Young artists learn to make skis — then print their own art on them


DENVER File under “only in Colorado:” Denver youth submitted artistic designs for skis, then worked with local nonprofit Arts Street and other organizations to make their artistic visions come to life. Youth not only learned how to create an actual pair of skis — they then made their own pair and decorated them, all for an auction benefit that will fund the next set of Arts Street students. 

Tutugirl Bamaba, 19, one of eight participating youth, learned about Arts Street from her brother. She shared how amazing it is to know that someone may buying a pair of skis with her design printed on them. 

“I never thought you could take an art piece and just put it on a ski,” Bamaba said. “I never even knew the process of making a ski.” Bamaba said she loved the process. “I’m someone who likes to learn new things,” she said. “Learning how to cut the ski, learning how to mix the resin and put on the fiberglass was something that was really interesting to me.” 

The program concept first came to mind when Owen Hildreth, an associate professor at Colorado School of Mines, was looking for outreach programs related to manufacturing. 

Through his curiosity, he discovered Community Skis, an Oregon-based company that travels around the country educating young people about the art of ski manufacturing. The company is able to travel and create skis anywhere because the workshops are inside of a fully functional mobile-based unit.

This mobile workshop model allows Community Skis to travel to various areas.

“Coming here to Arts Street is phenomenal,” said Michael Lish, Co-Owner of Community Skis. 

Lish said working with young people who are art-focused instead of ski-focused is a whole new experience, as well as the fact that many of the students have not ever been skiing. 

“These are kids that may not necessarily ski,” he said.  “Just having the exposure of building a set of skies, it connects them. Now, whether they ski or not, they’re connected in a significant, meaningful way.” 

Students put the final touches on their ski designs.

The funding for this project comes from the Colorado Fuel Cell Center at the Colorado School of Mines and from a national science foundation grant that Hildreth received.

Justine Tipton, 16, a participating youth artist, said that as long as she’s learning, she’s having fun. “Arts Street is about collaboration [and] connections,” Tipton said. “For me, it’s grown to be my family. It’s about getting youth engaged."

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at: