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.
In 1936, noted New Yorker and future governor Averell Harriman changed the game forever by installing the world’s first chairlift at Sun Valley Ski Resort. Over the next decade, skiers would benefit from advances in technology and technique, the establishment of a national ski patrol, and improved access to the slopes.
In the 1940’s, the growth of skiing was slowed by the American involvement in World War II. But even during this time, the seeds were being sown for a post-war boom in the sport. The famed 10th Mountain Division — a fighting force on skis — battled the Nazi army in the Italian Alps. After the war soldiers from the 10th brought their skills and love for skiing back to the states.
They opened ski schools, scouted terrain for new resorts, made films, and drove improvements in equipment. Aspen, Vail, Sugarbush, and Whiteface were built by 10th Mountain Division veterans who played an important part in making skiing accessible to a more than an ambitious and privileged few.