Unbridled Enthusiasm

Well, I just completed another lap around the sun this week and I am here to tell you that at 62 years old, I have as much enthusiasm for the upcoming winter season as I did when I was a kid. img_1188

When I was a young guy, I couldn’t wait for that first snowflake to fall. I read everything I could read on skiing and impatiently waited for that phone to ring where Bob Rose would tell me to get ready for the weekend ahead. ohara-20130104-00081

As life moves on, people get busy and sometimes the passions of their youth wane with responsibilities, families, work and other life challenges. But in my mind, if you have a passion like I have for winter and the ski season, it is cherished and has been something that has lasted for 55 years of my life. My wife Janet thinks I am a little off the wall when I get all of my equipment out and make sure that the new boots fit the bindings properly, the DIN settings are correct and the skis are all freshly tuned and waxed for the upcoming season. I get the strange looks from the new neighbors when I am out in the yard with shorts and ski boots. img_1132

I now have skis for every possible condition and whether I am skiing locally, out west, or in New England, my quiver is full and I am locked and loaded for fun. img_1129

People ask me all the time how I can get so excited to ski at our local area and I tell them that I have been doing it for 55 years and although I have skied in 108 different areas in my life, I still have that fondness for the Laurel Highlands here in Western Pa. The other thing I tell people is that if you can get your legs locally, you can enjoy your trips all the more. Get up early, ski until noon, and you can get more runs in than most people do all day. Then when you do venture out west, you are ready to go. But there is more to skiing locally. You have the camaraderie of friends with whom you have been skiing for a long, long time. They have the passion too and we all cannot wait for the season to start so we can get together on that first chairlift ride. Rob Alarcon and I were riding our mountain bikes the other night when he looked at me and said, ” I am getting nervous” ” I am getting so excited for skiing that I can’t stand it.” His way of dealing with it is to buy more and more equipment and when we talked clothing, he said,” I have so much clothing that I could insulate my house with it.” A funny line to be sure but graphically illustrating the passion of which I speak.

Skiing is like a lot of activities where friendships are formed that last a lifetime. You don’t have to be a skier to feel this passion and excitement. There are so many activities that foster this friendship, fun, passion, and love for whatever holds your community together. So, if life is marching on, take the time to remember what fueled your passion as a young person. Maybe some of that excitement needs to be rekindled? Memories of that first ride to the mountains and how much it mattered to you, can be restored with your family or friends. Life is too short not to have passions. I love life from the seat of a bicycle or sliding down a mountain on a pair of skis. The speed, the wind, the excitement of that first turn never gets old. Just do it!! Thanks for reading. img_0723

The Good Old Days

Franklin Park-20130307-00105 Through the help of the intergalactic world of communication, I was wishing my sister Molly a happy birthday in New Jersey and talking to my friend Melissa Updegraff who lives in Switzerland now, about the good old days at our home ski area of Seven Springs. The Laurel Mountains of Western Pa gave us all a lot of joy growing up and I dragged this old picture that you see here( hopefully it shows well) out of the archives to show you how we used to “do it all at Seven Springs.” My dad went into the poor house outfitting me in that snappy ski sweater and stretch pants with the racing stripe. Santa Claus came through with some nice Innsbruck wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather tie boots. Yes young ones, tie boots- where you had to tie both the inner boot and the outer boot snugly. If you look closely you will also notice the Arlberg strap which was the original safety strap that wrapped several times around your boot almost inviting a spiral fracture to occur. You will notice the fellow next to me had an older strap that just dragged on the ground and hopefully the poor sap did’t ski over it and crash.

It is amazing how equipment in all sports have changed. You can see that in golf clubs, tennis racquets, bicycles, and a myriad of other sporting equipment choices that are available to the public today. Ski equipment has radically changed from the good old days. We have shaped skis which are tuned by machine, made of the highest quality composites, and boots that have custom inner liners and orthodic sole inserts. A far cry from what we had to ski back in the mid sixties when this picture was taken. Those wooden skis had screw in edges that were placed in sections on the bottom and edges of the skis. There was little to no sidecut to help you turn if you put the ski on edge and the bindings were cable type that wrapped around your boot with little or no release setting. Our old neighbor Bob Rose, our hero who drove us every weekend to the mountains, elevated the ante when he became an expert at Cubco bindings. Now Mr. Rose mounted all of his kids skis with the infernal Cubcos. He simply drilled the holes in the skis in his basement and mounted the metal plate on the front of the boot. If the front spring was too tight or too rusted from a summer in the garage, you were surely a candidate to blow out your knees. Big Bob swore by those binders and ironcally there was an Angel that was a prominent part of Cubco advertising to make you believe that they were safe especially in the capable hands of Big Bob who mounted them and hoped for the best with the settings. ” Ah lets see now Annie- you probably weigh about x so we will crank these springs about three turns or so and hope they release when called upon.” These old skis with the cable bindings or the Cubcos were used with this Arlberg “safety” strap. Another misnomer in that when the binding released, the ski remained attached by the strap and was like a helicopter whirling out of control during the fall. If you didn’t get whacked in the head by the whirling ski, you were a fortunate soul. Hard to believe how we even skied on that old stuff with no grooming, icy conditions, and no snowmaking at the time. But we couldn’t get enough of it and Big Bob herded us all together at the end of the day or night and threw all of us in the big old station wagon for the trip back to the cabin. Cubco Bob- what a guy. He could have been the rep for those bindings. He probably knew more than the manufacturer.

Bear with us, non-skiers following the blog, as we march through memory lane on equipment. As we grew, Howard Head invented the first metal ski -The Head Standard. If you got a pair of those, you were defintely cool and those were followed by the Head 360 which I later received with Look Nevada bindings. As composites and aluminum came into the picture, we were captivated by Fisher Presidents or the Alu with Marker Rotomat(explodamat) bindings. But if you were totally cool, you admired Jean Claude Killy and Guy Perrilat, the famous French racers, and got a pair of Rossignol Stratos or a pair of Dynamic VR-17s. Ok my fellow compatriots- remember those? Got your memory stirring didn’t I? I will never forget racing in our little race at Seven Springs called the Standard Race. I had my Stratos and thought I would be faster if I dove accross the finish line at the end instead of just tucking through the finish. After I completely wiped out the timing wand, and blew out of both bindings, the people came running out of the lodge questioning what the hell I was doing? I explained my teen age theory and they all laughed as we tried to re-assemble the timing device. But I was defintely the cats meow with those Stratos.

Time marches on and many skis have crossed our paths in the mean time. But I will tell you that I was never so happy or as proud as when I received those first pair of wooden skis. As I have said in an earlier post, I was genuinely enthused and passionate about skiing and still am to this day. My folks were responsible for initiating me to the sport much to their credit as they scraped and scrapped to get the money to give me those treasured items. I will always be grateful to them for getting me started in this lifetime sport. I passed it on to the next generation with my son Jack. I had him out there at 2+1/2 but he turned into a basketball player. Some day though, when the ball days are finished, I am sure he will return to carry the torch. Or at least I hope so? Thanks for reading.