The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 13

The 90 Year Journey of the
Far West Ski Association (FWSA)
by John Watson
History Chair, FWSA; President, FWSF
The origin of Far West Ski Association (FWSA) lies principally in the founding of the
California Ski Association (CSA) on October 7, 1930. But well before that time, longboard skiing had
been practiced - since 1852. And, there was growing interest in skiing from 1895 onward in the Lake
Tahoe Region. The name was changed to Far West Ski Association in 1947 to recognize the role of
Nevada skiing in important competitions. The National Ski Association founded on February 21,
1905 in Ishpeming, Michigan, had aligned Nevada with CSA from 1930. The development of
councils in FWSA accounts for the current boundaries of its service area. FWSA has grown to 10
councils in 12 states from the beginning four within the original three states. Membership includes
over 150 clubs, plus direct members. Behind that simple chronology, there lies 90+ years of amazing
achievements by its clubs and members and hard work by many thousands of volunteers devoting
millions of hours to organization and growth, and broadcasting the merits of skiing for fitness and
outdoor recreation for the entire family. It's a 100 year story full of good times, some strife and
hundreds of adventurous friends.
GOLD RUSH PRELUDE
We must start with six decades of longboard snow-shoeing (DH racing) and jumping that
occurred in the gold mining camps in the six decades after the rush to find gold in the Feather River
streams. This extensive history is documented by William Banks ( " Bill " ) Berry and Chapman
Wentworth in the book The Lost Sierra. But several notable milestone dates and activities occurred in
California that are " firsts " and may have preceded similar activities in Scandinavia. Skiing evolved in
these gold camps from its utilitarian purposes for mobility in the snows to skiing as a SPORT in the
1850s. The first ski club - the Alturas Snow-Shoe Club - was established in 1860 located in what is
now La Porte, California. Teams in the neighboring camps were organized and races conducted
between teams and individuals, sometimes for a gold purse, but always for beer. Alturas conducted
the first formally scheduled race meet in 1867; Harold Grinden, then Historian of the USSA, said
that racing occurred 12 years before the first scheduled meet. You could actually say that Alturas
was also the first racing league, 100 years before ROKKA League was formed in 1964 in Southern
California.
But even after a succession of three mining techniques, the cost of extraction exceeded the
going rate for gold. Racing slowly declined as mining diminished, but the periodic meets continued
into the 1900s and races celebrating longboard (snow-shoe) history races occurred. In one such event
in 1964, Jerry Burelle on his longboards, defeated Billy Kidd on his modern racing skis. A young
Olympian from Los Angeles named Sally Neidlinger also raced. She is known today as Sally
Hudson, a 1952 Olympian.
SNOWSHOE (LONG BOARD) RACES
In 1904, " Colonel " James F. Mullen of La Porte wrote to National Ski Association in
Ishpeming, the city where NSA was born, to get information on a big 1905 event, and he offered
to bring a team of jumpers from the old fields. They would compete with champion athletes, drawing
heavily on jumpers from Norway and Americans, many also of Norwegian ethnicity. The letter was
published in the Marquette Mining Journal but it was never answered. The host committee balked at
the cost of bringing these jumpers from California and they felt the field was adequate without them.
Bill Berry disclosed this to Mullen and showed him the Grinden article in the American Ski Annual.
Harold Grinden had found this letter in 1936 and then wrote a letter in 1938 indicating his apology
for the inaction of the early NSA Secretary. But, it also brought to light the earliest dates for clubs
and racing and the extensive record of a half century of longboard racing. An international
longboard championship is still scheduled every March.
WORLD WAR I
World War I diverted attention from the remote longboard racing hills. New skis could
be bought from catalogs; ski jumping at readily accessible sites attracted more attention. But, skiing
Johnny Redstreake, the snow-shoe
champion of an infamous 1938 Race,
pictured in 1973. In 1928 major snow
storms hit the Lost Sierra. In the
Plumas and Sierra county high
country, the food supply became
monotonous and the liquor supply
ran out. For entertainment, a
challenge was issued by modern-day
ski racers to race the snowbound
oldtime snow-shoers at Jamison
Ridge. The race would be on a 1,600
foot race track, topped by a steep
starting schuss and steep run. Not a
single rider from the outside skiing
world, which featured some of the
National Ski Association's finest ski
race champions, won a heat against
the oldtimers on 12-foot snow-shoes
primed for speed with lightning dope
(wax). Johnny, a 30 year-old mailman
from Quincy, split the prize
money with his dopemaker, as was
the old tradition of the snow-shoe
fraternity. (From Lost Sierra, by William B.
Berry) Photo by David Hiser in Lost Sierra
FWSA 90th Anniversary Booklet / 1930 - 2020 13

The Far West Ski Association Turns 90

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Far West Ski Association Turns 90

Index
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - Cover1
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The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 1
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