For countless years, my ski seasons have followed a similar start-up pattern.

Since its beginning in 2003, the annual Maine Ski Hall of Fame Induction Banquet in October got things underway. Also in October, the Ski Maine Association sponsored a launch party in Portland where its member ski areas displayed new trail maps and told skiers in attendance what was new. And there were drawings for lift tickets in addition to those given to the first 30 or so skiers who entered.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic led to cancellation of these events in 2020 and 2021.

CHANGING TIMES

Most years, my next outing would be to Boston for the annual BEWI Ski & Snowboard Expo. This show at the Sea Port World Trade Center would host 45,000 skiers over a four-day weekend in mid-November. Each year we could count on all of the major ski manufacturers being present with their latest skis, boots and bindings.

One gauge of the outlook for the coming season was always the number of skiers carrying new skis as they exited the show. The big ski sale that occupied a sizable space was always busy. Whether the goal was new skis, boots or accessories such as goggles, gloves or other pieces of ski wear, the show attendees lugged out enough gear to make the show’s claim of a million dollar sale a reality.

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While the show was the big draw for most skiers, those of us who are more closely tied to the business, reps for the various brands and, of course, writers, were always present for the BEWI Awards Luncheon on Friday.

Each year, Bernie Weichsel, who owned the ski shows, hosted the luncheon that recognized an individual from the business side of skiing. The list of winners of the BEWI award is a who’s who of those who run the ski industry, from the equipment side to the resort side.

One year it was Stein Ericksen, and another it was Klaus Obermeyer, whose ski wear is shipped all over the world from the company headquarters in Aspen. Aspen skiers are familiar with the 85-year-old Obermeyer, as he skis almost daily. They are also familiar with yodels as he carves turns down the mountain. Naturally, when he received the BEWI award, someone suggested a yodel, and it didn’t take any extra coaxing before he demonstrated his expertise developed in his native alps.

A year later, we knew that change was coming. The Trade Center was about to be torn apart to make way for a new facility. That year the award went to David Ingemie, who was retiring as Executive Director of SIA (Snow Industries of America), the organization that represents the manufacturers of all the skis boots and bindings on display at the ski show. That was also the year that Bernie Weichsel announced he would be retiring after decades of owning and operating the ski shows.

It was announced that the show was being sold to SIA, and the following year would be moved to the Prudential Center. Unfortunately, the pandemic cancelled that show, but look for a return in 2022.

MAINE’S IMPACT ON INDUSTRY

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SIA has a strong connection to Maine skiing. Given the many contributions of Maine skiers to the industry, it’s not uncommon to find a Maine skier involved, and SIA owes a great debt to a Rumford skier: Ralph A. “Doc” Desroches was an outstanding skier for Stephens High School and later at the University of New Hampshire, trained the 10th Mountain division at Camp Hale in Colorado from 1943 to 1944, and in 1963, after working in ski area management, took the reigns of the newly formed SIA and built it into the crucial role it plays in today’s ski industry.

But “Doc” wasn’t finished when he retired from SIA. He moved to Farmington and teamed up with Tom “Coach” Reynolds to create the University of Maine at Farmington Ski Industries program, which has placed so many UMF grads in high positions in skiing.

“Doc” Desroches devoted a lifetime to skiing at a number of levels. He wasn’t the only Maine skier to serve with the 10th Mountain division in World War II. Probably the best known was Rumford’s Chummy Broomhall, who returned and devoted the rest of his life to building cross country skiing and racing at Black Mountain.

The Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum has a full list of Maine skiers who served with the 10th. One was the late John Lander of Auburn, who skied with and for me on the Sunday River Ski Patrol. John was not only a regular weekends at Sunday River but also taught a few evenings a week at Lost Valley. If you check that list at the ski museum you will probably find the name of a skier connected to the area where you ski and it’s likely to have been someone deeply involved with the ski area.

PREPPING THE SKIS

The final item on my prep list is always the skis.

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If the skis were properly stored, this is simple. My skis and daughter Debi’s skis are put up at the end of the season after a quick hand-tune. A diamond stone is used to make sure the base edge is flat and smooth with a one degree bevel (Volkl factory specs for the recreational GS models we both use). A multi-tuner guide, also with a diamond stone, is used on the side edge. Once tuned, a universal wax is ironed in and left to protect the base over the summer.

When winter rolls around, all that’s needed to make them ready to ski is to heat the wax with a waxing iron and scrape them smooth. After this prep, we’re both ready to ski.

Once ready, the first ski day is usually at Sunday River the Saturday after Thanksgiving, for the demos, which I missed this time. The good news is the demos will be at Sugarloaf next Saturday. See sugarloaf.com for details.

See you on the slopes.

 

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected] 

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