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A Legacy of Civility
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 December 2007
Spotlight

A Legacy of Civility

This is an excerpt from an account of Eugene Bahniuk and his involvement in ASTM International Committee F27 (click on the link to find the complete story).

At this summer’s meeting of ASTM International Committee F27 on Snow Skiing, members paused to remember a man who, more than any other, was responsible for standards in the snow sports industry. Eugene Bahniuk, who founded the original snow skiing committee in 1972, died this past May at his home in Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 81. During the meeting and in the weeks that followed, his friends and colleagues exchanged memories of Bahniuk and the influence his life had on the sport, the industry and Committee F27, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

In 1972, skiing was more art than science. Skis, boots and bindings were made in different countries and then often assembled in still another country. The industry could not agree on where the binding went on the ski, how it should be installed, or even how the release function should be adjusted and verified. Boots were not made to any particular shape and the physical properties of boot, binding and ski (and how the assembled system should function) were undefined.

By the early 1970s the need for standards was most critical for retail and rental shop operators who were expected to create order from all of the chaos in products and procedures. In the United States, their plight was made more immediate by the threat of litigation initiated by injured skiers. Producers saw the problem as an impediment to continued growth, while researchers in the field and advocates for the end user also weighed in. But as trade publications of the day pointed out, there was no agreement among these diverse interests on who was responsible for the disorder and who or what should take the lead in solving the problems.

In April 1972, Bahniuk and 60 others became the core group that formed Subcommittee F08.14 on Snow Skiing (part of ASTM International Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities). Ten years later, F08.14 had matured enough under Bahniuk’s leadership to become a separate ASTM committee, F27 on Snow Skiing. Bahniuk was the founding chairman of Subcommittee F08.14 and the first chairman of Committee F27, serving as either chairman or vice chairman until he retired in 1999.

Subcommittee F08.14 and later Committee F27 were composed of a diverse, independent-minded group of people driven by their own interests (manufacturers, ski area operators, retailers, consumers, medical professionals, attorneys, government representatives, engineers and academics). This diversity increased when F27 took on snowboarding in the mid-1980s.

Early on, Bahniuk developed a reputation for honesty and integrity that lent credibility to the standards he helped develop. With his reputation for fair play and truthfulness, he was able to prevent special interests from dominating the standards process and reach consensus in such areas as ski shop practices, product specifications, definitions and test methods. The careful deliberative style he established is a guide and an inspiration to those who continue his work.

Dick Bohr, ski shop owner and longtime ASTM member, agrees, “With his quiet professionalism that enlisted the participation and enthusiasm of many, and with his non-confrontational approach, he reached European as well as American participants. His patience was a necessary part of the consensus process of ASTM. The retail standards used today by ski specialty shops took 14 years of meetings and the resolution of a fair amount of controversy to finally establish. But improved and safer ski shop services for customers resulted.”

Professor Bahniuk had over 20 papers related to skiing safety published in refereed publications, in addition to numerous articles in newspapers and consumer magazines. Most of his publications can be found in the proceedings of the International Society for Skiing Safety (ISSS) (published every two years by ASTM) of which he was a founding member. He continued to referee and edit for research journals until shortly before his death. In his time he brought together many of the best minds in the sport, the research community and the industry to accomplish a great good. He also helped establish a tradition of civility that will be his legacy. //

By Carl Ettlinger, Ray Panella and Margaret Bahniuk