Sorry Bob, not quite as old as you , I had my first Ski experience in the stroller under a tree (stroller full of snow as the tree warmer up) in 1964-65 as my parents skied in Austria at the age of 6 months, things you got away with in those days. Skied for the first time in Austria at the Age of 1-1/2yrs and haven't look back since.
I agree copy and watch the best. This is a major point.
Klammer, Stenmark (always want a set of ELAN RC04's, had a poster of him and the skis as a kid), Tomba (decided on Rossi boots because of him in 1994), Crazy Canucks (I am one now via parents moving to Canada in 1967, little choice in the matter), Maier all my fav's.
I would hazard to guess, the biggest improvements in skis has been riser plates, Torsional and Length Stiffness. The last two being the biggest factor in allowing the skis to be shorter than before while providing equal or better turning power and energy rebound.