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John Jay - Skiing the Americas

Chapter 1 - "Skiers Are Crazy"

p. 13: The author credits Norwegians in the 1850s with changing skiing from a mode of travel to a sport. Sondre Norheim began ski jumping and developed the Telemark turn. Torjus and Mikkel Hemmestveit developed a parallel skidding turn they called the "Christiania" after their home town. The author credits a Frenchman, Henry Duhamel, with the introduction of ski mountaineering in the Alps in 1878. Mathias Zdarsky developed the first "all-European ski technique," based on a low crouch, short wide skis, and a long pole as a combination balance and brake. Hannes Schneider and Stefan von Devan developed a new technique, based on Zdarsky's low crouch, to handle the wind-packed snow and icy glaciers of Central Europe. Schneider modified it slightly, calling it the "Arlberg system."

p. 16: The author describes the birth of skiing in the U.S. in the Sierras of California, the Midwest, and the East. He notes that around the time of the Lake Placid Olympics in 1932, improved bindings appeared on the market in this country. "Instead of flopping helplessly in loose toe straps, instead of pointing his skis straight down the hill and falling down in a tangled pile when he wanted to stop, the would-be American skier now had equipment that he could control and steer. Skiing came of age in the Americas from 1932 on."

Chapter 8 - Of Ski Clubs and Songs

p. 152: The lyrics of several American ski songs are offered, including "Oola," "Sven," and "Underneath the Take-Off" from the U.S. mountain troops and "Two Boards" translated from the Austrian by Dave Bradley of Dartmouth. From the Hochebirge Ski Club of Boston came "Hochie Slalom" and "Skier's Requiem," thought by the author to be the best American ski song yet written:

(Tune: "I've Taken My Fun Where I've Found It")

Come, fellows, just buckle my boards on,
My ski poles stand by my side;
I'm off for the Lord's own snow fields,
I'm off for the Last Long Ride.
You can lie in your musty old graveyards
Enjoying your "Eternal Rest,"
While I ski a trail down some heavenly vale,
Till the last sun sets in the west.

In that land there's no uphill climbing,
It's downhill forever and aye;
I need never fear for the weather,
There won't be a cloud in the sky;
My skis will never get broken;
For there's no such thing as a fall;
I never will hear of a frostbitten ear,
And I won't get tired at all.

The angels will cover the bare spots
With plenty of soft powder snow;
I'm leaving my Gsellin and Ski Gliss
And all of my waxes below;
I won't need my sealskins or creepers,
My goggles and visor stay here;
My old khaki pack will not burden my back
And I'll run down the trail free and clear.

I won't take my ski cap or mittens
My shorts will be all that I'll wear;
I won't have to take any tool kit,
My equipment will need no repair,
But there's one thing that I will take with me,
And let this be my last request,
Be sure to put in my old White Mule pin,
For it shows that I'm one of the best.

There's no Eastern Amateur rating,
Each one is as good as the rest;
The tempos and Christies come natural,
Perfection's no longer a quest.
I'll slither through heavenly powder
Till it smokes at the tails of my skis;
There'll be nothing to learn for I'll know every turn
And I'll use them with consummate ease.

There's a hot-buttered-rum at the day's end,
A good song and many a jest,
So I'll have no weeping or wailing
When I pass on over the crest--
Over the crest of the mountain
Into the valley beyond,
Where the heavenly snow calls us up from below
And beckons the tired skier on.

Come, fellows, just buckle my boards on,
My ski poles stand by my side;
I'm off for the Lord's own snow fields,
I'm off for the Last Long Ride.
You can lie in your musty old graveyards
Enjoying your "Eternal Rest,"
While I ski a trail down some heavenly vale,
Till the last sun sets in the west.

p. 153: Photo of ten members of the U.S Army mountain troops singing at Paradise Inn, Mt Rainier. Ralph Bromaghin, later killed in action, stands near the center and plays a guitar. The caption names all of the men.

Chapter 11 - "They Climb To Conquer"

p. 207: The author describes briefly the genesis of the U.S Army mountain troops and the role of C. Minot Dole.

p. 209: Photo of ski troops in a line snowplowing toward the camera with Mt Rainier in the background on a warm sunny day (fine).

p. 210: In May 1942 the author joined a small detachment from the U.S. Army ski patrol to make a training film at Sun Valley, Idaho. The group was commanded by Lt. John Woodward and included Walter Prager, Arnold Fawcus and Ray Zoberski. Otto Lang directed the shooting. Ski instructors from Sun Valley rounded out the cast. Filming was done at Galena Summit and on Baldy Mountain. This section includes photos of ski troops performing for the cameras, Otto Lang and other members of the crew working in the hot sun, and Walter Prager resting with his skis. The resulting film was used to train men of the 87th Infantry Regiment at Mt Rainier the following winter.

p. 218: Photos of mountain troops training on Mt Rainier in 1942:

p. 222: The author was public relations officer for the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale. He describes a typical day in the training of soldiers at Camp Hale in an article written in 1943.

p. 228: In "Birth of the Weasel" the author describes the development of the T-15 and T-29 models of the Weasel, a tracked over-snow vehicle, by the Studebaker company, starting in the spring of 1942. In June, a detachment of 50 men traveled to the Columbia Icefields, overcoming logistical obstacles, to test early models of the machine. The author describes other over-snow vehicles that were tried including the "aerosled" and a treadmill driven motorized toboggan. Following the war, demand for the Weasel came from doctors, mailmen, rangers, prospectors and ski resort owners.

p. 231: Photos of the Weasel and the aerosled.

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Last Updated: Fri Feb 28 21:02:25 PST 2003