Ski benches stand the test of time
The threat of plagiarism in art has Vail artist Bill Mounsey slightly worried because of the cost and time constraints of his work.
Mounsey designs ski benches. The threat of someone stealing his theme makes him question his art.
Travelers might find his work outside of various shops around the valley. Gas stations in Minturn and Eagle-Vail and ski shops around the county are home to some of Mounsey’s earlier pieces. He said more benches would be around the valley on display, but he didn’t get permission to bolt them in the ground, and the liability of losing them was too expensive.
And the ski benches are popular, said Mark Haynes, store manager for the Shop “N’ Hop in Eagle-Vail.
“We’ve gotten a lot of comments about our ski bench,” Haynes said. “People come in and ask us to take their picture in front of it.”
The ski bench sitting outside of the Shop “N’ Hop is one of Mounsey’s first pieces.
“A guy came in with a bunch of his old skis to give to Billy, and he tried to reach him but he was incognito,” Haynes said. “Making the benches … It’s the thing he’s best at.”
Catherine Peloghitis, a former neighbor of Mounsey’s, said she has gone outside of the Shop “N’ Hop and taken pictures for tourists who got a kick out of the ski bench.
Out with the old
Yet Mounsey’s more recent designs are different. He’s grown with his technique.
“Some of my old pieces are still out there,” Mounsey said. “They’ve definitely stood the test of time, but some are greater than others.”
The benches are made strictly from skis and snowboards. Mounsey was a garbage man when he first began his trek with ski furniture and ski art. He had always collected skis, and in the early years more than a decade ago, he mixed skis with a wooden-designed frame.
After the first two benches with the wooden frame, Mounsey decided to make the benches using only skis – and eventually snowboards.
“Using all skis can be complex because of the overall flow of design,” Mounsey said.
The all-ski concept takes thousands of skis to build a solid, well-designed bench, Mounsey said.
“I use all skis and it flexes out,” Mounsey said. “It’s more artistic that way.”
Mounsey’s ski furniture varies from ski benches to ski chairs and ski bar stools. But he said he doesn’t make the ski bar stools anymore because the displays were too dangerous.
“Kids liked to jump on them, and that’s not good,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how stable they were for them. I stopped making them.
“They had to be perfect,” he said. “They had to last, and I had to be confident that it would last. I had to make sure the last screw was in tight enough. Each ski had to be equally as close and away from each other.”
During his exploration of ski-bench making, he experimented with how the ski benches should look for the future. And he said his older pieces “aren’t great to today’s standards” but the minute details of the skis and snowboards, how they flex and curve to make the best pattern took “a lot of time and effort.”
“A simplified design I can do in a day,” Mounsey said. “I fly like the wind, but I have to be in the zone with nothing bothering me. No lightning storms going on while I’m working. Nothing to distract me.”
Mounsey said he finds inspiration in odd places.
Mounsey incorporated skis and snowboards several years ago, “back in the early days of the war between skiers and snowboarders,” he said.
Mounsey made a bench with a ski frame and a snowboard bench.
“It was at the height of hate toward each other in the ’90s,” he said. “It was like racism in the ’60s. People were just odd.”
The idea sparked when a group of skiers lined barbwire in the trees on a snowboarder run in Beaver Creek “in the early days,” he said. But the idea worked despite some grumbles from the two groups.
Some of his ski benches have been built for ski bench races, he said. But the ski bench “classic” in the late ’90s only lasted two years.
“One ski bench racer was going at least 40 mph,” he said. “It sure seemed like one hell of a ride.”
Mounsey’s pieces are found all over the world, the farthest destination being in Australia.
“Most of my pieces have been sold to people on the East Coast,” he said.
Mounsey sold a 10-foot bench to a woman in Cordillera, he said. The bench took about three weeks to build.
“Up until 2000, I haven’t seen anything remotely close to what I’ve done with ski benches,” Mounsey said. “They’re definitely not stamped out in a toy factory, and some are greater than others.”
Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at email@example.com.