The History of Ski Aerial Acrobatics

Dick Barrymore, was a ski film pioneer who started making films at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. He spent the next 30 years shooting around the world. He rarely had a script for his films — he captured the action as it unfolded and was a master of improvisation.

He did most of his own filming with a hand-held camera and did all the editing himself. He narrated and selected the music. And like Warren Miller, he traveled the country to do live narration of his films in theaters. From “powder to projector” Barrymore was involved in every part of the process.

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Skiing: Evolution to Sport

While people have been skiing for thousands of years, the activity as a sport is a relatively recent development. In Norway as far back as 3000 BC, skiing was a part life, used for transportation and hunting.

It’s generally agreed that around 1850 Sondre Norheim started the transformation of skiing from a norse necessity to sport when he pioneered advancements in technique and technology that remain the basis for skiing today.

Through the 1920s skiing remained a sport for the most fit and adventurous. All turns were earned turns. Then, in 1932, the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid sparked more widespread interest and the first rope tows began to spring up on slopes across the country.

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The Mountain Film by Arnold Fanck

Ski Mad World is developing into a real resource. It fills a niche I didn’t know existed: “the History of Skiing Geography.” MadPatSki’s recent post on the history of ski movies motivated me to investigate some of the story lines he alludes to in the piece.

Arnold Fanck was a pioneer in ski films. He began making documentary and action films after the end of World War I, shooting in remote mountain locations.

His movies were popular with German audiences and led to what are known as “mountain films,” a style that some see as the German equivalent of the US Western: a genre unique to the country.

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