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From Skisport to Skiing: One Hundred Years of an American Sport, 1840-1940

Overview

The first full-length study of skiing in the United States, this book traces the history of the sport from its utilitarian origins to its advent as a purely recreational and competitive activity. 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...
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Overview

The first full-length study of skiing in the United States, this book traces the history of the sport from its utilitarian origins to its advent as a purely recreational and competitive activity. 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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Introduced to America by Scandinavian immigrants who settled in the upper Midwest, skiing also took hold in other areas, facilitating mail delivery, doctors' house calls and even shopping. According to Allen, a history professor at Plymouth State College in Massachusetts, ``skisport'' (the 19th-century term) was the cross-country variety, and not until the turn of the century did Alpine events like downhill and the slalom become popular. The sport called skiing grew exponentially in the 1930s as lifts were introduced and the sale of special attire and equipment burgeoned. Allen's prose is occasionally academic, as in the phrase ``ludic divertissement,'' but this exhaustively researched study may well interest ardent fans of the sport. Illustrated. (Sept.)
Booknews
Allen (history, Plymouth State College) covers the history of skiing in the US from its origins in practical necessity to the evolution of the current sport. He deals with the social impulses (health, purity, vitality...) that fueled development after WWII of the present precious industry. Many (b&w) photos. Huge bibliography. A fine piece of scholarship. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870238444
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/1993
  • Pages: 248
  • Lexile: 1420L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.64 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Pt. 1 The Skisport 1840-1920
1 The Skisport: An Introduction 3
2 California Gold Rush Snow-Shoeing 13
3 Utilitarian Skiing and Ludic Enthusiasms 29
4 Foundation of the Skisport 47
5 Controlling the Skisport 63
6 The New Enthusiasts 75
Pt. 2 The Mechanization of Skiing, 1920-1940
7 Post-World War I: Prelude to Skiing 89
8 The Mechanization of Skiing 104
9 The Sport of Skiing 117
10 Western Idylls 135
11 The Economics of Pleasure 145
12 Epilogue: To the Future 171
Notes 175
Selected Bibliography 219
Index 227
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