Retrofitted: C.J. Mueller’s world-record Dynastar speed skis
There’s a gold mine just steps from C.J. Mueller’s front door.
Up at the base of Boreas Pass, where Mueller has lived for a few years now, the 62-year-old Olympic speed skier keeps more than a dozen pairs of vintage skis stowed in a wood-lined closet. The closet sits next to another closet — this one is filled with tools — and a thin, steep staircase leading into the maze-like innards of his home. The floor plan is a typical Breckenridge experiment: A small fireplace with spindly stovepipe in one room, a narrow kitchen in the next, a small living room right behind that, a glass-covered patio filled with exercise equipment and other knick-knacks to the south, facing the sun through a break in tall pines.
“Look, these ones even have wax on them still,” Mueller says as he takes yet another pair of Dynastars from the gold mine upstairs. “I always tried to do that: Keep them waxed and ready, take really good care of my gear. You could almost take these out tomorrow.”
Mueller isn’t just a race enthusiast. He’s the world’s fastest ski bum, a Denver native who moved to Breck full time in 1970 and soon set about breaking world records. In 1987 at Les Arcs, France, he became the first human to surpass 130 miles per hour on skis. In 1990, he placed second overall in the FIS Speed Ski World Cup behind Michael Prufer, a Frenchman who beat him by 0.001 seconds in the final world cup race. In 1992, he took 10th in speed skiing at the Albertville Winter Olympics. He was 40. (C.J. stands for “Crazy John,” which makes sense.)
Now officially retired, Mueller also isn’t just a collector of retro gear, like the ski-town version of a comic book fanatic. He’s skied on every single pair in his closet at least once since 1970, back when most skis were 70-80 millimeters underfoot and had little to no shaping. (These days, a standard fat ski measures up to 120 mm underfoot — a good 40 mm thicker than most of Mueller’s collection.)
“This is what I’m on now,” he says, showing me the Dynastar Legend 4800s he skis on almost daily. At just 10 years old they’re newer than the rest of his collection. He then brings out a pair of circa-1960 Hart Javelin skis he bought at a garage sale in Breck — the guy wanted $50, he got them for $10 — and places them next to a pair of circa-1940 wooden skis he inherited from his father. Those two are the only pairs he keeps “with no sentimental value,” he says, as in he never personally skied on them. But still, they’re too cool to give up.
Then comes the remaining ephemera from a 12-year ski career: A pair of Dynastar Descentes measuring at least 223 centimeters, a gorgeous pair of Dynastar Coupe de Mondes at 210 cm, a set of 8-foot-long Scott poles his brother bought from a ski shop display, a pair of old-school Salomon 737 race bindings with no DIN setting, just a hefty spring the tech could manually swap out. Mueller guesses it’s about a DIN 22 as is.
Then comes Sylvester. Mueller won the Looney Toons toy on a business trip to Reno, where he cleaned up at an arcade because he doesn’t gamble. Still dressed in a Swix aprob, Sylvester traveled in his Ford Econoline from event to event, sometimes acting as a course flagger, other times sitting in the announcer’s booth. The stuffed animal even went missing for a stretch in Steamboat, only to reappear on a bar stool at the Tug Boat after six days.
Near the base of Sylvester’s neck is a small hole where Mueller tried to repair its flopping head. The DIY fix didn’t quite work — a stuffed animal can only take so much — but that’s not the case with Mueller’s gear. He’s a perpetual tinkerer, the sort who has worn, modified and repaired the same pair of 1983 Lange ZR race boots for 30 years.
“I’ve tested and tried other boots and the thing is I just had these so dialed in for going straight,” he says, emerging from somewhere in the downstairs catacombs with his duct-taped boots, now on their third pair of liners. He points to a faded black line running from the cuff to the ankle. It’s from his speed racing days and lines up with his Dynastar Course KLs, the 240 cm skis he used to break the world record in 1987.
“I’d carry one, maybe two pairs of those and a pair of 207s,” Mueller says. “Sometimes I’d lug that bag down to the bus stop, take it pretty far. You look at guys doing World Cup these days and they’re carrying around 30 pairs of skis.”
He starts returning gear to the gold mine, telling stories the entire time about speed skiing and gear evolution and a few other locals with collections that are just as impressive. The boots are the last thing to go.
“I put these on a drier every night,” he says. “I just have a hard time imagining anything else. If only my knees could keep up with the boots.”
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