SULTAN — It’s that colorful fence made of skis on U.S. 2 on the way to Stevens Pass that makes you go, “Now that is cool.”
The panel of 1,450 old skis stretches roughly 200 yards.
What’s up with that?
The happiest fence in the state.
It’s in front of Jake Sharpe’s North Cascades Nursery between Sultan and Gold Bar.
“Can you imagine how many people said ‘Yah-hoo!’ on their skis?” Sharpe said. “How many ‘Yah-hoos!’ are hanging on that fence. That’s what I see when I look at it. Everybody had their skis and they all had fun on them.”
Behind the ski fence are 3.5 acres devoted to ornamental landscape plants in the summer and potted evergreens in the winter. A few plants grow in ski boots on the fence, for show. It is, after all, a garden shop.
The nursery has been a ski depository and roadside attraction for a dozen years. He’s not the first guy to upcycle discarded skis as fence pickets, but his creation is among the most visual in this region.
“Everybody knows my fence,” he said.
What most don’t know is why the fence got started.
It’s because of three barking dogs in 2007.
“The guy who lived in the trailer next door had dogs that barked at customers,” Sharpe said. “The dog barking was just driving me crazy.”
Sharpe, an avid skier, had some old skis lying around. “So I put some on the gate so the dog couldn’t see the customers.”
He was three skis short of creating a barking barrier on the 10-foot gate.
“So I put the sign up that said, ‘Leave old skis here,’ ” he said.
“People just started dumping skis like crazy,” he said.
Sharpe extended what was once a three-rail horse fence. And kept going.
He hired a helper. It gave a guy who was on work release a get-out-of-jail card during the day.
“He got a job out if it,” Sharpe said.
So, too, did Sharpe.
“When I started building the fence, somebody asked if I had skis to rent,” he said. “I was like, well, maybe I should start renting skis. So many people would stop.”
He opened a ski rental shop, Jake’s Hiway 2 Sports & Shuttle, a few miles away in Gold Bar. Not with the castoff skis. “I have brand new K2 equipment,” said Sharpe, who has bus service to the slopes.
People kept leaving skis at the garden shop.
“I had so many skis. I was like, ‘What am I going to do with these?’ ” Sharpe said.
He started making chairs out of them.
“A friend of mine, Ski Chair Bob, those are his designs. It’s a unique design. They come apart in three pieces,” he said.
“We make them at the ski shop. That’s what we do to kill time.”
Sharpe has another 1,500 skis ready for a second chance at life, whether on a fence or a chair.
About 10 years ago he put up a sign atop the ski fence: “Pay Up Sucker!” It’s still there.
Ever wonder about that?
“A friend of mine owed me money, which he still does,” Sharpe said. “He lives in Gold Bar. I put up that sign so every day when he goes to work he can drive by and see it. He doesn’t like it, but that’s exactly what it was for. The dude owes me money.”
It was for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The nursery is open most weekends and “hit or miss” during the week. Better call first before you go, unless you want to just admire the fence.
“A lot of people stop. I’d like to figure out a way to get them to come inside. People don’t stop to take a picture of a ski fence with plans of taking a plant home,” Sharpe said.
Does the fence keep people out?
“You can’t really climb over it very well. The tops are uneven. It’s kind of a nuisance, I tried it,” he said.
The fence captured the lens of photographer Jim Corwin, who sells the image on Alamy and other stock agencies.
“It was one of those things where you’re driving by and I looked over to my left and I saw that fence,” said Corwin, of Marysville. “It caught my eye. I’ve seen a lot of others but nothing that came to that level of color. It was the colors that got me. It was such an unusual thing to see. I had to stop.”
Sharpe, 50, grew up in Monroe on the family farm. In college he majored in economics and history.
“I thought maybe I would go to some sort of law school,” Sharpe said. “I wanted to grow trees.”
He was on the wrestling team in college.
“They dropped their program and I got skis and started skiing. The whole reason I live in Sultan is because there was not a stoplight between me and the ski area. I could get off work and go skiing,” he said.
“Everything is about skiing because I like skiing.”