Editor Kathleen James
Art Director Edna Baker
Contributing Editor Greg Ditrinco
ISHA Website Editor Seth Masia
Seth Masia, John Allen, Andy Bigford, John Caldwell, Jeremy Davis, Kirby Gilbert, Paul Hooge, Jeff Leich, Bob Soden, Ingrid Wicken
Morten Lund, Glenn Parkinson
To preserve skiing history and to increase awareness of the sport’s heritage
Mason Beekley, 1927–2001
ISHA Board of Directors
Seth Masia, President
Wini Jones, Vice President
Jeff Blumenfeld, Vice President
John McMurtry, Vice President
Chan Morgan, Treasurer
Einar Sunde, Secretary
Richard Allen, Skip Beitzel, Michael Calderone, Christin Cooper, Art Currier, Dick Cutler, Chris Diamond, Mike Hundert, David Ingemie, Rick Moulton, Wilbur Rice, Charles Sanders, Bob Soden (Canada)
Christin Cooper, Billy Kidd, Jean-Claude Killy, Bode Miller, Doug Pfeiffer, Penny Pitou, Nancy Greene Raine
Business & Events Manager
P.O. Box 1064
Manchester Center VT 05255
Bimonthly journal and official publication of the International Skiing History Association (ISHA)
Partners: U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame | Canadian Ski Museum and Hall of Fame
Alf Engen Ski Museum | North American Snowsports Journalists Association | Swiss Academic Ski Club
Skiing History (USPS No. 16-201, ISSN: 23293659) is published bimonthly by the International Skiing History Association, P.O. Box 1064, Manchester Center, VT 05255.
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Written permission from the editor is required to reproduce, in any manner, the contents of Skiing History, either in full or in part.
Readers Respond: May-June 2020
Two Bulls and a Blunder
The lead poster in Everett Potter’s “Off the Wall” article (Skiing History, March-April 2020) was a 1932 classic by Johan Bull, best known as a popular artist in The New Yorker. He was the father of ski-country architect and ski-resort planner Henrik Bull (1929–2013), long a stalwart member of ISHA. From time to time, Henrik wrote for SKI magazine and then for Skiing Heritage, and often helped us out with lengthy translations from old Norwegian books and newspapers.
From the same issue, I need to correct my error in the article “Marie Marvingt, Superhero.” I identified Harald Durban-Hansen, the Norwegian ski coach, as a Swede. Thanks to Einar Sunde for pointing out this blunder.
Seth Masia, ISHA President
Meeting the Masters
Two articles in the March-April 2020 issue brought back memories of meeting two of the “greats” in skiing history.
The story about “Alf Engen’s Idaho Roots” recalled a trip to Woodstock, Vermont, in the late 1940s. We skied at Suicide Six and I took my first ski lesson. My instructor, as I recall, was Walter Prager, who at the time was coaching the Dartmouth ski team. Only later did I realize the extent of Prager’s greatness—his Hall of Fame status and achievements as a competitor and mentor to the ski world.
The article on Skiing History Day at Mad River Glen brought back another memorable experience. In the mid 1950s, a friend and I skied there for the day. Late afternoon, we met another friend for a drink at his family’s cabin, tucked in the woods across the road from the base lodge. His father prepared a special recipe for Glühwein in a saucepan on a wood-burning stove. The father was Mad River Glen founder and Vermont ski pioneer Roland Palmedo (see “The Amazing, Intriguing Roland Palmedo” by Mort Lund in the September 2009 issue of Skiing Heritage). Sadly, at the time I didn’t appreciate how special it was to be sharing toasts and conversation with a man who contributed so much to the sport I love, nor can I recall the mulled-wine recipe!
Before There Was Swix
Under present circumstances (COVID-19), I have plenty of time to read every article and word in Skiing History, my favorite publication. On Greg Ditrinco’s well-detailed piece about fluorinated waxes and the FIS (March-April 2020), I’m compelled to mention that a ski-wax company was in operation before Toko and Swix—the French company known as VOLA. Indeed, it’s 85 years old!
VOLA was incorporated in 1935 at Colmar, and moved to Passy in the heart of the French Alps soon after. Reliable Racing Supply has been (and is currently) the U.S. importer/distributor for VOLA. Included in our first direct-mail catalog in 1969 was a VOLA product called “Coloneige.” This product was used to identify the placement of slalom poles into the piste (necessary to reset bamboo poles that were often knocked out by the racers). Soon after, we distributed “Durcineige,” an early use of a chemical to harden the snow.
Currently, Reliable Racing offers several VOLA products direct to the consumer, not limited to ski wax, but including FIS-homologated helmets, goggles, accessories and ski-tuning products. In 2019 they introduced E-wax, a 100 percent biodegradable product, made from plant and animal sources. For the 2020-2021 season they have introduced MyEcoWax, a non-fluorinated race wax with excellent gliding properties, in which more than 50 percent is made from plant and animal sources.
VOLA is a major manufacturer with 34 international distributors, and is a big player on the European competition scene. The current CEO, JF Ferreira, attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, and was an NCAA All-American in skiing.
Reliable Racing Supply
Queensbury, New York
1898: First Tracks in Zermatt
The recent article on Zermatt (Skiing History, January-February 2020) left the impression that skiing began there in the 1928–1929 season. But in the Kleines Zermatter Brevier, we read “it was a gloomy and snow-filled day on 29 December 1898 when the first ski tracks were seen in Zermatt.” These were the tracks of Dr. Hermann Seiler and Viktor Beauclair.
In 1905, “certain amateurs simply solved the question of winter quarters by breaking into inns, calling them huts to reassure their conscience,” according to an account in La Montagne (March 20, 1905). One “modest little inn” was open in 1908, the year the Ski Club Cervin (the French name for the Matterhorn) was founded. Arnold Lunn—the panjandrum of British skiing—weighed in with the judgment in 1913 that it “by no means follows that a good summer centre will make a good winter centre. Zermatt is a case in point.” After the war, the Cervin Club built a jump on the Steinmatte, about a 10-minute walk from the village.
When the “season” began in 1928–1929, General Wroughton, one of the Ski Club of Great Britain’s stalwarts, commented that “Zermatt’s slopes are too steep and rocky to be inviting,” while others judged them “too precipitous for good ski-ing.” “Incidentally,” wondered an old mountaineer almost a decade later, in 1937, “would the place be much good for ski-ing anyway?”
E. John B. Allen
Rumney, New Hampshire
Alf Engen in Sun Valley (Part 2)
I enjoyed the March-April “Short Turns” highlighting Alf Engen’s role in early Sun Valley. The article mentions Alf recalling first visiting Sun Valley in winter 1936, which is interesting because that visit is not mentioned in other accounts. Engen was so well known at that time, one would think the media or correspondence of that winter would have noted it. Rather, the founding skiers who greatly helped to determine the layout of the ski runs and lifts on the hills above Ketchum were Charley Proctor, Count Felix Schaffgotsch, Count Erwein Wilczek, Richard Scott, John E.P. Morgan, and some local boys who could ski.
While Alf did direct CCC crews to cut the first runs on Baldy, as the late Mort Lund and others have documented, the trails were laid out primarily by Friedl Pfeifer and Dick Durrance with Alf’s help. It’s also interesting that Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) members had a role in helping to get Baldy ready. Alf’s CCC crews could not overnight on the mountain, so they could only clear Baldy’s lower slopes in a day’s work. For the upper slopes, Harriman had Dick Durrance hire DOC members to do the clearing and stay in eight-man camps in August 1939. I hope we all get to enjoy the fruits of Alf’s labor when we meet in Sun Valley for Skiing History Week in December!
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