Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
E. John B. Allen, ed. - 2002 International Ski History Congress
"Russian Skiers: The First to Make Tracks in North America" by Dave Brann
p. 13: In 1741, Vitus Bering and Aleksey Cherikov sailed east from Siberia and officially discovered "the great land, Alyeska." Between 1743 and 1800 there were 92 recorded fur hunting expeditions by Russians into the North Pacific and along the Aleutian chain of islands. The fur hunters, known as promyshlenniki, "were well versed in the use of skis for hunting and general winter travel, so their continued use of skis in Alaska should not be a great surprise." Permanent settlements were made by Russians in Alaska as early as 1784. In the early 1790s, Vasilii Ivanov and a group of traders from the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company explored the region from Lake Illiamna to the Yukon River in winter using skis, guided by Tanaina Indians and other native groups. This is the first documented use of skis in Alaska and possibly in North America. Journeys on skis continued on a regular basis as part of the on-going exploration of Alaska. The author mentions examples in 1796 and 1829. He writes:"Each hunter owned one or more pairs of skis and often carried extra pieces of reindeer or moose hide for ski repairs. The skis were usually 4 to 5 feet long, 6 to 8 inches wide, and made from local larch or birch. A simple toe strap or thongs attached the ski to the boot. The hunter's footwear consisted of two pairs of handmade leather shoes. Chirki were for everyday use and uledi were boots specially made to use with skis. These boots were mass-produced and sometimes even precut and sold as kits to be assembled by the hunter as needed."
"Samaritans of the Snow: Genesis, Development and Contributions of the National Ski Patrol (U.S.)" by Gretchen Rous Besser
p. 39: This paper summarizes material in besser-1983 with updates covering more recent developments.
"Private Snow, Public Snow: The Politics of Ski Area Development on Federal Land, 1900-1980s" by Bernard Mergen
p. 51: This paper discusses the role of the Forest Service in ski area development over time. The author describes two opposing tendencies in Forest Service management as "imperial" and "arcadian." In the mid-1920s, a Portland group applied for a permit to build an aerial tramway to the summit of Mt Hood. This proposal was rejected by Secretary of Agriculture William Jardine. "Jardine's objections to [the tram] reveal that ideas about federal responsibility for public lands, long-range planning, and the creation of wilderness areas were well developed before the New Deal." Franklin Roosevelt's election brought an administration sympathetic to public development on public lands. Bob Marshall, chief of the Forest Service's Recreation and Lands Division, favored public development rather than private concessions. In 1937, he wrote:"For a long time I have felt that it was somewhat outrageous that the resort business, both on National Forest and National Parks should be run almost entirely by private concessions. It seems to me that if the Government went into the concession business and ran it well it could perform the services required by recreationists for a lesser charge than must be made by private owners."Public projects during the New Deal included ski facilities at Leavenworth and Stevens Pass, Washington, and "the jewel of federal recreation projects," Timberline Lodge in Oregon. Bob Marshall died in 1939 and truly public ski areas never materialized. Nonetheless, the Forest Service contributed to the development of skiing by publishing guides, recording growth statistics, developing avalanche study programs, and cooperating with private ski area developers.
"The 1935 Olympic Tryouts on Mt. Rainier: A Key Event in Nationalizing U.S. Skiing" by Kirby W. Gilbert
p. 91: This paper provides background on the 1935 Olympic tryouts, efforts by Washington skiers to secure the event, complete results including short bios of the racers, and a discussion of the event's influence on U.S. skiing.
"The Long History of the Short Ski" by Morten Lund
p. 164: This paper describes Mathias Zdarsky's Lilienfelder ski (1890s, including background on Zdarsky), firngleiters (mid-1930s), goon skis (late 1930s), kurzskis (late 1940s), and finally Clif Taylor and his Graduated Length Method of ski instruction (late 1950s).
"Film's Role in Popularizing Alpine Skiing in America" by Richard W. Moulton
p. 190: The German ski and mountain films of Dr. Arnold Fanck and his action star, Hannes Schneider, were the first to influence American skiers. The author lists all of Fanck's films from 1920 through 1931. Other filmmakers mentioned include Winston Pote, John McCrillis, Bradford Washburn, Otto Lang, Luggi Foeger, Dick Durrance, Sidney Shurcliff, John Jay, Rick Farnsworth, Dick Barrymore, Warren Miller, Roger Brown and Barry Corbet.
"Skis as National Symbols, Ski Tracks as Historical Traits: The Case of Norway" by Matti Goksoyr
p. 197: Until the 1880s, skis were not very well known in the largest Norwegian towns. They were used mostly in the sparsely populated interior and northern parts of the country. Skiing as a national sport emerged during the tumultuous years from 1880 to 1905, which brought independence from Sweden, growing industrialization and urbanization, struggles over a parliamentary system of government, and universal suffrage. "In this political climate, building a national identity had top priority on the cultural agenda."
The Norwegian national sports ideology held that sport should be more than a pastime. It should "serve the fatherland and strengthen its defense by making better soldiers and improving public health." This ideology was expressed in the word idraet, about which Fridtjof Nansen said in 1902: "Practice idraet and detest sport and record-striving." In contrast, British sport was accused of being sport for sport's sake.
In the author's view, the romantic/patriotic idea of skiing became an essential part of Norwegian identity only after skiing became more widely popular. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, there was a boom in new skiing clubs outside the earlier core areas. Interest in skiing grew before 1890, when Nansen published his book about the ski crossing of Greenland. Therefore Nansen should be seen not so much as an instigator of skiing in Norway but as an "early, outgoing and extreme representative of Norwegian skiing culture."
"Oscar Wergeland: An Apostle for Skiing" by Einar Sunde
p. 204: At the end of the Nepoleonic wars in 1814, Norway was forced to accept the Swedish king as sovereign. Because Norway's ski troops were logically best suited for frontier defense against Sweden, they were gradually cut back and, in 1826, eliminated entirely. "With the ski troops no longer serving as models for the young to emulate, and with no further specialized ski training of the soldiers, the sport declined."
Oscar Wergeland (1818-1895) was a Norwegian military officer and a passionate advocate of skiing as the distinctive and most natural activity for Norwegians. He was deeply critical of the decline in both military and civilian skiing after 1814 and was the first to take sustained and direct action to revive it. Beginning in 1859, he added skiing to the training regimen of his troops in Kristiansand and he promoted the re-establishment of winter training and specialized ski troops in the Norwegian army at large. He wrote the first two books dealing with skiing for public distribution: the first, a practical "how-to" manual, and the second, a review of skis and skiing in Norwegian myth and military history and an argument for its revival after 35 years of neglect. In the decade before Sondre Norheim and the other Telemark skiers came to Christiania, Wergeland helped foster broad interest and participation in skiing.
"Arnold Lunn - A Life of Contradiction" by Elisabeth Hussey
p. 232: The author was Arnold Lunn's assistant editor for the British Ski Year Book for ten years. She describes his humorous idiosyncracies and his lifelong dedication to skiing and to Catholicism.
"1924: The Birth of Modern Skiing" by E. John B. Allen
p. 237: Following World War I, the shattered countries of Europe strove to regain a sense of identity and normalcy. Clubs and physical activity helped foster unity and rejuvenate the population. Mechanization contributed to the growth of winter sports as more train lines and roads reached ski stations and hotels. The war had brought liberalization for many women who increasingly took to skiing. Skiing in the Alps was increasingly a social activity and the Swiss and French were eager to develop it after the economic slow-down of the war years. Hannes Schneider and Arnold Lunn became the main proponents for skiing down hills, a break from the Scandinavian traditions of jumping and cross-country running.
Around 1924 several developments heralded the arrival of the modern era of skiing, which was broadly characterized by the shift from "Nordic" cross-country and jumping to the "Alpine" disciplines of downhill and slalom. The first was a Challenge Cup presented by the British Ski Association for a downhill and slalom race between British and Swiss skiers. The second was the founding of two clubs, the Kandahar Ski Club in Murren and the Down Hill Only (DHO) Club in neighboring Wengen. The International Ski Week staged by the French in Chamonix was widely accepted as the First Winter Olympic Games. The Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) was created. Alpine ski racing began to spread out from the Murren-Wengen area, first to the rest of Switzerland, then to Austria with the founding of the Arlberg-Kandahar race, and soon to the United States.
"U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame: Origins in Ishpeming, Michigan" by Frida Warra
p. 296: This paper provides good background on skiing in the Midwest in the late 1800s. It describes the formation of ski clubs and the influence of the Hemmestveit brothers, Mikkel and Torjus, credited with introducing the art of ski jumping to the United States. In 1901, the Ishpeming Ski Club was reformed from existing clubs and opened to all nationalities with business conducted in a universal language, English. In 1904, the National Ski Association was formed with Carl Tellefsen of the Ishpeming Club as its president. In 1905, the first national ski jumping tournament was held. Harold Grinden, NSA president in 1928 and 1929, proposed the idea of a U.S. national ski museum in 1938. The museum idea evolved and eventually was renamed the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. It was finally dedicated in 1954. NSA's founding president, Carl Tellefsen, was the Hall of Fame's first inductee.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page