Sixties Backyard Skiing – It Was Simpler Then

I grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire.

My parents had a home on First Avenue.  It had a huge backyard that climbed up a hill to–you guessed it–Second Avenue.  A brook cut across the top of the property.  We had four or five apple trees, flower gardens, vegetable gardens, hazelnut bushes, and a pear apple tree.

I am the one with the bandaid on my knee. This is our
backyard in front of the hill I skied down.

The yard was a great place for adventures.  It was also a great place to learn how to ski!

I was about eight or nine when I got my first set of skis at Christmas.  This was back in the sixties.  My dad cut a path up the center of the hill behind the house.   I would go out when I got home from school.  I would struggle up the hill.

When I was feeling very stubborn, I  would take my skis off and walk up the hill lugging all my equipment.  My older brother and sister would yell at me because I put holes in the trail.  But they never yelled at me for the holes I made when I fell, even though those holes were usually bigger.

My mom and her brother Fritz

I was never a good skier.  I should have been.  I came from a Norwegian family.  My grandfather made skis for my mother (back when they would select the wood and bend the tip in a tub of hot water).  My mother claimed that she had once jumped off the old Nansen ski jump outside Milan.  Have you seen that jump?  It is pretty impressive.  If she did jump it, she was quite a daredevil!

I almost never made it down the hill behind our house without falling.  Most of the time, I fell to the side of the trail.  I would flounder in the deep snow trying to get back up.  I can remember my mother coming out to lift me up.  She would have time to dress and walk up the hill, and I would still be wallowing in that snow.

If I fell on the trail, I could get up again because it was packed snow, or I could if both skis stayed on.  More often than not, I would watch one of my skis head down the slope.  The bindings were very simple with stretchy springs that pulled out to wrap around your boots.  They came off as easily as they went on.

My older brother and sister got season passes to Wildcat Mountain for Christmas the next year.  Back then, a season pass was less than a hundred dollars.  I stayed home.  I started skiing at the neighbor’s hill when I outgrew our little hill.  Our neighbor two houses down had a huge hill that was steeper than ours.  All of the kids in the neighborhood went there to ski and slide.  The trick was stopping at the bottom of the hill before you reached the driveway.  Sitting down usually worked quite well!

I met Nancy at the hill.  Nancy was from down the street.  She went to the Catholic school.  I went to the public school.  We were the same age.  We met on the hill after school to ski and would return again after supper since the hill had lights.  We would stay out until about eight at night.  I remember my dad telling me to hurry home one Sunday nite.  He said that Ed Sullivan had a new group on that night called the Beatles.

Nancy and I went everywhere around the local area on our skis.  We used our downhill skis as cross country skis.  We went out the old trail up the side of Mt. Forest.  I could do this!  This was a style of skiing that suited me.  It was a lot of walking with the skis.

Our dress was very simple.  We wore our Wildcat jackets that “everyone” was wearing.  These were reversible jackets.  One side was fur (mine was fake) and the other side was fabric.  We had black stretch knit pants that had a strap at the bottom to wrap around the bottom of the foot.  By the end of the season, our pants looked pretty scuzzy because they were pilled and full of snags.  We wore wool mittens.  I had a favorite brown and gold cap that looked like a beret with a hard brim on it and a pompom up top.  Nancy had a homemade white hat with strings ending in pompoms that tied under the chin.  The bindings on our skis did not need a special ski boot.  We simply wore our rubber boots, the kind that you wore a shoe inside.

Nancy was from a French family.  She should have been the Norwegian.  She could ski.  She had  no fear.  She would start as far up the hill as she could, and go as fast as she could.  No sitting for her!   I saw her wrap herself around a tree once when she got going too fast.  I wished that I could ski like Nancy–except for the tree bit.

It was such a simple time!  No cell phones.  No fear of strangers.  It was easy to go just about anywhere without needing an older sibling or parent with you.  The only thing my parents expected from me was that I would let them know where I was going.  Nancy and I were fortunate that we never got lost and we never got hurt.

My house in Berlin in 1989; it looks pretty run down,
compared to when I lived there in the 60’s

My family moved from Berlin in 1966.  I didn’t ski again for almost ten years.  I drove by our old house years later.  The house was run down.  The apple trees were gone.  The yard looked so small.  The neighbor’s hill was no longer field.  Trees had grown up.  No kids used it to ski or sled anymore.  Nancy was married and had moved away.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end.  But I still have the memories!