Retrofitted: Doing the time warp with Rick “Pup” Ascher
You know that song “Time Warp?” It should be Rick Ascher’s theme song.
“If it’s peculiar and old and ski related I’ll f****** grab it, just to add to the collection,” Pup (as he’s known) tells me after 45 minutes of time travel through his tune shop and cabin home, both found within blocks of each other in downtown Breckenridge. Those two buildings must contain more ski history than just about anything that’s not a legitimate museum. It’s almost unreal.
Let’s do the time warp
But first, Pup. Since moving to town in 1979 — and for at least a few more years before that, stretching back to when he was in high school — the Minnesotan-turned-Breck staple has tuned skis. He started at Maverick Sports on Highway 9 at 18 years old, then went to the now-defunct Norway Haus a block east of Main Street on Ski Hill Road, then finally ended up as owner of The Glide shop, about a half-block west of Main on Ski Hill.
“I haven’t really left this little triangle,” Pup says when we meet in his shop on a brutally cold day between Christmas and New Year’s. I was a little surprised — he took 45 minutes during the craziest time of year to show me his stuff.
Luckily, half of that stuff is hanging from the walls and ceiling of his one-room tune shop. Another quarter of that stuff walks in and out the front door, when new customers and old friends (and who knows how many other locals) drop by to pick up skis or just talk. Time warp.
“At one point this ski shop was known as the ‘second-best bar in Breckenridge,’” Pup says without naming the best. “Not proud of that, but it’s true.”
He points to a row of skis hanging from the ceiling above racks of recently tuned, obviously newer models. It’s known as Dead Man’s Wall — not P.C., he says, but true — and it’s lined with skis, ski passes, photos and other knick-knacks from friends who have died over the years. There are plenty of vintage pairs: Head DHs, Equipe Dynamic VR17s, Rossignol Haute Routes, Miller Softs that Pup describes as “one of the first real powder skis.”
Those belonged to Jim Hamilton, a fellow local and longtime ski patroller who’s been on the wall for at least a decade now, nearly as long as Pup has been in the shop. There are plenty of fates to go with the skis: Two avalanche deaths, one or two cancer deaths, one suicide death. Pup rapid-fires through names and memories. Time warp.
“On of them was cirrhosis of the liver,” he says as an aside, “If you can believe that.”
Without missing a beat, Pup picks up a snowboard and starts tuning it as we go through the rest of the shop: The original Breckenridge symbol from 1961, when it was known for a single year as Peak 8 Ski Area; another pair of NR17s he says “were the top-of-the-line” in the ‘80s for anyone who wanted to go fast; a pair of Northland L-21s signed by the late Stein Eriksen when he was in town; a pair of hand-carved wood skis from the ‘20s he found in an old woman’s Ontario basement.
“I still ski a lot of this stuff,” he says. “When I wear the old skis I like to get the proper attire. I’ve got one-piece suits, stretch pants with padded thighs — I’ve been collecting all that s*** too.”
That stuff is stored as his home, itself a relic from Breck’s original downtown in 1885. He’s lived there for about 19 years, dating back to when he first started competing in the fabled Powder 8 competitions. Pairs of skiers would ski fresh powder to see what duo had the tightest, cleanest lines. Pup and his partner, Paul “Frosty” Klause, won five times before the Powder 8s disappeared in 2006. He was organizer for a long time, and so the trophy sits in his living room with winners dating back to 1981. Time warp.
The small-ish living room is home to Pup’s favorites. There’s a collection of skis dating back to the ‘60s, plus a pair of vintage 10th Mountain Division Army-issue skis from the ‘40s. Hanging high above is a lone ski, this one dating back to “at least the late 1800s,” Pup says. His friend found it in an attic — Pup’s cabin attic came with a collection of ‘70s ski gear when he moved in — and was taking it to a local bar.
“I told him, ‘No way, I’m taking that,’” Pup says. He shows me the attic, then asks if I have enough info as he keeps finding things, like the Peak 8 Ski Area brochure from ‘61 and a podium trophy from the 1989 Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek. He got that from the liquor store in tiny Red Cliff, which got it from someone (maybe a ski racer? Maybe not?) who wanted beer and had no cash.
Time warp. Again. And again. And again.
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