August-September, 2007 by Christina Callicott. Photo by M. Kale
1957 was a good year for cars,
atom bombs and Tim Altic. That’s
the year the roller skater, skier, skate park designer, hang-glider,
homesteader and hippie was born. And even though Altic turns
50 this year, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can
keep up with him.
If you know Tim, you see him sitting down on Main Street in Telluride,
hanging out. Then you see him up on the mountain and he’s skiing
laps around you, and you wonder how he does it,” says M. Kale
Casey, skier and friend of Altic’s. “It’s because
when he’s not hanging, he’s working as hard as three
guys, whether it’s building a skate park or whatever. And when
he’s not working, he’s hiking constantly.”
Altic has been a fixture in Telluride since 1979. Even if
he never skied, flew or skated again, he’s racked up enough airtime,
ground miles and grass-roots legitimacy to earn his spot in the Telluride
Hall of Fame. As if that weren’t enough, he’s a cult
hero in Europe, and he’s built an international reputation
and business out of building top-quality skate parks everywhere
from Telluride to Indonesia to his current project in Israel.
Cavey Pete” Dahle came to Telluride for the Grateful Dead shows
in 1987 and never left. “When I first came here, Tim was everything
I thought Telluride was about. I thought ‘Man, this guy is
a freak!’ He was in lace-ups and skinny skis, he kicked
hacky sack, he lived in the woods.”
Altic was one of the first skiers in Telluride to ski
free heel, and he did it with the intensity and focus
uses for everything.
Back then there was no one out there rippin’ it on tele skis
with the aggression and the speed that he had,” Dahle
Altic claims to have been the first person to ski Bear
Creek Canyon, the avalanche-prone off-piste zone adjacent
area. The area is characterized by steep, wind-loaded
slopes and a non-negotiable death-trap cliffband that
of the length of the canyon. Skiers traverse above
the cliff until they reach a break where they can continue
Ski patrol had checked out the route in the springtime when it was
safe, in case they everhad to rescue anyone. But no one was ‘skiing
Bear Creek,’” Altic claims. “There was
this big fear around the avalanche danger there.”
According to Altic, Hugh Sawyer, long-time local and
ski instructor, talked to patrol about the route, then
Altic hiked up
there in the summertime to reconnoiter. When Altic
accidentally found himself
on the wrong side of the tree-covered ridge that forms
the ski-area boundary, he decided to just keep going.
“ I decided to continue and go to the traverse, and find my way through
the cliffband. I was down there looking for the traverse
when I heard voices. Some people had followed me. So I called out to them and
showed them the traverse.”
Altic was unsure what year he made his pioneering run,
but he notes that it was before Lift 9 existed, when
the ski runs
Bushwhacker were accessible only by hiking from the
top of Lift 6. Today, a hike-to gate exists that allows
runs in Bear Creek Canyon, but the terrain that Altic
pioneered remains off limits due to dangerous cliffbands
Terrain isn’t the only thing Altic pioneered. He is
locally famous for developing a fusion ski turn that combines
knee of a telemark turn with the speed of an alpine turn.
His style influenced a generation of Telluride skiers.
That’s why, in fact, Telluride has a whole bunch of extreme
telemarkers, is because these alpine skiers started going ‘Well,
he’s skiing faster than I do. I could telemark ski that fast,
and then I wouldn’t have to mountaineer up anything, I could
just ski up it.’ And so all of a sudden they weren’t
mountaineering up anything anymore, they were tele-skiing up it,” Altic
Not only was Altic’s style revolutionary, but so was
It was in Montana, where he attended high school at
a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school, that Altic
alpine skis for the traditional skinny Nordic skis. “And these
guys in Utah were skiing these skis in powder.” When Altic
saw that, he immediately went out and got a pair of Olin Mark IV
double-tipped skis. “That was back in the ’70s,
so I was on double-tipped skis 20 years before anyone else
Perhaps one of Altic’s best-known innovations is his
He was always coming from the Free Box with plastic alpine touring
boots or ice climbing boots and trying to make telemark boots. As
far as backcountry ski gear, he was totally visionary,” Dahle
Long before Scarpa had come out with a plastic telemark
boot, and other free-heelers were still in lace-up
with creating a plastic ski boot with a flexible toe.
I wanted to ski the fall line and do big jumps and carve turns, and
I thought leather boots were too flimsy,” Altic said. He modified
a plastic roller skate boot and added an articulated toe, Vibram
soles, and plastic cuffs. He used glue, screws, and rivets to hold
his invention together, and he also used shaping techniques, “so
that it fits together like a puzzle and holds.” The
boot had an integrated gaiter to keep the snow out, and flexed
tele boot should.
Once he had the design perfected, Altic headed to Europe
to sell the idea to boot manufacturers. It was a drought
there was no skiing to be had, Altic turned to his
first love, roller skating.
Altic’s parents were dance skaters in northern California in
the 1940s and ’50s, and he grew up roller skating.
He turned to skateboarding in 1975, and used his college
grant money to buy
a partnership in The Smoothhill Skate Board Shop in Santa
Rosa, Calif., in 1977.
One day I looked out of the window of the shop and this guy was roller
skating past on outdoor skates, so I followed him to the college.
He was lucky he brought his shoes with him. I bought his skates off
him right then and there,” said Altic in an interview
with Tobias Reif of Pinkjuice.com.
The purchase immediately boosted Altic’s skating. On a skateboard,
Altic had been afraid to go airborne, “but when I got my roller
skates out, I caught air the first time I dropped in the vert bowl,” he
said. “I was ecstatic and haven’t stopped catching
Shortly afterward, a trip to Europe launched Altic’s career
as a pro skater. He moved to Venice Beach and spent the next three
years traveling and skating professionally as one of the world’s
best vertical and pool roller skaters. He was featured in the movie “Skateboard
Madness,” in London’s Skateboard Magazine and was the
subject of a documentary film, “Tim the Roller Skater,” made
by renowned German filmmaker Percy Adlon. The movie was filmed on
location in Venice Beach. According to Altic’s website,
the movie established him as the father of inverted aerial
Fast forward a dozen years, and there’s Altic toting
a pair of plastic telemark boots around Europe with no snow
to ski on.
He connected with the skate scene instead, and had such a
he came back for more the next year.
I’d heard about this competition in Lausanne, Switzerland.
I’d passed through there on my ski trip and even met a roller
skater kid there who’d shown me around town. So I made it my
goal to get back there,” Altic said. “When I got to the
competition, I walked up and saw that obviously it was a festival,
just like in Telluride.” The best way for an itinerant skater
to get into a festival in Telluride is to volunteer, and that’s
what Altic did.
As he was making arrangements to join the volunteer
crew, the organizer began to question Altic.
The guy started to ask me something in German that I didn’t
understand,” said Altic. “I finally realized he was asking
me if I’d ever been in a movie. ‘Who are you?’ he’s
Well, my name’s Tim,” Altic answered.
“ Yeah, Tim the roller skater.”
Well, yeah, I roller skate, but you know . . .” Altic
But are you Tim the roller skater?” the organizer demanded
As he’s pressing me for my identification,” says Altic, “I
remembered that I had been in this documentary, and that it had shown
on German-speaking television in Europe back in the ’80s. So
I realized that I was being recognized for this film. So I said yes,
I am Tim the Roller Skater. And he immediately stopped everything
that he was doing and yelled it out to everyone in the whole place.
After that I wasn’t even allowed to help. I was taken
out to dinner that night. I was told where I could stay.
I was taken
of from that moment on.”
I saw Altic at his regular hangout, Between the Covers
Bookstore and Coffeeshop, as soon as he got back
from that trip. It
was as close to ecstatic as I‘ve ever seen him. In a town like Telluride
where everyone knows everyone, and local legends are a dime a dozen,
it’s easy to dismiss one of the greats as “the guy who
talks politics at the coffeeshop,” or “the guy who kicks
hacky sack on Main Street.” True pioneers often don’t
get the credit they deserve, and for Altic, his trip to Europe was
a well-deserved and welcome triumph. It wasn’t the
sort of thing that he lorded over anyone, but it was obvious
that he was
grateful for the admiration he had found abroad.
And well-deserved it was. Altic has worked and played
hard all his life, and without a great deal of outer
I’m poor. I have nothing. I don’t even have a schedule,” says
Altic. “I have to go to court to get paid for work that I’ve
done. But when I decide to do something, like go to Europe, I do
it. I’m open, and things happen, boom, boom, boom. It all falls
into place. Then I come home and I need a job, so I go sit on Main
Street and my job walks up to me. You can’t teach that. You
can’t tell someone how to do that. I am blessed. I
As easy as he makes it sound, Altic has earned his
turns. Name a sport, a job or a skill, and he has
I bought my first mountain bike in the spring of 1980,” Altic
says. “It was a Mongoose, a stiff-tail BMX frame with mountain-bike
equipment on it.” He bought the bike from a skateshop
owner in Marin, Calif. Altic then proceeded to sew his own
pack a light pack and ride the bike home to Colorado.
I rode the Rubicon Run across the Sierras to Tahoe,” Altic
said. One of the continent’s hardest four-wheel drive
trails, Altic reports that it was great for a bike, even
one as heavy as
the one he was pedaling.
Altic chose his high school based on his desire to
learn to hang glide.
I’d had problems at my high school in California because of
an April Fool’s joke,” Altic admits, “so my dad
told me I could pick any school I wanted to go to. I wanted to learn
to hang glide, and I’d seen a picture of a student
hang gliding in Montana, so I chose Mt. Ellis Academy in
In 1972, when Altic was 15 years old, he made his
first hang glider out of bamboo and plastic. And
it. In 1975,
he bought and
flew his first pre-manufactured hang glider.
Around Telluride it’s too radical,” Altic said. “You
have to fly all the time to stay in practice, and the weather won’t
even let you do that. So not only was I flying without enough practice,
I was flying above my head. And I crashed.” It was a full-on
crash in Telluride’s Town Park, but Altic, impervious
as always, walked away uninjured.
Because of the crash, Altic was blacklisted by
the Telluride Hang Gliders’ Association, so he turned to paragliding. Along with
Eric Trommer and the late T.R. Youngstrom, Altic was one of the first
three paragliders in a town that’s now thick with them.
Flying eventually fell by the wayside.
I wasn’t getting enough practice, I didn’t have hot enough
equipment, I had a different life. I was skiing and skating and making
skate parks, and that’s where I am now.”
Altic’s athleticism, perfectionism and engineering prowess
have found their outlet in his company, Alltec Skateparks Inc., which
designs and builds skate parks around the world. He’s been
involved in building parks and ramps since his first trip to Europe
as a pro skater, but his business really took off after his trips
to Europe in the early ’90s as Tim the Roller Skater. Alltec
Skateparks has built municipal parks and ramps all over Colorado’s
Western Slope as well as the Front Range. This spring, Altic
finished a project in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, and he is
now in Israel working
on a skate park there.
I make my parks for the kids, not just for the rad dudes,” says
Altic. “The kids are the ones who want to skate. But they don’t
want to skate something that’s big, massive, three times over
their head. Yes, they can learn to skate that, but they can’t
start on that. One of the complaints I hear is that my parks are
too crowded. That’s because I make a park that people want
to use, that they’re not afraid of.”
Like so many Telluriders, Altic may travel the
world, but he always comes back to the San Juan
place he calls home
is a monument to his free spirit and his creativity.
He is the last of a dying breed of people known
in these parts
those who live in the woods, often year round. But, in classic
he lives the woodsy lifestyle with aplomb.
Tucked back in the forest across the creek from
the main road, Altic’s
home is solar-powered, heated by woodstove. He built the
house himself, and laid the stone floor. He carried the wood
across the creek on a downed log that he uses for a bridge.
He collected all the stone.
I built my own house. I’m off the grid, off the road. I live
in a cool place with a creek running by and eagles nesting in the
cliffs above. And that’s the country, and we love it,” said
When Pinkjuice.com asked Altic why he lives in
Telluride, he summed it up this way: “You mean, do I live in the mountains because
of the beauty and the quiet and the river running by and high peaks
with snow blowing off the tops or yellow aspens in the fall? I have
a beaver living in the river at my front door and a bear that lives
up in the canyon behind my cabin. I just found a huge mountain lion
skull just a hundred yards up behind the place when I was cutting
fire wood. I use a small solar system and kerosene lamps during storm
systems that last soooo long. I guess I’m dreaming now. Because
I really like to ski. I like to catch air, and that’s
why I skate or ski.”
Back in 1992, Tim took Christina Callicott to see
nest built in the cliffs above his house. She collected pieces of
bone from the birds’ midden; she keeps those
bones in her treasure box to this day.