In 1936 the Great Depression was nearing an end. But modern skiing was just beginning.

It was a watershed year for the sport, said Maine ski historian Glenn Parkinson.

“During the Depression people didn’t have money for leisure. All of a sudden the opportunity to go skiing was there again. And companies like Northland manufactured the bear-trap bindings, which was radically different. Skiing just took off,” said Parkinson, president of the the Ski Museum of Maine and our model for this week’s ski feature.

Fast forward 74 years. Today there are goggles that track your altitude, jackets that send a signal from under an avalanche and boots that blow up.

This is not your grandfather’s sport.

Back in 1936 the hottest bindings on the market held the ski boot down and locked it there with a metal cable and trap system. They replaced the unreliable leather strap that did it all.

But the new bindings also held your boot in place so well that broken legs became a real possibility, and those hickory planks really didn’t turn unless you were going at a high rate of speed.

Today, the parabolic design of the lightweight synthetic boards guides a skier into the turn, making it nearly effortless. Modern bindings are built to release when skis and legs move suddenly in opposite directions.

The bells and whistles on ski equipment in 2010 make it warmer, snugger, easier to ski and even more musical — with your iPod plugged into your jacket and speakers singing out around the collar.

“With the goggles now, you can see data that’s being collected just like a fighter pilot gets. They’re $500 and there’s a limited number. But right now it’s got the biggest buzz for accessories,” said Jeff Sweet at Golf & Ski Warehouse in Scarborough.

Back when your grandparents learned to ski, they would have dropped $16 on a set of hickory skis. And those would have been high-end.

Today, you can spend $550 on a casual pair of K2 Kung Fujas skis or $400 on a snowboard.

But instead of looking at something like a hardwood floor, the images under your boots are of Asian symbols, Homer Simpson or naked women. It’s true.

Welcome to the 21st century, mountain-style. 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]