Neighborhood kids sledding down the hill at Becker's Farm in Ohio became too tame as winter went on. Trying to stand on a sled like on a surf board ultimately led to removing the boards altogether to stand on the runners like Life Magazine pictures we had seen of skiers. Pop caught me one day in one of many spectacular falls. Fearing I would be impaled by my own sled he finally relinquished to get me a long-desired pair of skis as a Christmas present, probably when I was 11.
My first skis were maybe 7 feet long, strips of varnished maple, turned up at one end (no doubt to differentiate front and back for the novice). Attached metal fittings were held leather thongs that strapped over the toe of my goulashes. Nothing held the heel. My introduction to skiing! A successful run was to careen down Becker's Hill with no poles, heels sliding side to side, and arrive at the bottom ... still standing.
Late in the winter we went in search of the "perfect hill" beneath power lines which had been cleared of trees and foliage, about a 4 mile bike ride from home and 1/2 mile hike back from the nearest gravel road. For one person to ski this hill required three other kids: one to kneel at the front of the skis, another to hold the butt of the skier as he got settled into the bindings, and one to stand on the tail of the skis. When ready, the skier would count down and all would jump out of the way to watch the white cloud of snow gather speed down the hill, jump a three-foot stream at the bottom of the hill, only then to fall and slide to a stop before running into a barbed wire fence. Great Fun, to get up laughing, slap the snow off our woolen clothes, then climb the hill for the next skier to strap in and try to repeat the event!
Now, witnessing the pressure and expense and hype for Olympic skiers, I wonder if they ever experienced the pure joy of just playing in the snow, like mine and my buddies!