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.

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.

5 comments on “Skiing: Evolution to Sport

  1. Nice piece. In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway wrote about hiking to the top of some Alp in Switzerland, enjoying lunch and a bottle of wine (!), and skiing down.

    When he went to California to build the cross-country trails for the 1960 Winter Olympics, Wendall Broomhall also reached out to 10th Mountain Division vets.

  2. Great video! That’s some early POV at the 5:30 mark. Some other cool videos on that guy’s youtube page.

  3. Confession time: I really liked this video and wanted to post it. I felt like I had to give it some context, so I set out to learn about the time period, and the post above is the result. Telemarkmike – we actually did post the Sondre Norheim video you linked to last fall, with a chilling surrounding post written by witch hobble.

  4. Now that there is no skiing in New York and for Harvey, wondering if you got a chance to “learn about the time period” by watching the best American ski history documentary even made that he purchased at the New England Ski Museum.

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