Vermont Tech Students Craft Own Skis

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This article was published in the Randolph Herald.

Like many Vermont colleges, Vermont Technical College has a Ski and Ride Club. But not many colleges have students who can make their own skis and snowboards. As is befitting a college whose emphasis is on using cutting-edge technology to make useful things, the Ski and Ride Club has made their hobby part of their unofficial curriculum.

In 2014, the mechanical engineering department at the college purchased a pneumatic press that can make skis, snowboards, and other laminated structures.

The first skis came “off the press,” as it were, February 3.

“Designing, fabricating, and testing laminated structures meshes with the mechanical and manufacturing curriculum in several ways,” explained Mechanical Engineering Prof. John Kidder, who has spearheaded the project with the students.

“The fact that we have our own ‘test facility’ with the rope tow at the college ski hill, and lots of students who ski and ride, made this a natural fit,” he said.

Furthermore, Kidder he said, the press was discovered for sale on the Burlington Craigslist—and it turned out that it had been built by an alumnus of the VTC Mechanical Engineering program, Jason Brown. Brown had built the press to create kite boards in his shop in South Burlington.

“The stars were aligned” to get into the ski-making business, Kidder commented.

If finding a Craigslist press wasn’t luck enough, the college then was able to turn to a special equipment fund supported by donations and made possible by Prof. Roger Howes. Thus, no college funds were needed to buy the press.

Quite a Process

Then, some of the 20 or so Ski and Ride Club members got to work. Over the last 18 months, a group of students has worked with Prof. Kidder to build molds, bend edges, design shapes, and cut the material. They also found online supploiers who sell materials kits for skis or snowboards.

One student, Kidder said, even developed a plan to start a weeklong ski/snowboard building course that could be given as part of college studies.

Students have also hosted a talk by ski entrepreneur Jason Levinthal, the founder of Line skis, who provided some tips. Meanwhile the Burton Snowboard Co. has shown an interest in coming to take a look.

Most skis that are being made by the students will become the property of the Ski and Ride Club itself. It may be possible in the future for a student to make his or her own, while contributing the cost of the needed materials, Kidder said.