Skis make a strange canvas

Local artists give new life to old skis

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If you go What: Backcountry Ball and Ski Art Show, a benefit for Friends of the Routt Backcountry. Music by Airtime Sound. When: 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St. Tickets: $20 at the door Call: 879-8710 or 879-4947 Note: Little Moon Essentials created a product for the event called "Save Hahn's Peak." The mineral bath salts will be on sale the night of the Backcountry Ball and are available on the Friends of the Routt Backcountry Web site: www.forb.info.

Every ski has a story. Within its cells, it tells the story of every run and every fall, and the dust it collects in the shed tells the story of the days since a technological upgrade. This summer, Leslie Lovejoy started gathering old wooden skis from her attic, second-hand stores and garage sales. She spent an afternoon in Wayne Kakela's barn digging through his extensive collection of old Norwegian skis. She took skis people were about to throw away and coaxed skis from people who were happy to keep them unused.

She sanded each one and painted them with primer before passing them out to local artists, who gave them new life.

Skis make a strange canvas. They are long and thin, with barely any surface area, and Lovejoy was unsure what kind of pieces the artists would be able to create. The skis were to be sold in the first Ski Art Show she had organized to pair with the Backcountry Ball, an established annual event.

R.C. Dieckhoff, Rosie MacDonald, Michelle Ideus, Pam Ryan, Bert Kempers, Jayne Taylor, Wayne Kakela, M.B. Warner, Nikki Kerrigan, Von Wilson, Phoebe Fulkerson, Chula Wheby and Clark Willingham brought back their completed canvases, and Lovejoy breathed a sigh of relief.

It was going to be a good show.

Twelve pairs of skis and two wall hangings have been on display, first at the Artisan's Market and then at Centennial Hall, for the past two weeks. The pieces will be up for auction at Saturday night's Backcountry Ball.

Proceeds from the art sale will be used by Friends of the Routt Backcountry in the group's continued efforts to preserve quiet places to ski. Lovejoy got involved with the group eight years ago when she wrote a letter to the editor about the state of Rabbit Ears Pass and the backcountry skiing near Hahn's Peak.

"I tried to go skiing on the West Summit, and there was dog poop everywhere and peg holes where people had been walking on the trails," she said. She abandoned her efforts on Rabbit Ears and went to her usual spot in the Columbine Meadows near Hahn's Peak. "I always go to get away up there, and suddenly a snowmobile came out of the woods. I wrote the letter after that. I said that there was a need to manage these areas." She ended her letter with a request for a sanctuary where she could ski in peace and quiet.

Eight years later, Lovejoy painted a pair of skis for this weekend's show called "Sanctuary." It's a self-portrait of Lovejoy skiing in Columbine Meadows. Hahn's Peak is in the distance. Prayer flags are hanging in nearby trees, and the tips of Lovejoy's skis can be seen entering the canvas, making a perfect backcountry turn.

After Lovejoy wrote the letter, she got a call from the Front Range with an invitation to attend a Backcountry Skiers Alliance meeting. Since then, Lovejoy's name has become synonymous with efforts to set aside designated nonmotorized areas for skiers in the backcountry, namely in the area near Hahn's Peak.

To Lovejoy, Columbine Meadows is a special place. It takes 1 1/2 hours to hike into the area, rewarded with an untracked powder run.

"It's easily accessible, but there is no other place like it," she said. "This place is a sanctuary for me."

R.C. Dieckhoff captured the same Columbine Meadows on his two ski canvases in his signature style.

Next to each other, Lovejoy and Dieckhoff's pieces show two completely different visions of the same place, just as two people taking the same run will never experience it in the same way.

Dieckhoff's "Columbine Meadows" show Hahn's Peak in the distance with a few wisps of clouds hanging above it. But above those clouds, the length of the canvas allows the perspective to stretch from the split rail fence at the bottom of the ski to a few shooting stars traveling through space at the top of the ski.

The image tells the story, not only of the place, but also of the memories that have been created at the place. Another artist in the Ski Art Show, Chula Wheby, watched her sister get married at Columbine Meadows -- the same place that her parents, Gigi and Johnny Walker, were married years before. She painted a piece about backcountry skiing she titled, "Blue Bird Day."

"I just wanted to reflect the peace and clarity that I experience in the backcountry. 'Blue Bird Day' is the quintessential backcountry day. Just peace and quiet and a chance to get away from people."

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