Walsh: Skiing changes aplenty, yet much stays the same

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Debbie Zamberry started skiing on "kiddie skis that you buy in toy stores" and wore rubber boots mounted in spring bindings.

Lynne Hartnett learned on skis designed for men but fancied up "with pastel colors or feminine graphics."

John Schaukowitch's first pair of skis, Kneissl Short Swings, broke in half because their wood laminate construction wasn't compatible with his aggressive style of skiing.

I asked Debbie, Lynne and John to reflect on the changes in skiing they've experienced as they, and hundreds of others, prepared to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Ski Club. The formal celebration was Friday night at the Embassy Suites in Moon.

Avid skiers Bill Albert, Al Black and Lars Eckwurtzel founded the club Dec. 10, 1937, as a nonprofit organization to encourage skiing through instruction, trips and racing programs. It grew from a dozen members to almost 200 in one year.

In addition to skiing and snowboarding, the club offers a variety of year-round on- and off-mountain activities, including bicycling, golfing and volleyball. It sponsors a number of social events and affordable weekend and weeklong trips.

Debbie, the current club president, graduated from her first pair of kiddie skis to what are now referred to as "straight skis" and then moved up to easier-turning shaped skis. She exited her rear-entry boots in favor of standard entry boots that provide better flexibility for initiating turns.

As for clothing, the veteran skier said her motto is: "If I don't ski so well, at least I look good." Her first ski outfit -- bib pants, down coat and matching tossle cap -- was by Roffe.

She sharpened her skills at the Taos Ski Valley ski school, survived arm-wrenching T-bars and Poma lifts in Canada and Italy and enjoyed the comfort of her first high-speed quad chairlift, the Vista Bahn at Vail. It had a clear plastic bubble that riders pulled down to protect themselves from wind and weather. The lift was replaced this season with a 10-passenger gondola with heated, cushioned seats and Wi-Fi access.

Lynne, technical director of the Seven Springs Snowsports School, made her first trip to Vail in 1974 and was impressed with its size and the variety of its slopes and trails for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities. She found it "bigger and better" during a visit in January.

She has skied at many local and regional resorts as well as those nestled in New England and the Rocky Mountains. She has heli-skied with Canadian Mountain Holidays at Revelstoke in western Canada. A 13-seat helicopter serves as the lift to some of the best powder skiing anywhere.

John, in a lengthy email, commented on the changes in skis, boots, bindings, safety straps that skiers wrapped around boots, snow blades, mono boards with side-by-side bindings and snowboards.

Although skiing has seen a number of changes, John said there are some things that never change.

"All of my ski friends that I have made over the years. They are still the best bunch of people on the planet and some of my best memories include many of them," he said. "The yearly increase in the price of every aspect of the sport -- equipment, lift tickets, airfare, etc. ... With all the advancements in luggage handling and tracking, airlines still manage to lose some of it from time to time."

There isn't enough space this week for more of Debbie, Lynne and John's comments. I'll include more in an upcoming column.

Information: http://www.pittsburghskiclub.org.

ski - outdoors

Larry Walsh writes about recreational snow sports for the Post-Gazette.


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