Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
Arnold Lunn - The Story Of Ski-ing
Written for the golden jubilee of the Ski Club of Great Britain, this book summarizes the material in lunn-1927 (but without pictures) and adds history since 1927. Much of the book is devoted to Alpine ski racing, the author's particular interest. The book has a British slant, yet includes expanded coverage of skiing in Scandinavia.
In his Dedication, the author writes: "I am by no means sorry that it is only piste competitions which are eligible for Olympic medal rewards, and that the mastery of real ski-ing on natural snow, with its exacting demands on the mind no less than the body, remains the monopoly of those for whom ski-ing is its own reward."
p. viii: "Among the minor contributions which the British have made to ski-ing has been the debunking of the general tendency to take ski-ing too seriously. Ski-ing is a sport and not a substitute for religion, and its main purpose to increase the sum total of fun."
p. ix: During their debate over ski technique, Bilgeri challenged Zdarsky to a duel. "Bilgeri, in a description of the Stem-Christiania, had carelessly referred to the 'hind leg', thereby provoking Zdarsky's comment that 'there would seem to be an officer in the Imperial Army who has four legs'." Thirty years after Zdarsky started his feud with Paulcke, "he deduced that Paulcke possessed a sadistic complex from the sinister fact that, as a small boy, he squeezed his snowballs into ice before hurling them at his little friends."
Chapter 1 - The cradle of ski-ing
p. 15: The author describes three types of early skis: northern arctic, central nordic, and southern.
p. 18: The word slalom roughly translates to "slope-track." According to Norwegian historians, there were originally three types of courses:
The author writes that villom roughly corresponds to our downhill race. The slalom gradually incorporated the kneikelom and gave it its own name. It was a sort of obstacle race with marks for style. Some believe that slalom led over time to ski jumping. The author claims that Norwegian slalom had nothing in common with the modern slalom he invented.
- Slalom. A course over slopes without any sharp changes of gradient, fences, walls, etc.
- Kneikelom. A course with terrain steps, sharp changes of gradient, etc.
- Villom. 'Wild journey', high-speed descent in difficult terrain.
Chapter 2 - The dawn in Central Europe
p. 20: There were three phases of ski history in central Europe:
- The Norwegian period in which Norwegians influenced the sport through books, personal example and instruction.
- The Alpine period in which skiers who were native or who spent their winters in the Alps led the way.
- The British period, which overlaps with the second half of the Alpine period, during which the British revolutionized competitive skiing through slalom and downhill racing.
p. 21: Fridtjof Nansen's The First Crossing of Greenland, which was translated in 1891, was the most influential book in the history of skiing. Paulcke, Zdarsky and Iselin were all converted to skiing by this book. Nansen's 1888 expedition spent forty days dragging sledges on skis a distance of 500 kilometers and reaching an elevation of 2,700 meters. The author profiles Wilhelm Paulcke, Dr. Henry Hoek and Col. Christopher Iselin.
p. 24: Mathias Zdarsky (1874-1946) was the father of alpine skiing. He established the value of continuous downhill turns, or S-turns, in steep terrain. Zdarsky was not the first person to stem or to make downhill turns, but through his writing, instruction and his stubborn refusal to be ignored, he ensured that alpine skiing was here to stay.
The author describes the visit of the Norwegian, Horn, to Lilienfeld, and suggests that Zdarsky outperformed Horn on steep terrain, while Horn out-distanced the Lilienfelders on gentler slopes.
Chapter 3 - The British pioneers
p. 30: Cecil Slingsby crossed the Keiser Pass (1,550 meters) in Norway on skis in 1880. His Norwegian friends said he was the first to urge them to explore their mountains on skis. The Norwegian ski pioneers were not interested in ski mountaineering, according to Dr. Hoek and Mr. Rickmers (p. vi).
Chapter 4 - Ski-mountaineeringThis is a rehash of chapter 5 in lunn-1927.
p. 44: After the manuscript was sent to the printers, the author received information about the German ski mountaineer, Wilhelm von Arlt (1853-1944). Von Arlt made the first ski ascent of the Rauris Sonnblick (3,103 m.) in 1894, two years before Paulcke's ascent of the Oberalpstock. Thus the first ski ascent of a peak over 3,000 meters was von Arlt's, and he has more claim than Paulcke to be regarded as the father of ski mountaineering. Von Arlt was also the pioneer of summer skiing, for his ski ascent of the Johannisberg (3,460 m.) on 30 August 1897 was the first summer ski tour of any importance. A year earlier he made a late spring ascent (May 19-20) of the Sonnblick and Schareck. The author writes that von Arlt must have been an exceptionally fine skier for the period, since he took only twenty-three minutes in 1895 to descend 5,000 feet from the summit of the Rauris Sonnblick to Kohm Saigurn.
Chapter 5 - The Kandahar revolutionThis chapter, and the following two, describe efforts by the author and others to have British rules for Downhill and Slalom racing accepted by the FIS.
p. 49: Arnold Lunn first explained the rules for the slalom he invented in the British Ski Year Book for 1922. The new slalom differed from the old in that competitors were scored on time alone, not style; the course was defined not by single flags but by double flags, 'gates' through which the racers had to turn; any type of turn was allowed at any point in the course; and finally, the 'gates' were arranged to force racers to make every variety of turn, long and sweeping, short and abrupt.
p. 62: During the 1920s, the Swiss started what they called 'Alpine races', in which the start was usually a considerable height above the finish, with a long steep climb followed by a much longer steep descent. The author writes: "This bastard of a race tested neither Langlauf technique nor Downhill ski-ing, for it was impossible for a good Downhill racer to make up the time lost on the ascent against a tough skier with lungs and legs of iron."
p. 68: The author writes that before the Kandahar revolution, Norwegian skiers did not seek out steep ground. The Norwegian attitude was that a good skier was a man who could make good time over a long distance. No particular importance was attached to downhill running; the correct method of doing so was to choose a place where the hill could be taken straight at a comfortable speed, without the necessity of turning. Equipment was chosen for level and uphill work, not downhill. Every Norwegian could make a stop-turn from a direct descent, but the art of continuous S-turning was virtually unknown in Norway (p. 73).
p. 75: The FIS accepted British rules for Downhill and Slalom racing on 27 February 1930.
p. 77: The first World Championship in Downhill-Slalom was held at Murren, Switzerland in February 1931. Walter Prager won the downhill and David Zogg the slalom (p. 186). Esme Mackinnon won downhill and slalom in the women's competition.
Chapter 8 - The Arlberg-Kandahar
p. 83: The first Arlberg-Kandahar was held in 1928. Arnold Lunn established this race together with Hannes Schneider. Lunn was never a true convert to the Arlberg school, because he regarded "the virtual veto on the Telemark for which Hannes Schneider was mainly responsible as disastrous."
p. 88: In 1938, during the Anschluss, the Nazis arrested Hannes Schneider. Arnold Lunn cancelled the Arlberg-Kandahar race in protest. At St. Anton, the new Bergomeister Moser had been a teacher under Schneider, and expelled for Nazi propaganda. He was angry that the race was being cancelled. They had spent a lot of money on the race. "Your only reason for cancelling it is political," scowled Moser.
"I asked him if they had interned Schneider for telemarking," responded Lunn.
Chapter 10 - The golden age of downhill racing
p. 102: The originators of the Inferno Cup at Murren hoped to recapture the spirit of the first Kandahar race from the Wildstrubel glacier to Montana on untracked, unflagged snow. The race started from the summit of the Schilthorn (9,754 feet) and ended at Lauterbrunnen station (2,615 feet). Since it included three short climbs, the aggregate descent was nearly 8,000 feet. Nobody had raced the course before, but the moment the idea was suggested eighteen competitors entered. Harold Mitchell won in 1 hour, 12 minutes. According to the digest (p. 185) this was in 1928.
Chapter 12 - Ski-jumping
p. 115: Mikkel Hemmestveit, a Telemark veteran of 1879, described in 1922 'three forms of Skikunst' in his youth: high-jump, long-jump and S-turning down a course marked by flags. The author feels that S-turning tended to disappear in Norway when the old-style slalom was discontinued. Around 1840, Sondre Norheim of Telemark discovered the possibility of landing from a jump, not on the flat as previously done, but on a steep slope, and thus invented modern ski-jumping (p. 176). He is said to have jumped about 30.5 meters as early as 1860. It wasn't until 1900 that any other jumper beat this unofficial record.
The progress of official world records went as follows: 40+ meters in 1909 (Harald Smith, 45m), 50+ meters in 1914 (Amble Omundsen, 54m), 60+ meters in 1926 (Dagfin Carlsen, 63m), 70+ meters in 1926 (Thullin Thams, 70m), 80+ meters in 1933 (Sigmund Ruud, 86m), 90+ meters in 1934 (Birger Ruud, 92m), 100+ meters in 1936 (Josef Bradl, 101m). [Note: The 100 meter mark was surpassed in 1935, when Olav Ulland soared 103-1/2 meters (339 feet) at Ponte di Legno, Italy. (Source: Olav Ulland obituary, Seattle Times, 15 Jun 2003, p. B7.) However, Ulland fell on the landing, so the jump wasn't recognized as a world record. (Source: 2/8/2004 e-mail from Mario Kolic.)]
Chapter 15 - The development of ski-ing in the United States
p. 130: The author mentions the introduction of skis into Greenland in 1722 and their presence at an ice carnival in Canada in 1759. He briefly discusses Snowshoe Thompson and gold rush racing in California (though he finds Tommy Todd's 1873 record of 87.9 miles per hour impossible to believe). He mentions the founding of the Norden Ski Club at Ishpemming in 1887 and the influence of Dartmouth starting in 1911. In 1926 the first downhill race in the U.S. was run at Dartmouth. The first slalom in California was held in 1933 at Badger Pass (p. 133). Most of this chapter describes organized skiing and competitions.
p. 134: In 1936 Bester Robinson, D.R. Brower and three others made the first winter ascent of Mt Lyell, the highest peak in the northern Sierra. In April of the same year Walter Mosauer and Robert Brinton ascended Dunderberg.
Chapter 16 - Ski-ing in the British Dominions
p. 141: In 1930 Mr. and Mrs. Don Munday made the first ascent and first ski ascents of Mt Munday and Mt Whitemantle in the B.C. Coast Range. The author mentions some ski ascents and traverses in the Canadian Rockies in the early 1930s.
Chapter 19 - The crisis in modern ski-ing
p. 164: This chapter discusses the "decadence' in modern skiing--the preoccupation with speed down pistes and the failure to learn to ski in natural snow. The disappearance of the telemark was largely due to Hannes Schneider, and to the accident that he thrust his feet so far into the toe irons that it was painful for him to telemark. The author writes that the only real reason for the disappearance of the turn is snobbery. "The telemark is unfashionable." He notes approvingly that Roger Freeman has evolved a combination of the old-fashioned Beetschen binding, which permits a telemark, for climbing and heavy snow running, and the Kandahar cable, carried in the sack when climbing, for downhill running where a rigid binding is desirable (p. 167).
Digest of Ski-ing HistorySelected items from the chronology:
In his digest of ski mountaineering, the author defines the Golden Age as beginning with Paulcke's traverse of the Oberland glaciers (1897) and ending with the first ski ascent of the highest peak wholly in Switzerland (Dom, 1917, by Lunn and Knubel). The Silver Age ended in 1927 with the French conquest of the greater peaks of the Dauphiny region (e.g. Ecrins).
- 1774: The first ski competition rules issued in Norway, for military events. Prizes in money.
- 1800: Telemark peasants develop varieties of primitive slalom, kneikelom, villom, and hopplom (incidental jump in middle of descent).
- 1840: Sondre Norheim invents modern ski jumping.
- 1868: Telemarkers ski 150 km to Christiania. Sondre Norheim demonstrates jumping with a telemark stop turn.
- 1888: Fridtjof Nansen crosses Greenland. His book is published in 1890 and translated to English and German in 1891.
- 1893: Iselin's party crosses the Pragel pass (1,554 m).
- 1894: Wilhelm von Arlt climbs the Rauriser Sonnblick (3,106 m) peak.
- 1894: Fritz Huitfeld produces the first model of the toe-irons which were a feature of the Huitfeld binding.
- 1896: Zdarsky publishes Lilienfelder Schilauf-Technik.
- 1897: Paulcke and party traverse the Oberland glaciers.
- 1898: Monte Rosa (4,638 m) ski ascent by Schuster and Moser.
- 1902: First ski course for guides organized at Zermatt.
- 1904: Mont Blanc (4,807 m) ski ascent by Mylius and Meiringen guides.
- 1910: G. Bilgeri publishes Der Alpine Skilauf. Caulfeild, Richardson and Rickmers also published books that year.
- 1914: Mt Elbruz (5,700 m) ski ascent by Carl Egger and Miescher.
- 1920: Rudolph Verne introduces skiing to Vancouver, Canada.
- 1926: Arnold Fanck and Hannes Schneider release the film, Der Wunder des Schneeschuhs.
- 1928: First Inferno race at Murren.
- 1931: Mt Munday and Mt Whitemantle ski ascents in B.C. Coast Range by Mundays.
- 1934: First crossing of B.C. Coast Range by Sir Norman Watson and party.
- 1939: Mt Rainier (14,408 ft) ski ascent by Sigurd Hall.
- 1952: Arnold Lunn knighted for services to British skiing and Anglo-Swiss relations.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page