Photo courtesy of Killington
Barrel stave tip stand.
Killington Resort was a pioneering ski area. If familiar with
some previous history pieces run in this paper, you already know
about some of the important advances that came from Killington.
The short-ski learning experiment (GLM), ticket wicket (a wire
device to attach ski tickets), the regiscope (a camera that helped
eliminate ski-rental thefts), barrel staves, and a major marketing
effort which included three publications were all successfully
launched during 1964-65, and together they contributed to a
Barrel staves? As in the early 1900s' rudimentary skis that
farmers, fathers, and woodworkers fashioned for their kids' (and
their own) fun so they could get outdoors in winter and slide on
Yes, barrel-stave skis. The introduction of barrel staves in
1964 revealed the lighter side to Killington's pioneering
It actually began as something of a joke in the spring of 1961 when
Pres Smith, connecting some whiskey barrel slats and inner tube
pieces, fashioned himself a pair of barrel-stave skis to wear in
the annual Easter Parade. It was his way of depicting how skeptics
said the area "would never be developed." (He had an astute
understanding of why they didn't believe in his dream and chose to
use the staves as a humorous comment on their disbelief!)
In subsequent years, he refined the skis as he continued the
The result was the introduction of a new element in skiing for
fun and national attention for Killington as the media gave
widespread press to the "reinvented" barrel stave. (You might
recall that Killington never was bashful in the promotions
department - more on that in upcoming weeks.)
Killington promoted the fun element of skiing on staves, noting
beginners could use them and experiment with maneuvers like
parallel skiing and wedeling. Marketed as "confidence builders,"
the genuine oak staves with front-throw cable bindings,
plastic-painted bottoms, and optional steel edges were manufactured
in the Killington area and sold through the Killington Ski Shops. A
distributor also marketed them to ski shops in the Northeast!
(Killington was always willing to share their ideas with others,
not just for financial reasons but also to promote the sport!)
Lest you think it was purely a gimmick, consider what instructor
Wayne Gifford, who joined the ski school in 1962, recalled of his
boss Ski School Director (and GLM innovator) Karl Pfeiffer. "One of
the most fun times I skied with Karl we were in wet, heavy mush
snow. I had barrel staves on and I made it. He was a great skier,
but he couldn't get through though because he had regular skis on -
that was about the only time I out-skied him."
Scott Leete Smith, Pres and Sue Smith's son who was born in
1961, remembered having "a tiny pair of barrel staves and going out
with the family and skiing the moguls in the springtime" on his
Scott also recalled that his father made "a single, wider stave
and skied on it, one foot behind the other. It might have been a
forerunner to the snowboard," he observed. (Smith was also an avid
For those who know how serious Smith was about skiing and
Killington and finding a better way to do things for the benefit of
skiers, it's also good to know how he always supported anything
that made the sport fun. Hence, Killington founded the Annual World
Barrel Staves Championship. It was probably the most unorthodox
'ski race' ever hosted at Killington.
Held for the first time in March 1965, skiers had to wedel, ski
backwards, spin in circles, and do royal christies - all against
the clock and within a prescribed course. Karen Huntoon, a red-hot
junior racer from Rutland who went on to become a freestyle/moguls
world champion, won in 1965, edging out second and third place
winners George Feinman of New York and Tom Rondeau of Rutland.
New York Daily News sportswriter Jerry Kenney was awarded a
trophy for "Best Sport of the Day" as he gamely tried the staves
that year. Tough assignment, but someone has to do it!
The Third Annual Barrel Stave Competition consisted of a special
slalom race and a freestyle run during which the skier could try
any maneuver he could think of. This sparked the creation of many
"tricks" on barrel staves.
The Bourbon Institute of America sponsored large trophies to
male and female winners that year, prompting the name change to the
World Bourbon Barrel Stave Championship.
The most radical development at Killington also began in 1964
with the short-ski teaching/learning experiments that led to a new
way to learn to ski. Of all the novel ideas tried at Killington,
none was to have as far-reaching an impact on the future of the ski
area as the development of GLM.
The interest in the short ski as a teaching tool was
revolutionary, but when it came to fun, the barrel staves gave GLM
a run for "fondest memory" among many a former Killington worker