Ski resorts aren't solely for skiing. In fact, many winter enthusiasts consider a horse-drawn sleigh ride through town or sledding down a hill two great ways to enjoy the mountains after the lifts close. And for some, sleighs and sleds mean business: Woodworkers Bruce Marston and Randy Crossman combined their childhood memories of such outings with their mutual interests in building antique sleigh tables and decorative sleds. The two men, both of whom are avid skiers at Killington and Okemo in Vermont, joined up three years ago to found the Vermont Sleigh Company.
With a 25-year background in restoring antique furniture, Crossman-who came up with the idea to start the company-had often transformed antique horse-drawn sleighs into coffee tables for his customers. But he always had difficulty finding sleighs the right size and decided it would be easier to build sleigh tables from scratch, adding a finish that would make them look antique. Marston, a long-time furniture-maker, horse lover and collector of antique horse-drawn sleighs, had a strong understanding of how sleighs work. Together they became a team.
Using mostly native Vermont Cherry and some White Oak, Marston and Crossman first steam-bend the wood until it's pliable to form the runners of the sleigh. Once the base is created, a solid wooden plank is added, on which the craftsmen will put anything from a custom logo to an inlaid puzzle.
The men tend to build sleigh tables in batches of 20 and make nearly 500 per year (building a sleigh can take up to 10 days). No two are exactly alike and, with their cracked paint and rustic look, they could be mistaken as circa-1800 originals. "Our sleighs are a cross between a 'cutter-sleigh' (the brand or style of sleigh from the 19th century) and a child's sled," says Crossman. "It doesn't look like a reproduction, it looks as if it came out of your grandmother's attic."
Prices range from $450-$495 (not including shipping and handling), depending on size. For more information, contact Vermont Sleigh Company, 8341 Gleason Road, Rutland, Vt. 05701; (802) 775-7674; www.vermontsleigh.com.