Ralph Johnston wasn't around when skiing was invented, but he has collected skis, boots, bindings and poles that go back close to the beginning. He recently gave that collection to the Utah State University College of Natural Resources, and the college is displaying it for all to see.

"Mr. Johnston has given us 63 pairs of skis and 20 pairs of boots that illustrate the history of skiing quite well," said Michael Butkus, administrator of USU's Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. Butkus said the collection also shows how wood has been used in the development of skis.He said students in the college's interpretative planning course will find a variety of uses for the collection. Kevin Poe, a student, put together the current display.

Johnston, who started skiing in the early 1930s, saved all his skis and equipment until he had enough to put together a small display. When people saw it, they began giving him other old skis.

"It was like my field of dreams," Johnston said. "If you build a ski collection, they will come."

Johnstonsaid he used a lot of steel wool and elbow grease to put some of his collection into mint condition. Still active and still collecting at 86, he was recently on the ski patrol at Nordic Valley.

At a recent reception given by the College of Natural Resources to honor him, Johnston told a humorous, fictional story about how he became a collector.

"Some of us were visiting an old skimaker in our village," Johnston said. "The skimaker said, `Stein Erickson, you should go to America and teach them to ski. Alf Engen, you should go teach them to ski jump. Ralph, I just saw you ski down that mountain. Why don't you start a display of skis.' "

The Johnston collection is on display in the atrium of the Natural Resources building and near the enclosed walkway joining the Natural Resources Building and the Biology Building.