Wendell "Wendy" Cram was present at the creation of lift-served skiing in the United States.
He was among the very first skiers to get hauled up Gilbert's Hill in Woodstock, Vt., when the first rope tow in the U.S. was installed there in 1934.
He remembers the advice two world-class American skiers - Al Sise and Alex Bright - gave his dad.
"Buy him bindings," they told Dr. Cram. That advice followed a day watching the young Cram ski across the hill on enormous wooden jumping skis, stop, take off his skis, turn them around, put them back on, and ski back across the hill the other way, over and over until he was down.
"Al Sise and Alex Bright, two really good skiers from Boston who had been to Europe and knew all the latest techniques and had all the latest equipment, saw me doing this thing back and forth, back and forth. When my father came to pick me up that night, they took him aside and said, ‘Doctor, that guy's going to be a good skier some day. He needs some bindings, though.'
"So I got some bindings. We went into Woodstock and my father bought some from Gillingham's Hardware Store. That's how it started.
"Al Sise and Alex Bright came back up the following weekend, they saw me able to get down the hill much better, making wide turns and stuff. They took my father aside again and said I really should have a pair of ski boots, so back to Gillingham's for ski boots. They were Bass boots, one of the best sponges you ever put on your feet - you know what I mean by that? They soaked up water.
"I got off those jumping skis; the guys from Boston told my father I should have regular skis, and it was back to Gillingham's again, where he bought me a pair of regular skis."
Bright was later a member of the 1936 U.S. Winter Olympics Team.
Cram also needed poles, but didn't get them at Gillingham's Hardware. He won them instead.
"They had a race and all us young kids in Manchester and Woodstock were out there doing our thing. They set up a race course, they put on this race, and I won it. The prize was they gave me this pair of poles, so boy oh boy that was really hot stuff then," Cram said.
He set up a slalom course on the hill in his back yard, where he'd whack the bamboo poles out of the way with his ski poles, which soon lost all their paint.
"I was really upset. When I went back the next weekend they looked really bad," he said.
Cram recalls that the rope tow on Gilbert's Hill didn't work all that reliably. "The thing that drove it, a Ford Model T engine, was broken down a lot. They couldn't get more than probably 10 or 12 people on there at any one time, so had ‘em all spaced out. You could get a lot of skiing on that thing, though, so people came up there a lot, stopped going to New Hampshire all the time and came to Woodstock. Woodstock was a pretty nice little town in the winter time.
"They were really expensive," he recalls. "It was 50 cents a day."
Cram said Bunny Bertram moved his equipment from Gilbert's Hill to the back side of Suicide Six, where he put up two or three tows.
"Then he put one on Suicide Six, with an electric engine for that one. I skied there for oh, a couple years anyway, and one night Bunny Bertram called me and said, ‘Wendy, would you be down here at daylight tomorrow morning and see how long you can go on the tow'."
This was in 1936 or 1937, Cram said.
"There was a big article in a ski magazine on how many vertical feet you could get in Europe. So I said sure. I came down, with four pairs of mittens, and as soon as you could see they started running the tow. I'd come down and grab the rope while I was still moving and started back up. I did that until noon, and Bunny sprung for an egg salad sandwich and a thing of milk. I had that, and kept going until dark. We just shattered the European record by quite a bit. I did 130-something trips, and the vertical feet were 750 per trip," he said.
That's more than 100,000 vertical feet. Do that at Jackson Hole in a week nowadays, and you get a pin.
Cram himself went on to become a member of the 1940 U.S. Olympics Team, but never got to compete because of World War II. He joined the 10th Mountain Division as an instructor at Camp Hale in Colorado, but an injury kept him out of action when the unit deployed, first to the Aleutians and later to Italy.
Cram is in his 90s, living in Manchester Center, and still riding his bike, although his left leg won't let him ski anymore.
He said it tends to go left when he wants to turn right, making things awkward at best.
"Riding my bike is my big love now. I've stopped for the winter, but until then I would ride on Saturday 60 or 70 miles, and on Sunday 30 or 35, something like that. I love it, it's a great sport," he said.