Monday, December 5, 2011

Skiing – the Ohio Years

Butler High Ski Club 1967

Valley High - wasn't quite this big in 1968!
Killy Downhill Gold Run Grenoble 1968I
I worked in the ski industry as an instructor, patroller and race coach for 24 years, from 1970 to 1993.  All because someone (I think it might have been Sally Brown, '66) started a High School ski club.

The first time I went skiing was in February 1968 at Valley High Ski Area (now Mad River Mountain), a 300 foot glacial moraine in Central Ohio, with the Butler High School Ski Club.

I had always thought that skiing looked fun, and had wanted to try it.  The 1968 Winter Olympics stoked my interest and I had become a fan of Jean-Claude Killy, the French racer who won three Gold Medals (there were only three skiing events then) at that Olympics.

One interesting thing, I was not the first member of our family to ski, my sister Helen (Class of '70) had gone with the Ski Club a few weeks earlier, but had not enjoyed it and, to the best of my knowledge, never went again.

They looked just about like this!
I rented skis.  They were wooden, tan color and made by Northland, with Cubco bindings.  I don’t know what kind of boots I wore, but they were buckle boots.  Most of the rental boots were lace-ups, but for whatever reason they gave me ones that buckled – I never skied in lace boots, although I think that virtually all of my friends did.  I really enjoyed the sport and skied one more time that winter, also with the Ski Club, and using essentially the same equipment.

Cable bindings - they didn't release very reliably.
First run on my own skis!
Mount Stonequarry (our front yard) 1968
I graduated from High School that spring and got a job.   One of my first purchases was the first pair of skis I owned.  They were white, 200cm wooden skis with screw-on metal edges and cable bindings made by Ski Persenico (which was later purchased by Spaulding and had much success in racing during the 70’s).  I bought them in the fall of 1968 at Jim Flynn’s Sporting Goods, the store that they had in the Forest Park Plaza on North Main in Dayton.  The boots were leather, with buckles and made by Dolomite.

Head 320, 360 & 800
I skied on those that season.  In the Spring of 1969 I bought a pair of 190cm Head 360’s which was a very popular ski at the time.  I had Tyrolia bindings installed when I bought them at Rike’s in downtown Dayton.  These were the skis I used before my first trip to a big ski mountain, Killington Mountain in Vermont (this was with the Wright State Ski Club in March of 1970).  I sold the Persenico’s to one of my friends, either Rick or Steve.  Later someone cut them so that they were only about 24”-18” long and lots of people skied around on them at Valley High.

Lange Comps - now I was in the big leagues!
Look Nevada's - best binding (IMHO)!
After skiing on the 360’s for a while I became a much better skier and wanted to get new boots.  I decided on Lange Comps which were pretty much the first plastic ski boot.  I bought them just before the 70-71 ski season for $175 ($971 in 2010 dollars).  None of my non-skiing friends could believe that I paid that much for a “pair of shoes!”  My fellow skiers were all jealous that they did not have “Comps.”  When I got my new boots, I also got new bindings, Look Nevada’s which I felt were a superior, and safer, product.  Except for one momentary lapse, I used Look’s for the rest of my skiing career.  And I guess I should add, that I was a full-time skiing professional for over 20 years and never had a leg injury of any sort.

The 70-71 winter was also when I started to work at a Ski area, getting on as a Patroller at Valley High.

VR-17 & Looks
Now, of course, I wanted new skis.  I really wanted Dynamic (a French product, the correct pronunciation is Dee-nah-meek) VR-17’s 207cm GS (this was the ski that Killy used in the ’68 Olympics).  When the Wright Ski Club went to Breckenridge, Colorado at Christmas 1970 I found a used pair for sale, the exact model and length that I wanted, with Look bindings, in excellent condition, and I felt so lucky to get them.

I mostly skied the VR-17’s for a while after that.  My friend, Terry, had been skiing on K2’s for a while and really liked them.  And there was a local shop which sold them and also gave a discount to Ski Patrollers so I bought a pair, the K2 Comp model 200cm slalom and really liked them.

Terry at Breckenridge 12/71
My 1970 K2s on his left
His 1969 K2s on his right.
I skied these skis for most of that season until they were stolen!  Fortunately they were insured – I contacted the shop and they had another pair in stock.  I decided to try a different binding, Gertsch was making a plate binding which had upward toe release. I liked that idea and also thought that removing the ski boot from the release process was good, so I had those bindings installed. This turned out to be a mistake as I could not keep the skis on my feet!  They were constantly pre-releasing and I soon went back to Look.

The stolen skis were recovered a week or two later (a Highway Patrolman saw them in a nearby cornfield).  I won’t go into details, but I suspect that they might have been swiped by a jealous ex!

Anyhow the insurance company reclaimed them and these skis were eventually sold to someone at a ski swap.  They had my name engraved on them, and since I was pretty well-known in the ski community in that part of Ohio, the poor guy who bought them was constantly being harassed for “stealing those skis!”  I believe he actually had the cops called on him once.

Lange Supercomp - Notice how the
ribbing forms the Lange "L"
The next season (72-73) I switched from the Patrol to the Ski School.  I had been using the Lange Comp boots for a good while by now and when Lange came out with a new model – the Supercomp, and made them available to instructors for a very good price, I picked up a pair.  That was the last significant ski purchase I made in Ohio.  The following summer I moved to New Mexico (read about that year here).


  1. Such a fruitful ski life you had all those years. Thank you for sharing and keep those adventures coming. :)

  2. Your story brings me back to my younger days. My brother bought the Lange boots in about 1970. I still have thing in the rec room by the fireplace. Thanks