NISKAYUNA The cross-country skis Chet Harvey used in the 1930s were a lot different than the no-wax numbers he straps on today.
“They were all wood in those days, usually pine and maybe some hickory,” the 91-year-old Niskayuna resident recalled.
Back then, his boots were held in place with a metal toe piece and leather toe and heel straps. He said the synthetic, steel-edged skis he uses now are a big improvement.
An avid cross-country and downhill skier, Harvey has seen a lot of things change in his favorite winter sports over the years.
He recalled when the only lift he could get to the top of Gore Mountain was in a truck. That was in 1961 or 1962.
“In those days, the lifts weren’t completed yet but the trails were viable and we went by truck. We went from the base of Gore, where the lodge is now, up the road from North River, up to the Garnet Hill area, and near the mines up there, there was a rustic road over to the top of the trails that they had. They only had a few trails in those days,” he recounted.
A potential member of the fledgling ski center’s ski patrol, Harvey traveled to the top of the mountain to have his skiing ability evaluated. He was invited to become a member of the patrol and stayed with it for several years.
For 33 years, he was part of the National Ski Patrol and skied mostly at Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg, he recounted.
During his time on skis, Harvey has taken on challenging slopes, including Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington and Grand Targhee Ski Resort in Alta, Wyoming.
“The snow at Grand Targhee is usually as good as you’re going to find it,” he said.
Another favorite ski spot is Alta Ski Area in Alta, Utah.
“In fact, I have a lifetime pass there because I was over 80 when I went up to the ticket office to buy a ticket,” he said.
Lift ticket prices today are a bit steep, he noted.
“In fact, the sport, I think, is pricing itself into some jeopardy,” he said.
When Harvey met his future wife, Kathy, in 1979, she didn’t know how to ski.
“If you’re going to be with Chet you have to ski,” the 81-year-old said. “I went up to Hickory and took lessons like crazy. I never got as good as Chet but I can follow him around on some of the trails.”
She called her husband a very fine downhill skier.
“He’s incredible. He can ski anything,” she said.
The couple have skied together at most of the mountains within a day’s driving distance from the Capital Region and they cross-country ski everywhere from Saratoga Spa State Park to Stump Sprouts Cross-Country Ski Center in Hawley, Mass. They belong to ECOS: The Environmental Clearinghouse and go on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing outings with other members of the Niskayuna-based organization.
“I like the outdoors and I like something physical like hiking, skiing, all that sort of thing — canoeing — we do a lot of that, and I just like being out in the snow,” Harvey said.
Return to Gore?
Lacking enough snow to cross-country ski on locally, the Harveys were recently considering a trip to Gore Mountain to downhill ski, something they haven’t done in a few years.
“We need to go back and see if we can still ski,” Kathy Harvey said. “Chet claims we won’t forget anything, but I’m not so sure.”
“It would be fun to go back,” her husband replied.