2017-2018 Far West Skier's Guide - 64-11
Mere Moments in the Evolution of Skiing:* Part II
The 1950s & 60s Saw
by Leigh Gieringer and Larry Nicholson
Normal equipment in the early 1950s consisted
of wooden skis with adjustable steel toeplates
and leather heel straps, leather tie boots plus a
pair of short bamboo poles with large baskets.
the warmer seasons. Eventually, they were enticed to return to the mountain resorts during
the winter months - for new experiences. It
wasn't long before winter travel to the mountains became very fashionable.
In the early days of the 20th Century, one
of the ways to get winter visitors to the mountains was to offer ski lessons. Hannes Schneider, a ski instructor at the Hotel Post in St.
Anton, Austria, devised several modifications
to the then current methods of instruction. His
system was called the Arlberg Technique
which became a very popular system for
teaching new skiers. His system was also used
to train Austrian soldiers during World War I.
After that war ended, he returned to the Hotel
Post to fine tune the Arlberg Technique. It
was featured in several films of the era getting
wide spread attention and was picked up by
many other ski schools. Because of his teaching system, Hannes Schneider is known as the
father of modern skiing. In the late 1930s, he
immigrated to New Hampshire to continue his
instruction. The fashion of the day included
high wool socks, baggy pants, and patterned
sweaters - in drab, muted colors.
As oceanliners became popular for intercontinental travel, members of the upper
classes from North America intermingled with
the European elite, introducing them to the
slopes and this magnificent pastime. These individuals were instrumental in introducing the
sport to the mountains around New England
initially including Stowe Mountain Resort in
Vermont, Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire, and several others. In the 1920s and 30s,
several areas were set aside for these outdoor
Skiing was becoming very popular among
the well-to-do on the west side of the Atlantic
Ocean, too! It helped that there was not that
much else to do at the time. The auto industry
was in its infancy. Television was not yet invented. Of course, there was no internet. This
new ski sport activity was glamorous. It exhibited its own fashion. Movie stars were attracted to the sport. Many outdoor, snowshoe
and ski groups or clubs were forming at prestigious colleges and universities. If you were a
member of the upper classes, it became the
thing to do, and many wanted to be connected
to the prestigious in crowd.
During this time, the political conditions
in Europe were headed for change. Many European ski instructors left the continent to find
work in North America where they were welcomed. A few new ski areas were popping up
especially in the New England states, although
some ski jumping areas were also opened in
the upper midwest and western regions of this
As the railroad freight business was dropping off due to a weakening economy, railroad
owners and marketers looked for new ways to
utilize their services. One of them was the development of special weekend excursions offered to members of the outdoor and ski clubs
that had formed. Thus, the birth of ski trains
was literally set in motion. According to skihistory.org, the first ski train premiered on January 11, 1931. The Boston and Maine Railroad
In order to understand the tremendous
progress that was made in the ski world during the mid 20th Century, one must have an
understanding of its very long history. Cave
drawings suggesting the use of some type of
ski has been found in the Xinjiang Region of
China, which have been carbon-dated to approximately 10,000 years ago. Actual remnants of skis have been found in Russia from
around 6,000 BC. However, modern skiing is
believed to have originated in Scandinavia.
Briefly, the word "ski" originates from the Old
Norse word "skio", which meant split piece
of firewood. The long skinny planks of wood
were put on one's feet to walk on the snow
instead of sinking into it. During the long
winter months, settlers to this region followed
their food source - elk and deer - further
north. Walking on the snow was a necessity
for survival as it was basically the only form
of transportation they had to hunt for food
and travel within and between their villages.
Numerous millennia later, in the 1700s AD,
these wooden skis were also used for exploration and defense of their communities.
It wasn't until the mid 1800s, however,
that using these boards developed into recreational entertainment. A farmer from Telemark, Norway - Sondre Norheim - developed
a way to attach a heel strap made from tree
roots to connect the boards to leather boots.
This development added more control and allowed the wearers to climb higher onto the
hills or mountain slopes. Participants began
challenging each other in speed contests
which lead to organized racing, ski jumping,
ski clubs and expanded recreational usage.
In the coming decades, skiing became
more of a sport, however, it was mostly the
nobility and wealthy who participated. Because of the cooler temperatures and the
cleaner air in the mountains, the well-to-do
had been attracted to higher elevations during
*Note: Mere Moments in the Evolution of Skiing: Part I can be found in the digital edition of the 2015-2016
Far West Skier's Guide. Part I covers in more detail, the humble beginnings dating back thousands of years through the
mid 1940s. Although the sport of skiing had some major milestone events beginning in the mid 1800s, the real growth
in the ski industry happened after the end of World War II.
Far West Skier's Guide 2O17 - 2O18 / Digital Edition Insert.
64 - 11