How to build a shotski — because drinking from one is the easy part

A bartender at the Red Onion passes a shotski on June 29. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Is there any more suitable way to celebrate winter or wrap up a day on the slopes than the shotski?

Essentially, it’s a ski that has been “retired from active duty” and has shot glasses attached instead of ski bindings so several people can do a shot at once. You’ll find them on the walls of ski town bars around the world.

How do you make one? In the name of serious journalism, I decided to find out — and learned that it’s more complicated than you might think.

I also learned that some people here in Colorado take the shotski very, very seriously.

Partygoers load up their shotski glasses during the 56th annual Ullr Fest in Breckenridge on Jan. 10, 2019. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

World record shotskis

Like many great and not-so-great ideas, the idea came to Litch Polich while drinking.

The 50th anniversary of Ullr Fest, the largest and rowdiest festival on the Breckenridge calendar — a nod to all things winter and a plea to the namesake god of snow to deliver the flakes — was looming. Polich and a friend thought it would be cool to see how big a shotski they could make for the occasion.

He’s one of the founders of Breckenridge Distillery, so getting the spirits wasn’t a problem. And neither, it turned out, were the skis. Some 60 skis were donated for the 2013 festival, and 192 people took a shot at once.

“We just glued them on, grabbed a bunch of friends, poured shots of Breckenridge Bourbon and did the biggest shotski we knew of,” Polich said.

Little did he know what he’d started. Soon, skiers at other areas began making their own massive shotskis, so Polich felt the need to keep upping the ante. The competition became even more fierce in 2016 when some Park City, Utah, locals tried to one-up Breckenridge.

This October, Park City broke Breckenridge’s previous record with 1,310 people taking a shot from 450 skis.

So earlier this month, Breckenridge hosted a shot by 1,320 people. It was a quarter-mile long and had to be designed as a horseshoe to keep it in the festival’s liquor license area and make sure everyone drank at once.

“It’s the silliness of it,” Polich said. “It’s a unison of people doing the same thing at once.”

But building such a massive shotski was no joke.

Patrons drink from a shotski at There Restaurant on Sept. 16, 2016, in Denver. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Different methods

The first year, Polich said, they attached plastic shot glasses to the top of skis with Gorilla Glue.

The skis began to pile up as word spread about the event. A town like Breckenridge uses up a lot of skis, and the distillery eventually amassed some 440 for this year’s shot.

It’s easy to attach the skis to each other: Just drill a hole through tip and tail and attach them with a hex bolt and wing nut. After trying glue, they tried screwing on the shot glasses, then went to a tin shot glass attached with Velcro so attendees could take the souvenir home.

(Speaking of attendees, they have to register in advance and pay a small fee, with the proceeds going to the local Rotary Club.)

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There’s always much more interest in taking part than there are shot glasses, so maybe someone wants to make their own? Polich recommends using an old ski that has some meaning for you. Maybe it’s the one you learned on, or has artwork you enjoy. Or the one you were on when you shattered your tibia on a tree?

He also recommends buying a shotski kit. Instantshotski.com sells a kit for $39 that includes four brackets to attach to the ski to hold glasses, as well as adhesive and directions. At shot-ski.com, you can buy a full set, including the glasses, for $50, as well as kits for turning everything from a crutch to a hockey stick into a vessel for imbibing.

So, yes, people take shotskis seriously, but for Polich it’s all about the fun. Even the competition with Park City is friendly.

“It’s the whole setup. We close down the street. We throw the shotski out there. Everyone’s hanging out, waiting, and all of a sudden you’ve got 1,300-plus all doing the shot at the same time,” he said.

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