He’s created everything from paper towel holders to plungers. Even ski boots find new purpose as birdhouses.
“It’s a shame to see them go to waste,” Geppert, 52, of Lynnwood, said. “That’s why I tried to give them a second life.”
This hobby was born out of an epiphany Geppert had several years ago: What happens to unwanted skis? The answer: landfills. In his mind, that was squandering a “wonderful working material.”
Skis are made from combinations of materials, chiefly wood, metal, fiberglass and plastic. These give the skis strength, but also make them difficult to disassemble and recycle. So Geppert got creative. He uses an abrasive blade to sand his way through the layered skis, and also employs a drill press, chop saw, electric screwdriver and a grinding stone in his garage workshop to get the job done.
When it comes to brainstorming project ideas, Geppert sees inspiration all around him. Even small bits can be salvaged into key chains and Christmas tree ornaments.
“Sometimes it just pops in your head,” he said. “You’re looking around at things (and think) oh, I could probably do that.”
Geppert works mostly with downhill skis. Cross-country skis are too thin. Snowboards are too large for most projects, but Geppert can chop them up for clipboards, coasters and serving trays. And ski poles can be transformed into tools like condiment holders and ice scrapers.
Geppert sells his creations online on Etsy. Prices range $15 to $100, depending on the item. Geppert’s virtual store, SkiArtistry, has racked up more than 2,000 sales. He says many of his customers are enthusiasts looking to decorate their ski condos, but he has also supplied tap handles and drink flight caddies to breweries.
One of Geppert’s earliest hurdle was sourcing material. It was another problem he had to invent his way through. The solution? A recycling program. Geppert partners with local shops and lodges to collect old skis. It’s a way for businesses to dispose of unwanted equipment for free while providing a service for customers.
Geppert has collection boxes (made out of skis, of course) stationed at skiing-focused retailers across the Seattle metro area. Stevens Pass Ski Resort sends him unwanted gear from its lost and found. He said he collects about 500 skis a year.
Geppert’s craft comes from a passion for a pastime he picked up fairly late in life. He only learned to ski at age 40. Before that, he was turned off from skiing due to fear of injury. That changed after a business trip to Switzerland in 2010.
He stopped by Zermatt, a popular skiing destination, and saw the streets filled with folks clomping around in ski boots. He figured “there’s something to this,” and decided to give skiing a try. He has been a ski fanatic ever since.
What Geppert loves most is spending a sunny day gliding over snow on a mountain above the clouds. He said “it’s rather magical.”
The idea to start crafting came five years later. It was motivated partially out of curiosity, and partially out of need to have something physical to do.
Geppert works as an aerospace engineer at Boeing in Everett. His team tests new designs on computer simulations and wind tunnels. A lot of the work involves creating mathematical models and predictions on a computer.
Making things out of skis gives Geppert physical tasks with tangible results. It allows him to solve problems and create a piece of functional art someone will keep in their home and cherish for years.
“When I’m working with skis, it reminds me of all the fun I’ve had skiing,” Geppert said. “I put some music on and make a fun time out of it. And it’s just neat and engaging.”
Geppert is always thinking of new items to create. He is interested in building larger furniture pieces like Adirondack chairs and end tables, but he doesn’t make any because they take up a lot of storage space and are expensive to ship. At the moment he’s challenging himself to build a functional xylophone. Progress is slow, as it’s a struggle to figure out how to put the thing together.
Geppert wants to continue building new things into retirement. He hasn’t exhausted the list of possibilities, but could that day ever come?
“I sure hope not,” he said.
To purchase’s Geppert work, visit etsy.com/people/SkiArtistry. Anyone interested in sending Geppert any unwanted skis can email him at email@example.com.
Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EricSchucht.
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