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Stan Cohen - A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing

Chapter 1 - California's Gold-Rush Skiers

p. 1: The first recorded use of skis in the U.S. was in 1841 at Beloit, Wisconsin.

p. 2: John A. "Snowshoe" Thompson arrived in California in 1851 to join the gold miners. In January 1956 he skied across the Sierras from Placerville to Genoa and back. For the next 15 to 20 years he carried mail over this route and others many times. Skis were known as "Norwegian snowshoes" in those days.

p. 7: Long-board racing in the Sierra mining camps started around 1860. The racers started en masse (p. 4) and reached speeds reportedly over 80 mph. The Alturas Snowshoe Club was formed at La Porte and held its first race in 1867. The club's last race was in 1911. Snowshoe Thompson entered a long-board race at La Porte in 1869 and was soundly beaten by the local "dope" racers (p. 11). The Alturas skiers did not hesitate to taunt Thompson after his defeat (p. 20).

p. 17: Photo (top): Milnor Roberts party on skis outside the National Park Inn at Longmire on Mt Rainier, 1909. (The caption says only: "Early day skiers at Mt Rainier, Wash.")

Chapter 2 - Early Ski Organizations

p. 19: The first ski jumping meet at Ishpeming, Michigan was held in 1888. Carl Tellefsen, George Newett and others organized the National Ski Association (NSA) at Ishpeming on February 21, 1904. The following day the Ishpeming Ski Club scheduled a jumping tournament, which was sanctioned as the first annual National Ski Jumping Tournament. Regional associations started joining the NSA in the 1920s.

p. 20: The first national downhill championships were held in 1933 on Mt Moosilauke, NH. The first national slalom championships were held on Mt Rainier in 1935.

p. 21: The Alturas Snowshoe Club was founded in 1867. The Dartmouth Outing Club was founded in New Hampshire in 1909. The Auburn Ski Club of California was founded in 1928. The author describes early alpine ski races organized by Dartmouth in the 1920s (p. 21). In 1940, the Auburn Ski Club organized the nation's first military ski patrol race, which combined shooting and skiing (p. 22).

Chapter 3 - Ski Instruction and Technique

p. 23: The author discusses the contributions of Sondre Norheim, Mathias Zdarsky and Hannes Schneider in pioneering ski technique and instruction in Europe. The first organized ski school in the U.S. was at Peckett's-on-Sugar Hill, NH in 1929.

p. 27: Earling Strom was the first instructor in the nation, according to Lowell Thomas. Hans Thorner first taught at Lake Placid then at Mt Rainier. In 1939, Hannes Schneider arrived in the U.S. after American friends secured his release from the Nazis. Upon his arrival at North Conway, NH, he was greeted by ringing churchbells and an archway of ski poles raised by 150 schoolchildren (p. 28).

p. 28: Schneider's Arlberg technique was was jolted when Toni Seelos foreran the slalom at the 1936 Olympics using pure parallel turns and beat the winner, who made stem turns, by five seconds. During the 1940s, Emile Allais popularized a derivation of Seelos' all-parallel technique, calling it the French technique. Austrian racers returned to dominance by developing a technique that eliminated the strong shoulder rotation of the French and the old Arlbergers. This came to be called "wedeln" (translated "tail-wagging") and was systematized by Stefan Kruckenhauser in the early 1950s. This new Austrian technique became the foundation of the American Ski Technique after the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) was organized in 1961.

Chapter 4 - Ski Competition

p. 35: In the 1870s, ski carnivals became increasingly popular in Scandinavia, around the same time jumping meets were being held in the Midwest and long-board racing was thriving in California. Long-board racing in California died with the mining camps. Downhill racing in America was reintroduced years later by way of the Alps.

p. 36: The earliest downhill races in the Alps, in the 1920s, featured no rules, no prescribed route, and few officials. Skiers used a "geschmozzel" or mass start. Mathias Zdarsky set a single-pole slalom course at Lilienfeld, Austria, in 1905. Arnold Lunn set the first double-pole slalom course at Murren, Switzerland, in 1921. The author discusses the growth of alpine ski competition in the U.S. during the 1920s and 1930s, with brief mention of the Silver Skis race on Mt Rainier (p. 41). Gretchen Kunigk Fraser won America's first Olympic medal in alpine skiing, a gold in the slalom at St Moritz in 1948 (p. 48).

p. 40: Hjalmar Hvam won three gold medals at the 1932 national ski championships.

p. 46: Photo: Thirty skiers line up in a clearing at Snoqualmie Pass in the late 1920s or early 1930s. (The caption says this was an Olympic tryout but I think that's very unlikely.)

p. 49: Photo: Don and Gretchen Fraser swoop down Galena Summit, near Sun Valley (fine).

p. 54: Photos: Ski jumping around the U.S. in the early 1900s.

p. 58: Photo: Carl Howelsen, a top jumper and cross-country skier in Norway, emigrated to the U.S. in 1905. He became a performer with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which showcased his jumping skills. Shown on this page is a circus poster for "Ski Sailing: The Perilous Scandinavian Winter Sport In All Its Wild And Wondrous Daring."

p. 38: Photo: Olav Ulland in 1980 as an official for the Lake Placid Olympic Games.

Chapter 5 - America and the Winter Olympics

p. 69: In 1904-05, the Lake Placid Club stayed open for the winter season, establishing what was probably the nation's first winter sports and ski resort (p. 11). The author discusses the efforts leading to the Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid in 1932.

p. 76: Photo: 1936 U.S. men's Olympic team, including Dick Durrance and Darroch Crookes, at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

p. 77: Photo: Dick Durrance skis the race course at the 1936 Garmisch Olympics. Nazi troops observe from the sidelines.

p. 81: Joe Marillac, head of the Squaw Valley ski school, encouraged Alexander Cushing to secure the 1960 winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley.

Chapter 6 - Ski Equipment

p. 89: This well illustrated chapter discusses equipment developments such as the Telemark ski and osier binding (mid 1800s), early U.S. ski manufacturers, Lettner steel edges (1928), laminated wood skis, cable bindings and stiffer boots (1930s), Hvam safety bindings (1939), synthetic base materials such as p-tex (1946), Head metal skis (1950), Cubco step-in bindings (1950), Henke buckle boots (1955), Lange plastic boots (1964), fiberglass skis (1960s), and more recent developments such as plate bindings and ski brakes.

p. 106: An advertisement for Hjalmar Hvam's Saf-Ski bindings is shown on this page. Title: "Hvoom with Hvam and have no fear." The ad continues: "Many great racing skiers now use Hvam bindings. I will not say their names because they are my friends and I will not take their advantage. Just look down next time."

Chapter 7 - Ski Lifts

p. 108: The first U.S. lift apparently was built in 1913 at Truckee, CA. It was originally built for tobogganists, but was soon adopted by skiers. No more lifts are known to have been built in the U.S. until the 1930s. In 1932, Gerhard Mueller, a Swiss, filed for a patent on a rope tow powered by a motorcycle engine. On January 2, 1933, North America's first rope tow opened at Shawbridge, Quebec. The first rope tow in the U.S., at Gilbert's Hill, near Woodstock, VT, opened on January 28, 1934.

p. 116: The author discusses the development of the world's first chairlift by Union Pacific engineers for the Sun Valley ski resort in 1936.

p. 119: The world's first double chairlift was built in 1946 on Mt Spokane, WA, by the Riblet Tramway Co.

Chapter 8 - Ski Trains and Other Transportation

This chapter contains no information about ski trains in the Pacific Northwest.

Chapter 9 - A History of Ski Clothing

p. 145: Photo: Two women on skis wear frumpy old clothing at Mt Baker in 1937 (USFS archives).

p. 146: Hirsch-Weis Canvas Products of Portand, OR (named after the company's partners) made sails and tarpaulins and later clothing for loggers, mill hands and stockmen. In 1929, Harold S. Hirsch started an outdoor apparel branch called White Stag, a translation of the parent company name. White Stag was one of the oldest manufacturers of ski clothes in the nation. A button-front ski suit made in 1941 was adopted by "Rosie-the-Riveter" during World War II for shipyard and aircraft plant work.

Chapter 10 - The National Ski Patrol

p. 153: This chapter contains a well illustrated description of the birth of the National Ski Patrol, with information that seems consistent with other sources I've reviewed.

Chapter 11 - The War Years and the 10th Mountain Division

This well illustrated chapter contains a conventional account of the creation, training and deployment of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. The author does not distinguish between the 87th Mountain Infantry at Mt Rainier (formed in 1941-42) and the army ski patrols that preceded it in 1940-41.

p. 163: Photo: Pre-war ski trooper in Penguin style suit stands sentry with an M-1 rifle, probably at Mt Rainier in 1941.

p. 167: Photo: Saturday Evening Post cover dated March 27, 1943, featuring a ski trooper in a white parka with a fur lined hood.

p. 168: Photos: Ski troops line up in reversible parkas at Mt Rainier in 1941. They are identified as men of the 87th Regiment, but are actually of the 15th Infantry ski patrol.

p. 169: Photo: Troops of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment move out on skis from the Paradise Lodge on Mt Rainier.

Other Chapters

p. 223: Photo: Skiers crowd a small clearing at Snoqualmie Summit in 1937.

p. 226: Photos: Timberline Lodge, Oregon, including a picture of men skiing down the roof.

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Last Updated: Thu Jul 28 15:02:14 PDT 2005