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ISHA Awards: Best snowsport history books and films of 2011

Bob Cram: Lifetime Achievement Award for Illustrated Ski Humor

Bob Cram’s genius in portraying the comical side of the American ski experience started when, at age 8, he was smitten by an irresistable urge to draw. Spontaneous talent, plus his love affair with skiing, eventually produced more than 60 years of outstanding work, arguably the most productive career of any American ski cartoonist.

“Cram’s ‘Ski Life’ series in Ski,” Morten Lund wrote in Skiing Heritage, “was the most accurate gauge of the American alpine ski experience of the mid-20th century, a period when skiing called for a nonstop mixture of bravado, utter panic, and secret self-indulgence in view of the necessary reliance on primitive equipment and God-given snow conditions.”

Growing up in Seattle in a family of modest means (the $1 rope tow ticket at Milwaukee Bowl on Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass left him with a choice of no lunch or hiking up the hill—so he hiked), Cram wasn’t able to really “learn” the sport. Having only the vaguest notion of how skis really worked, he describes his early ski technique as “three struggling turns, then fall down.”

Several hundred falls later, Cram was conscripted for the wartime Army, assigned to the 66th Infantry Division, and shipped across theAtlantic. By a stroke of luck, he was transferred to a military police unit inSalzburg, where he spent the winter learning to ski properly at nearby Zell-am-See.

Returning home, he enrolled in the Burnley School of Art in Seattle. He also detoured a bit to become a ski instructor, eventually starting his own ski school with a friend (“We called it Tim & Bob’s Ski School.”). In 1958, Cram created his trademark concept, a multi-panel cartoon feature that eventually became known in Ski as “Ski Life With Bob Cram.” Five years later, after a stint as a TV cartooning weatherman, he launched his own ski show, “Skinanny.” Toward the end of his 25-year TV career, Cram had garnered the highest visibility of anyone in the Northwest ski industry.

Cram published several cartoon books throughout his career, among them Here Come the Skiers, The Real Skier’s Dictionary (with Morten Lund) and his latest, How to Tell If You Are an Ancient Skier. Suitably, he is today a member of the Ancient Skiers’ Northwest Ski Hall of Fame—and is compiling the past 60 years of his cartoons into yet another book, entitled Ski Life.

Bob Beattie: Lifetime Achievement Award for Broadcasting

Few figures in athletics have held sway over their sport in such diverse ways over so many years as Bob Beattie—coach of the U.S. Ski Team, co-founder of the World Cup, TV sports commentator, U.S. Ski Team fund­raiser, czar of pro racing, National Standard Race (NASTAR) commissioner, and tireless promoter of the ski sport.

Raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, Beattie migrated to college at Middlebury, Vermont, where he played football, tennis, and ski raced. As coach, after his 1955 graduation, he guided Middlebury’s team to third place in the U.S. nationals. He moved to the University of Colorado in the late 1950s and proceeded to turn its ski team into a collegiate ski power, winning the NCAA championships in 1958 and 1959.

In 1961, Beattie was named head coach of the U.S. Ski Team. It was during this period, following the first television coverage of a Winter Olympics in 1960 at Squaw Valley, that millions of advertising dollars began pouring into the Olympic movement—and Beattie was there to nurture and capitalize on it by drawing the networks’ attention to World Cup racing. In the 1970s, his success as the impresario of pro racing arose from contacts he had nurtured in the TV world. He not only sold the television companies on the excitement of pro racing’s format, he was asked to join ABC as skiing commentator, a position in which he, along with sidekick Frank Gifford, did the voice-over for what ABC director Andy Sidaris called the “single most exciting event in the history of sports television”—Franz Klammer’s on-the-edge downhill run at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics.

Beattie went on to enliven the coverage of World Cup racing through ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and as ski commentator at the 1976, 1980, and 1984 Winter Olympics. Says TV sportscaster Greg Lewis, the former voice of pro skiiing as well as other ski shows at NBC, “Bob Beattie was on the leading edge of change that took sports from being sports to being entertainment.”

Ullr Award: Michel Achard for 
La Connaissance du Ski en France Avant 1890 (Knowledge of Skis and Skiing in France Before 1890)

Michel Achard, a retired librarian now living in Le Bassat, France, has combined his professional exper­tise with his devotion to skiing history to produce this fascinating look at early skiing. And “early” means very early, specifically the 16th century through most of the 19th century.

As Archard points out in the introduction, while skiing as a sport was first introduced to France in the 1890s, knowledge of skis and skiing, as reported by numerous French books and other publications, was widely known in France long before the 1890s.

Making extensive use of digitized libraries, as well as recent scholarship, Achard has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of approximately 600 works in French (and approximately 180 others in Latin, German, English, and other languages) that include references to skiing and were published in the period 1521 to 1889. Adding to the appeal are 115 rarely seen illustrations of skis and skiing from the works cited.

More importantly, the book includes a 33-page summary of what the cited works tell us about skiing, broken into six chapters, including an analysis by type of work (encyclopedias, periodicals, literature, military); descriptions of skis, poles, and bindings; descriptions of the use of skis (travel, hunting, military, sport, descents, and various other utilitar­ian uses); the vocabulary of skiing; the influential writers; and instances where skis were displayed in France during the 19th Century (for exam­ple, at the Universal Expositions of 1867 and 1878).

For those interested in the early history of skiing, the bibliography and the summaries are both a source of immediate information and an in­spiration to explore further. For many, the illustrations alone provide a fascinating glimpse back in time. —Einar Sunde

La Connaissance du Ski en France Avant 1890 by Michel Achard, 144 pages, softcover, color and black/white illustrations, Michel Achard, Le Bassat, France.

Film Award: Richard Rossmann for Ski Heil –When Two Boards Meant the World

The director, born in the heart of the Austrian Alps and the son of ski-obsessed parents, grew up between ski races and international ski school guests. Turning college age, Rossmann moved to Vienna to study economics, but soon discov­ered his passion for television and film. Two years ago, he began work on his first independent documentary: Ski Heil –When Two Boards Meant the World.

The story begins 80 years ago, when four Austrian mountain boys raced down the mountains on self-made skis, organized the first races, and became co-founders of a mass movement. The film is a personal journey through the lives of Rossmann’s father, also Richard, and his

skiing friends Karl Koller, Eberhard Kneisl, and Guzzi Lantschner. It traces not only their pioneering achievements, but a shared love for skiing and the mountains which remained with them over a lifetime—sometimes opening up wonderful opportunities, sometimes providing a framework to overcome personal and political dilemmas. All four were born during the chaos of World War I in Austrian mountain vil­lages. Coming from modest backgrounds, the boys were fascinated by the new sport from Norway, which gave them a new feeling of freedom and equality.

From early on, the fate of all four men was closely linked to Aus­trian and German history. One was the private ski instructor of Albert Speer; another was a student of the Reichs Sport Academy in Ber­lin; another was a cameraman for Hitler paramour and German film director Leni Riefenstahl. Three of the four were members of Austria’s Olympic Ski Team in 1936.

This is a story that is told with unusual frankness, about passion and repression, about men and their values, which cannot be easily catego­rized in today’s world.

Ski Heil – Two Boards That Meant the World directed by Richard Rossmann, available in DVD for $18 plus shipping from mail@richardrossmann.com.

Skade Award: Meghan McCarthy McPhaul for A History of Cannon Mountain – Tales, Trails and Ski Legends

Cannon Mountain, a pioneer resort founded in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, entered through a notable ski history figure: Kate Peckett.

In 1929, Peckett started the first U.S. stand-alone ski lodge-with-instructors at her parents’ inn, Peckett’s on Sugar Hill, a few miles south of Cannon. In 1932, she set about improving the ski terrain for her guests, raising enough money to establish the Richard Taft Trail, the first serious high-mountain downhill trail in the U.S. It was two miles long, ranged 15 to 60 feet in width, and dropped from the peak 4,000 feet above sea level to the base—a vertical unequaled by any U.S. ski trail at the time.

In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the first federal Great Depres­sion jobs project of many in New Hampshire’s ski country, finished the trail. The mountain soon spawned a good number of firsts in American ski history, starting with the country’s first aerial ski tramway in 1938. Cannon took the lead of the early vigorous arc of American alpine skiing in ratcheting up from rope tows to mountaintop lifts and immediately became a preferred site for notable ski races where the best skiers could test themselves. Recreational ski­ers followed. Cannon’s 80 years of expansion and the pioneer skiers pushing its progress as a growing ski center are delightfully drawn by the author.

The mountain tramway remains unequalled in the east. Cannon today has over 2,000 feet of vertical drop, a modern tram, a high-speed quad, two stan­dard quads, three triple chairs, a double chair, and two surface lifts. The area’s 264 acres of ski terrain have long been state-owned—there are inns and res­taurants within an easy drive of Cannon but no inns, condos, or nightclubs intrude along the mountain base. A recent skier characterized skiing Cannon as having “less glitz, less commercialism, less pretension…more scenery, more challenge, more character.” The author’s talent in writing the oft-neglected bi­ographies of Cannon’s pioneer skiers and developers in such delightful detail is commended and certainly the reader’s good fortune.—Morten Lund

A History of Cannon Mountain – Tales, Trails and Ski Legends by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, History Press, 128 pages, softcover, black/white illustrations.

Skade Award: Jeffrey R. Leich for  Over the Headwall –The Ski History of Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman Headwall is technically a cirque, also known as Tuckerman Ravine, excavated by glacial erosion from the ancient bedrock at mid-mountain on New Hampshire’s 6,288-foot Mount Washington—a maginificent half-bowl with massive, chillingly steep 45-degree sides. The Headwall will always be remembered as part of the course in the most famous competition in early American alpine racing.

The third American Inferno was held in 1939, a walk-up race from the peak above the Headwall finishing 4,000 vertical feet below in Pinkham Notch. The winner, Toni Matt, a newly arrived ski instructor from Aus­tria, carried his speed going onto the Headwall and then took it straight—something no racer had ever dared—finishing in 6 minutes, 29.2 seconds to cut the race record nearly in half. The story of Matt’s gamble is one chapter of this wonderful book by New England Ski Museum executive director Jeff Leich. Its 173 pages showcases Mount Washington’s intrepid early American skiers daring fate on the crude equipment of the day.

The book brings to life the notable impact of Mount Washington on 1930s skiing—a good deal of it due to Joe Dodge, manager of the Appala­chian Mountain Club cabin in Pinkham Notch. A Navy radioman during World War I, Dodge built a pioneer wireless electronic set-up that timed the Inferno races.

Another chapter details Dodge’s timing of the birth of American giant slalom, run on a course down the lower Headwall in April 1937, set by Dick Durrance, then the U.S. alpine champion. After World War II, Dur­rance was instrumental in attracting the FIS Alpine Ski Championships to Aspen, where giant slalom made its official debut as a world championship event—partly a result of what happened 13 years earlier on Mount Wash­ington. —Morten Lund

Over the Headwall: The Ski History of Tuckerman Ravine by Jeffrey R. Leich, 173 pages, New England Ski Museum, hardcover, large format, black/white illustrations.

Skade Award: Carol Lee Anderson for The History of Gunstock – Skiing in the Belknap Mountains

Today the mention of “Belknap Mountains” would for most raise the question of “What?” Likewise the mention of “Win­nepesaukee Ski Club.” However, the mention of “Penny Pitou” would get a nod of recognition from any veteran skier. Yet all these names intertwine in this extensively researched ski history on which little has previously been written.

The Winnepesaukee club was founded in 1918 to encourage local skiing at a time when there were very few such clubs in America—nevertheless, in a dozen years, the club grew to a hundred members.

By the 1930s, tourist organizations in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region began to encourage winter tourism in order to fill empty local beds in winter. This led to a trail-cutting spree by members of three clubs—Winnepesaukee Ski Club, White Mountain Ski Runners, and Appalachian Mountain Club—who rapidly cleared what became known as the Belknap Range Ridge Ski Trails, 15 miles of touring trails with easy downhill sections. In 1932, a new, much steeper trail was cut on Belknap Ridge and it was chosen as the site of the first-ever U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Association Downhill Championship. And, as another reward for dependable weekend skiing came a regular Boston & Maine snow train that stopped at the nearby city of Laconia.

In 1934, the steepest trail yet was cut on Gunstock. On that trail in 1935, entrepreneur Ted Cooke built his version of a rope tow—it ran a record 3,100 feet. The next great step was a historic chairlift, the first in the East, also built by Ted Cooke. To this was added three jumps, which drew would-be jumping champions from all over America.

In short, the ski culture of the Lakes Region flourished so abundantly that in the 1940s it produced an extraordinary alpine skier of world renown—Penny Pitou, whose family moved to Gilford in 1946 when Penny was eight. A talented skier, she rose rapidly in the ranks of racing, finally capturing the silver in both downhill and giant slalom in the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics.

Without Gunstock, it wouldn’t have happened.—Morten Lund

The History of Gunstock: Skiing in the Belknap Mountains by Carol Lee Anderson, 160 pages, The History Press, softcover, black/white illustrations.

Skade Award: Jon Tullis, editor, for Timberline Lodge – A Love Story

On March 30, 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law an Omnibus Public Land Manage­ment Act, setting aside 157 acres under the peak of Oregon’s Mt. Hood as the Richard L. Kohnstamm Wilderness. This stands as a posthumous tribute to the man who raised the money to lead the his­toric Timberline Lodge from shuttered derelict to ski world icon.

Timberline’s story begins with its construction by the Work Projects Administration during the Great Depression and the second term of Presi­dent Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt personally dedicated Timberline in 1937, becoming the first guest in the lodge’s 75-year history.

Timberline Lodge: A Love Story was first published in 1987 to celebrate Timberline’s 50th anniversary. This most recent version, reissued as the lodge approaches its 75th year in 2012, is revised and expanded. Fifteen es­says by authors involved in the resort’s history tell the story of the lodge and its history; six of the essays are new.

As Ski described the lodge in January 1951: “Walk through the stone arch that brings you into the lower floor, and the power and style of this building will engulf and overpower you. Massive walls of mountain rock rise to the ceiling…huge tree trunks form columns and rafters.”

Back in the 1940s, as many as 5,000 skiers showed up on weekends. But the weather was likely to turn bad in a way that no other resort in America had to cope with. The board of directors hired—and fired—four managers, each successively failing to make the resort work. Cash flow in the mid-1950s fell so low that the last manager brought in slot machines.

Then a skiing nobody—a recreation specialist from Portland named Dick Kohnstamm—arrived in 1955 to rescue Timberline, restoring its luxurious accommodations, its folk art and native craft to its former glory. The book’s combination of four-color illustrations, mountainscapes, and essays beau­tifully illuminate the history of one of the most unique ski lodges in the world. —Morten Lund

Timberline Lodge: A Love Story edited by John Tullis, 192 pages, hardcover, large format, 130 color and black/white illustrations.

2011 Honorable Mentions

FILM: Skiing Everest, by Mike Marolt / We Skied It: Skiing in Telluride 1920s – 1970s, produced by Amy Levek and Dean Rolley / Skiing Red Lodge: Dead Man’s Curve to Grizzly Peak, produced and directed by

Ray Masters and Mark Edwards

ULLR: White Planet, by Leslie Anthony

SKADE: Skiing Red Lodge: Dead Man’s Curve to Grizzly Peak, co-writ­ten by Ray Masters and Mark Edwards / Winter Light by Fletcher Manley