It’s been nearly a decade since K2 Sports moved its operations from Vashon Island, WA, in the heart of the Puget Sound, to the hustle and bustle of Seattle. But it’s not hard to see the roots the company left behind, a network that still survives just under the surface: The antique shop employee whose aunt worked on the topsheet production line; the ski shop owner whose dad sourced the metal edges that carried Phil Mahre to Olympic slalom gold; the factory itself, still standing along Vashon Highway, aging but resolute, as if it could get called back into service at any moment.
Then there’s Frank Lund. While the rest of K2 left nearly a decade ago, Lund stayed put. Slight of stature, with shiny blue eyes and a noticeable limp, the 80-year-old has worked at the Vashon factory for 46 years. For the last eight of those, he has worked alone. Lund is the grounds’ lone security guard and the last full-time K2 employee working on Vashon.
Every Monday through Friday at about 1 p.m., he drives the two blocks from his house to the empty parking lot, parking his maroon Dodge pickup next to the campus’ aging security booth. While rumors of the buildings’ impending sale come and go, Lund keeps the campus up to code. He dutifully mans the property until 8 p.m. (“7:30 if I’m getting sore,” he says), making sure kids on the island aren’t breaking windows or spray-painting the classic red K2 barn that once sprawled across magazine ad pages. When he’s not making the rounds, he kicks his feet up in the wooden security shed, listening to one of the hundreds of country music cassettes he has stashed behind his desk.
“It’s a whole lot of peace and quiet,” Lund says. “But it doesn’t bother me much.”
When the factory was in operation, Frank doubled as a security guard and the K2 bus driver, picking up a steady stream of employees off the Tahlequah ferry and delivering them to the campus every day. He rubbed shoulders with the Mahre brothers (“They were a nice pair of guys, down to earth, good people”) and met Glen Plake (“The guy with the crazy hair, yeah, he was a real professional”), but wasn’t a skier himself. In fact, he says he’s never skied a day in his life.
Still, in many ways, Lund owes it all to the sport he never much cared to try. K2 gave the then-34-year-old family man his first job out of the Army in 1970, moving the Minnesota native from Washington state’s Fort Lewis to Vashon. He says it was the steady job and sense of community around the factory that ultimately planted his Midwest roots deep in the Northwest. Lund has stayed true to the world of tapered sidewalls and metal-laminate construction ever since. His wife even worked at the factory, pairing and buffing last-second kinks before sending skis to production. Now—ironically—the octogenarian flatlander is the last living link to one of the most iconic places in American skiing.
Ask Lund when he plans to hang up his keys for good, and you won’t get an answer. He could retire, but the security detail lets him keep his mind sharp and allows him to “get a little time away from home.” Maybe it isn’t easy to turn your back on five decades of experiences, lessons and friends.
“This place has a lot of memories,” Lund says. “A lot of people worked here, a lot of good people. I think that’s what I’ll always miss the most.”
This story originally appeared in The Ski Journal Volume 10 Issue 3.