Steamboat Carpentry Shop Students Forge New Signs for Emerald Mountain Trails (With Video)

Due to wear, weather, and other elements, signs are missing or damaged on the Emerald Mountain Trail System. This spring they will be replaced with replicas of the old school wooden traffic signs.

“Not all of Emerald’s trails have them, but they’re pretty cool and they became standard on many trails throughout their construction in the early to mid-2000s,” said Laraine Martin, general manager. of Routt County Riders. “They have a handcrafted feel and evoke a rich history of trail building and advocacy in the surrounding area.”

The signs will be installed as soon as the trails allow, possibly in mid-May, and will likely be a team effort from RCR and the City of Steamboat Springs, according to Martin.

Degan Kuntz and Wyatt Shaw, sophomores at Steamboat Springs High School, take the initiative to replace the signs as part of a high school class working on community projects this semester.

When their carpentry shop class instructor, Paul Scoppa, pitched the idea, Shaw and Kuntz both jumped on it. They were commissioned to make approximately 17 panels 18 inches long and 8 inches high. For trail names like MGM, it’s pretty easy. For the signs that say “To Stairway to Heaven”, the work is a little more difficult.

Shaw spent a few minutes planning where to put the letters, then wrote the name of the trail in pencil. Then he fixed the board to the table and started using a portable router to carve the letters.

“It took us a few weeks to get used to it,” Shaw said. “We were very messy, but we got used to it.”

Learning to use the portable router and maintaining a steady hand was the biggest challenge, they said.

The duo spent a few boards practicing before getting to work. They started with a board, donated by Alpine Lumber, then wrote and carved the letters. After that, they spray painted the board to fill in the letters with black paint to make them easier to read. Finally, they shaved off the top layer so that the only visible black was in the letters.

“From there, we basically sand the edges down to be a little stronger, last longer, and weather a little better,” Kuntz said.

None of them frequent the Emerald Mountain trail system, so they probably won’t see their signs once they’re up, but the students appreciate that they guide thousands of people around Emerald each summer.

“I really think that’s really cool,” Kuntz said.

Shaw said it added to the pressure to get the panels done right.

Scoppa said the two were doing a great job and cutting the project down at a steady pace. He said the store undertakes community projects as often as possible. In the past, students have made birdhouses for the Haymaker Golf Course. Other students frame walls that will eventually contain artwork.

“We’ll do everything we can at school speed,” Scoppa said.

For any community members interested in having SSHS Shop classes complete a project, contact Scoppa at [email protected].

Laura J. Boyer