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.

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Barrymore focused much of his attention on the development of freestyle aerial acrobatic skiing. He was one of the most visible and proponents of the developing sport.

In 2000 Barrymore was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming Michigan alongside with other ski film greats like John Jay, Otto Lang and Warren Miller.

The YouTube clip above is classic footage from the documentary “The Golden Years of Ski Films.” It traces the history of ski aerials from an improvised blooper reel to a graceful sport. While the video spends several minutes detailing the reckless nature of the early years of the sport, if you hang in (or skip ahead) to the last 90 seconds, you’ll see some of the first champions who actually began landing on their skis.  To modern skiers, it’s amazing what was attempted without the protection of helmets.

3 comments on “The History of Ski Aerial Acrobatics

  1. Thanks for the video and story. It is really amazing to see what has transpired in 40 yrs.

    I was at a skimboarding contest this weekend. Same deal, regular kids doing 360s and backflips were the norm, some kids were surfing their skim boards better than I surf.

  2. Upstate NY locals were early into the aerials thing. There were some guys from Tupper that were big in the early comps. One broke his neck and was paralized, which ended inverted aerials in competitions for years. i was a kid then and remember watching them at Big Tupper, but don’t know any of the names.

  3. Those kids, I’m telling you they don’t realize how dangerous it is, I saw so many cases in my 15 years of skiing…..

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