H. Neal Glanville: The great furniture race
I’m not sure who out there saw the Warren Miller film on furniture racing, but it didn’t take long before ski lodge/dude ranch employees started putting skis on furniture.
One particular winter, I was in charge of the rental shop and we’d just acquired a large number of new boots and skis from Obermeyer in Aspen.
So, I took the responsibility of weeding out all the “bad bindings” and beat up “rock skis.” Not wanting any of our guests to use a questionable ski, I removed the question and held the ski back.
Of course, as in any fun event, there was one person that thought management and the insurance company needed to know our planned events.
Management, after the yelling and the bright red color left their checks, agreed to let the insurance company decide the fate of the furniture.
It was a long, agonizing week waiting on the insurance company.
Some started taking their race vehicles apart, while others hid their creations from prying eyes.
The insurance representative took all of five minutes, while sitting at the lodge bar, to report: “If the ski hill is closed, the company didn’t feel any responsibility to afterhours activities.”
With those words, furniture and skis became as one.
The second weekend of racing saw entries from Utah and Idaho. Management was astounded with the climb in lift ticket sales and motel rooms.
What started as a few employees having some after work fun turned into a bank deposit bonanza.
There wasn’t a piece of furniture that was not represented — coffee tables, chairs, toilets and recliners.
There was even a hide-a-bed couch entered by the Thiokol employees from Cache Valley, Utah.
My personal entry was a rocking chair with 1940-ish style jumping skis attached. I’d even designed a crude pair of brakes to help with turning and the inevitable sudden stop at the bottom.
Throughout the years that we held this event, the rocking chair was undefeated. Although, Tim Brewer came very close in his stackable plastic chair, he still didn’t have brakes or a steering wheel.
On the last day of skiing, Tim and his stackable chair, the boys from Cache Valley, and me were going for the trophy.
As we pushed our vehicles up the hill, my daughter, Ericca, followed. I think her job was to pick up any parts, body or otherwise, that I might leave behind.
At the top, the boys from Utah pulled a rabbit out of their ski cap.
They opened out the bed and put skis on those folding metal legs you stub your toe on at 3 in the morning.
When we were ready, somebody yelled “Go!” and we were off.
As usual, Tim was a few feet back on my right and the boys from Cache Valley were coming right down the middle. For an unknown reason, the hide-a-bed started losing passengers and veered hard right, crashing into a stand of pine trees.
Tim, without any means of slowing, rolled his plastic rocket into the beaver pond right before re-entry.
I stayed off the brakes a bit more than common sense allowed and when I did apply them, it was far too late.
My speed and low center of gravity had me pulling back on those “please let me stop” brakes so hard the right one broke off, sending me and the chair into an over and under flip-flop roll that we still have photos of.
I did, however, win the trophy — a pair of crossed skis and the ski patrol’s signal that someone was down and hurt.
Hey, you be careful out there, and stay to the light.
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