A former professional skier and stuntman who lives in Damariscotta turns heads on Maine mountains with his unusual monoski.
“People often ask what the monoski is like to ride,” Charles John “C.J.” Turner said. “I often tell them it’s like having a Ferrari attached to your feet – very fast, exhilarating performance, and a real head-turner!”
Turner, 58, of Damariscotta, transitioned from traditional skis to a monoski in the mid-1990s. A monoski is a single ski with side-by-side bindings. The skier uses the same boots and poles used with regular skis.
In the early 2000s, Turner’s talents and intense stunts, some involving rockets strapped to a monoski or bicycle, garnered attention from the likes of movie producers and the television show “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”
Today, Turner is a self-proclaimed “ski bum” who likes to share his passion for the relatively rare monoski.
Turner was 5 years old when he started skiing in his backyard in southern New Hampshire. In the mid-1980s, he grew more serious about the sport, skiing with future Olympians in Vermont.
Around 1990, when he was 30, he joined the World Pro Mogul Tour. “I was too old for the Olympics and there was no money in that, so I went pro,” he said.
He spent parts of three seasons on the tour, which is now defunct. Each season had up to 16 events. Competition took him across the U.S. and to Japan.
In 1994, Turner began experimenting with the monoski.
“I tried snowboarding and I didn’t enjoy the position physically,” he said. “I like to face down the hill, I like ski poles, and I like the feeling of ski boots.”
Turner helped design, test, and promote monoskis at this time.
In the early 2000s, he “ended up switching tracks a little bit and really pushing the limits” by bolting rockets to his monoski.
He was scientific in his approach. He researched model rocketry, earned certifications from the National Association of Rocketry, and designed his own rocket system.
With the rockets attached, Turner could reach speeds of nearly 90 mph.
Would he do so again? “Anything is possible for a good paycheck!” he said.
Turner and his rocket-propelled monoski appeared on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” in 2002.
Turner’s escapades continued with strapping rockets to a bicycle. In 2007, he participated in Evel Knievel Days, debuting a five-rocket bicycle stunt.
At the time, he was dubbed “Turbo” Turner. He met several celebrities and skied with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Prince Albert of Monaco, and gold medal-winning slalom racer Alberto Tomba.
Turner and his monoski appeared in the film “Timemaster,” in which he plays a role in a “James Bond-level” ski chase; the stunt movie “The Bad, the Rad, and the Mono”; and the TV show “Ski World.”
For over 20 years, he lived in Colorado and Montana, with some of the most challenging ski mountains in the world nearby. Today he lives in Damariscotta, a more unlikely place to ski.
“I love the ocean and I love Lincoln County,” Turner said of why he lives here. He is closer to his family and his cottage on Isle au Haut as well. He owns Alpine Building Co., which designs and builds high-end homes and landscapes.
Originally, he said, monoskis did not work well on hard snow and were not for the average user. The concept for the monoski was developed by surfer Mike Doyle in the 1960s.
Modern monoskis have better performance, are more user-friendly, and are made of high-strength materials, such as Kevlar and fiberglass, Turner said. The best part, Turner said, is there is no crossing of ski tips.
The monoski became popular in France during the 1980s, until the snowboard took off. Now, the monoski is “a very unknown concept,” Turner said.
“People don’t know what that is when I go on the mountain,” he said. “If I went to Sugarloaf tomorrow, it would be amazing if there was another monoskier out there.”
For the last few months, Turner has been waiting to hit the slopes while he recovers from his only major accident in more than 50 years of skiing.
On April 26, 2018, Turner was going about 50 mph on a monoski with releasable bindings when a binding failed. It took three surgeries to repair the injury – a clear break to his right tibia.
“I’ve been a skier/stuntman for a long time and I’ve never had an injury,” Turner said, adding that the monoski was not to blame for his accident. He considers himself lucky for avoiding other serious injuries.
With doctor approval, he returned to the slopes Sunday, Feb. 3 and reclaimed his status as sole monoskier.
Turner still believes the monoski will become popular, especially with a new generation learning about winter sports.
“I always felt it would fill a niche,” he said. “It won’t eclipse skiing or snowboarding, but it will be another way to slide down a hill and scare yourself.”
(Correction: A version of this article on the front page of the Feb. 7 print edition incorrectly reported that “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” filmed Turner on his rocket-propelled monoski, but did not air the footage. The footage did air. The Lincoln County News regrets the error.)