Retrofitted: Skis from East Germany at Jimbo’s ski shop
The first time I met Jimbo Deines had nothing to do with the old, hand-painted pair of vintage wooden skis hanging on the wall at his shop of 35 years, Precision Ski and Golf in Frisco. No, I was just picking up my snowboard after putting a nasty gash in the base right next to the edge. The last thing I wanted was a blown-out sidewall on a board that’s only 15 days old, and the techs in the back room of the small, homey shop did an incredible job. Sincerely.
When I was waiting to pay, I asked Jimbo if he or any of his employees have cool old gear with a cool story to match.
“Well, I’m the oldest guy around here,” Jimbo said from behind a big, lush, graying mustache and goatee. “I’m sure I can dig up something.”
Then he paused, thought for a second and pointed over to the skis on the wall.
“You want to talk about old, these are really old,” he said. I knew I had to come back with a camera and notepad to hear the full story, and so a few weeks later I stopped by the shop on a cold and snowy morning for something a little more formal with Jimbo.
Little did I know I was in for a history lesson on the ins and outs and oddities of the ski industry. Jimbo’s a Colorado kid from Fort Collins who’s popped all over his native state, beginning in 1971 when he left the Navy and went to Aspen for a few seasons. He came to Summit County a few years later in 1977, opened his Frisco shop in 1981 and has been here ever since, repairing skis and trimming golf clubs between turns on his go-to skis, a pair of Rossignol Phantom 87s from the mid-2000s.
But the Phantoms weren’t the main course. I was there to learn more about the old skis. Jimbo keeps them tucked behind a Honey Stinger display just inside the shop’s front door, along with the original poles and bindings that are little more than several leather straps. The skis are carved from solid wood and painted light gray, with patches of pale wood peeking through.
Between the skis is a note on typewriter scroll from the original owner, Hans Bucklitzsch. It explains how a young Bucklitzsch grew up skiing on similar gear in Germany during the years before and during World War II, then finally left in 1949 after conditions in Communist East Germany plummeted. The skis came from a friend, also in East Germany, who painted them gray because it was the only color available and, well, he didn’t want to advertise their origins.
“Since he was in East Germany it may have been wise to hide the fact that these were German army skis from the Soviets,” the note from Bucklitzsch reads. He left the skis, poles and note with Jimbo in 2007, for no other reason than he wanted them to be in good hands.
They are. Over the years, Jimbo has collected more ski industry knowledge than just about anyone I’ve met. He’s seen the rise and fall of Spademan bindings, which worked by clamping boots in the middle, not the toe and heel. He’s watched technologies catch on (reverse camber) and fail miserably (fiberglass boots). He remembers when there was no standardization for bindings or boots, and he also remembers when that started to change.
“It was a hostile environment. To get all these guys to sing kumbaya? No bueno,” he laughed. “It just was not well-received because once it was mandated that things were standard, it brought around testing. You can’t just set your bindings on (DIN) four. You had to make sure four meant something.”
Jimbo also feels like the industry is changing more quickly these days. Technology seems to come and go in cycles, like the vintage Scott boots he showed me. They were top-of-the-line in the ‘70s, priced at about $150 and made of fiberglass that had a tendency to blow up on hard landings. Now, boots are “actually made for the human foot,” he laughed, and the ski scene has exploded with niche manufacturers.
“The fact that the industry experiments is interesting,” he said. “Some things might not change. But then again, we might switch out bindings for some kind of magnetic system that reads the pressure you apply.”
Something to consider. Then he tells me the story of a man who came to his shop with a ski so fresh the topsheet paint was still wet. The man had just made them in a mobile trailer and needed the bindings mounted to ski “there and there and there,” Jimbo said, pointing with each “there.”
“The spirit is still alive in the industry, that a few guys can get together with a press and talk their dad out of twenty grand to make a ski,” he said. “That’s part of the American spirit that’s alive and well in skiing.”
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