Tucked away in an unassuming unit in the storage facility just past the Carbondale rodeo grounds heading out of town is perhaps the largest and most impressive private collection in the world of all things skiing.
Vintage Ski World boasts a dizzying inventory of skis, poles, sleds, snowshoes, clothing, posters, accessories, and memorabilia dating from the sport’s first notable appearance in this country in the early Twentieth Century through the colorful, creative, explosive decades of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Many of the products are in mint or near-mint condition — “new old stuff,” as owner Richard Allen puts it. Over 1,000 products are available on the shop’s website (www.vintageskiworld.com), as well as over 700 on amazon.com.
For valley skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, a visit to Vintage Ski World is a must. The warehouse represents 35 years of enthusiastic, judicious collecting by Carbondale resident Richard Allen. Among other claims to fame, he provided costumes and props for the curiously delightful 2010 flick Hot Tub Time Machine, as well as two episodes of Mad Men. The collection started when he caught wind of a basement in Portland, OR that turned out to be stashed with brand new White Stag clothing, unused skis, “complete outfits from head to toe” from an era long past. Things began to snowball from there.
After selling his carpet cleaning business in the early ‘90s, Allen moved his family to Pagosa Springs, where he built a makeshift ski museum in his barn. When his son asked to enroll in the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Allen moved back to the valley. Famed entrepreneur and businessman George Stranahan, a friend, helped fund the original business, including a large print run of vintage posters. In 2002 he crossed paths with Lou Dawson, the legendary athlete who was the first person to ski all of Colorado’s 14ers, who gave additional support to the business, including building its first website. The business had a booth at Mountain Fair, and then moved to the Aspen Market. In 2004, Vintage Ski World set up shop in Aspen next to the Red Onion, but Allen ultimately decided to relocate the retail space to Frisco, where he now spends every Saturday.
It was not until last fall that he was able to move his entire inventory under one roof to the Carbondale location. His business has gained enough recognition that he doesn’t have to do much to acquire fresh products — sellers and “pickers” pepper him with inquiries throughout the day. He is excited to offer this unique resource to valley residents and visitors in addition to his online buyers, and says he is ready to start selling his elite items. “Over the years I’ve hoarded the really good stuff, but now I’m starting to sell,” he said.
His inventory has something for everyone, from affordable, heartwarming nick knacks to some very rare, beautifully crafted skis, clothing (including original 10th Mountain Division uniforms), and equipment. Higher end skis can go for one to two thousand dollars. He does a lot of business with interior decorators, designers, collectors, and condo and ski homeowners who want to spice up their dwellings. He is currently reaching out to realtors and designers for staging homes.
Allen has a long running love affair with skiing in Colorado, and his passion shines through his stories and encyclopedic knowledge of collectors’ items. His father was “a ski bum,” and treated his family of nine to a Colorado ski vacation every spring. Allen and his siblings skied many of the now-famous resorts during their opening years.
He still marvels at the skill and expertise that was poured into ski gear over the years. “What I always loved about the skis is the beautiful craftsmanship and the materials — the wood, the finishes, the beautiful logos. The history, the evolution of the skis. How they went from virtually solid planks of wood with a leather strap, to the beautiful hickory laminated skis. When you touch them and look at them, you can feel their energy. They always sung to me and connected me to these great craftsmen.”
Vintage Ski World is open every weekday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1676 County Road 100, Unit N-2 in Carbondale. Allen said he is always happy to schedule an appointment, as well. “If you’re coming to Aspen or Carbondale, and you’re into skiing, come view this awesome collection. We can dress you up in ski clothes and take your picture,” he said. Vintage Ski World also plans to offer some public events this fall.