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Short Turns: Sir John Ashton, Capitalize Alpine?, Snapshots in Time



Editor Seth Masia
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Short Turns: Sir John Ashton, Capitalize Alpine?, Snapshots in Time

SKI ART: Sir John William Ashton (1881-1963)

Will Ashton emigrated to Australia from England with his parents as a young child. He was educated at Alfred College, a boy’s school in Adelaide, from 1889-97, where he studied painting. In 1900, he left for England to work on seascapes, and was particularly interested in the depiction of the changing light on foaming waves and billowing clouds, which led to his fascination with snowy ski scenes. He spent time at the Académie Julian in Paris and had work accepted by the Société des Artistes Français, as well as the Royal Academy in London.

(Painting above: Though Will Ashton admitted that “snow is not easy to paint,” “Kosciusko” won the Wynn prize for landscapes in 1930. Courtesy National library of Australia, Canberra)

Then, comparatively well-known, he returned to Adelaide in 1905 and exhibited in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, winning the Wynn prize for landscapes in 1908. Off again to Europe and Egypt, his work was interrupted by World War I. In 1915, denied entry into the army due to his arthritis, he joined the Australian Imperial Forces as a volunteer driver.

Returning to Australia in 1917, he continued to paint landscapes, including a number of skiing scenes. “Snow is not easy to paint,” he wrote. “There is something crisp and precise about its character which always fascinates me.” He made repeat visits to Kosciusko National Park, and one his views of the area won the Wynn prize in 1930. He won it again in 1939.

In 1937, Ashton became director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. A member of several art institutes and societies, he was honored with an Order of the British Empire in 1941 and knighted in 1961. He died from cancer in 1963. —E. John. B. Allen

Why’s It Called That? Alpine or alpine? Nordic or nordic?

At Skiing History, we’re puzzling over when to capitalize nordic and alpine. Our thinking has been that the words should be treated the same way. If one is capitalized, both should be, and vice versa. That’s how we’ve been doing it in recent issues, using the terms nordic combined and alpine combined.

Many books of grammar disagree, suggesting that Nordic is a “proper adjective” referring to a region, while alpine is a plain adjective referring to . . .  a region. French and German writers capitalize neither adjective. They use nordique and alpin in French, nordische and alpine in German. Microsoft spell-checker corrects nordic to Nordic but not alpine to Alpine. National Geographic capitalizes both words. While their style manual specifies Alpine, it has no entry for Nordic at all. The Associated Press manual has entries for neither.

Skiers never used the word Nordic . . .
(Photo: Ski Museum of Maine)

It appears that Nordic became “proper” because of its use to describe a “racial type.” In the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest examples for nordic are from 1898 and came from essays on white-supremacist racial theory. Nordic, capitalized, doesn’t appear in the main edition of the OED (published 1923), only in the First Supplement, published 1933.

. . . until Walter Amstutz and his friends
locked their heels down around 1928.
(Courtesy Pierre Schneider)

In fact, Nordic appears not to have been used by skiers until after alpine skiing was formally recognized by the FIS in 1930, when it became necessary to distinguish between the two. The word appears nowhere in Arnold Lunn’s book History of Ski-ing (1927); instead, Lunn writes of Norwegian ski (plural), ski-runners and ski-ing.

Grammarians also dispute whether a billiard player puts english or English on the ball. And there’s French kissing versus french fries. With no hard rules, and to be consistent with such usages as Mediterranean cultures and Southwest cuisine, Skiing History will henceforth capitalize both words. —Seth Masia 

Snapshots in Time

1969 A Little Night Music
The present interest in night skiing marks a sharp contrast to the attitude of less than a decade ago. Then, almost all ski area operators were convinced that schussing down slopes was a daylight sport only; their opinion was that even a so-called hardy skier would hesitate to cope with the rigors of a cold winter evening. A few farsighted ski area operators, in Massachusetts, among other Eastern states, thought their registers might ring a merrier tune if their resorts remained open at night. —Michael Straus, “Night Skiing Starts to See the Light of Day” (New York Times, December 12, 1969)

1978 The Mahre Method
You have to have a desire to win. It all comes down to that. It comes from your heart. You’ve got to want it so bad that you’ll kill yourself to do it. —Dick Barrymore, “America’s Best” interview with Phil Mahre (Powder Magazine, September 1978)

1979 Who Are You?
Are you a Doer, Watcher, Thinker or Feeler? Understanding how you learn can improve your skiing. And since the final responsibility for learning always falls on the learner—you—your first task is to find an instructor whose teaching style meshes with your learning personality. —Stu Campbell, “The Way You Are” (SKI Magazine, October 1979)

The shadow knows

1985 Shadow Instructor
As you ski, use the shadow as an instant replay of your skiing style. Check all parts of your body positioning with your shadow. Is your torso upright and balanced? Are your comfortable and natural? Do your feet work the skis away from underneath your body? One word of caution: If you get too carried away watching your shadow, you might miss seeing another skier or object below you. —Jim Isham, “The Shadow Knows” (Skiing Magazine, Spring 1985)

2005 Bode’s Curse
Bode Miller became the first American in 22 years to win skiing’s overall World Cup title. He finished ahead of his only remaining challenger, Benjamin Raich of Austria, in the season’s final giant slalom. The last non-Europeans to win the overall championship were Americans Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney in 1983. “It’s been a bit embarrassing it’s taken so long. It was getting a bit like the Red Sox,” said Miller, a New Englander. “It was a bit embarrassing because it was like a curse.” —AP Press, “Miller Ascends to the Summit (Washington Post, March 13, 2005.)

2021 Homeless Olympics?
For those keeping score, here are the future Olympics that are scheduled: Beijing in February (really?), Paris in 2024, Milan and Cortina in 2026, Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane four years after that. You’ll notice an unprecedented hole, the 2030 Winter Games, still looking for a home. There’s a reason for that. —Barry Syrluga, “Fewer and fewer cities want to host the Olympics. That should tell the IOC something.” (Washington Post, Aug. 8, 2021)



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