Snapshots in time

By John Fry

1880: BRITISH INVASION.  In 1880, the tourist bed count of Switzerland stood at 43,850.  The number had doubled by 1894, and in 1912 it reached 168,625, the year that an expected 18,000 British would visit the Alps for winter sporting.  In the wake of the British invasion, the intimate Swiss inn gave way to luxury accommodation.  As early as 1882, J.A. Symonds, the Renaissance historian, saw Davos degenerating into “an ill-drained, overcrowded, gaslighted centre of cosmopolitanism, disease and second-rate gaiety.”  The winter visitor count there stood at 13,000 by the turn of the century, almost the same exact number as visited the entire country of Norway. – E. John B. Allen (The Culture and Sport of Skiing)

1890: GREATEST OF ALL SPORTS.  I know no form of sport which so evenly develops the muscles, which renders the body so strong and elastic, which teaches so well the qualities of dexterity and resource, which in an equal degree calls for decision and resolution, and which gives the same vigor and exhilaration to mind and body alike.  There is something in the whole which develops soul and not body alone. – Fridtjof Nansen (The First Crossing of Greenland, 1890).

1911: WRAPPING IT UP.  Corset manufacturers of the late 19th century perceived that women were getting out and about and provided their clients with models to suit every occasion.  A ski corset was on the market in 1911: “Through the ski-stay, this corset attains a circular lacing, results in a slim figure, is hygienically commendable and unexcelled in excellence… by 1910, some advanced European ladies were replacing the corset with girdle and brassiere. – E. John B. Allen (The Culture and Sport of Skiing)

1911:  THE 1,600-MILE SKI RACE.  A century ago, the ski had its ultimate triumph when Roald Amundsen and four other Norwegians won the fight for the South Pole.  They skied up to the coveted spot on December 14, 1911, well ahead of their British rivals under Robert Falcon Scott.  The last great terrestrial discovery had simply turned out to be the longest ski race in history.  In figures, the roundtrip was 2,714 kilometers (1,686 miles), taking 99 days, with a daily average of 27 km at a speed of roughly 4 km per hour. – Roland Huntford (Der Schneehase, Edition 38, Swiss Academic Ski Club).

1916: LENIN RECOMMENDS SKIING. “Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains – you must. In the mountains winter is wonderful! It’s sheer delight.” Advice from Vladimir Lenin to his mistress, French socialist and feminist Inessa Armand, less than a year before the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd in 1917. – William D. Frank, Everyone to Skis! Northern Illinois University Press, 2013.

1926: FRAGILE FEMALES?  There is no need or reason to organize jumping competitions for ladies.  Because of the unanswered medical questions as to whether ski jumping agrees with the female organism, this would be a very daring experiment and should be strongly advised against. – German physician Gustav Klein-Doppler, writing in 1926 (License to Jump: A Story of Women’s Ski Jumping, 2015 ISHA Award Winner).

1928: WILDERNESS ADVENTURE. Our Assiniboine lodge in the Canadian Rockies was the first in North America to provide open above-timberline skiing such as only Europe could boast of at the time. In 1928 the Marquis Albizzi and I brought our first group of skiers to Assiniboine. We enjoyed 17 days of straight sunshine and snow that none of us has found anywhere in the world, before or since. -- Erling Strom, March 1957 SKI Magazine.

1934: HOW THE J-BAR WAS BORN.  Czechoslovakian “tow lifts” in the early 1920s used a “tow girdle” around the ride’s hips – dangerous if it didn’t release, as Ernest Constam discovered.  He had fastened a rope to a spring scale and then attached it to the girdle around his waist.  The rope ran up a hill, through a pulley attached to a tree and then to a horse.  Another man rode the horse and pulled Constam up the hill, until the horse spooked and ran, jerking Constam up the hill, straight for the tree.  Screaming and cursing, Constam got out his trusty knife – Swiss Army, no doubt – and cut the rope.  He vowed he would never again be hauled in a harness.  He continued his testing with a J-shaped stick, going on to design and patent the first J-bar lift.  He constructed the first J-bar in Davos in 1934. – E.G. Constam, inventor of the T-bar (Ski Area Management, January 1997). 

1935: TIPS FROM A WAX MASTER.  Once the ski has been covered by a thin haze of wax, polish it with a piece of leather until the ski presents an absolutely smooth, glass-like surface.  Then give a final polish with a piece of silk.  Then put on a top polishing of graphite, rubbed lightly down the ski until there is a fairly thick layer.  Then polish with a piece of paper.  Graphite must never be polished with anything but paper. – Peter Lunn, High-Speed Skiing (1935).

1935: HOW TO FALL. Owing to the tremendous number of broken legs, I feel it is time for someone to try to help, particularly for the benefit of beginners. In deep or heavy snow, never struggle. Go absolutely limp and, if possible, accentuate the nose dive. You seldom break your neck but you will bring your skis up clear. As soon as your head is in the snow, stiffen yourself, knees together. In deep or heavy snow, your speed is seldom sufficient for more than one somersault. . .In cases where you fall mixed up or awkwardly, there is no doubt a simple binding of the Bildstein type enormously increases your chances of escaping a twist or break. A properly adjusted ski will never come off.” -- W.F. Preedy, Commander, Royal Navy, Ski Notes and Queries, published by Ski Club of Great Britain. October 1935.

1936: TRAINING RACE: A NIGHTMARE OF ROTTEN SKIING.  January 25 [training at Kitzbühel, Austria]: Race at 10:45.  Up at the Hahnenkamm I found that I was to start No. 1 and Birger Ruud No. 2!  He passed me about halfway down the course, when I fell for the Nth time!  I was in a blue funk all the way down and skied perfectly miserably.  I picked up courage after he passed me and trailed after him, but in the last field I misjudged the wood path and fell down below it into the trees, losing a minute in climbing back out again.  At the finish I found that Birger had fallen up above, hurting himself, and that I had passed him only to have him pass me again when I feel below the path!  Anyway, the whole race was a nightmare of rotten skiing on my part.  I took many needless falls and let the racing feeling get me too much.  Durrance finished ninth in spite of a costly fall on the Steilhang. – Robert Livermore, “Notes on Olympic Skiing 1936,” The Atlantic (May 1936).  Note: the 1936 winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen were the first to include alpine skiing; in the journal entry above, Livermore is describing a January training race on the Hahnenkamm prior to the February games.

1938: AS IF THERE WEREN’T ENOUGH REASONS TO HATE HITLER, Hitler was dismissive of the supposed joys of winter Alpine life, and in particular the attraction of skiing --- “What pleasure can there be in prolonging the horrible winter artificially by staying in the mountains.  If I had my way I'd forbid these sports, with all the accidents people have doing them." David Faber, p. 252, “Munich, 1938” published 2008 by Simon & Schuster.

1939: HOW TO STORE SKIS, BOOTS IN SUMMER. All too often, at the first sign of snow, one goes to the cellar or attic and finds that last year’s new skis are warped, and leather straps and boots have taken on a greenish color from mold. Good equipment is worthy of care. With skis, clean all wax from the running surface; gasoline will do the job in short order. To seal the skis, spread linseed oil on their running surface, then turn them upside down and leave them that way so the oil soaks into the wood. After four to six weeks, wipe off the excess oil. Apply floor wax to the top of the skis. Boots and leather binding straps should be greased and wrapped in paper. Also stuff paper into the boots to keep them in their original shape. – Empire State News, March 10, 1939.

1939: P.C. SNOW REPORTS.  A new proposal for reporting snow conditions stressed that terms like “good” or “poor” skiing should never be used, since what may be good skiing for one skier is poor for another.  Sufficient data should be supplied about actual snow conditions so that each skier can judge for himself.  Terms recommended include fluffy, powder, sticky, slush and unbreakable grainy crust. – SKI Magazine (Winter 1939).

1939: FIRST CHAIRLIFT IN NEW ENGLAND.  A lease from the State of Vermont for the right-of-way on Mount Mansfield (at Stowe) for a $76,000 ski lift has been made.  The 6,170-foot-long lift will have 86 hangers or individual chairs, and an hourly capacity of 203 riders.  It will be the largest of its kind in the East and similar to those in use at Sun Valley and Mont Tremblant. – Ski News (December 8, 1939).

1939: FIVE-MAN JUMP IN BOSTON GARDEN.  At Thanksgiving, the Boston Garden was filled with 9,000 spectators and an 85-foot, roof-high hill of snow.  A simultaneous jump by five skiers brought the house down.  Then there was the glorious exhibition of downhill stars such as Sig Buchmayr, Karl Acker and the youthful Canadian, Viateur Cousineau.  There were many instances where the deep, wet snow caught steel edges, so that the Master, Benno Rybizka, had difficulty in bringing his tips together before executing the snow plow as only he can, and the dynamic holder of many championships, Toni Matt, spilled.  But they went in almost flawless fashion through their graceful maneuvers and turns, the snow plow turn, stem turn, stem christie and pure Christie. – Ski News (December 8, 1939).

1940: OLYMPIC GAMES CANCELED.  The 1940 Winter Olympics were to be held in Sapporo, Japan, but were canceled in 1938 after Japan invaded China in the Sino-Japanese War.  The 1940 Games were then awarded to St. Moritz, Switzerland, but St. Moritz withdrew after the IOC determined that anyone who’d taught skiing for money would be barred from competing.  The Games were finally given again to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.  Just three months later Germany invaded Poland, and the 1940 Winter Games were canceled altogether.  Similarly, the 1944 Winter Olympics were given to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in 1939 but subsequently canceled because of World War II. – Lauren Moran (Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum).

1940: WILDMAN SCHROLL WINS THE INFERNO.  In June 1940, the Mt. Lassen Mid-Summer Ski Tournament was held on the “high flanks of our only living volcano.”  The main attractions were the slalom and the Inferno, which took the place of the downhill.  It combined a giant slalom, a big of cross-country, a little downhill through the trees, and a jump.  Included in the race was a 65-foot leap across a car-lined trough cut by the rotary plows in the deep snowbanks.  This unconventional and daring race was red meat for “wildman” Hannes Schroll, who took it handily in 2 minutes for 42 seconds.  After seeing the jump over the highway, the contestants insisted the jumping meet be moved from the prepared hill to that unusual locale. – Ingrid Wicken (50 Years of Flight: Ski Jumping in California, 1900-1950).  

1946: AMATEURISM NEEDED RE-DEFINING.  The National Ski Association (precursor of the United States Ski Association) approved new rules, stating that no skier shall be qualified to compete in amateur competition who has secured material advantages by the exploitation of any prize or result obtained in sport or of any titles gained thereby, or use of his or her name.  After the new rules were passed, the racers realized that they would prevent such stalwarts as Dick Durrance, Alf Engen and others, who had endorsed any product, from competing.  As a result of that, Al Lindley, spokesman for the group, asked that the convention rescind its previous vote and return to the original rules. – Bill Eldred (Ski News, November 1, 1946).

1946: WAR-ORIGINATED SKI TRAIL NAMES. During and after World War I, 1914-1918, ski terrain came to be named after places or acts involving fierce fighting.  At Mont St. Saveur in Quebec’s Laurentians, Hill 70 memorialized a battle fought by Canadian troops.  Michigan’s Cote Dame Marie Loppet recalls American troops battling Germans near the French-Belgian border.  At Murren, Switzerland, British skiers gave names to ski terrain, like the Hindenburg Line, Kitchener’s Crash, and Nosedive (also the famous trail at Stowe). – Ski News (November 1, 1946).

1946: ISELIN’S PLANS TO GO FISHING ARE UPSET.  The humor of Skimeister Fred Iselin is widely recognized among the thousands who know him.  A story making the rounds is that Fred last summer went into one of the village office in Ketchum, Idaho to purchase a fishing license.  He was told that he was in the wrong office, as this was the marriage license bureau.  “Okay,” said Fred.  “I’ll have one of those instead.”  Shortly thereafter Elli Stiller, one of the foremost women instructors of this country, became Mrs. Fred Iselin. – Ski News (November 1, 1946).

1946: EMILE ALLAIS ARRIVES IN NORTH AMERICA.  Parallel ski teacher Fritz Loosli will go to New York December 10 to meet Emile Allais of France, former world downhill and slalom champion, who is arriving from South America.  Allais will go to Val Cartier, the new development outside Quebec City in Canada, where he will work with Loosli’s school focusing on the “parallel technique.” – Ski News (November 15, 1946).

1946: FIRST SNOWMAKING. Man-made snow, every bit as real as that which makes for a White Christmas, has been produced for the first time by Vincent J. Schaefer, scientist of the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, NY. Although the snow is created in a laboratory cold chamber, the technique will work just as well out-of-doors to make actual a snow cloud crystallize and shed snow when and where skiers want it. – SKI NEWS, November 15, 1946.

1946: TUNNEL UNDER MONT BLANC.  An automobile tunnel, seven and one-half miles long, is being cut through Mont Blanc, highest peak in the French Alps, to link Chamonix, France with Val D’Aosta, Italy. – Ski News (December 1, 1946).

1946: WINTER WARFARE LESSONS OFFERED. Two Army-directed Winter Warfare Schools will operate this season -- one at Camp Carson, Colorado, and the other in the Garmisch area of Germany. Commanded by Colonel David R.Ruffner and Lt. Col. Jefferson J. Irvin -- both formerly with the 10th Mountain Division -- the training centers are dedicated to preserving and passing on the techniques and skills developed by the mountain troops in WWII, including elementary and cross-country skiing, use of cold weather equipment, cold weather hygiene and sanitation, skijoring behind “weasels”, and handling toboggans and snowshoes. -- December 15, 1946 SKI NEWS

1947: BEWARE THAT LAST RUN. Minot Dole and his patrolmen across the country can tell you that a least 80 per cent of all ski accidents occur late in the afternoon when skiers are tired. It is of course impossible to close lifts at noon to prevent this, but smart skiers should keep it in mind when planning their runs in late afternoon. Dole believes that the all-day type of ticket on ski lifts is a poor system, inasmuch as some skiers like to get the most possible skiing for their money, and often that “last run” may be the one to result in a fracture or sprain. -- SKI NEWS (January 15, 1947)

1947: EUROPEAN SKIERS ASK FOR FOOD. The Austrian Ski Federation is appealing to ski addicts on this side of the Atlantic to send urgently needed food parcels through CARE. “As you know,” says Sepp Lanz, “Austrian skiers have done much to teach U.S. skiers, and I am sure that such an appeal will be heard by skiers with good hearts.” Packages can be ordered for delivery to designated friends or groups in certain European countries – and delivered quickly from stockpiles already in Europe. -- SKI NEWS (Jan. 15, 1947)

1947: HOW TO MAKE YOUR SKI TEACHER HATE YOU. Ski instructors always put up a smiling front, but most of them admit that often it is necessary to stifle an urge to flatten a student with a ski pole. Hannes Schroll says he’s most annoyed “by women who giggle. They would do better if they would take their lessons in stride instead of thinking their mistakes were the funniest things in the world.” Aspen Ski School’s Percy Rideout’s pet peeve is people who say, “But so-and-so told me to do it this way.” Arnold Burch of Yosemite complains that when he tells students to lean forward and bend at the ankles, “they usually stoop over and bend at the waist.” Guy Normandin, chief instructor of the Canadian ski troops, is bothered by nonchalant or practical jokers who are always trying to make the class laugh. – Elizabeth Forbes, Ski News, March 15, 1947

1947: BIG APPLE FETES SKI TEAM.  The 1948 U.S. Ski Team will be honored at a City Hall “bon voyage” reception by Mayor William O’Dwyer before sailing to Europe to compete in the first Winter Olympic Games since the end of World War II.  Each man on the Team will receive three complete ski suits, three sweaters, two pairs of ski boots, skis, two caps and two sets of underwear. – Frank Elkins (New York Times, December 3, 1947).

1948: POST-DEPRESSION JACKSON.  From Driggs, Idaho, the Buick struggled over 8,000-foot Teton Pass and then coasted and slid down into Jackson, surrounded by beautiful peaks.  The Storm King ski area lay right at the edge of town, the only one in Wyoming at that time with a chairlift; Jackson Hole wouldn’t open until 1965.  The town of Jackson was still suffering from the Depression.  Vacant lots were selling for $300 to $500. – Warren Miller, on his 1948 western ski-resort road trip (Freedom Found).

1948: WAITING FOR GOLD.  It’s February 5, 1948, and Gretchen Fraser is experiencing one of the longest moments of her life.  Earlier in the week, this 28-year-old athlete, dismissed by one member of the press as a “pretty Western housewife,” shocked the world by taking the silver medal in the women’s combined race, becoming the first American – male or female – to medal in an alpine skiing event.  And on this morning, the first of her two slalom runs has put her in the lead.  Now she stands crouched in the start gate, waiting for the signal to begin her final run.  Word arrives that there’s a problem with the innovative electronic timing system just introduced during these Olympics.  After an excruciating 17 minutes, a beautiful, flawless run secured the gold.  Overnight, Fraser became America’s sweetheart. – “Gretchen Fraser Goes Gold” (


1948: WARREN MILLER SETS FRUGALITY RECORD. A new record in ski bum tenacity was set and is still being defended by cartoonist Warren Miller, author of Are My Skis on Straight? -- a volume of ski cartoons. One of those ski enthusiasts who manages to stretch a ski dollar until the Treasury Department squawks, Miller has been living in Sun Valley since the first of December on less than $100. – SKI NEWS, March 15, 1948.

1948: LOST YOUR CAMBER?  Skiers interested in returning the camber to their skis will be glad to know that there is a dry-heat box, imported from Switzerland, located at Art Bennett’s shop in Hanover, New Hampshire.  There are only a few in this country.  Also, if your tips need turning up, this can be taken care of in the same box.  Price $3 for tips, $3 for camber.  On the West Coast, Tex’s Ski Lodge by the Pacific, in Santa Monica, California, are expert repairers of broken and de-cambered skis. – Ski Magazine (December 1, 1948).

1948: GO TO EUROPE, SKI CHEAP. A lure for Americans with the time and money to cross the Atlantic is the highly favorable position of the U.S. dollar in the world money marts. In Austria’s Vorarlberg region, one inn is quoting room and meals at $3.25 a day. -- December 15, 1948 SKI Magazine.

1949: EXCESS OF SKIERS FORECAST. The National Forests recorded 2,724,511 skier visits in the winter of 1946-47, a 65 percent increase. (December 15, 1948 SKI Magazine.) The Forest Service believes that if the number of skiers continues to rise at the current rate, present facilities will reach a saturation point in that they will be overburdened in 1950-51. -- Elizabeth Forbes, Aspen, February 1, 1949 SKI Magazine.

1949: WHEN SKI INJURY WAS A FRACTURE OR SPRAIN. Of 4,428 injuries reported last season to the National Ski Patrol, 48 percent were sprains and 23 percent were fractures, according to Minot Dole. Of the fractures, 56 percent were of the ankle, 28 percent of the lower leg and other parts of the anatomy. -- February 1, 1949 SKI Magazine.    

1949: AMERICAN SCHOOL KIDS WOULD BENEFIT FROM WINTER VACATIONS. During his student days in Switzerland, Averell Harriman, who developed Sun Valley, was awakened to the need for winter sports and year-round vacation facilities. One-sixth of the nation’s school facilities go unused because of the practice of closing schools in summer. In the Swiss system of staggering school vacations in a three-year cycle, Bern, Basel and Zurich each takes a turn at early, middle and late closings. -- February 15, 1949 SKI Magazine.

1949: HOLLYWOOD INVADES ASPEN. The Gary Coopers of Hollywood have purchased 30 acres of land in Aspen, and plan to build in the springtime. – February 15, 1949 SKI Magazine.

1950: PRAISE, ADMIRATION OF EMILE ALLAIS.  I learned a great deal from Allais.  The man understands skiing superbly.  He’s bored with ridiculous arguments over technique.  When FWSA Certified Ski Instructors came to Squaw Valley, Allais asked us to ski reverse-shoulder, and do one-foot turns… simply to confuse them, to make them say, ‘Look, he doesn’t unwind!  Look, his rotation is late!  Look, what makes him turn?  Look, his weight isn’t even,’ etc.  Allais has a repertoire of more than 10 different-looking types of turn.  Yet all obey the same principles, and are mastered quite easily after rotation, forward kneel, ruade, and side-slipping are mastered.  I’m absolutely sold on his way of skiing.  Yet for teaching, especially in the East, I would teach as I learned it from Réal Charette at Gray Rocks Inn.  But in the West, Allais for sure! – Doug Pfeiffer in letter to John Fry, May 29, 1950, post-marked Pasadena, California (Pfeiffer, then 23, had spent the previous winter teaching under Allais at Squaw Valley). 

1950: AUTOMATED INSTRUCTION.  Remy Leclerc and Henry Rist of the Parallel Ski School in New York City have developed a teaching method that utilizes an electronically controlled machine.  This machine automatically shows the mistakes and enables any beginner to practice over 120 christianias, with or without ruade, per hour.  That is three or four times what is possible in an outdoor lesson.  The mistakes are indicated by flashing colored lights, automatic brakes and other control devices. – SKI Magazine (November, 1950).

1952: THE MAGIC OF ANDY MEAD.  Poised near the [Grindelwald] starting gate, awaiting her turn, the girl showed only one touch of tension: her classically lean features were set firmly as she clenched her jaw.  As the starter tapped her on the back, she was off, pushing furiously with her ski poles to gain the speed she would have to check, moments later, with a swivel-hip turn.  She swept down the dizzying descent with the verve and hell-for-leather dash of a man.  Crouching, straightening, swinging her slim hips in an almost antic mimicry of a rumba step, she darted and danced through the multicolored flags that outlined the course.  Every skier in Europe knew her name: Andrea Mead Lawrence. – TIME (January 21, 1952).  Lawrence, who won two gold medals at the 1952 Winter Olympics, was a mentor to 1960 double medalist Penny Pitou.

1956: ABANDON THE AMATEUR PRETENSE…  In ancient Greece the Games were restricted to Hellenes, and the Barbarians excluded, a precedent which might well have been followed by the International Olympic Committee if they are sincere in their doctrine that… the important thing is not to win but to compete.  The Russians, like the Nazis before them, use sport as an instrument of ideological propaganda, and only compete when they have a fair chance to win.  Once the Russians were admitted, the Olympic Games should have abandoned the pretense that the Games were restricted to amateurs.  I dislike humbug in sports. – Sir Arnold Lunn, SKI Magazine, January 1956 (The year 1956 marked the first time that Soviet skiers and skaters competed in the winter Olympic Games).

1956: …AND ABANDON THE WINTER GAMES.  I would much rather have no Winter Games at all, than allow non-amateurs to compete. – Avery Brundage (Archive, IOC Museum, Lausanne)

1956: HARRIMAN’S OTHER SKI INTEREST.  Last winter, shortly after becoming Governor of New York State, Averell Harriman drove from Albany to Whiteface Mountain in the northern Adirondacks for his first venture on skis in the east.  He used Head skis with release bindings.  On the 150-mile trip, the Governor kept up a steady barrage of questions about the development of skiing in New York State.  It is the fervent hope of many that Gov. Harriman, who was responsible for the development of Sun Valley, may prove an impetus to further development of ski facilities in New York. (Ed. note: In less than a year, Harriman ordered Whiteface to be built.) – Arthur G. Draper, SKI Magazine (January 1956).

1956: WEDELN IS HERE TO STAY. Wedeln is a simple, effective, graceful way to ski. Skis are turned with the feet, and it is high time theorists stopped insisting that they are turned with the shoulders or some other remote part of the body. – Fred Springer-Miller, SKI Magazine, December 1956.

1956:  AUSTRIAN PROS ARRIVE IN STOWE.  Five Austrian ski instructors, after a trip across the Atlantic, have arrived at Stowe.  Headed by Karl Fahrner, a familiar figure on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak, the group includes Olympic slalom champion Othmar Schneider, Rudi Alber, Louis Sturm and Hans Senger. – Michael Strauss (New York Times, December 26, 1956).

1956: DQ REPLACES SLALOM’S TIME PENALTY. The most important revision in slalom rules in 20 years has been adopted by the FIS. It abolishes the five-second penalty incurred when a racer gets only one foot through a gate, or both feet but the front part of one ski does not make it through. Instead the racer will be disqualified, as in giant slalom. The number of gates in a slalom must be limited to 75. . . and fewer in World Championships and Olympics. -- SKI Magazine (December 1956 and March 1957)

1958: THE IDEA OF SLALOM. The notion that a racer could knock down slalom poles with impunity infuriated (Sir Arnold) Lunn. The pole, after all, was supposed to represent a tree. In 1958 Lunn wrote a full-blown article promoting the idea that a slalom pole should be topped with a cup into which was placed a ball. If the ball were knocked off by the racer hitting the pole, it meant disqualification. The slalom would thus return to his original idea of a test of skiing through trees – you cannot push a tree aside on your way down. – John Fry in Backcountry Magazine, 2012.

1958: CORRECT LENGTH FOR SKIS. Recommended length of ski for a man 5’10” in height is 7 feet (215 cms.). For a woman of 5’4” ski length should be 6 feet 3 inches (190 cms.) – October 1958 SKI Magazine.

1958: BUTTERMILK: BEGINNER SLOPES AND A JOT OF RUM.  Longtime local Betty Pfister recalled that before her late husband, Art, and his erstwhile partner, Freidl Pfeifer, created the Buttermilk Ski Area in 1958, the two couples and their kids used to get together to discuss a shortcoming in what Aspen had to offer its skiing guests: There really was not much beginner terrain.  “We all felt Aspen Mountain was just too difficult.  It scared people,” recalled Pfister.  And so the two men, who owned neighboring properties on and around Buttermilk Mountain, got busy planning a new ski hill on their lands.  “I remember one night the four of us got together and tried to think up a name,” she said.  Although she could not remember who first suggested Buttermilk, it had an easygoing ring that matched the image they were after.  To celebrate the naming, the group decided to create an alcoholic drink on the spot.  They put together a blend that she believes contained buttermilk and rum as its core ingredients.  “This was quite a cocktail party,” she said, laughing. – John Colson (“Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands Hit 50,” Aspen Times Weekly, December 5, 2008).

1959: LEG PLASTER INSCRIPTION CHALLENGE. Writing on a cast is a tricky business when you’re not well acquainted with the owner of the broken leg. “I’d like to fall for you,” or “The next time you’re casting, give me a break,” or “Set ‘em up in the other alley,” are all acceptable. Try to avoid sentimentality, and don’t put anything in writing that you’ll be sorry for later. If you like the person, you could put a return address on the shin. -- Art Buchwald, NY Herald Tribune, February 26, 1959.

1959: CHICAGO TO SUN VALLEY BY RAIL.  The season’s longest ski safari of consequence was made several weeks ago from Chicago, Illinois to Sun Valley, Idaho – a distance of 1,772 miles.  The least unusual aspect of the trip was the mode of transportation, the conventional train.  But there was nothing everyday about the occasion: It was the annual rebirth of the old-time ski train that used to be so popular not too many years ago.  Never before, though, had a ski train trip of this magnitude been attempted.  Launched as a Learn-to-Ski week, the trip offered Chicagoans seven days of skiing at Sun Valley, including instruction. – Ski Life (March 1959)

1959: JACKRABBIT JOHANNSEN: LIFTS ARE FOR WEENIES.  Skiers are getting soft, what with the variety of lifts now at their disposal.  This statement was made at a recent Red Birds Ski Club dinner in Montreal.  The speaker: Herman Johannsen, a cross-country enthusiast, some 83 years young. -  Ski Life (March 1959)


1959: SKIING WAS REALLY CHEAPER. The medium cost of a complete ski outfit – skis, boots, bindings, poles, pants parka – was $100 to $145  ($740 to $1,073 today, adjusted for inflation). A Stowe lift ticket cost  $6.50 ($48.10 adjusted). -- 1959 information from SKI Magazine December issue.

1960: VERMONT’S MASCARA MOUNTAIN.  The atmosphere at Sugarbush by 1960 was informal and almost collegiate.  Every weekend seemed a breezy, high-society version of the Dartmouth Winter Carnival, with games and contests and practical jokes.  My neighbors included Skitch Henderson, the band leader; jet-setting Greek journalist Taki Theodoracopolous; aristocratic socialite Michael Butler; and wealthy Bostonians Hans and Peter Estin.  Senator Ted Kennedy was one of the boldest skiers I’ve ever seen, taking what I thought were unreasonable risks, especially when we had downhill competitions.  Remarkably, we had crowds of people who came to watch our races and games.  World of this place where “the Jet Set Skied” was spreading. – Oleg Cassini (In My Own Fashion).

1960: GET FIT TO WEAR STRETCH PANTS. Fitness guru Bonnie Prudden tells skiers how to shape up to look good in stretch pants. Your body can be judged by how well, or not so well, you fit last season’s pants.  If abdominals and seat muscles have softened, the rear view in the mirror will show it. – Skiing News Magazine, January 1960.

1963: SING AS YOU SKI. If you want to know what skiing will do for your skiing, sing something rhythmic. The beat of your song should come at the moment of maximum edging. For a slow wedel, try the beat of Tea for Two. For a faster wedel, try Swedish Rhapsody. For mambo, try Never on Sunday. If that makes you go too fast, switch to My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean. -- Ski Pointer by Jack Irwin, March 1963, SKI Magazine.

1963: WHY LEGS BREAK. The switch by racers to toe releases is causing experienced skiers to relent and give up their bear-traps. The startling increase in boot-top fractures and Achilles tendon injuries was closely related to unrelenting skier demand for high-shafted boots and longthong turntables. – SKI Magazine, October 1963.

1963: WHO’S QUALIFIED TO COACH?  To be a good racer has nothing to do with being a good coach.  Going faster than his pupil in slalom or downhill doesn’t mean anything as far as I am concerned.  If he can pick out errors and give corrections immediately, that is the key.  Bob Beattie (first full-time coach, U.S. Ski Team) is doing a good job.  His method is exactly down my alley.  I stress top conditioning and self-discipline. – Willy Schaeffler, University of Denver Ski Coach (SKI Magazine, December 1963).

1964: THE TOUGH AMERICANS. In advance of the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, the aim of Alpine Coach Bob Beattie is to take to Europe a team that is not only strong physically, but a group emotionally wedded to the idea of winning. Less than this he will not be content with. – Martin Luray, November 1963 SKI Magazine.

1965: SAN GORGONIO: ONE MORE TRY.  The possibility of a ski area at San Gorgonio, in California’s San Bernardino range, is again a hot issue and may soon be feeding the rhetorical fires in Congress.  San G. is the much-wanted mountain that Los Angeles skiers hoped would be exempted from the recent Wilderness Act.  It wasn’t, despite some active work by California legislators in Washington.  Now it appears new legislation may be introduced in the House and Senate to remove San G. from under the Wilderness Act umbrella. – Skiing Trade News (April 1965) (Note: the last effort to develop a ski area in the San Gorgonio wilderness failed in 1971).

1966: DRAMATIC RISE IN CONDOS. From 1966 to 1986, construction of hundreds of thousands of condos, complete with tissue-thin walls, shag carpeting and electric heat, forever changed the skiing landscape. The growth cooled in the decade after 1986. “I could predict condominium growth,” recalls Summit County, Colorado, statistician Jerry Vest, “just by looking at skier visits. The two were directly linked.” Between 1976 and 1986 Summit County condo construction and skier-visits each more than doubled. -- Paul Hochman, SKI Magazine, December 1996

1967: TAKE MONDAY OFF.  The ski industry expressed support for the “Monday is a holiday” bill (S.1217) in Congress.  Proposed by Sen. George Smathers (D-FL), it established three-day weekends for most national holidays – a boon to all tourism businesses.  Big-city skiers took weekend bus tours to New England resorts.  In New York, Sportiva Tours sent 4,000 skiers to Sugarbush, Glen Ellen and Killington.  Sportiva supplied rental gear, two nights of loding and meals on the bus.  Plus ski instruction from their own staff of handsome young Austrians, most of them graduate students at New York universities. – Skiing Trade News (Fall 1967).

1969: TABLE-POUNDING BEATTIE. At the close of this ski season, Bob Beattie will cease to be director of the alpine program of the U.S. Ski Association. Thanks to Beattie, the position of U.S. competitors today is a far cry from the days when the Europeans tagged him as the Ugly American. Ugly because he pounded tables and shouted to get his boys better seedings. And didn’t relent. Beattie has been a master tactician at gaining every advantage possible for our racers. He’ll be sadly missed. – Doug Pfeiffer, Skiing Magazine, February 1969.

1969:  MATCH RACING DEBUT.  Formal match racing made its debut in Aspen early last season.  Each team consisted of five men and five women; the competitors in each of the ten matches in both slalom and giant slalom were drawn by lot.  After the first run, the opponents in each match switched courses.  If they tied at one run each, there was a run-off; another draw, made prior to the races, determined which courses the competitors would use in that event.  For the record, the Americans won, beating the French team 11-9.  Is match racing the wave of the future? – Skiing (September 1969)

1972:  BIG PLANS, NO MONEY.  The Copper Mountain project was set to go.  It had its leadership, its land, a Forest Service permit to operate and a carefully conceived plan that would guide it to a grand opening in November 1971.  But there was just one problem – one that Chuck Lewis hadn’t counted on when he laid out the timetable for his great design: Copper needed more money.  Lots of it… So Lewis packed his bags and hit the road.  For nine long, agonizing months, he logged more than 150,000 miles of air travel. – 1972 article on

1972: ABANDON WINTER GAMES. I would much rather have no Winter Games at all, than allow non-amateurs to compete. – Avery Brundage Archive, IOC Museum, Lausanne.

1973: AMERICA’S HOTTEST APRES PLACES. Based on décor, music, people and overall ambience, SKI Magazine named “The 7 Houses of In”: Altitude 38 at Bear Valley, California; the Round House at Manchester, Vermont near Bromley; The Shed at Stowe; Hillwinds at Franconia, NH; Blue Ox Bar in the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood; Tramway Bar at Snowbird; and Donovan’s at Vail. – February 1973, SKI Magazine.

1973: WHAT WOMEN DON’T LIKE ABOUT SKI SCHOOL. A University of Utah survey of women taking lessons reveals more dissatisfaction with ski school than men feel. Women complain that lessons are given in too rigid and tense an atmosphere, with too much standing around during class. – SKI Magazine, October 1973.

1974: ANNEMARIE PROELL AT THE TOP OF HER GAME. At the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz next week there is but one true monarch in sight— Queen Annemarie of Austria. This fierce and arrogant mountain queen rules supreme. She still lights up a defiant cigarette at the finish line after most races, still treats her competition with a disdain suitable for stray dogs, still plays the imperious and outrageous prima donna for befuddled officials of the Austrian team—as last fall when she threatened to quit and race for San Marino in 1974 unless she was allowed to change her brand of skis. Yes, the aggressive, intolerant, petulant, magnificent Annemarie Proell is still with us to dominate World Cup skiing as no one has since Jean-Claude Killy departed six long years ago. And she is only 20. -- William Oscar Johnson, Sports Illustrated, January 28, 1974.

1974: THOENI’S FLAWLESS SLALOM.  Memories of 1974 are etched sharply in the mind.  Gustavo Thoeni’s second run in the slalom at St. Moritz was the most flawless, technically perfect thing ever done on skis.  Thoeni won two gold medals in the FIS World Championships and a place alongside Toni Sailer and Jean-Claude Killy in anyone’s Hall of Fame. – SKI Magazine (September 1974).

1974: GENDER REVOLUTION.  They came following the male migration, to the mountains in winter.  To fill the days, when the guys were out skiing the big slopes, they learned the ski on the little hills.  Then came a younger generation who skied with the kids and raced and jumped and learned acrobatics.  Eventually some got good enough to ask for jobs in the ski school.  Of course, they taught the kiddie classes and sometimes beginners.  This image, this attitude, long a target of women’s liberation groups, is now being challenged at ski schools across the country as more and more women become part of the ski area staffs and ski very well indeed. – Janet Nelson (SKI Magazine, September 1974).

1974: SKI GEAR NOMENCLATURE GOES FOOD-CRAZY. The success of Nordica’s Banana boot has spawned fast-food warfare in naming ski products. This season we have Lemon Drop and Mint Julep boots from Bache, Raspberry Float boots from San Marco, Cheeseburger and Juniorburger skis, and Fries poles from K2. Is there a Big Mac in the offing?  —SKI Magazine, October 1974.

1977: THE WORLD’S FASTEST UNOFFICIAL MAN ON SKIS.  Steve McKinney, the 24-year-old speed skier from Squaw Valley, California, smashed skiing’s world speed record on September 22 with a blistering 121.77 mph run in Portillo, Chile.  But the world hardly took notice.  McKinney’s record run was dubbed unofficial because of the absence of International Ski Federation (FIS) officials and political game-playing that left the racers with the task of regrouping and reorganizing the meet after the aborted Kilometro Lanciato speed trials in Italy in mid-summer.  McKinney, in his first run, lost his balance after hitting the timing section at 111 mph and crashed spectacularly, bending one of his skis like a pretzel.  Incredibly, he was unhurt.  Brushing himself off, he changed skis, jumped into the speech chute, and proceeded to uncork his record-breaking run.

1978: GREATNESS FROM WITHIN.  Stenmark shatters the myths of ski racing – that the skier must live in the Alps, that the racer who travels least does best, that a large, well-funded team organization is necessary to bring out the racer’s best.  Stenmark has none of those advantages… It proves that an individual’s dedication, determination and sweat are the great levelers in international ski racing.  Stenmark stands as an example to all potential young racers.  Greatness comes not from what the racer is given.  As Stenmark has consistently proven, it comes from within. – Hans Prüfer in Ski Welt, translated in SKI Magazine (January 1978).

1978: OUT OF BOUNDS? GO TO JAIL. Don’t go blithely whipping off the trails at Vail this season. Under a new get-tough policy, the U.S. Forest Service is planning to prosecute people who ignore ski area boundary and trail-closing markers. The penalties: six months in jail and a $500 fine. – October 1978 SKI Magazine.

1978: SKI TO TRAIN FOR SPACE TRAVEL. Skiing is one of the training methods now used by Russian cosmonauts. Many of the skills required in skiing are also needed in space flight. Skiing develops good depth perception and the ability to pick out detail while moving quickly. . .and to react quickly at high speed. Skiing helps cosmonauts to analyze and overcome fear. And weightlessness in space is similar to unweighting in sking – being suspended from gravity while maintaining balance. – George Kanzler, quoted in Ski Life, October 1978 SKI Magazine.

1979: LONG-DISTANCE XC LEAGUE.  The World Loppet League is a new development born of the boom in long-distance citizens’ cross-country racing.  Inspired by Telemark’s Tony Wise, whose American Birkebeiner is part of the league schedule, it ties together nine races in as many countries in Central Europe, Scandinavia and North America.  For $15, citizen racers can buy a World Loppet Passport, and the idea is to get a medal by completing all of the races.  There’s no time limit.  Steve Fossett, a 35-year-old American who works on the Chicago Options Exchange, completed seven races this season [in Austria, Italy, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway].  He’d leave on Thursday and return Monday, a schedule that left him in a state of “constant jet lag.” – Skiing Magazing (October 1979).

1980: CROSS-COUNTRY OLYMPIC DISAPPOINTMENT FOR U.S.  Nothing adds to dissatisfaction as much as high expectation.  When the U.S. Ski Team went to Lake Placid, many Americans expected at least a medal-winning performance of the kind Bill Koch provided at the 1976 Winter Olympics.  It didn’t happen.  We surely cannot blame financial support, since the team was funded handsomely… All we’ve managed to show during the last few years is that with a lot of financial support, you still can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  We simply lack the depth. – Cross-Country Ski Magazine (Premier Issue, 1980)

1980: SYNTHETIC REVOLUTION.  Wool has long been thought to be the best fiber for long underwear, but it too has its drawbacks.  Damp wool will keep an active person warm, but wool will lose its insulative value after it has absorbed a third of its weight in water.  Wet wool underwear is bulky and constrictive, and some people find wool itchy.  [But] to attack wool underwear was akin to attacking motherhood.  Generations of outdoor people had been nurtured on the value of this natural fiber.  So it’s not surprising that cries of dismay went up when the first lightweight, all synthetic underwears came onto the market four years ago. – Cross-Country Ski Magazine (Premier Issue, 1980)

1980: CELEBRITIES ON SKIS.  The World Pro Skiing Tour is serious business for those who participate, but fun is no stranger to this game.  The annual John Denver Celebrity Pro-Am brings together some of the most prominent names in the world of sports, entertainment and the media for a weekend of “racing” and merriment.  This past winter, such personalities as Barbi Benton, Mac Davis, Clint Eastwood, George Hamilton, Barbara Mandrell, Andy Gibb, Stever Miller and Tanya Tucker joined Denver in Heavenly Valley, California, to prove that a platinum record on the wall is of no assistance in attempting to get around a slalom gate. – Skiing Magazine (October 1980).

1982: PAPAL EDICT.  It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly. – Pope John Paul II, a lifelong skier, when asked in 1982 whether it was “becoming” for a cardinal to ski (Pope John Paul II: An Authorized Biography by Frank Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford).

1986: DRAMATIC DROP IN SKI AREAS. A few years back, our White Book listed well over 800 ski areas in the USA. Today’s total is less than 550. – Robert G. Enzel, Publisher & Editor, The White Book of Ski Areas, 1986.

1988: LIFT TICKET PRICES. A one-day pass for Aspen Mountain this winter is $35, up 20 percent from a year ago. Other lift ticket prices: Vail and Killington -- $32. Alta -- $16. Boyne -- $25. – Premier issue of the new magazine Snow Country, March 1988.

1988: IT’S CHEAPER THAN BOWLING.  Skiing is not inexpensive, but the sport is holding its own when it comes to other recreational activities.  Where else can you rent a whole mountain, with unlimited uphill transportation, free parking, free shuttle-bus service and a ski patrol thrown in, for as little as $2 to $5 an hour?  Here are typical hourly costs for a few of America’s favorite recreational activities, not counting the cost of buying or renting equipment: bowling ($5.50 to $8), tennis ($0 to $10), golf ($1.50 to $20), horseback riding ($5 to $16), NBA basketball ($3.75 to $22), Broadway play ($12 to $25). – Snow Country (November 1988).

1988: NEW DIRECTIONS FOR THE SPORT. Skiing has been saddled with a legacy of litigation. Quit arresting young skiers who do inverted aerials. A new set of tricks has evolved because of snowboarding. Go to the terrain park and the halfpipe, and watch the new directions of our sport. – Michael Jaquet, November 1988, Ski Area Management. 

1989: REDFORD’S ADVICE SPURNED? Actor/director Robert Redford’s views on curbing development in the mountains have not won him a host of friends among his fellow ski areas operators. (He owns Utah’s Sundance resort.) Ill-conceived development and urban amenities that diminish the simple beauty of the mountains, says Redford, ultimately rob us of the reason that first brought us there. A friend is a person who criticizes openly and honestly. By any measure, Bob Redford is a friend of skiing. – John Fry, Snow Country, October 1989.

1993: FIRST MILLION-DOLLAR RACER. The 1993 season belongs to Austrian Bernhard Knauss, who captures his third straight U.S. Pro Ski Tour title, becoming the first pro skier to eclipse the million-dollar mark in career earnings. – Don Metivier, 1993-94 U.S. Pro Ski Tour Media Guide.

1996: DRAMATIC RISE IN CONDOS.  From 1966 to 1986, construction of hundreds of thousands of condos, complete with tissue-thin walls, shag carpeting and electric heat, forever changed the skiing landscape.  The growth cooled in the decade after 1986.  “I could predict condominium growth,” recalls Summit County, Colorado, statistician Jerry Vest, “just by looking at skier visits.  The two were directly linked.”  Between 1976 and 1986, Summit County condo construction and skier-visits each more than doubled. – Paul Hochman, SKI Magazine, December 1996.

1998: PRAISE THE LORD.  A Charlie Lord trail has a special personality – narrow and cut with many turns, but turns that follow the contour of the mountain, so there is a swing.  Sort of what Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey had.  Skiers often found a spiritual breakthrough on a Charlie Lord trail.  That rhythm – that sensual, sexual flow on a serpentine trail that is not too easy and not too harsh – caught the soul and sent it flying.  And those who found the shining on a Charlie Lord trail became propagators of this sport of skiing, and spread it around the country. – Peter Miller (Ski Area Management, January 1998, in a tribute to the late Stowe pioneer and trail designer Charlie Lord). 

1998: ASC GOES PUBLIC, OTTEN BRINGS THE GAVEL DOWN.  The American Skiing Company went public on November 6, and chairman Les Otten was on hand at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the initial public offering and bang the closing gavel.  ASC is offering 14.75 million shares, and some 7 million shares changed hands on the first day.  The stock opened at 18-1/4.  Some of the IPO cash will fund ASC’s acquisition of Steamboat and Heavenly.  – Snow Country (January 1998).

1998: FOCUS ON SKI SAFETY.  Although death and injury rates show that skiing is a relatively safe sport, two high-profile skiing deaths in less than a week are focusing attention on safety as never before.  In Colorado, the nation’s largest skiing state, the death of Michael L. Kennedy in Aspen and Representative Sonny Bono in South Lake Tahoe, California, are fueling a new rush to helmets.  Both men died from head injuries after skiing into trees, although Mr. Kennedy was playing football on his skis, which many called reckless.  Thirty-six people died in the United States last winter after skiing or snowboarding, and there has been less than one death for every million lift tickets sold in the last decade in the United States.  “You are 10 times more likely to become a fatality statistic by bicycling than skiing,” said John Frew, president of Colorado Ski Country USA.  Noting that 300 Americans die every year from falls in bathtubs, he said of skiing’s critics: “Maybe they should quit taking showers.” – James Brooke (New York Times, January 7, 1998).

1998: MAGIC MOVING MOUNTAIN ON VENTURA BOULEVARD.  Phil Gerard was a many-talented Broadway dancer-choreographer, a figure skater in New York City’s Roxy Theater ice revue, and an avid skier.  In 1963, he bought a number of Ski Deks and used them to establish The Phil Gerard Ski World Magic Moving Mountain, which he set up in 1965 in sunny Encino, just off Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles.  Heavy traffic whizzing past just 12 feet away did not prevent Gerard from selling $5 ski lessons all winter.  In the hot months, he had the Dek to himself and started doing dance sequences to music.  Gerard soon had pupils.  A college freshman – a ski racer from Northwoods Prep in Lake Placid, John Clendenin – came by and Gerard taught him the dance routines.  He soon had an ensemble that made it big time, going onto the Andy Williams 1966 Christmas show to provide the first national television exposure for trick skiing. – Morten Lund and Peter Miller (“Freestyle Comes of Age,” Skiing Heritage, September 1998).

1998: ONE CORNER OF PARADISE.  To me and hundreds of thousands of other skiers who have come to think of Alta as a spiritual homeland, allowing snowboarders here would be a sacrilege on a par with turning Yosemite into a shopping mall or cutting off all the presidents’ noses on Mt. Rushmore.  Something irretrievable would be lost, our lives diminished in some tangible yet palpable way.  There are thousands of boardable peaks in the world, and plenty of backcountry to board in.  Please, let’s reserve this one corner of paradise, with all its wonderful blessed flaws, for the reverent act of skiing. – Jackson Hogen (“Unboarded and Unbowed,” SKI Magazine, November 1998).  Editor’s note: As of the 2017-2018 season, three U.S. resorts continue to ban snowboards: Alta (UT), Deer Valley (UT), and Mad River Glen (VT).

2002: WHEN SKI AREAS WERE SMALL AND LOW-TECH.  One only has to see it raining at the bottom of Sugarbush in February to appreciate how risky the ski industry is.  When ski areas were small and low-tech, that risk was acceptable.  If a small ski area didn’t open until Christmas or closed before the end of March, it wasn’t a big deal; there wasn’t a lot at stake.  Now, with hundreds of millions of dollars invested, high carrying costs on loans, and unceasing demand from Wall Street for rising rates of return, a great deal is on the table.  For managers, minimizing the risks of weather and the vagaries of a flat and fickle market is a critical part of their job descriptions and corporate strategies. – Hal Clifford (Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment, 2002).