Over a century ago, visitors to the marshes of Wisconsin might have been surprised to see a duck hunter with 10-foot skis strapped to his or her boots skimming across the tops of the cattails.
Over a century ago, visitors to the marshes of Wisconsin might have been surprised to see a duck hunter with 10-foot skis strapped to his or her boots skimming across the tops of the cattails. According to Mike Brumley, Ducks Unlimited's regional director for south-central Wisconsin, "Marsh skis allow you to slide through the marsh. They were made long enough to distribute your weight across the cattails and to span muskrat channels. When I starting skiing the marshes, there were very few guys left who did it," recalls Brumley. "In fact, no one makes the skis anymore. The most common place to see them is hanging over someone's mantel."
No longer still the case, we have rekindled this historic craft by hand hewing ash marsh skis. We sculpt the wood for width and thickness with scrub and finish plains, and then delicately apply beadwork to the piece for a finishing touch. The skis are then steamed, and bent to a form in the classic style to achieve not only quality but also historical accuracy.
The skis range from four to six inches across and anywhere from 10 to 12 feet in length, contoured on all sides. They are made to strap directly to your boots and operate like a hybrid of a cross-country ski and snowshoe. This historic Wisconsin tradition transfers easily to upstate New York and the marshes that grace the end of the region's Finger Lakes. Cabinetmaker Vincent Chicone ventures out intoCatherine Creek Marsh with his own set of skis. Strap them onto your waders or hang them above the fireplace at your lodge; functional and beautiful, these historic gems are finding a new place in the homes of the twenty-first century.
Click HERE to view the 2010 Early American Life article "Skiing for Ducks" featuring Chicone Cabinetmaker's marsh skis.
Watch us below as we bend marsh skis, for more how-to videos on crafting marsh skis click HERE to visit our videos page.