Doug Merrill and his students showing off the skis they built in Doug’s class.
Wenatchee High School Ski Building
By Doug Merrill
This past school year, four seniors took on an unusual design and construction project while taking my Advanced Computer Aided Drafting class at Wenatchee High School (WHS) – they made their own alpine skis. The boys went from zero to completion in six months, one class period at a time. Until the first of March, that is – then came several Saturdays and numerous late nights of being the last ones out of the building and setting the school’s security system.
Governor Jay Inslee helping to apply resin to the ski cores.
The young men were of varied skiing abilities, from novice to advanced, but they worked closely together to learn the ins and outs of ski design and construction. With strong determination and a deadline that crept-up faster than last winter’s receding snow line, they researched forums and scoured websites to learn the lingo and understand what the craft ski business was all about.
As their teacher, I had only attended a two-hour workshop on vacuum pressing skis, so I was relying heavily on teacher, workshop presenter, and friend, John Hadley, from Columbia River High School in White Salmon. He’s a well-traveled skier and has been teaching woodshop students the craft ski business for over a decade. John graciously shared his 66-page how-to manual to guide us through the process.
The whole adventure was captured beautifully in the short film, “Designing the Edge“. It was created under the direction of another WHS senior, Luke Strahm, while he was completing his internship at North 40 Production here in Wenatchee. The Wenatchee School District’s community partnership program, Wenatchee Learns Connect, also helped us connect with community members which added a richness to our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) experience.
I need to thank PhD chemist, Matt Wight, and Kelso High School CNC milling specialist, Cory Torppa, for their help with this project. And a very special thank you goes to Mike Rolfs, my Engineering Advisory Chairman at WHS — without his encouragement, expertise, and base grinder we wouldn’t have made it to the slopes before the snow disappeared.
At the moment we have more skis in the works and are expanding our projects this year to include vacuum-pressing long boards and making a skin-on-frame canoe. We’re learning as we go, so if you have expertise building skin-on-frame boats, we’d love for you to consider partnering with our class.
Students involved with this project included Markus Stoll, Asa Smith, Luke Strahm, Lucas Shifflet and Elijah Hurt.