During the mid-1800s, inhabitants of frontier mining communities in the Sierra and Rocky mountains used skis for many practical reasons, including mail and supply delivery, hunting, and railroad repair. In some towns skis were so common that, according to one California newspaper, "the ladies do nearly all their shopping and visiting on them."
But it was Norwegian immigrants in the Midwest, clinging to their homeland traditions, who first organized the skisport. Through the founding of local clubs and the National Ski Association, this ethnic group dominated American skiing until the 1930s.
At this time, a wave of German immigrants infused America with the ethos of what we today call Alpine skiing. This type of skiing became increasingly popular, especially in the East among wealthy collegians committed to the romantic pursuit of the "strenuous life." Ski clubs proliferated in towns and on college campuses and specialized resorts cropped up from New England to California. At the same time, skiing became mechanized with tows and lifts, and the blossoming equipment and fashion industries made a business of the sport.
On the eve of World War II, as the book concludes its story, all the elements were in place for the explosion in recreational and competitive skiing that erupted after 1945.
E. John B. Allen is professor of history at Plymouth State College.
Throughout the book Kipp shares consumer, technique, and safety tips collected from his years of experience as both a skier and an instructor. He also provides valuable information on travel and trip planning, including choosing a ski area and accommodations, packing, and flying with your gear. Lists of websites will help you find ski instructors and organizations, shop for equipment and gear, and plan trips around the world.
Alpine Skiing is part of the Outdoor Adventures series, which provides you with the essential information on basic techniques and skills so you can be on your way to an adventure in no time.
Of all the individuals who contributed to the modernization of skiing before World War II, Allen identifies three who were especially influential: Fridtjof Nansen of Norway, whose explorations on skis paradoxically inspired the idea of skiing as sport; Arnold Lunn of England, whose invention of downhill skiing and the slalom were foundations of the sport's globalization; and Hannes Schneider, whose teachings introduced both speed and safety into the sport.
Underscoring the extent to which ancient ways persisted despite modernization, the book ends with the Russo-Finnish War, a conflict in which the Finns, using equipment that would have been familiar a thousand years before, were able to maneuver in snow that had brought the mechanized Soviet army to a halt.
More than fifty images not only illustrate this rich history but provide further opportunity for analysis of its cultural significance.
In the decade since the original publication of Allen & Mike's Really Cool Telemark Tips, telemark skiing has evolved enormously. It's entered a modern era, and this new edition reflects the new gear, the new teaching, and the new style of tele-skiing.