Not over the hill, but skiing down it

As a student at West Virginia University, Sheldon Hyman decided to test out the ski slopes for the first time in his life. It cost him only $2.

With pocket change, Hyman rented all the equipment he needed — boots, skis and poles — from a van nearby the slope outside of Morgantown, W.Va. that offered skiers three or four trails to venture down.

Nearly a half-century later, skiing isn't the same cheap hobby it used to be for Hyman, but he's just as passionate about it. Hyman, 70, annually travels to the West Coast to test the top slopes in the country alongside his friends in the Baltimore Ski Club.

"I always wanted to learn," the Randallstown resident said. "I just got hooked."

Hyman serves as the communications director and policy chair for the ski club but has held nearly every major post with the organization since he joined decades ago. It has given him an outlet to keep skiing, build friendships and keep up to date with the skiing world.

The Baltimore Ski Club is one of 26 organizations that make up the Blue Ridge Ski Council — which spans Maryland, Virginia and Washington. They meet on the first Wednesday of every month from September to April at the VFW post on Harford Road in Parkville.

Hyman has been a part of the club, established in 1947, since he started skiing consistently in the early 1980s. He saw the organization grow from "a small group of people that banded together for the camaraderie of the ski slopes" to more than 1,000 members.

With the introduction of various ski clubs across the state, including ones in Harford and Columbia, the Baltimore Ski Club's membership has decreased to about 300. Still, it's a hub of friendships for Hyman.

"I found the ski club gave me a way to find other snow-sport enthusiasts," Hyman said. "It's a good way to meet a lot of other like-minded enthusiasts and to take advantage of the different types of ski trips."

The club offers about 10 trips a year, split between the East and the West coasts. The club has trips planned from January through March to places such as Breckenridge and Snowmass in Colorado, Park City in Utah, Jay Peak in Vermont and Lake Tahoe. Those trips range from an estimated $800 to $1,700, depending on location.

The trips include transportation, lodging and lift tickets, along with some special meals such as a pizza party or a dinner with the rest of the members. Hyman said the club usually takes 20 to 50 or more people on the trip.

"You're out there with doctors, lawyers, garbage collectors, newspaper reporters, but you're none of those when you're on the ski slope," Hyman said, "You're a skier. You're bonding because you enjoy being outdoors, the exhilaration of the winter weather and the mountain slope."

For the club's monthly meetings, officers will usually bring in a guest speaker to talk about the sport — on anything from equipment to safety. They've also welcomed a man who was a member of the 10th Mountain Division, an infantry unit that fought in the mountains of Italy during World War II, and a woman who trained rescue dogs for the ski slopes.

Every year, they host a fashion show, to which ski vendors bring equipment and clothing for members to model and ask questions about.

But it's Hyman's love of hitting the slopes that keeps him going. He's a part-time ski instructor at Liberty Mountain Resort, 60 miles outside of Baltimore in Pennsylvania and a favorite of local ski enthusiasts'.

And he doesn't plan to hang up his poles anytime soon. In less than two months, he'll lead a group trip to Taos, N.M.

"It's just a passion," Hyman said. "There's something about going down the mountain as fast as you can."

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