image

CULTURE, LANDSCAPE, AND THE MAKING OF THE COLORADO SKI INDUSTRY


by


ANNE GILBERT COLEMAN


B.A., Williams College, 1987 M.A., University of Colorado, 1992


A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the

University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy Department of History 1996

image


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Anne Gilbert Coleman

has been approved for the Department of History

by


image image


Patricia Nelson Limerick


image image


Philip J. Deloria


Date

image


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


When people hear the topic of my dissertation, they often give me a knowing smile and ask if I am a skier. I say "I was a skier in my life before graduate school, when I had more time and a paycheck." This project has allowed me to explore Colorado's ski areas from the inside out, through their history, design, and marketing as well as their lifts, lodges, and trails. In the process I have met dozens of interesting people and incurred a number of debts. This project received financial support from the American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant, the University of Colorado History Department's Douglas A. Bean Memorial Faculty Research Stipend and Pile Fellowship, the Roaring Fork Research Scholarship funded by Ruth Whyte, and from Dr. Giles D. Toll. I would like to thank all the people who helped me research this project, including Charlie Langdon at the Durango Herald, Mary Walker and Ingrid Schierling Burnett at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Sue Spearing at the Grand County Historical Society, all of the people at the University of Colorado Archives and the Colorado Historical Society, and Lisa Hancock, Jody Phillips McCabe, and my other friends at the Aspen Historical Society. Their experience and support helped me tremendously. Thank you, especially, to all of the men and women who so generously shared their experiences and perspectives with me on tape. Interviewing them was my favorite part of this project and I feel honored to have met them all.

My heartfelt thanks go to my advisor Patty Limerick, for her guidance and her perseverance in teaching me to write clearly. Phil Deloria has devoted time, energy, and thought to this project above and beyond the call of duty, and I am grateful to him for it. Thanks to Lee Chambers:Schiller for her support and


image

inspiring comments; to Bill Riebsame for his enthusiasm and geographical perspective; and to Julie Greene for jumping into the history of the ski industry so cheerfully. Thanks also to my soccer-playing friends in Boulder and Denver, whose company gave me a much-needed respite from graduate school. My parents have given me nothing but constant, cheerful, energetic support from the moment I began this project, even though they were skeptical that skiing actually deserved historical analysis. I could not have finished this without them. Finally, my husband Jon lent his creative mind, his wit, and his immense title-making talents

to this work, for which it is much the better. While it certainly helps to have a spouse who is a western historian, I appreciate also his unending patience with me while I was in the throes of dissertation writing, his unselfish support of my work, and his fondness for Basset Hounds.


vi


image

Anne Gilbert Coleman (Ph.D., History)


Culture, Landscape, and the Making of the Colorado Ski Industry Thesis directed by Professor Patricia Nelson Limerick


This project is a cultural and environmental history of skiing in Colorado, from 1860 to 1990. It focuses on the ways in which skiers have understood and altered Colorado's mountain landscape, and on the relationship between downhill skiing and constructions of class, gender, and ethnicity.

Nineteenth-century mountain community residents used "Norwegian snowshoes" to travel and recreate in Colorado's Rockies. While these men and women understood their mountain landscape as isolating and often dangerous, wealthy tourists and outdoor enthusiasts saw it as scenic. During the 1920s and '30s a new kind of skiing came to Colorado, associated with European resorts, competition, and cosmopolitan tourism. Alpine skiing's urban enthusiasts used the Rockies as their playground while mountain town residents incorporated the sport into their communities by forming local clubs and developing a regional circuit of competitions. For both groups skiing proved to be a critical site for defining masculinity and femininity. Colorado ski areas sprouted up in the 1930s with the help of local communities, transportation networks, and the U.S. Forest Service.

These areas remained local, however, until America's post-war consumer and leisure culture took shape. Veterans of the Army's Tenth Mountain Division, elite outdoorsmen who trained at Colorado's Camp Hale, took advantage of this new economic and cultural context to form the core of Colorado's ski industry. With the contradictory goals of creating a scenic, personal experience for as many people as possible, ski area designers developed increasingly constructed resort landscapes. They pushed local residents to the periphery and crafted resort towns as mythical alpine villages, Victorian mining towns, western cowtowns, or some mixture of


image

each. By the end of the 1960s destination resorts such as Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs had their own distinct culture characterized by whiteness, wealth, fashion, fame, and sexiness. Destination resorts, moreover, have successfully coopted critiques from environmentalists, minority skiers, and snowboarders by incorporating their interests into resort landscapes and culture.


iv


image


Introduction Chapter One


Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six


Conclusion Bibliography

Skiing at the Beach 1

image

Skiiing, Mobility, and Landscape in Colorado's

Rocky Mountains 18

On Edge: Masculinity, Femininity, and

Downhill Skiing 66

The Networks Behind Colorado

Skiing to 1945 121

Call of the Mild: Constructed

Landscapes for Skier-Tourists 173

Skier-Tourist-Consumers Meet Colorado's

Resort Towns 234

From Ski Bunnies to Shred Bettys:

Colorado's Destination Resort Culture 281

From Europe to Colorado and Back 339

................................................................................358


image

FIGURES


Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, 1953 39


Ladies' Home Journal, 1929 105


Franklin Automobile advertisement, 1931 106


Saturday Evening Post, 1931 108


Paved Roads in Colorado, 1940 135


Colorado Ski Areas 175


Chrysler Motors Corp. advertisement, 1963 235


Streeter and Quarles advertisement. 254


Scandinavian Ski Shops advertisement, 1959 290


Dolomite advertisement, 1968 295


Calvin and Hobbes, 1993 318


Cafe Angst, 1996 330


image

INTRODUCTION


Skiing at the Beach


In 1995, Disney broke into the ski business in true Disney fashion. Their new Blizzard Beach has its own peaks, a chairlift, snow, and even a warming hut. Clad only in bathing suits, visitors ride a chair lift up the 120-foot "mountain" at the center of this water park. Below Mount Gushmore, the Disney travel guide promised, "waits a winter wonderland of water, fun and sun." Once at the top of Mount Gushmore, vacationers can descend on toboggan slides, flumes, inner tube chutes, or the Summit Plummet, a simulated ski jump on which sliding bathers can reach 60 miles an hour. Disney's imagineers "thought people would enjoy

themselves in a ski resort atmosphere," so they built their own in Florida and brought downhill skiing to the beach. 1 And their instincts were right; Disney's

unlikely winter wonderland, with its promises of water, fun, and sun, has consistently attracted crowds of tourists since its opening.

Well before Disney introduced skiing to the beach, surfers had brought their sport to the mountains. One California surfer, for instance, found himself

living in Colorado's Rockies in 1985. He longed for "bikinis, convertibles, and Los Siete Burritos on Mission Beach." "But mostly," he wrote, "I wanted to surf."2 He

bought a snowboard and later became an instructor, teaching transplanted Californians like himself and native Coloradans how to surf snowy mountain waves.


image

1J anet Nelson, "How Disney Does It," Ski Area Management, 34 (July 1995), 41; Walt Disney Travel Co., Inc., 1997 Walt Disney World Vacations, 12.

2Gavin Forbes Ehringer, "It's Tough to Ignore All These Dinosaurs on Snowboards, Dude," Rocky Mountain News, 5 December, 1994, 20B.


image

These developments raised some eyebrows among recreational skiers. Since the growth of America's ski industry after World War Two, downhill skiers have enjoyed an almost exclusive relationship with mountain ski resort landscapes.

Surfers stuck to the ocean, with its beaches and watery waves, and skiers remained in the snow-covered mountains. Colorado, especially, has become known as the center of a billion-dollar industry that encompasses ski areas themselves, related real estate development, associated restaurants, hotels, and retail stores, as well as the ski equipment and ski fashion industries. At the root of the ski industry--and at the heart of Colorado's tourist economy--is the sport of skiing itself. Since the nineteenth century skiers have described the experience as one of exhilaration and thrill. They have also described the experience as one that creates a kind of personal, physical relationship between skier and mountain beyond mere

enjoyment of the scenery. Colorado's destination ski resorts have prided themselves on their ability to provide this kind of experience to millions of skiers a year, and to do so in a compelling landscape that is at once safe and adventuresome, wild and comfortable, visuallypristine and fully developed. Indeed, Colorado's big ski areas consistently rank among the best and most popular ski resorts in North America; and one of the biggest reasons for their success is the extent to which they incorporate their skiing tourists into the Rocky Mountain landscape. These experiences and landscapes have been seamlessly constructed by a 100 year history of interaction between humans and the land itself.

By transplanting skiing to the beach and surfing to the mountains, Blizzard Beach and snowboarding have threatened to expose the highly constructed relationship between skiers and their remote mountain landscapes. Disney's water park and the sport of snowboarding revealed that what looked "natural"--skiing and mountain resorts--was in fact historical and human-made. The introduction of surf and youth culture to these places threatened skiers deeply. Many resorts


2


image

banned snowboarders from their slopes; arguments, fights, and mutual contempt characterized the relationship between skiers and snowboarders for years. Only recently has snowboarding become popular enough (and economically powerful enough) for skiers and the ski industry to welcome "shredding" at their resorts.

Disney posed, in this deconstructionist vein, an even greater threat than snowboarding because it took the process one step farther. Snowboarding introduced a new sport culture to skiing's landscape; Blizzard Beach removed skiing from its physical setting altogether. If Disney's imagineers--specialists in overtly constructed leisure landscapes--could recreate ski resorts in tropical Florida, what did that say about the nature of ski resorts in Colorado? Blizzard Beach's mere presence in Walt Disney World suggested the constructed reality of all ski area landscapes. In humorous references to Colorado's mountains, the water park sent a more confusing message, at once reminding visitors of "real" skiing in the mountains and self-consciously referring to its own Disney location. Pike's Peak thus became Tike's Peak (with child-sized water rides), Steamboat Springs turned into Teamboat Springs (for five-passenger rafts), and a deadly snowslide transformed into Avalunch. Only with tongue in cheek could its posters encourage vacationers to "Ski Disney." Drawing attention to its own constructedness with its place names as well as its larger Walt Disney context, Blizzard Beach threatened to change the way skiers understood "real" ski resorts. But if Disney was ready for a witty world of postmodern self-referentiality, ski resorts were not. One ski industry writer subsequently accused Disney of "hijacking our stuff," of stealing

"the essence of skiing" to serve its own--assumably inauthentic--purposes.3

Skiing at a beach seems disconcerting, to say the least, and snowboarding has only entered the ski industry after years of resistance. By mixing and merging the beach with the mountains, snowboarding and Blizzard Beach questioned the

image

3Nelson, 41.


3

relationship between skiing and the mountain landscapes we have come to associate with the sport. Invaluable to the ski industry and at the center of this project, the connections between skiing's culture and Colorado's very real mountains offer a view into the larger issues of how cultural meanings become inscribed upon the landscape and how landscapes in turn influence culture. In the case of the ski industry, resorts self-consciously designed to hide their constructedness enabled skiers to experience a kind of personal connection to the mountains and wilderness. At the same time, the sport of skiing, which has both an intensely personal aspect and an explicitly social one, forged a strong link between a distinct consumer, leisure-oriented ski culture and mountain towns. The story of how destination ski resorts have come to look the way they do and how they have supported their own

distinct culture is the story of this project. 4

The process through which Colorado achieved its success within the ski industry encompassed a number of ongoing tensions, drawn often along lines of class, race, and gender. First, the lower-class roots of the sport in Colorado, from Scandinavian bricklayers to Rocky Mountain miners, rest uneasily with the presence of an upper-class ski population liberally sprinkled with celebrities.

Second, the new multi-ethnic resort workforce and service industry exist in awkward contrast with a still blindingly white clientele. Third, skiers attracted to the adventuresome and "wild" aspect of the landscape simultaneously demanded an increasingly constructed landscape with comfortable chairlifts and well-groomed slopes. Often attracted by the sport's exhilaration and sense of danger, skiers came to insist that ski areas maintain a firm grip on their safety while still providing

image

4The culture and landscapes I am concerned with in this project specifically are destination resorts, or those ski areas such as Aspen, Vail, Keystone, Telluride, and Steamboat Springs which attract visitors for more than three days at a time. They must provide a wide range of amenities and non-skiing activities for their visitors, who seek a complete vacation experience. Smaller ski areas, which cater to weekend or local skiers, correspond to a different kind of ski culture less preoccupied with consumption.


4


image

the illusion of risk. Finally, while the destination resort culture that emerged in Colorado reflected and reinforced national trends toward a consumer, leisure culture, it meshed only partly with contemporary constructions of gender. Skiing has historically been both a quintessentially masculine sport and one whose feelings of freedom and empowerment have appealed to women. While skiing made it possible for women to operate outside social definitions of womanhood, it has also sprouted a heterosexual ski culture that has encouraged stereotypically feminine behavior.

In order to untangle some of these relatio ships and show how they relate to one another, I have drawn together methodologies from environmental, cultural, ethnic, and gender history to analyze oral histories, local newspapers, U.S. Forest Service publications, ski industry marketing analyses, and other products of ski culture such as ski magazine articles and advertisements. What emerged was a story about how ski resorts and ski culture effectively hid physical and human infrastructures, sell-consciously framing mountain landscapes and crafting resort images that swept skier-tourists into mythical worlds from Colorado's skiing history: European alpine villages, Victorian mining towns, western cowtowns, or some mixture of each. Focused on consumption and leisure, the culture that grew up in Colorado's destination resorts could hardly reflect the economic and ethnic diversity of the state's mountain communities. Indeed, skiing pushed long-time residents and local community skiers to the periphery and became increasingly characterized by whiteness, wealth, fashion, and fame. Wrapped up in this distinct culture and rooted firmly in particular mountain communities, Colorado's destination resorts reveal the many-layered and often-contested relationships between landscape and culture in the American West.

Historians of skiing, however, have yet to examine these relationships. The


most analytical treatment of the sport and its history in America, John Allen's


5


image

From Skisport to Skiing, ends in 1940.5 Some works that extend their reach to the present often focus more on the sport's rich photographic record than on historical analysis; others tell the story of a specific resort or town and so

concentrate more on local narratives than on placing those narratives in a broader historical context.6 A few men intimately involved in the development of skiing and

the ski industry in America have widened the scope of ski history by writing their autobiographies.? Their life stories--and their influence--spanned decades and


image

5E. John B. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing: One Hundred Years of an American Sport, 1840-1940 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993). Allen has also written a series of articles including "Winter Culture: The Origins of Skiing in the United States," Journal of American Culture, 6 (Spring 1983), 65- 68; "Values and Sport: The Development of New England Skiing, 1870-1940," Oral History Review, 13 (1985), 55-76; "Sierra 'Ladies' on Skis in Gold Rush California," Journal of Sport History, 17 (Winter 1990); and "Skiing Mailmen of Mountain America: U.S. Winter Postal Service in the Nineteenth Century," Journal of the West, 29 (April 1990}, 76-86. Jack A. Benson has also published articles on nineteenth-century skiing, with an emphasis on the Rocky Mountain West and Colorado. Like much ski history but better researched, Benson's articles focus on narrative rather than argument. See Jack A. Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," Western Historical Quarterly, 8 (October 1977}, 431-441; and Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail: The Story of Recreational Skiing in Frontier Colorado," Journal of the West, 22 (January 1983), 52-61. One of the earliest narrative ski histories is Charles M. Dudly, Sixty Centuries of Skiing (Brattleboro VT: Stephen Daye Press, 1935).

6For general histories see Editors of Ski Magazine, America's Ski Book (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973); Abbott Fay, Ski Tracks in the Rockies: A Century of Colorado Skiing (Evergreen CO: Cordillera Press, Inc., 1984); Stan Cohen, A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing (Missoula MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1985); Richard Needham, Ski: Fifty Years in North America (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishing, 1987). Local Rocky Mountain ski histories include John Rolfe Burroughs, Ski Town U.S.A. (Steamboat Springs CO: Pilot Press, 1962); Sureva Towler, The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs (Denver: Frederic Printing, 1987); Charlie Langdon, Durango Ski: People and Seasons at Purgatory (Durango CO: Purgatory Press, 1989}; June Simonton, Vail: Story of a Colorado Mountain Valley (Vail CO: Vail Chronicles, Inc., 1987); Rick Richards, Ski Pioneers: Ernie Blake, His Friends, and the Making of Taos Ski Valley (Helena MT: Dry Gulch Publishing, 1992).

7Friedl Pfeifer with Morten Lund, Nice Goin': My Life on Skis (Missoula MT:

Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., 1993); Otto Lang, A Bird of Passage: The Story of My Life (Helena MT: Skyhouse Publishers, 1994); Dick Durrance and John Jerome, The Man on the Medal: The Life and Times of America's First Great Ski Racer (Aspen, CO: Durrance Enterprises, Inc., 1995). For a more tongue-in­ cheek set of autobiographical stories, see Warren Miller, Wine, Women, Warren,

and Skis (Vail CO: Goldfinkle, Masowitch, Kloppenboig, and O'Brien, 1958, 1988);


6


image

crossed regional boundaries. Jockeying for their own positions within skiing's history, these men have sought larger meanings for their skiing lives and wrestled with what the sport and the industry has meant to them. Similarly have historians, film makers, and veterans sought to interpret the significance of the Tenth Mountain Division and its role in the post-war ski industry. Rich in narrative and generally heroic in tone, skiers' autobiographies and Tenth Mountain Division histories tend to be more personal than historical interpretations of their

subjects. 8

Since this project tells the story of the Colorado ski industry through the lens of landscape and culture, it fits within a set of historiographical traditions that have only occasionally responded directly to one another. Essentially it joins aspects of environmental history and cultural geography with histories of tourism, consumer culture, and sport. Environmental historians have offered compelling examples to illustrate the reciprocal relationships between physical environments and societies. Richard White and William Cronon, especially, have mapped this interaction through regional case studies. Both have come to argue more recently

image

Miller, On Film in Print: Forty-Five Years on the Road With Camera, Skis, Boats, and Windsurfers (Vail CO: Ritem and Printem, Inc., 1994).

8One exception to this generalization is Jack A. Benson's "Skiing at Camp Hale: Mountain Troops during World War II," Western Historical Quarterly, 15 (April

1984), 163-174. There are countless articles and approximately 34 books published about the 10th Mtn. Division. For overviews and discussions of how the Tenth fit into developments in skiing, see Minot Dole, Adventures in Skiing (J. Lowell Pratt and Co., Inc., 1965); Hal Burton, Tile Ski Troops (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971); Curtis Casewit, Mountain Troopers: The Story of the Tenth Mountain Division (New York, 1972). For more personal accounts see Dole; Kenneth S. Templeton, ed., 10th Mountain Division: America's Ski Troops (Chicago: privately published, 1945); Harris Dusenbery, Ski the High Trail: World War II Ski Troopers in the High Colorado Rockies (Portland OR: Binford and Mort Publishing, 1991}; and more recently, John lmbrie and Hugh W. Evans, eds., Good Times and Bad Times: A History of C Company 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment 10th Mountain Division (Queechee VT: Vermont Heritage Press, 1995}. For a complete bibliography, see "The 1Oth's Books," Skiing Heritage: Journal of the International Skiing History Association, 7, 2 (Fall 1995), 33. Two recent documentary films on the 10th are Soldiers of the Summit (Council for Public TV, Channel Six, Inc., 1987), and Fire on the Mountain (1995} by Beth and George Ga;Je.


7


image

that nature and wilderness, while still referring to specific, physical places, have

little meaning when separated from human influence and perception.9 While skiers have generally known that they are not in a natural, wild, or pristine environment, the physical act of skiing down a trail, combined with the scenic views offered from the chairlift or gondola, has still created what skiers

understood as a personal and natural relationship between skier and mountain. It is perhaps the ability to have such an experience despite the intellectual acknowledgment of human development that has made skiing so attractive. For urban vacationers, moreover, the National Forest landscape on which most ski areas are built may come as close to "nature" as they have ever been. Placed in specific physical environments and dependent upon marketing those places as natural, wild, and adventuresome at the same time they construct them to be inviting, comfortable, and safe, ski resorts serv,ed as powerful illustrations that the environment and society interact on multiple levels.

White and Cronon have approached the question of environment and culture from their perspective as historians; cultural and historical geographers have approached it from the notion of landscape. Less concerned with debating the reality of pure nature and wilderness than environmental historians, landscape geographers discuss place and space as "defined by our vision and interpreted by


image

9Richard White, Land Use, Environment, and Social Change: The Shaping of Island County, Washington (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980); William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983); Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995); William Cronon, "The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature," in William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (New York:

W.W. Norton and Company, 1995). Donald Worster's work offers another take on society and "nature" and focuses on the often troublesome relationships between capitalism and the physical world in which we live. His work most relevant to the development and perception of ski resort landscapes is The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).


8


our minds."°1


image

For them, specific relationships among soil, water, plants,

animals, and humans are less important than the ways in which humans shape and interpret the world they expe rience.11 Authors including D.W. Meinig, Peirce

Lewis, J.B. Jackson, and John Stilgoe characterize landscapes as visual surroundings filled with cultural meaning. Since they are at once created and consumed by humans, landscapes are at once a system of signs through which we can decode and analyze our human use of the environment, and a force that shapes people's sensations and moods.12 Ski resort landscapes are no exception.

Designers wanted to remind visitors of European alpine villages, Victorian mining towns, or scenes from the wild west; these landscapes have offered countless, almost constant, opportunities to consume food, fashion, and social life as well as skiing itself; and they have provided visitors with different stages upon which they could advertise themselves and their purchases. More than a visual landscape, ski resorts have also shaped skiers' kinetic experience as they first are carried up and then ski down the mountain. Just as cities once constructed what J.B. Jackson called "the stranger's path," ski resorts have consciously crafted skiers'


image

10D.W. Meinig ed., The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays

(New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 3.

11See especially Yi-Fu Tuan, Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974).

12D.W. Meinig, "Introduction," in Michael P. Conzen, ed., The Making of the

American Landscape (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990}; Meinig, "Introduction," in The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes; Peirce F. Lewis, "Axioms for Reading the Landscape," in The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes; John Brinkerhoff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (New Haven: Yale University

Press, 1984); Ervin H. Zube, ed., Landscapes: Selected Writings of J.B. Jackson (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1970); Jackson, The Necessity for Ruins and Other Topics (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980}; John Stilgoe, Common Landscapes of America, 1580-1845 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982). Anne Farrar Hyde does an excellent job of incorporating these ideas of landscape with an historical narrative. In her book An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture, 1820-1920 (New York: New York University Press, 1990}, she traces the ways in which travelers and tourists have understood the western landscape, moving from comparisons to Europe to characterizing it as unique and distinctly western, and incorporating those landscapes into American culture in the process.


9


image

experiences as they moved from the parking lot or hotel to the ski lift, up the hill, down different trails, and to a lodge for lunch or a snack. The growth and fame of Colorado destination resorts testifies to the fact that skiers have enjoyed the experience. These landscapes say as much about the ski industry that created them as they do about the skier-tourists who have visited them.

Tourists have been visiting the Rocky Mountains since the nineteenth century. After World War II they came in especially great numbers, traveling in winter as well as summer, from as nearby as Denver and as far away as Europe, to experience the Rocky Mountains as a scenic "other." Destination ski resorts (in contrast to smaller and more local areas) have traditionally made most of their money from out-of-state skiers who spend more on food, lodging, shopping, and extras than in-state skiers. Targeting such a market has made the ski industry in Colorado as much about tourism and marketing as about skiing. Destination skiers pursued not simply the sport, but a vacation in the Rockies; and they combined skier identities with that of the tourist. With the notable exception of Earl Pomeroy in 1957, however, historians are only now in the process of addressing

tourism in the West.13 Pomeroy's nineteenth-century tourists compared western

scenery with that in Europe at the same time they romanticized the region for its wilderness and its cowboy image. As Elliott West has pointed out, this dual understanding of the West is nothing new.14 Indeed, Rocky Mountain ski resorts


image

13Earl Pomeroy, In Search of the Golden West: The Tourist in Western America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1957, 1990). While not book-length monographs, two recent publications on tourism in the West include Kerwin L. Klein, "Frontier Products: Tourism, Consumerism, and the Southwestern Public Lands, 1890-1990," Pacific Historical Review, 62 (February 1993), 39-71; and Scott Norris, ed., Discovered Country: Tourism and Survival in the American West (Albuquerque NM: Stone Ladder Press, 1994). Hal Rothman, Peggy Shaffer, and Patricia Nelson Limerick will soon be publishing works on tourism in the West.

14Elliott West, The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995).


1 0


image

continue to encourage this mythologizing in the twentieth century through their architecture and advertising campaigns.

Tourists historically occupied a specific position in class and social hierarchies. As Pomeroy, Anne Hyde, Roderick Nash, and Alfred Runte have all suggested, upper-class city-dwellers created cultural hinterlands by supporting western tourism, searching for American scenery to rival that of Europe, and

working to preserve America's national parks.15 The same kinds of people also

supported the growth of skiing in the American West. As Pomeroy and Hyde begin to argue, understanding tourism demands an analysis that included class and race. Only through those lenses can historians start to unpack the complicated relationships between wealthy visitors and local western residents.

Historians of American tourism have also raised other issues directly relevant to the growth of Colorado's ski industry. John Jakie followed Pomeroy in suggesting that structural developments including urbanization, more accessible means of transportation, and increased leisure time contributed directly to the phenomenon of American tourism. Along with Dean MacCannell and John Sears, Jakie has argued for tourism's cultural significanye, They have seen tourism as a process by which people attach symbolic meaning to the places they visit and so

redefine themselves and their place in modern society.16 At once cultural and

economic, tourism and Colorado's ski industry have placed that which visitors hold


image

15Hyde, An American Vision; Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 3rd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982); Allred Runte, National Parks: The American Experience, 2nd ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987). 16Sears describes the process by which tourists attractions become sacred sites; Jackie defines tourism as a means by which modern people assess their world and define their own sense of identity in the process; and MacCannell places tourism with what he calls the basic theme of our civilization: self-discovery through the complex and arduous search for an Absolute Other. John Jakie, The Tourist: Travel in Twentieth-Century North America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985); Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Schoken Books, 1976, with a new introduction by the author, 1989); John

F. Sears, Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century

(New York: Oxford University Press, 1989}.


1 1


image

sacred--scenic landscapes and quaint resort communities--in conflict with the development nececcary for tourism's growth. Western communities have thus struggled to balance crowds and construction wit.h the physical and symbolic integrity of their tourist attractions.

What makes ski resort landscapes relatively immune to this conflict-­ beyond the very constructed nature of the resorts themselves--is the degree to which ski resorts have become wrapped up in consumer culture. As much as they functioned as scenic mountain getaways, destination resorts also became landscapes of consumption. Indeed, the consumption of scenery has been part of recreational skiing since the turn of the century. But skiing rested on advertizing and commodity consumption as well. Manufactured ski equipment became available in stores and mail order catalogs for purchase as early as 1905. Recreational skiing also created a market for special ski clothes that were at once warm and fashionable. Not surprisingly, then, the growth of the sport and its industry corresponded to the growth of consumer culture in America. Historians of leisure and consumer culture have noted that, having grown first in the late nineteenth century and then again during the 1920s, the culture of consumption became the

status quo in the years after World War 11, ultimately turning culture itself into a commodity and glorifying form over content. Destination ski resorts and the ski industry embodied the notion of commercialized leisure and idealized consumption

that these historians, most notably T. J. Jackson Lears, have examined.17 Lears'


image

17Richard Wightman Fox and T.J. Jackson Lears, eds., The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880-1980 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983); Lears, "The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities," American Historical Review, 90 (February 1985), 567-593; Fox and Lears, eds., The Power of Culture: Critical Essays in American History (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1993); Martyn J. Lee, Consumer Culture Reborn: The Cultural Politics of Consumption (New York: Routledge, 1993}; George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990}; Thorsten Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, with an Introduction by C. Wright Mills (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992).


1 2

image

analysis of advertising in American culture further traces an ongoing discourse of


authenticity, a discourse which employed images of race, class, and gender immediately visible in ski industry adver tisements.18 Ski resort culture,

moreover, gave meaning to commodities only within a particular landscape and so linked their power to place. Clothing and equipment manufacturers, ski resorts themselves, and their respective hotels and restaurants have historically marketed

their products as cosmopolitan and European oi mythically western (both

explicitly white images), as signs of status, and of sexual appeal. Participating in destination resort ski culture meant consuming these images and the identity that came with them more than the products themselves. Within recent ski resort culture form has triumphed over content; visibility has become inseparable from authenticity.

While it has become surrounded by retail businesses, consumer culture, and its own tourist industry, skiing has remained, at root, a sport. Skiing behaved differently, however, than the sports most commonly studied by historians. Skiing has been at once an outdoor sport with its own indoor "apres ski" culture, a sport both personal and social, and a sport that can test the limits of one's endurance and strength at the same time it emphasizes creativity and sensuality. As such a distinct activity, few sports historians have delved into skiing's history. Only one historian, in fact, has placed skiing within the larger context of American culture

and sports history.19 Sports historians have, however, explored more general


relationships relevant to skiing. The cultural meanings associated with exercise,


image

1BJackson Lears, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America (New York: Basic Books, 1994). Elliott West has recently published an article discussing similar tensions embodied in advertisements that employ western themes--a practice common for ski resorts including Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Elliott West, "Selling the Myth: Western Images in Advertising," in Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture, edited by Richard Aquila (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 269-291.

19Allen, From Skisport to Skiing.


1 3 •


image

athleticism, and play, for instance, have changed over time and hinged upon contemporary assumptions about class and race. Unpacking the relationships among these cultural constructs is a formidable task, one that sports historians have recently taken on with vigor.20

Skiing's culture generally coincided with the mandates for upper-class sport and leisure, though Colorado mountain town residents offered an alternative community ski culture that lasted in resort towns at least through the 1950s. In tune with the development of America's leisure and consumer culture, skiing did not fit exactly with accepted definitions of gender. Nor, however, did it pose the same societal threat that women's track and field, or basketball presented. Many historians have explored, through sports, the shape and limits of cultural constructions of gender. While athletics have generally reinforced masculine norms since the nineteenth century, they often challenged accepted definitions of

femininity. The ability to move freely through the landscape, Kathy Peiss and Virginia Scharff have pointed out, was a distinctly male power.21 When women

insisted upon doing so--especially in athletic competition--they risked having


image

20George Eisen and David K. Wiggins, eds., Ethnicity and Sport in North American History and Culture (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1994); Steven A. Reiss, "From Pitch to Putt: Sport and Class in Anglo-American Sport," Journal of Sport History, 21 (Summer 1994), 138-184; George E. Sage, Power and Ideology in American Sport: A Critical Perspective (Champaign IL: Human Kinetics Books, 1990); Mark Pyreson, "The Emergence of Consumer Culture and the Transformation of Physical Culture: American Sport in the 1920s," Journal of Sport History, 16 (Winter 1989), 261-281; Richard D, Mandell, Sport: A Cultural History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984); Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870- 1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

21Steven A. Reiss, "Sport and the Redefinition of American Middle-Class

Masculinity," International Journal of the History of Sport, 8 (1991). 5-27; Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the­ Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Virginia Scharff, Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991). Peiss and Scharff are not explicitly sports historians; as women's historians they address the physical aspects and limitations of femininity. They also explore how class identity shapes women's mobility by defining womanhood in different ways.


1 4


image

their femininity and sexuality called into question.22 As a vigorous outdoor sport, and one which afforded women mobility through dangerous mountain landscapes, skiing should have been considered off-limits to women. That women have skied without condemnation since the sport's beginnings testifies to the power of its social side in reaffirming feminine gender roles. On the slopes women could challenge social norms; in the bar and on the dance floor afterwards they reinforced them. The social aspect of ski resort culture thus helped negotiate the tension between dominant constructions of femininity and the physical act of skiing down a mountain.

Analytically, this project draws from a wide range of historiography encompassing categories of landscape, class, race, sport, and gender. The narrative of this story begins in the nineteenth century, when Scandinavian immigrants brought their knowledge of skiing to the Colorado Rockies. Mailmen, miners, farmers, ranchers, and members of mountain communities used skis to travel and recreate during the long winter season. While they understood Colorado's mountain landscape as isolating and often dangerous, wealthy nineteenth-century tourists saw it as scenic. During the 1920s and '30s a new kind of skiing came to Colorado, one associated with European mountain resorts, competition, and cosmopolitan tourism. Alpine skiing and its urban upper-class enthusiasts came to interpret the Rockies as had their nineteenth-century predecessors, as an American version of the Alps. The mountains became their playground, an escape from the increasingly urban world in which they lived.

image

22Helen Lenskyj, Out of Bounds: Women, Sport and Sexuality (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1986); J. A. Mangan and Roberta J. Park, From "Fair Sex" to Feminism: Sport and the Socialization of Women in the Industrial and Post­ Industrial Eras (London: Frank Cass and Company Ltd., 1987); Patricia Vertinsky, The Eternally Wounded Woman: Women, Exercise and Doctors in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester England: Manchester University Press, 1990);

Allen Guttman, Women's Sports: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991); Susan Cahn, Coming On Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Sport (New York: The Free Press, 1994).


1 5


image

Denver businessmen and residents encouraged this perception of the landscape and the tourist economy they hoped would develop around it. Mountain town residents, in the meantime, adopted alpine ·skiing and incorporated it into their circuit of local competitions and carnivals. Colorado ski areas first grew in the 1930s, but remained local in their size and scope until the supporting physical, economic, and human infrastructure took shape and American's post-war economy encouraged the growth of a national consumer and leisure culture.

Veterans of the Army's Tenth Mountain Division, interested in making careers for themselves in the mountains, jump-started the post-war ski industry.

With the contradictory goals of creating a scenic, personal outdoor experience for as many people as possible, post-war ski area designers began to develop increasingly constructed and managed resort landscapes. They recreated skiing's older cosmopolitan resort culture in Colorado mountain town communities and worked to attract ever more skier-tourists to their resorts, changing the towns' economic, physical, demographic, and ideological landscapes in the process. By the end of the 1960s destination resorts had their own distinct culture characterized by whiteness, wealth, fashion, and fame. Skier-tourists invested in and helped perpetuate a white "European" ethnicity that extended well beyond the sport's historical roots and wove signs of ethnicity and race among those of class.

Far from the remote landscapes in which mailmen risked their lives, or settings for a community winter carnival or competition, resort ski areas became landscapes of consumption and leisure. And while environmental groups, local residents, U.S. Government agencies, extreme skiers, and snowboarders have all criticized destination resorts and their ski culture, the ski industry has slowed its growth but not faltered. Instead, Colorado's des)ination resorts have incorporated those critiques and used them to grow in both size and popularity. I have divided this narrative into six chapters, each of which moves the story forward in time and


1 6


image

analyzes the cultural and environmental relationships carried out during that period. Chapters One through Three emphasize narrative slightly more than analysis; chapters Four through Six, while they also move the story forward in time, are more thematic in nature.

The cultural and environmental story behind Colorado's ski industry pulls together a wide range of scholarship including environmental history, landscape geography, and the histories of tourism, consumer culture, and sport. Placed specifically in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, this story is ultimately a western one. The ski industry's use of federal lands, and its place as a successor to earlier mining, ranching, and farming economies in a region where layers of economies have traditionally imposed themselves upon the landscape, places Colorado skiing firmly within a western context. Colorado's destination ski resorts have further developed a distinctly regional identity based upon the sport's history in the state. References to nineteenth-century mining and ranching communities, Europeans who brought alpine skiing to the region, and Tenth Mountain Division veterans who trained there have filled resort landscapes and generated extensive marketing campaigns. Finally, its particular mountain landscapes and its style of destination resorts--including their western and European references--have made Colorado's ski resorts the most famous and the most popular in the nation. Places like Vail,

Steamboat Springs, Aspen, Keystone, and Telluride have become the standards by

which all other destination resorts are measured.23 It should be no surprise, then, that Walt Disney decided to infuse its ultimate "ski" resort in Florida with signs and symbols like Tike's Peak and Teamboat Springs. Blizzard Beach consciously borrowed the most powerful ski resort images available--images from Colorado.


image

23John Findlay makes a similar argument for the western-ness of Disneyland, Stanford Industrial Park, Sun City, and the Seattle World's Fair. John Findlay, Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture After 1940 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).


1 7


image

Culturally laden mountain landscapes, Colorado's destination resorts have become the center of a powerful ski industry and models for resort development--in the mountains or on the beach--across the country. The success of its resorts testifies to the Colorado ski industry's seamless merging of sport, culture, and landscape.


1 8


image

CHAPTER ONE


Skiing, Mobility, and Landscape in Colorado's Rocky Mountains


John Dyer rose from bed early one February morning in 1864, strapped on his Norwegian snowshoes, and headed out into the snow storm towards Oro City, Colorado. He reached timberline, traveling slowly over deep snow, when "all of a sudden I felt a jar, and the snow gave way under me, and a noise struck my ear like a death-knell. I thought it was a snow-slide." About a hundred and fifty feet ahead he found a crack six inches wide where the snow had settled. A week later that crack would produce an avalanche that filled the entire gorge below. "I felt better on the upper side of the break," Dyer wrote mildly, and he reached the top of the Continental Divide at daybreak.1

Dyer was not up in the mountains in the middle of a snowstorm for fun. He was delivering 30 pounds of mail, in the midst of a weekly route that carried him from the mining camps of Buckskin Joe and Mosquito over the Divide to Cache Creek, California Gulch, and back again. His 37 mile mail route paid $18 a week, and he made over three times that exchanging the miners' gold dust for greenbacks­

-money he desperately needed, since his primary vocation as a Methodist minister did not pay well.2 Dyer earned his fame in nineteenth-century Summit County,

Colorado--and among ski historians--through his identity as the "snow-shoe


image

1Reverend John L. Dyer, The Snow-Shoe Itinerant: An Autobiography of the Rev. John L. Dyer, (Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe, 1890),170.

2Dyer, 164.


image

itinerant," the minister who skied through the Colorado Rockies delivering the word of God and, for at least one winter, money and mail to isolated mining camps.3

Separated from Dyer by time, gender, class, and circumstance, Marjorie Perry also skied in the Colorado Rockies. Her family moved to Denver in 1887 when she was five years old and her father soon owned a coal mine near Steamboat Springs. Majorie spent much of her time outdoors, learning to ride in the backcountry, camp, and track game. She graduated from Smith College in 1905 and joined the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) when it was founded in 1912. Though she never married, Perry enjoyed an active social life in Denver which included going to parties with the "Shack Crowd" at a primitive cabin between two railroad

tunnels near Rollinsville. Perry rode the trains between Steamboat Springs and Denver often, and it was at a train stop where she met the Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelson, who would tremendously influence her life and Colorado skiing. By 1915 Perry was spending part of every winter skiing at Steamboat Springs, and

Grand Lake, and attending CMC ski outings in Rocky Mountain National Park.4

Aside from skiing, Dyer and Perry had little in common. Dyer made his home amidst the gold camps that sprung up along isolated creeks in Colorado, far from urban centers and the railroads. To hopeful miners, the Rocky Mountains represented an expanse of potential mineral strikes, huge mountains of ore that could make one or all of them rich. In the winters those same mountains acted as


image

3Dyer was assigned to the Blue River Mission in Summit County, Colorado in the spring of 1862 and then to South Park in 1863, when he accepted the mail contract for a winter. He continued his preaching in Colorado until 1865 and resumed it in 1879, when he was appointed to the Breckenridge circuit. People did not use the terms "ski" or "skiing" until almost 1900; before then skis were known as Norwegian snow-shoes, and skiing was snow-shoeing. Norwegian snow-shoes-­ not to be confused with the webbed native variety of snow-shoes--consisted of homemade skis from 8 to 11 feet long, with simple toe straps for bindings.

4Janet Robertson, The Magnificent Mountain Women: Adventures in the Colorado Rockies (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 37-38; Sureva Towler,

The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs (Denver: Frederic Printing, 1987), 52.


1 9

image

nearly impervious barriers, cutting off mining camps and towns from the outside world. High altitudes and tenuous supply routes made for lonely, cold, and dangerous winters. Those who remained through the snow season did so in order to mine a little longer or to protect their claims. For these men and for the residents of larger camps like Breckenridge, Father Dyer and his Norwegian snow-shoes represented mobility in an isolated and often immobile world. The currency, mail, and religion he brought with him linked them with a civilization as inaccessible as it was desirable.

Marjorie Perry, on the other hand, lived and played in the center of Colorado society. Returning to Denver after attending one of the East's most highly acclaimed women's colleges, she attended parties and CMG events with her upper­ class peers. Where Dyer and his mining clientele found isolation in the winter, Marjorie Perry found freedom and escape. Her father's financial involvement in the Moffat Railroad enabled her to ride the trains at will, and she did--to the extent

that she became friends with the firemen, the engineers, and even their families who lived in towns along the route.5 The railroad made getting to winter carnivals

at Steamboat Springs and mountain parties with the "Shack Crowd" a simple affair, and Perry moved easily between urban Denver and its outlying hinterlands.

Perry's skiing intersected with her social world, and despite her almost "male" proficiency in outdoor activities and her single status, that social world welcomed her in. For her, the Rockies acted more as a playground than a physical barrier, and what Father Dyer did in order to fulfill his calling and earn a living, she did for fun.

The story of skiing in Colorado from 1860 to 1920 encompasses both John Dyer and Marjorie Perry, two people for whom skiing and the Rocky Mountains

meant very different things. They occupied different places within the 5Robertson, 36.

20

image


overarching economic structure that tied Colorado"s isolated mining camps to its urban center. Dyer's position "out there" in the hinterlands located him, strangely, at the very source of Colorado's new potential wealth. The mines drew a whole population--miners, prospectors, mining camp entrepreneurs, and others hoping to get in on the ground floor of this economic enterprise. In order to strike it rich, these people had to separate themselves physically from the center of economic and cultural power in the territory and settle in isolated mining towns, far from the railroad and beyond easy access to Denver. Marjorie Perry's location

in Denver, on the other hand, put her where money, power, culture, and railroads converged.6 Her father owned mines rather than worked in them, and he helped

finance the railroads that people in the hinterlands so desperately needed. The ability to move between the urban center and the mining hinterlands corresponded to economic class starting point as well; the Perrys moved between Denver and Steamboat Springs with ease. The Rocky Mountains, then, could function in multiple ways. For those without economic resources and access to transportation routes they became almost insurmountable frozen barricades. For those with such resources and access, they served as a winter playground.

Within these separate contexts, moreover, the act of skiing itself took on different cultural meanings with different implications for constructions of gender and class. Mountain town residents--largely working-class and often

immigrants--skied out of necessity, to live, work, and communicate in a sometimes immobilizing landscape. Recreational skiing for them was a community activity they could share with each other and occasionally with neighboring camps

image

6See Grady Clay, Real Places: An Unconventional Guide to America's Generic Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994) and William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1991) for analyses of the relationship between urban centers, or the Center, and their hinterlands, or Out There. Both Clay and Cronon see "out there" as economically linked to the "center," as well as serving as a recreational hinterland and refuge for city dwellers.


2 1


image

and towns. Rather than denoting upper-class status, skiing integrated these men and women into a particular mountain landscape. The act of skiing enabled residents to work and brought them together as a community. The most famous and fastest skiers embodied a masculine ideal focused on strength, toughness, endurance, and a certain degree of foolhardiness. Nonetheless, women skied. The meanings tied to their skiing clustered around community identity rather than reshaping gender roles, and their exploits raised few eyebrows.

For upper-class urban skiers the sport signified leisure rather than work or community recreation. In contrast to their city homes, the Rocky Mountains acted as a scenic "other" which they could visit and where they could demonstrate their cosmopolitan familiarity with a distinctly Scandinavian sport. A social activity as well as a personal interaction with mountain landscapes, skiing offered upper-class city people an excuse to get together and travel. Yet its social ties were based more on class than the were on place. Skiing reinforced a more polished, cosmopolitan, intellectual masculinity than that of mountain residents, and it supported an upper-class definition of feminity that embraced outdoor athletics and physical mobility when they occurred within explicitly social contexts. Mountain town residents like Dyer and urban socialites like Perry represent two separate skiing traditions in Colorado, each based on a particular understanding of the mountain landscape and of the sport itself. Scandinavian culture and immigrants, however, influenced participants in both traditions and helped bring them together in celebration of the sport.


Snowshoe Itinerants


Skiing became a part of Rocky Mountain culture as soon as miners, ranchers, and settlers entered the region in the mid-nineteenth century. They moved to the Rockies from the East, the Midwest, and from a mixture of European


22


image

countries. As an integral part of Scandinavian culture and history, skiing became part of the cultural baggage these immigrants brought with them across the Atlantic in their search for work and prosperity. Archaeological data and artifacts from 4000 years ago show that inhabitants of Norway and Sweden used skis as a means of transportation for travel and hunting, and evidence also supports prehistoric use of skis in Siberia and Slovenia.?· Norse history and mythology incorporated skiing, or snow-shoeing as it was known, and by the eighteenth century the Norwegian government had, too--through establishing its own ski

troops.8

During the nineteenth century Norway experienced a prolonged economic downturn and many Norwegians emigrated elsewhere to seek their fortunes. They brought with them a long history of skiing. Two Norwegians showed up on skis at Rock Prairie near Chicago in 1841, and John Tostensen Rui--later known as


image

7Charles M. Dudley, 60 Centuries of Skiing (Brattleboro VT: Stephen Daye Press, 1935), 22; Dolle Rajtmajer, "The Slovenian Origins of European Skiing," The International Journal of the History of Sport, 11 (April 1994); 97-101; see also Stein Erikson, Come Ski With Me (New York: W.W. Norton and Co. Inc., 1966); Leif Hovelsen, The Flying Norseman (Ishpeming Ml: National Ski Hall of Fame Press, 1983).

8Until the twentieth century Americans referred to skis as snowshoes, the name typically employed by Scandinavians themselves. These long (8 to 1O feet), home­ made wooden skis had a single leather strap to hold a boot on and were used with one long pole for steering and braking. So as to distinguish them from the webbed snowshoes that Native Americans used in the Northeast, Americans commonly referred to skis as Norwegian snowshoes. Only at the turn of the century did they become known as skis. See E. John B. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing: One Hundred Years of an American Sport, 1840-1940 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 7-1O for an analysis of how the language of skiing has developed.

Scandinavians used ski troops in the war between Sweden and Norway in 1716. Howelson, 2; Erikson, 18; The Norse god UII was the protector of skiing and hunting, and Skade was the ski goddess. Viking kings as early as the year 1000 were said to be good skiers, and the Saga of King Sverre tells the story of two skiers carrying the two year old son of King Haakon Sverreson across the mountains, a distance of 37 miles, while a civil war raged in Norway in the year 1206, Howelson, 1; Norway: the Country with a Thousand Years of Ski History (Chicago: Norwegian America Line Agency, Inc., n.d.) Grand County Historical Society (GCHS), Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado.


23


image

"Snowshoe Thompson"--came with his family to Illinois in 1837.9 More Norwegians emigrated during the 1850s and moved to Australia and Germany as well as the United States.1o Some settled in Minnesota's Red River Valley and took advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act; others tried their hand at mining. Future skiing legend John Tostensen Rui, now going by the name of John Thompson, joined the rush of miners and settlers headed to California and set out from Wisconsin in 1851. In October of 1862 the Sacramento Union reported that Norwegians had discovered gold at Silver Mountain in 1861, and that "the various districts of the mountain are now to a great extent occupied by that class of citizens." The next summer the paper reiterated that there were "a great many Norwegians in this portion of the State."11

Norwegians traveled to the isolated mining camps and made homes there with the other miners, subjecting themselves to the harsh and snowy winters. But "wherever white winters set in," one countryman wrote, "Norwegian immigrants soon had skis and, as in their native country, they made their ski tracks in the woods, the hills, the mountains, on the prairies--wherever fate had brought

them."1 2 Skiing offered a degree of winter mobility within mining regions that

eased the constraints of living in the hinterlands and made Norwegian snowshoeing attractive to all local residents, no matter what their cultural background.

Immigrants shared their knowledge of how to make snowshoes with their friends, colleagues, and neighbors. As early as January of 1853 one California newspaper

noted that "the miners do all their locomotion on snowshoes."13


image

9Ole and Ansten Nattestad were the two who skied on Rock Prairie. Erikson, 20; Hovelson, 8; Kenneth Bjork, "'Snowshoe' Thompson: Fact and Legend," Norwegian­ American Studies and Record 19 (1956);70, 78; Erikson, 20, 21.

1 0 Erikson, 18.

11Sacramento Union, 13 October 1862; Sacramento Union, 28 August 1863, as quoted in Bjork, 69.

  1. Hovelsen, 7.

  2. Marysvi //e Herald in Sacramento Daily Union, 29 January 1853, as quoted in Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 14. The first documented use of snowshoes in


24


image

While Colorado did not interest prospectors earlier, the discovery of gold at Pikes Peak in 1859 brought a flood of miners and settlers to the region, where

they worked their way into the Rockies in search of valuable ore. These men and women appreciated Scandinavian skiing practices and adopted them when they had to get places in the winter. In mid-December of 1865, for example, Major D.C. Oakes, a government agent for the Ute Indians, set out with his interpreter and two assistants from Denver to Middle Park, about 100 miles away. When they reached Berthoud Pass four days later, two and a half feet of snow lay at the base and many times more at the summit. Aimed and urged up_ the trail, their pack animals lay down, played dead, and a few actually plunged down the mountainside. Oakes and his party managed to climb the pass on foot, finally descending into Middle Park at nightfall. When they related their travails to a homesteader there named Utter, he took them in and showed them how to make Norwegian snowshoes. Equipped with eight to twelve foot long skis and a single pole for balance, turning, and braking, Oakes and his crew spent the next two weeks learning how to use their new-found freedom. In January they and Utter skied back to Denver, traveling much faster this time than on the way over.14

Reverend John Dyer had heard of these fundamentals before he had to employ them. He may have learned about them when he was living in Illinois, Wisconsin, or Minnesota, or he may have picked_ them up from miners in Colorado


image

Colorado occurred in 1857 during the Mormon War. Lost in a storm, Jim Baker, who was leading the Marcy expedition, crafted a pair of skis and used them to find Cochopeta Pass, east of what is now Gunnison. Abbott Fay, Ski Tracks in the Rockies: A Century of Colorado Skiing (Evergreen CO: Cordillera Press Inc., 1984), 3. Colonel Marcy noted Baker's use of skis in his journal. Scandinavian cultural influence in the mountainous West thus opened up the possibility of greater winter mobility to all.

14"Trip Across the Snowy Range to Middle Park," Rocky Mountain News, 26-27

January 1866, 2, as cited in Jack A. Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," Western Historical Quarterly, 8 (October 1977), 432-34, and in Jim Wier, "The Beginning of Skiing in Grand County," Grand County Historical Journal, 4 (March 1988), 10.


25


image

when he walked from Denver to California Gulch, Twin Lakes, Gunnison, Fairplay, Buckskin Joe, and back to Denver in 1861. When his church assigned him to the Blue River Mission in Summit County, Colorado in 1862 and he found himself with a preaching schedule that would take him on regular two-week tours of

surrounding mining camps, he said matter-of-factly, "I made me a pair of snow­ shoes."15 Dyer's circuit encompassed mining towns whose residents stayed during the winter, either because their camp was well-established enough to make it feasible, or because they wanted to protect their claims. Of those who originally

settled the town of Aspen, tor example, only a few prospectors braved the first winter. Two wintering Swedes introduced skis to the tiny community and so enabled

its members to move about even in Aspen's deep snow.16 These early Colorado

skiers depended on their Norwegian snowshoes because they had chosen to travel to isolated places where moving around during the winter could be extremely

difficult. In their desire to remain mobile despite their location, these people took to skis.

Mail carriers moved most freely through the frozen hinterlands; they were


often the only link between high altitude mining camps and the outside world. Dyer's Methodism, his mail, and the gold dust he exchanged tor greenbacks held together the cultural, social, and economic ties--albeit tenuous ones-- between those "out there" and those in the "center." Many mining town residents considered churches and schools to be signs of civic maturity, and actively sought them out in an effort to promote their town and mines. As a minister, and one who could exchange gold tor currency, Dyer established a communications link of an especially civilizing kind. A man who could spend greenbacks rather than the more

image

15Dyer, 144.

16w arner Root, in Frank L. Wentworth, Aspen on the Roaring Fork (Denver, 1950), 21; Warner Root, "Aspen," Aspen Times first issue, n.d., reprinted in Aspen Times, 4 January 1979; also cited in Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," 432, and Allen, 34, 184.


26


image

common currency of gold dust not only increased his financial flexibility, but also called attention to his ability to acquire cosmopolitan currency. Letters and newspapers connected town residents to political, commercial, and social events in the "center" and to family all over the country. Alice Denison, a well-educated woman who had moved to Steamboat Springs to look after her ailing nephew in 1885, relied upon snowshoeing mail carriers to maintain these crucial links with those "outside." In December she wrote her sister "We feel as tho' the bottom had fallen out of our very existence at the rumor that we are to have no mail after the

9th of January ... we are in an awful pickle about the matter--the mail seemed our only 'holt' on anything earthly."17 Cramped in small cabins, surrounded by

miles of snow and mountains, many nineteenth-century Coloradans depended on skiing mail carriers for their very sanity.

Mountain residents acknowledged the power of these men's mobility by granting them legendary status, status that revealed a kind of masculine ideal that emphasized toughness, endurance, strength, and bravery and was rooted in the mountains. The most famous mail carrier, "Snowshoe" Thompson (originally John Tostensen Rui), lived and worked in the California Sierras. Starting in 1865, he carried mail ninety miles over the Sierra Mountains, from Carson Valley to Placerville, effectually linking the Great Basin with the Pacific Coast. One contemporary called Thompson "a man who laughs at storms and avalanches and

safely walks where others fall and perish."18 Likewise, Colorado's own "snow­

shoe itinerant," the Rev. John Dyer, has no fewer than three peaks named after him. Dyer himself was quick to relate the adventures he experienced and the danger he overcame in his travels, portraying himself at times as a nineteenth-

image

17"Pioneering Near Steamboat Springs, 1885-1886, As Shown in Letters of Alice Denison," Colorado Magazine, 28 (April 1951), 89.

1BA llen, 16; E. John B. Allen, "Skiing Mailmen of Mountain America: U.S. Winter Postal Service in the Nineteenth Century," Journal of the West, 29 (April 1990), 76-77; Bjork, 62-88; Hovelsen, 8-9.


27


image

century Methodist Superman. His accounts may have been inflated, but his contemporaries were quick to agree with him. To the information-starved residents of isolated mountain towns, mail carriers earned super-human status. Between 1875 and 1878 Bill Kimball carried the first winter mail over Berthoud Pass. One friend recalled the tall, rawboned man from Maine: "Kimball was a wonder, the best snowshoe man ever known in Middle Park. His pack was never

less than 70 pounds of mail ... He often packed straight through from Empire to

Hot Sulphur, going night and day, with no sleep, stopping only for meals."19 One fluent newspaperman in 1898 related that

The faithfulness to duty, the hardihood and dash of daring these men show, when in the midst of a terrific mountain storm they strap the mail bag on their shoulders and start out, vanishing in a whirling, blinding snow; or come staggering in at night after a day's battle with the storm, beard and hair a mass of frozen snow and ice, compels admiration, and the mail

carrier is usually one of the most popular men in the camps.20 These romantic images celebrated the strength and mobility mail carriers

represented, and acknowledged the fact that the job of carrying the mail--and linking the center with out there--came at a cost.

Dyer and the more than 50 mailmen on skis in Colorado before 1900 all faced very real dangers of frostbite, snow blindness, exhaustion, snow storms, and avalanches.21 One Colorado resident knew six or eight mailmen who had lost some

part of an extremity, usually toes, as a result of being caught in snow storms.22 Ed

Coburn lost nine of his to frostbite during his first mail run from Hayden to


image

19 Frank S. Beyers, "The History of Berthoud Pass," clipping (January-February 1923), 13. Berthoud Pass file, Colorado Historical Society (CHS), Denver, Colorado.

2oz. Fuller, "Rocky Mountain Snow-Shoeing," The Midland Monthly 9, 3 (March

1898), as cited in Allen, "Skiing Mailmen," 76.

21Allen, "Skiing Mailmen," 78. Allen also discusses Dyer in some depth in this

article. There were a few other skiing ministers, as well. Presbyterian George M. Darley skied to various mining camps, and Father James Gibbons held mass in several different camps in the Telluride and Ouray districts. Fay, 3.

22"Mail Carriers in the Rocky Mountains," Colorado Sun, 31 January 1892, 20, as cited in Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," 436, and Allen, "Skiing Mailmen," 81 .


28

Morrison Creek in 1880.23 Missing toes approached the status of a mild initiation, however, compared to what could happen on mail routes. One carrier, lost and cold, became delirious and was found wandering between Rock Creek and

Steamboat Springs. Three men rescued another mailman in that area who had fallen head first into deep, loose snow and gotten pinned there by his own mail bag.24

Apparently John Dyer received his offer to sub-contract the winter mail delivery

after his predecessor, John Armstrong, had died on Mosquito Pass.25 Others shared Armstrong's fate. Swan Nilson tried to carry the holiday mail through a storm on Christmas Eve in 1883. The Swede left Silverton but never made it the 18 miles to Ophir. His brother finally found the body in August of 1885, mail bag intact,

which dispelled rumors that Nilson had absconded with his bag of Christmas loot.26

Yet another mail carrier froze to death between Georgetown and Hot Sulphur Springs in 1899. Fort Collins measured the temperature that winter at 41 degrees below zero; locals found the man's body frozen at the foot of the range.27

By delivering the mail and surviving thes_e dangers, mail carriers seemed to dominate an intimidating landscape. They represented freedom of movement and communication with civilization in a world circumscribed by 14,000 foot peaks, avalanche chutes, and icy blizzards. The masculine ideal which they embodied, therefore, was rooted in place to the mountains in which they traveled.

Occasionally those borders drew even more closely around mountain communities when particularly bad weather caused their supplies to dwindle. During moments of need, community members sought to accomplish what mailmen accepted as a


image

23Towler, 49.

24Jean Wren, Steamboat Springs and the "Treacherous and Speedy Skee (Steamboat Springs CO: Steamboat Pilot, 1972), 4.

25Fay, 3.

26Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," 435; Fay, 3; Allen, "Skiing Mailmen," 80. 27"Frozen to Death," Denver Times, 7 February· 1899, 2, as cited in Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," 436, and Allen, "Skiing Mailmen," 81. Allen relates similar examples of mail carriers' deaths in Idaho.


29

image

routine task. In these instances town residents took to skis en masse, attempting to overcome the vagaries of a winter landscape that rendered their very presence quite tenuous. Two of the first prospectors at Hahn's Peak, near Steamboat Springs, tried to live there through the winter of 1865-66, but had to abandon camp when provisions ran low and twelve feet of snow encouraged the wild game to seek warmer climes. They skied out with what coffee was left and got caught in a

big storm that killed one of them and blinded the other.28 When snow cut the town

of Irwin (a mining camp near Kebler Pass above· Crested Butte) off from Crested


Butte, miners skied over Ohio Pass to get supplies from a ranch north of Gunnison.29 The winter of 1898-99, the worst in Colorado history, prompted a series of mass exoduses. Carl Fulton was running a small stamp mill in Swandyke,

16 miles from Breckenridge, and had laid in enough supplies to last him till June, "as we could not get a team up in winter." They got along fine until it started to snow on November 27. By 9:00 the next morning the snow was five feet deep. By the middle of December the danger of avalanches made it too unsafe to stay. So,

Fulton said, "we rolled up our bedding and put it on our back and snow-shoed to Breckenridge." 30 When he finally returned to his stamp mill in June--still on

skis--he found an avalanche had carried it away and deposited it on the far side of a deep gulch. Fulton's mill, torn to pieces and spread across the mountainside, testified to the environment's physical power over mining's presence in the Rockies. That winter even the residents of Breckenridge, who usually enjoyed access to Denver by train, found themselves cut off by the storm. In such instances, however, necessity sent resilient residents to their skis. Breckenridge citizens spent two weeks clearing a trail to Como, 21 miles away, by which they


image

28Towler, 49.

29Fay, 4. That was the winter of 1879-80.

30c arl Fulton, "The Winter of the Deep Snow," Colorado Magazine, 39 (January­ October 1962), 38.


30


image

resupplied their empty stores. After helping clear the trail, Fulton went to Frisco


and worked in a mine there until they ran out of powder. He then skied to Como and hauled some back across the Continental Divide on a sled.31 Despite difficult

conditions, mining town residents maintained homes and businesses--and often relied on skis to do so.

Gladys Karstedt recalled that same winter of 1898-99, when her father was isolated in the mining camp of Kokomo and they had no mail from him for over three weeks. "He said they had a really pleasant time playing High Five, and reading, and just talking about the topic of the day. There was something rather snug and comfortable in the walls of snow around them. But the day came when the kitchen cupboards were bare ... It must have been quite a decision when they buckled on their snowshoes and knew they had eighteen miles to walk with no other way out." His daughter remembered the "dark evening when we opened the door and my father was standing there in his black overcoat." He had skied to Leadville and

caught the train to Denver.32 Some mining camp residents found comfort in

numbers during that cold winter. In response to the storm's persistence and their own dwindling supplies, the people of Hunters Pass--a mining camp about 20 miles southeast of Aspen and now the ghost town of Independence --decided to dismantle their homes, build 75 pairs of skis with the boards, and slip, slide, and otherwise make their way together down to the safety of Aspen. 33

When blizzards did not threaten, early Coloradans used their snowshoes for less desperate errands. In a demonstration of their manhood and foolhardiness, two skiers once crossed Independence Pass to Leadville in order to get some oysters for a Christmas party the Aspen men had decided to throw for the women in camp.34


image

31Fulton, 39.

32"The Big Snow," Colorado Magazine, 40 {April 1963), 113.

33Eider, "From Hunters Pass," Aspen Daily Times, 4 February 1899, 5, as cited in Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun," 437.

34Fay, 5.


31


image

Most who braved the weather and the mountains for errands, however, selected

those errands with greater care.35 On another Christmas, a blizzard kept W.B. Devereaux's stage from getting over Independence Pass on Christmas, so he made a pair of skis from barrel staves and skied home to Aspen. He arrived home, only to spend the holidays in bed from "temporary physical collapse."36 Midwives and

doctors--luckily for Devereaux--turned to skis when called out in winter as well. Susan Anderson, known to many as "Doc Susie," attended to her patients in and near Fraser no matter what the weather. "I've skied into ditches," she said, "[I] never

was much of a skier. And I've lost my way, now and then, in a blizzard, but nothing

to get worried about."37 The midwife in early Steamboat preferred to travel on a toboggan pulled by men on skis rather than under her own propulsion, but was

known to go as far as 20 miles to a patient.38

While skiing across mountain passes to deliver the mail implied one masculine ideal, skiing to accomplish these kinds of errands implied others. Such mountain residents--who hardly resembled the mail carriers' tough masculine ideal--relied upon skis in moments when they required mobility. A clearly masculine characteristic when applied to mail carriers, winter mobility took on more complicated gender meanings when women and less hardy men like Devereaux practiced it. As self-proclaimed novices (in the case of Susan Anderson and the Steamboat midwife) or merely temporary dare-devils (in the case of the Aspen party-givers and W.B. Devereux}, these skiers distanced themselves from mail carriers and defined their skiing differently, too.


image

35Steamboat Springs' first permanent settler skied there from Hot Sulphur in 1875 to ensure no one had jumped the claim he had staked the year before. Towler, 49.

36Fay, 4.

37Robertson, 75. Anderson arrived in Fraser in 1907, two years alter the town grew up along the railroad tracks on the West side of Rollins Pass.

3Bwren, 4.


32


image

The danger and fear associated with the long-range trips of the mail carriers, blizzard refugees, and midwives lessened when skiers stayed within town boundaries and exercised a more modest range of mobility. Traveling 20 miles to reach supplies remained a frightful last resort for most, but trekking from home to the mines and back on snowshoes was a regular commute. In this sense, most

every mining town resident knew the surrounding landscape through work.39 As

one newspaper editor near Irwin and Crested Butte noted, "every man, woman and child had to learn to ski, or snowshoe, as we called it--we had to learn if we wanted to go anywhere."40 Winter mining, hunting, errands, and social visits required skill on snowshoes, and many newcomers spent their time learning as soon as

winter set in. Alice Denison moved to Steamboat Springs in 1885 and wrote her sister "Today the snow is falling fast and I guess is the beginning of winter--that is, when cattle must be driven in from the range ... and the snow shoeing

begins." 41 In this context as a common, local, community activity, skiing could be

viewed in a completely different light--not as survival, not as work, but as pleasure and recreation.

Skiing offered, in fact, one of the only forms of winter recreation available in these isolated towns. While they knew the landscape through skiing in terms of work, it took on different meanings when they skied for pleasure. The same landscape that kept them apart from the rest of the world and endangered all who attempted to traverse it, provided community members with their own form of recreation. Alice Denison learned how to ski "well enough on a level," and was quite proud one February morning when she made it all the way down a hill without falling. Her tubercular nephew Willy began skiing enthusiastically and Denison

image

39See Richard White, "'Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?': Work and Nature," in William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), 171-185. 40Wier, 9.

41"Pioneering Near Steamboat Springs 1885-1886," 89.


33 ·


image

wrote that since he took it up "He looks real well, and seems happier, too."42 The County Clerk in Grand Lake the winter of 1883-84, a Scandinavian named M.C. Jahren, taught people in that area to ski for fun, and one young woman teacher from Grand Lake during 1917 remembered learning to ski from the local ranch boys.43

Like male miners and ranchers, women mountain town residents such as Denison and the Grand Lake school teacher skied for fun--and out of necessity. They could do so without endangering their womanhood because skiing took on very different meanings as a community activity than it had when employed by tough, daring mail carriers. Skiing elicited images of masculinity when placed within the context of work and characterized by long distances, difficult weather, and

dangerous terrain. If one thought of skiing in this way, women seemed inconcruous. But nineteenth-century Coloradans thought about skiing in other ways, as well--as a social activity, a communal event, and everyday transportation through town. In these settings skiing took on very different gendered meanings.

Within the masculine, mail carrying context of the sport, nineteenth­ century women on skis seemed to be completely at odds with prescribed behavior. Victorian constructions of womanhood consigned middle- and upper-class women to the home, where they were to care for the moral, educational, and emotional well­ being of their husbands and children. Contemporary medical understandings of women argued that excessive physical, intellectual, or emotional activity would deplete their non-renewable "vital force," there?y threatening women's ability to reproduce as well as their general health. Given that Norwegian snow shoes could reach twelve feet in length and the wearer took them up hills as well as down, in


image

42"Pioneering Near Steamboat Springs 1885-1886," 90, 91.

43Betty Jo Woods, "Skiing at Grand Lake," Grand County Historical Association Journal, 4, 1 (March 1988), 21.


34


image

often frigid weather, Victorian logic predicted that women skiers would become instantly infertile and irrevocably afflicted with nervous disorders. 44

The women in California mining camps and Colorado mountain towns such as Breckenridge, Gunnison, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, and Aspen, however, seemed unconcerned with this logic. Women in these mountain communities did

errands, visited each other, and toured the area on their snowshoes fairly regularly. 45 Their skiing, in its local, social context, afforded them little concern

that the sport would compromise their femininity. As historian John Allen observed "In the [California] gold and silver camps social convention certainly continued to play its perceived role of civilizing society, yet it is clear when "the beautiful" fell six feet deep that strenuous activity by women on skis was not condemned out-of-hand as un-sexing, non-womanly or simply not permitted.

Indeed, skiing was a talent admired in both men and women."46 This was indeed the

case in Colorado towns, as well. Doc Susie, a self-defined novice, limited her skiing to medical emergencies, but Alice Denison enjoyed trekking around Steamboat Springs and skiing down hills as a diversion. Both earned respect for

their snowy travels. Photos from nineteenth-century mining towns throughout the


state, moreover, show women standing on their snowshoes with pleasure and poise.47 Rather than being a reason to ostracize ·women, then, skiing became a way

that residents created a heterosocial winter culture.


Since women could demonstrate as much skill on their skis as men and thus accompany men out-of-doors, the sport acquired a social aspect that would continue


image

44Lensky j, 23; Patricia Vertinsky, "Feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Pursuit of Health and Physical Fitness as a Strategy for Emancipation," Journal of Sport History, 16 (Spring 1989), 13.

45Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail," 57; photographs in Fay, 2, 5, 6; Wren, 6.

46E. John B. Allen, "Sierra 'Ladies' on Skis in Gold Rush California," Journal of Sport History, 17 (Winter 1990), 347; Wier, "The Beginning of Skiing in Grand County," 12.

47Fay, 2, 5, 6; Wren, 6.


35


image

through the twentieth century. In Grand Lake, Colorado, an 1883 newspaper article noted that "Coasting on snowshoes has taken the place of dancing parties. Quite a number of our ladies are becoming adept at the art." A rivalry sprang up between local women the next year, when the paper reported "the fact that the ladies of Teller are such expert snowshoers has excited the envy of some of the

Grand Lake belles."48 Norwegian snowshoe parties became popular social events in

Aspen, Grand Lake, Tin Cup, White Pine, and Crystal during the early 1880s. 49 Skiing could reinforce constructions of womanhood only within a specific context: that of a common, local, community activity, usually related not to work but to pleasure and socializing. It was within this same context that male miners

took to racing each other, testing their speed and daring in a far different way than mail carryiers had. Ski races pitted contestants' skills against other men as well as the mountain, turning skiing into a performance for other male competitors and for women spectators as well. Ski racers thus attached yet another kind of gendered meaning to the sport of skiing. They raced each other on their huge skis, with only a leather toe strap to hold their feet in, flying straight down mountainsides at

speeds up to 70 miles an hour. This type of ski racing began in the California Sierras during the 1860s and appeared in Colorado in the 1880s.50 The first

"Rocky Mountain Norwegian Snowshoe Championships" took place at Irwin in Gunnison County in February, 1881. Twenty skiers vied for the $25 prize money on a course laid out on the town's Main Street. Others held contests over the next

few years in Tomich!, Gothic, and Crested Butte.51 Gunnison County also held


image

48Jim Wier, "The Beginning of Skiing in Grand County," Grand County Historical Association, 4 (March 1988). 12.

49Jack A. Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail: The Story of Recreational Skiing in Frontier Colorado," Journal of the West, 22 (January 1983), 52, 57; Wier, "The

Beginning of Skiing in Grand County," 12.

5° For more on early California ski racing, see Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 21- 28.

51 Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail," 52.


36


image

Colorado's first organized ski meet, in February 1886 at Crested Butte. Sixteen of the area's best skiers competed for $37 in prize money, racing in heats of four abreast down the mountain.

This meet prompted the immediate establishment of the Gunnison County Snowshoe Club, and the club immediately proceeded to schedule a series of races for that winter. Gunnison, Irwin, and Gothic hosted races that season, all of which

offered prize money and attracted a number of competitors and spectators.52 The

Club worked especially hard to attract visitors to watch and compete in the first meet at Gunnison; they placed advertisements in local newspapers, convinced government officials to close schools and courts, and arranged for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to run special trains to Gunnison from different mining camps

in the region. Their efforts were rewarded when an estimated two thousand people showed up to watch the races.53 Newspapers--some carried by skiing mailmen-­

and the D&RG Railroad forged temporary connections between mining camps in order to get people to the race. Some contestants out of reach of the railroad still depended on their snowshoes to get to Gunnison, however, and so demonstrated some of the skiing prowess and masculine strength typically connected with mail carriers. Those who did ski most of the way to Gunnison to compete were among the best who entered.54

Along with testing men's speed and skill on snowshoes, these races served as festive, community gatherings. Skiers from rival mining camps acted out that rivalry on the hill, and when they were not satisfied with the day's results, challenged each other to special races after the meet. The presence of prize money and outside betting attracted competitors and spectators, and raised the stakes; each


image

52E.R. Warren, "Snow-Shoeing in the Rocky Mountains," Outing, 9 (January 1887), 350-53; Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail," 53-55.

53Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail," 54. 54 w arren, 351.


37


image

camp had its own local favorite whom it hoped to cheer to victory. The Gunnison meet and those that followed throughout the state gave local people something to do during long winters and helped mining camps develop community identities.

Although the Gunnison Club never met again after that first season (ski clubs being more ephemeral and transitory than mining camps themselves), other mining communities formed snowshoe clubs of their own. Ouray, for instance, formed the

Mount Sneffles Snowshoe Club and offered snacks and alcoholic beverages at their ski meetings.55 The festive air connected with ski clubs and their races encouraged

some residents of Hunters Pass to ease tensions by defining their mass exodus to Aspen during the blizzard of 1898-99 as "The Annual Race of the Hunters Pass Tenderfoot Snow-Shoe Club."56

As a local means of transportation and recreation, a method of acting out local rivalries and fostering community identity, and as a kind of social leisure, skiing strengthened nineteenth-century mountain town communities. Recreation, however, remained secondary to the primary task of labor and work. Nineteenth­ century skiing in Colorado took hold because miners and ranchers were seeking new wealth in far-away places; they skied "out there" because they lived and worked "out there," and they only lived "out there" because there was no way to work there and live somewhere else. Commuting was not an option. Accordingly, they understood the Rocky Mountains as a source of wealth and as a barrier they had put between themselves and the civilization of Denver's urban center in order to make money. Skiing mitigated the strength of the barrier by enabling men to bring mail, money, and even religion across the mountains, but those mountains remained


image

55Fay, 6. The Silverton area boasted of some excellent skiers, including Jim Voorheis, who a Denver paper described as skiing "like a war-horse thirsting for gore," as well as George W. Bagley, and Bunker Neeley. See Benson, "Before Aspen and Vail," 57.

56Elder, "From Hunters Pass," 5, as cited in Benson, "Before Skiing Was Fun,"

437.


38

image


Muriel Sibell Wolle, The Bonanza Trail: Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of the West (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1953), 394.


Figure 1. Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, 1953


39

dangerous, isolating, problematic. As such, people understood the the Rocky Mountain landscape as uncivilized and therefore, in relation to women, masculine. Not by accident did most women limit their skiing to town.

Mining camp skiing and the cultural meanings it acquired relied upon distance and difficulty. Improved railroad connections between urban centers and mountain towns eventually removed the need for hardy mail carriers to risk their

limbs and lives crossing mountain passes on skis.57 Skiing mailmen eventually

went the way of the Pony Express: out of business and into the world of masculine myth. With them went a particular ski culture, one based upon both isolation and community-building. That culture, however, would leave its traces on those who came to the mountains in the future. By 1886 Como (just over Boreas Pass from Breckenridge), Crested Butte, Silverton, and Aspen enjoyed railroad access to the outside world. In 1891 the Rio Grande Southern linked Ridgeway, Telluride, Ophir, and Rico to Durango with a system that crossed four mountain passes and connected Durango to every major San Juan mining district except Creede and Lake City. Railroads reached from Denver to Steamboat Springs in 1909, boosting Steamboat's tourist business almost immediately. As mountain towns gained access to the rails, the movement of people, money, mail, and ore swelled. Towns boomed and railroad tracks altered the map of winter transportation routes, cutting out mail carriers' routes and reinforcing the isolation of those towns and camps which were not fortunate enough to have their own railroad. The culture of snowshoeing mailmen and mountain town skiing persisted in areas where the railroads did not



image

57Toll roads, like the one Otto Mears built between Silverton and Ouray in the 1880s, made it easier for stages to carry the mail than ever before, but when snow got too deep to clear away the stage companies usually sub-contracted their mail route out to men on snowshoes. Stages carried the mail over Berthoud Pass after the road was finished in 1875; snowshoer Bill Kimball carried it during the winter. Byers, 11, 13.


40

image


reach, continuing to provide mobility for those needing to travel to and among those towns.58

While the decisions of railroad magnates sparked booms in some towns, others disappeared from view as their continued isolation or lack of valuable ore encouraged people and investors to move on and move out. Many gold camps, including Father Dyer's stomping ground of Buckskin Joe and Mosquito, had boomed and busted by the mid-1860s. The gold discovered in Irwin, Gothic, and Crested Butte played out in the early 1880s; only coal deposits and the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company saved Crested Butte from the fate of its neighbors. Kokomo's economy declined after 1881, only 20 years after its birth, and the attraction of Ophir's gold finally disappeared when the railroad came to neighboring Rico in 1891 and that town boomed. The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act applied further pressure to local economies, dropping the bottom out of silver prices in 1893 and prompting a mass exodus fro.m Aspen, Telluride, and Leadville. Only towns that mined gold as well as silver--Leadville, Ouray, Silverton, Gunnison, and Telluride among them--avoided severe or long-term economic depression. The boom and bust economic cycles that helped create and destroy these mining communities had the same effects on their ski clubs. The Gunnison County Snowshoe Club, which had organized contests at Crested Butte, Gunnison, Gothic, and Irwin in 1886, disappeared after one season. Mining camp rivalries dissolved with the population, and so did the ski racing that articulated those rivalries.

Yet, even if it faded, nineteenth-century skiing in Colorado mountain towns would shape the development of the sport and the tourist industry in the twentieth



image

58Note that despite the Gunnison County Snowshoe Club's success in getting spectators to their 1886 meet by running special trains from various mining camps to Gunnison, a number of contestants still had to ski much of the way there. Warren, 351.


41


image

century.59 Some mining towns refused to expire; others--despite their sleepy atmosphere--retained small populations for years. Those who continued to live in these hinterlands depended on their snowshoes for transportation and fun as they had before, and passed down their knowledge of the sport and its equipment to their children. It was these local skiers who would greet the urban, upper-class, lovers of the outdoors who traveled to the hinterland in hopes of exercise, scenery, and sport in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Together, these skiers and a new cohort of Norwegian immigrants forged a system of ski carnivals and a tradition of recreational skiing that shaped the sport in Colorado for years to come.


Urbanites on Tour


An urban movement towards outdoor recreation during the 1890s offers yeat another way to tell the story of skiing in Colorado. With its roots in an earlier tradition of wealthy tourism, this movement encouraged an understanding of the Rocky Mountain landscape that contrasted with the one shared by mountain town residents. At the same time that working-class miners were living in the mountains taking bets on whose local snowshoer could ski fastest, wealthy

urbanites began roaming the nation in plush railroad cars looking for a bit of scenery. By the 1860s, middle- and upper-class Americans had turned to the leisure tourism established earlier in Europe. They spent their leisure time seeing the sights and hoping that the grandeur of national monuments would put

America on a cultural par with the older nations in Europe.60 Natural sights,


image

59One ski historian argues, in contrast, that California mining camp skiing developed and fell separately from the trend that'would develop the sport nationwide. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 13. Allen also described mining camp skiing as thoroughly secular, in contrast to the moral values that upper-class outdoorspeople would bring to it in the 1890s and early twentieth century. While this contrast is apparent in Colorado as well, it begins to break down in the mid­ twentieth century.

60 Anne Farrar Hyde, An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture, 1820-1920 (New York: New York University Press, 1990), Chap. 1;


42


image

celebrated by romantic artists and writers, lent an aura of timelessness and majesty to a nation whose history enjoyed neither. American examples of breathtaking scenery and landscapes that would impress even those familiar with the Alps attracted tourists to the Rockies throughout the second half of the

nineteenth century. These sites acquired almost.sacred status.61 "America's

nature, if not her culture," as one historian put it, "would command the world's

admiration."62 New railroad connections to the region brought tourists from the East to the West and from increasingly urban areas to places where open spaces, fresh air, and mountain scenery seemed to offer escape, liberation, and renewal. Indeed, the transcontinental railroad companies practically promised such an experience. "By 1869," one historian wrote, "the Far West had become a cleverly

packaged commodity, ready to be consumed by wealthy train travelers."63

Beginning a trend that would continue through the twentieth century, these railroad publicity experts marketed the Rocky Mountains' scenic value to tourists and emphasized that by seeing the mountains for themselves, their customers would become even more cosmopolitan than they alreac;Jy were. Visiting the Rockies thus became, for them, an act of leisure associated closely with social status and national identity.

The new mobility created by the railroad did not come cheap. Tourists needed time free from work to travel, and money to ensure safe and comfortable

image

John F. Sears, Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 4. See her preface and the introduction for more on the relationships between landscape and culture and between landscape and national identity. "Wilderness" also often functioned as a tourist attraction, and Roderick Nash noted that by the mid-nineteenth century wilderness was "recognized as a cultural and moral resource and as a basis for national self-esteem." Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, third edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 67,

61Hyde, 19; Sears, 5-7; Earl Pomeroy, In Search of the Golden West: The Tourist

in Western America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), 34. Pomeroy remains a significant authority on tourism in the West.

62Nash, 68.

63Hyde, 54.


43


image

conditions along the way. They hired private Pullman cars--if not entire trains-­ for a trip that would cost at least $300 regularly, without meals. New luxury

hotels in the 1870s and 1880s required even more cash, not to mention an appropriate wardrobe. 64 One guidebook estimated in 1873 that a trip to California

and back, with side trips to the Rockies and Yosemite, would cost at least $1200-­ as much or more as a vacation to Europe.65 Accordingly, leisurely visits to the

Rockies tempted only the wealthy in the nineteenth century, most of whom had already toured Europe. This class of tourists applied their romantic tastes and

their familiarity with the Alps to their understanding of the landscape.66

Journalist Samuel Bowles, for example, along with eleven other people, traveled west during the summer of 1867 in luxurious Pullman cars. They rode west to Salt Lake City and back to Cheyenne, where they took a coach south to Denver. After camping and picnicking in the mountains, seeing the mining region of Clear Creek and Georgetown, and riding mules over Berthoud Pass to Middle Park, Bowles articulated a view of the landscape very different from that of the mail carriers.

His account of the trip, "The Switzerland of America: A Summer Vacation in the Parks and Mountains of Colorado," concluded that "Switzerland is pleasure and health; Colorado is these and use besides--the use of beauty, and the use of

profitable work united."67 Twenty years later Ernest Ingersoll followed the same

image

path, "rambling" West in a luxurious Pullman ca'r all the way to Denver, where he and his group chartered a narrow gauge train to take them into the mountains. He and his party considered their single stagecoach trip to be quite bothersome and uncomfortable, but worth it for the scenery. Ingersoll wrote--with no irony intended--that "roughing it, within reasonable grounds, is the marrow of this sort

64pomeroy, 7-11, 20-23.

65Hyde, 108.

66Pomeroy, 33-34.

67Samuel Bowles, The Switzerland of America: A Summer Vacation in the Parks and Mountains of Colorado (Springfield MA: Samuel Bowles and Co., 1869), iv.


44


image

of recreation."68 His "ramble" assured Ingersoll that "the grand and alluring mountains are still there--everlasting hills, unchangeable refuges from weariness, anxiety and strife."69 Articulate, upper-class, and well-traveled, Bowles and Ingersoll embodied a kind of masculine ideal far different from their mining camp contemporaries. While still based on mobility, the kind of movement Bowles and Ingersoll exercised demanded wealth and leisure time more than individual strength, endurance, and bravery. Their masculinity, still based on movement through the landscape, had more to do with comfort, ease, and class­ based connections than with isolation and danger.

image

Ingersoll's romantic vision had changed since he toured the area with a USGS survey years before. Then, his relative poverty and more humble mode of travel positioned him--albeit temporarily--as closer kin to mailman John Dyer. John Dyer had always wanted to see Pikes Peak, but to do so, he had to walk from Denver. His subsequent trampings around Summit County's mining camps gave him an insider's view of the mountains and a realistic understanding of the danger they represented, but this did not stop him from appreciating a sunrise. Just after he escaped unscathed from an avalanche area in the midst of a blizzard, for example, Dyer watched the sun rise through the storm. "Although my situation was very disagreeable," he remembered, "I could stop a few minutes and gaze at this astonishing Rocky Mountain scene, sitting in the storm to watch its wonderous ways."?o Dyer's fascination with the storm underscores the fact that the surrounding weather held more wonder and personal relevance for him than "scenery" imagined through European lenses and, viewed from the safety of a railroad car.

68Ernest Ingersoll, The Crest of the Continent: A Record of a Summer's Ramble In the Rocky Mountains and Beyond (Chicago: R.R. Donnelley and Sons Co., 1890}, 5. 69Ingerso ll, 6. Ingersoll had been through the Rockies before, on a USGS trip in 1874, which explains why he was glad the mountains were "still" there.

?Doyer, 170.


45


image

Bowles' and Ingersoll's perspectives as wealthy visitors, however, allowed them to see the landscape as "scenery" rather than as "home" or "on-the-way-to­ home." As "scene" rather than "place," the Rockies were a landscape of imagination and ideology, a morally uplifting and healthy place that urban residents ought to visit for liberation and renewal. Isabella Bird, an English outdoorswoman who spent the fall and early winter of 1873 in Estes Park, wrote "there is nothing of beauty of grandeur for which the heart can wish that is not here; and it is health

giving, with pure air, pure water, and absolute dryness." 71 This perspective,

moreover, only made sense from--and in relation to--the urban "center." The tradition of nineteenth-century tourism in the Rockies began the commodification of undeveloped landscape there, by emphasizing its scenic beauty and capacity for physical and moral rejuvenation. In the context of an industrializing and urbanizing America, these attributed characteristics would only increase in value. By the 1890s the middle and upper classes had inaugurated a group of national movements promoting outdoor recreation and health, movements that would, when combined with advances in ski technique and technology, create a new passion for skiing centered not on the local mines and community but on urban recreational commuters.

As upper-class urban dwellers, outdoor recreationists of the late nineteenth century shared the earlier tourists' assumption that "wilderness" landscapes had value as recreational resources--as an antidote for the urban ills infecting the nation. They also came to share the enthusiasm for western

landscapes, exercise, and the challenges of the outdoors embodied by Theodore Roosevel t.72 Camping grew increasingly popular in America, and as historian Earl

Pomeroy noted, outdoor recreation became popular across the country in a few


image

71 Isabella L. Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960), 208. ·

72See Pomeroy, 94-104; Nash, 149-153.


46

image

years.73 Undeveloped mountain environments called city-dwellers out to play and offered them the chance for physical, spiritual, and moral renewal. Anticipating Frederick Jackson Turner's declaration that the "frontier" no longer existed after 1890, some joined the philosophers, naturalists, and artists who had set out to preserve parts of "out there" to make sure they would always be separate from the cities. Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Law Olmsted, and John Muir all

emphasized the spiritual value of preserving wilderness in the face of advancing urbanization and industrialization.74 The American government nodded its assent

to their ideas--or at least agreed to preserve "certain striking and curious phenomena"--by setting the Yosemite Valley aside in 1864 "for public use, resort and recreation," and by establishing Yellowstone as a National Park in 1872.75 Dashing the chance that the Forest Reserves created in 1891 would set even more wilderness aside for safe keeping, the 1897 Forest Management Act opened the areas to logging, mining, and grazing. Muir and other preservationists were (understandably) slow to realize that outdoor recreation and the tourism that followed on its heels constituted a "use" of the National Parks that would endanger their integrity as preserved lands. In the late nineteenth century, their vision of preservation and the desire of outdoor recreationists to get away from the pressure and pollution of the city coincided and reinforced each other. Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of Central Park in Manhattan, consciously planned Yosemite as a public park to accommodate tourists.

image

Some people sought special status for areas in the Rocky Mountains as well. Globe -trotting tourists had dubbed them the Alps of America in the 1860s; English

73Pomeroy, 143.

74Nash, 88, 101, 106-7, 122-40; Pomeroy, 90-91; Frederick Law Olmsted, "The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Trees," Landscape Architecture, XLII (1952), 17, 20-23.

75Pomeroy, 92; Nash, 106, 112. Yellowstone was more consciously preserved for its unusual geographic features than Yosemite; neither were set aside as

representative wilderness areas.


47


image

outdoorswoman Isabella Bird and artist Albert Bierstadt had visited in the 1870s; and by the first decades of the 1900s naturalist Enos Mills noted that Theodore Roosevelt and others had called the Colorado Rockies "The Nation's Playground."

"This Colorado region," Mills said, "really is one vast natural park." 76 Mills had

made the Estes Park region his home and area of biological study, and he embarked upon a mission to preserve it as a national park. Conscious of the tourism the region had enjoyed and hoping to increase it, Mills compared the Rocky Mountains favorably with the Alps and recognized that grand scenery, excellent climate, good entertainment, and swift and comfortable transportation were necessary

prerequisites to boosting tourism in the area.77 A proponent of healthy minds and

bodies through outdoor recreation, Mills also understood the financial benefits of the growth of tourism. He saw parks as valuable for their scenery, because "they make better men and women," because outdoor life was educational, and because

they made money.78 Automobile stagelines to nearby Loveland in 1907, and Lyons

in 1909, brought tourists by the carload to Estes Park, prompting entrepreneurs to build five new hotels between 1908 and 1911, including the luxurious Stanley Hotel and Stanley Manor. 79 After a drawn-out battle between park proponents and

the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain National Park opened its gates in January of 1915. By the following year roads connected .the park to Boulder, Ward, Longmont, Fort Collins, and Grand Lake as well as Loveland and Lyons, and nearly


image

76Enos A. Mills, The Story of Estes Park, Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park CO: Enos Mills, 1917); Enos A. Mills, The Rocky Mountain Wonderland (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915), 313. Bird came to Estes Park in 1873, Bierstadt in 1874. Isabella Bird also recognized the spiritual and physical benefits of the Estes Park landscape when she wrote "there is nothing of beauty or grandeur for which the heart can wish that is not here; and it is health giving, with pure air, pure water, and absolute dryness." Bird, 208.

77Mills, Rocky Mountain Wonderland, 319. 78Mills, Rocky Mountain Wonderland, 323.

79Mills, The Story of Estes Park, 97-100.


48


image

100,000 visitors came to the region.80 Rocky Mountain National Park was an instant success.

Mills' infatuation with the Estes Park region coincided with the rise of what historian Roderick Nash called "The Wilderness Cult." The early twentieth century saw increasingly industrialized cities, the seeming decline of American

civilization, and the end of the "frontier." For those caught in the city, the primitive and the wild offered sources of spiritual beauty and truth. John Muir wrote that "thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home ... Mountain parks and

reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers," he said, "but as fountains of life."81 Appreciation of the wilderness had spread from a

relatively small group of upper-class tourists to become a more middle-class,

national cuit.82 The growth of this "cult" coincided with the increasing popularity of outdoor recreation that had spread after the Civil War from Europe to the East, and--by the 1890s--to the West as well. Earl Pomeroy noted the conspicuous presence of Easterners camping in the Rockies as early as the 1870s, by which time Boston residents had formed the Appalachian Mountain Club. By the 1880s,

"westerners were camping on an impressive scale."83 John Muir's Sierra Club,

established in 1892, represented the growing population of westerners interested in "exploring, enjoying, and rendering accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast."84 On the other side of the country, colleges were creating outing



image

80s ee Mills, The Story of Estes Park, 102-110. The Forest Service opposed the formation of the Park primarily because the land had been used for grazing.

81John Muir, "The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West," Atlantic

Monthly, 81 (1898), 15, as cited in Nash, 140.

B2Nash, 143.

83Pomeroy, 141, 143-44. Antecedents to the Appalachian Mountain Club, which was formed in 1876, were the British Alpine Club formed in 1857, and a similar club formed by the Swiss in 1863.

84Nash, 132. The Oregon Alpine Club was established earlier than the Sierra Club, in 1887. Pomeroy, 144.


49


image

clubs, encouraging students to get outside and cultivate healthy bodies as well as healthy minds. Enos Mills' reports of new roads and hotels growing up around the Estes Park region of Colorado and the growing popularity of outdoor recreation that

he saw supported Pomeroy's conclusion that "By the nineties the whole character of tourism in western America, so recently established, was clearly in flux."85 The

naturalist Mills embodied these ideals in the Rocky Mountains, embarking on frequent hikes and even winter ski camping trips with his dog, Scotch.86

He was not alone in his enthusiasm for Colorado's outdoors. Denver resident Mary Sabin had already climbed seven peaks in the state by 1912, many with her sister, Florence. On April 3 she and James Grafton Rogers invited some friends over to create the Colorado Mountain Club. They wrote:

We are organized to unite the energy, interest, and knowledge of the students, explorers, and lovers of the mountains of Colorado; to collect and disseminate information on the Rocky Mountains in behalf of science, literature, art and recreation; to stimulate the public interest in our mountain areas; to encourage the preservation of forests, flowers, fauna,

and natural scenery; and to render readily accessible the alpine attractions of this region.87


image

The Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) thus brought interests in the preservation of scenery and wilderness, exercise and outdoor recreation, and tourism, together in one group. That first year the 25 charter members took ten trips. In three years the CMC would be skiing. Urban outdoor clubs ·like Denver's CMC based their missions on assumptions about the mountain landscape that stemmed directly from their upper-class status and urban location. They understood the mountains as "wild" and "other," as places to visit, play, and preserve. This perspective seems foreign when juxtaposed with that of the lower-class people who lived and worked in the same mountains, earning their living by developing that environment and

85Pome roy, 145.

86See Enos A. Mills, The Spell of the Rockies (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1911). 87Hugh E. Kingery and Elinor Eppich Kingery, The Colorado Mountain Club: The First Seventy-Five Years of a Highly Individual Corporation, 1912-1987 (Evergreen CO: Cordillera Press, Inc., 1988), 23, 11.


50


image

struggling to overcome the boundaries it imposed in winter. Indeed, such contrasting views would continue to raise questions and distinguish mountain town visitors from residents through the twentieth century.


Flying Norsemen and Winter Carnivals


Miners in the Rocky Mountains had learned in the 1870s that Scandinavians knew more about skiing than anyone else. The same lesson held true at the end of the century for the recreationists of the CMC, as a new wave of Scandinavian immigrants entered the lives of Coloradans. Norwegians had improved their mobility on skis drastically in the mid-1800s; Sondre Nordheim of Telemark invented the first binding that attached to the heel, and developed the Telemark and the Christiania turns, enabling skiers to maneuver downhill and even jump with ease and grace. By the 1860s jumping competitipns had sprouted up throughout Norway and Scandinavia to complement the cross-country races started twenty years earlier, and Nordheim won them handily. He and other skiers from Telemark spread their ideas to those in Christiania (now Oslo), entering contests there and forming the Christiania Ski Club in 1877, which boasted a new cross-country and

jumping facility.88 The Club organized its first national competition two years

later, and the Telemark skiers astounded the Prince of Denmark and Norway's King Oscar II with their abilities. "From that day on," one Norwegian historian wrote, "the skiing events at Huseby Hill turned into a national occasion for the whole country." Norway's first Nordic Winter festival would take place at an even better skiing facility in Holmenkollen in 1903. Competitors came from Sweden, and an entire week was dedicated to the celebration of winter sports. National



image

88Hovelsen, 2-5; Dudley, 36; Erikson, 18-20.


51


image

competitions, recreational cross-country skiing and jumping, and community ski clubs entered Scandinavian culture and soon spread across the world.89

Norwegian Fritdjof Nansen drew further attention to the sport when he skied across Greenland in 1888. He demonstrated the utility of skiing as a means of transportation, but he also publicized its recreational benefits. In a passage that resonated with meaning for nineteenth-century American tourists and outdoorspeople, Nansen brought the sport of skiing to a new audience. "Where will you find more freedom and excitement," he wrote in 1890,

than in speeding, swift as a bird, down the tree-clad hillside, winter air and spruce branches rushing past your face and eyes, brain and

muscles alert, ready to avoid the unknown obstacles which at any moment may be thrown in your path? It is as if all civilization were suddenly washed from your mind and left, with the city atmosphere, far behind.

You become one with your skis and with nature. Skiing is something which develops not only the body, but also the soul, and it is of greater importance to a nation than is generally supposed.90

Nordheim's new technology and technique, and Nansen's public infatuation with the sport, made recreational skiing accessible and attractive to people all over the world who lived in snowy climes. More than mere physical mobility, community activity, or the means to access scenic mountain."nature," skiing as Nansen described it offered a kind of liberation--an intensely personal relationship to the mountain landscape that had both physical and psychologial aspects and could appeal to anyone, regardless of class or residence.

These advances in technique and technology came too late to reach the mining camps of California or Colorado, which explains why skiing across the mountains remained so frightening, and why downhill races entailed skiing straight down a designated slope as fast as possible. Trying to control long snowshoes with only a leather toe strap made for exciting times. When Americans discovered Nordheim's


image

89T.W. Schreiner, "Norway's National Sport," Outing, 37 (March 1901), 711- 15; W.S. Harwood, "Ski Running," Outing, 21 (February 1893), 339-346.

90Hovelson, 6; Hovelsen, 4-5.


52


image

advances and the resulting ease with which they could then ski, people from all walks of life took up the sport. Those upper-class Americans accustomed to traveling the world in search of new scenery and diversions first came across recreational skiing in Norway itself or in European resorts that offered winter sports. Swiss alpine resorts, for instance, had been popular with Europeans since the early1800s, and by the end of the century Americans patronized them as well. By 1900 St. Moritz was importing Norwegian ski instructors and training Swiss ones to complement its winter sports activities. They formed the St. Moritz ski club in February, 1902, a winter in which 55 of. the 531 Christmas guests were

Americans, all taking part in a "fascinating combination of social climbing, display of wealth, competitiveness, and longing for the simpler life." 91 Other tourists,

less concerned with the image of wealth and more with outdoor activity, went straight to the source. One magazine author noted in 1901 that "more and more foreigners, and from farther distances, are every year drawn into the fascination

of Norway's national sport and they enjoy it as much as do the natives."92

European skiing and tourism went hand-in-hand only for those who could afford travel; this fact would not change over time. Working-class, immigrant Scandinavians, however, also brought this more refined sport to American soil, where it would become part of community life across the northern United States. Economic depression in Norway and Scandinavi from the 1880s to the 1900s encouraged young men to leave home and try to establish themselves in other

countries. 93 Miners, missionaries, mailmen, farmers, students, and other


image

91Paul P. Bernard, Rush to the Alps: The Evolution of Vacationing in Switzerland (Boulder: East European Quarterly, distributed by Columbia University Press, 1978), 151, 147. See also Alice Crossette Hall, "Winter Sport in Switzerland," Outing, 33 (March 1899}, 391-95.

92Schreiner, 711.

93s evere job shortages and a depression in agriculture and shipping in Norway drove out more than 270,000 people between 1879 and 1893. Paul S. Boyer, et. al., The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, vol. 2 (Lexington MA:

D.C. Heath and Co., 1990), 647. At the turn of the century, Norway's entire


53


image

emigrant Norwegians introduced skiing to Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, China,

Japan, Chile, Argentina, and even North Africa, as well as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Russia, and Spain.94 Earlier Scandinavian immigrants had brought Norwegian snowshoes to America, but after 1880, when the bulk of

Norwegian immigrants came to the U.S., they spread a new gospel of skiing and jumping, of Telemark and Christiania turns. They were not a small group-­ between 1880 and 1889 almost 680,000 immigrants came from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to America, making up the fourth largest immigrant group of the

decade and 12.7% of the period's total immigration.95 Among the Norwegians who

emigrated were 40 skiers from Telemark, including Sondre Nordheim and three other King's Cup winners.96 Most settled in the Midwest, where they formed ski clubs and held competitions. Local clubs sprang up in northern rural areas where

pockets of Scandinavians settled and promoted skiing as healthy, outdoor recreation accessible to locals rather than as a winter sport for elites.97 Initially ethnically exclusive and distinctly working-class, these clubs eventually opened up to anyone

interested in the sport and exhibited some degree of European ethnic diversity. 98



image

construction industry was depressed, and another 102,000 Norwegians emigrated to America between 1900 and 1905. Hovelsen, 21.

94Hovelsen, 7-8; Erikson, 20; Dudley, 37-42; Johannes Hroff Wisby, "Carrying the Mail Over the Andes on Skis," Outing, 37 (March 1901), 672-75.

95Over 390,000 came in the next ten years, and 488,000 between 1900 and 1909. N. Carpenter, "Immigrants and Their Children," U.S. Bureau of the Census Monograph, No. 7 (Washington DC, 1927), 324-25, as cited in Alan M. Kraut, The Huddled Masses: The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1920 (Arlington Heights IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1982), 20-21. Between 1875 and 1895 some 263,000 of those came from Norway. Hovelsen, 10.

96Sondre Nordheim, with his wife and seven children, settled in North Dakota in

1884. Mikkel Hemmestveit came to Minnesota in 1886 and his brother Torjus joined him in 1889; John Hauge had also won the King Oscar II Cup, and he came to America in 1882. Hovelsen, 11; Harwood, 346.

97See Allen, From Skisport to Skiing for an analysis of ldraet, the moral and

physical ideal associated with skiing in Norway that influenced its popularity with outdoorspeople and college outing clubs. This ideal closely resembles that of the late nineteenth-century outdoor enthusiasts who toured the Rocky Mountains, and would play a role in college outing clubs and urban clubs such as the CMC.


54


image

In 1891 Scandinavian immigrants formed America's first ski association--the Ski Association for the Northwest--headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. The American Ski Association, based in Ishpeming, Michigan, followed soon after, in 1904. By 1919 the National Ski Association had united 30 clubs from all over the country, many with names that displayed their Norwegian heritage.99

These local and national clubs, though made up primarily of working-class Americans and immigrants and based in small communities, influenced a cross­ section of Americans outside their own ethnicity and class. That skiers had organized on a national scale in 1904 and promoted skiing as an ideal healthy outdoor sport attracted the attention and interest of the upper-class outdoor enthusiasts of the 1890s and 1900s, who sought spiritual, physical, and moral refuge in the mountains. Northern colleges--home of elite young men-­ accordingly grew interested in cultivating healthy student bodies as well as minds and began to establish outing clubs and amateur ski teams. Dartmouth formed both in 1909, and other New England liberal arts colleges followed. Williams, Middlebury, Harvard, Yale, as well as the state universities of Vermont and New Hampshire, formed their own clubs and began a tradition of intercollegiate ski

competitions and winter carnivals.1oo Recreational skiing grew through these

channels to become popular among the young well-to-do, who had the time, money, and leisure to develop their interest in the outdoors.

The same national club presence that prompted skiing's entrance into northeastern liberal arts colleges also paved the way for the sport in upper-class urban outdoor clubs. College students and mountain club members shared perspectives based on class, urban residence, education, and leisure; their

image

98Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 50-53. Some Italians and Irish participated in midwestern ski clubs. Allen notes that because the Scandinavian population was much smaller in the West, western ski clubs did not practice ethnic exclusivity. 99Eri kson, 22; Hovelsen, 11-12; Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 47-50.

1 ooAllen, From Skisport to Skiing, 75-79; Dudley, 56-58.


55

recreational habits reinforced each other; and college students often formed or joined outdoor clubs after they graduated. Urban outdoor clubs had developed an upper-class perspective on mountains as scenic wilderness from the tradition of tourism; the growing influence of ethnic ski clubs led them to incorporate skiing into their outdoor activities. The Colorado Mountain Club, like its eastern ancestors and the Sierra Club in California, adopted skiing as part of its winter

agenda when it held its first annual ski outing to Fern Lake near Estes Park in 1915.101 By the 191Os, then, working-class immigrant Scandinavians had

introduced a new sport to wealthy urban Americans.


While fewer Norwegians moved to Colorado than to Minnesota or Michigan, those who did had an indelible influence on recreational skiing in the state. One rather typical Norwegian immigrant, with exceptional skill and enthusiasm for the sport, introduced the sport to Denver residents personally. He also brought a Scandinavian cultural tradition of community ski clubs and organized sport to

rural mountain towns where recreational skiing had laded away and the sport barely remained as a form of transportation. Carl Howelson and a few fellow Norwegians in Colorado traveled between Denver and its hinterlands and, by 1920, had forged a new connection between the two through skiing. Howelson wove together Scandinavian and American, urban and rural, working and upper class traditions into a finished product that would send the sport into the 1920s with a bang. This "Flying Norseman" crafted the structure that united Father Dyer's nineteenth-century past with CMC member Marjorie Perry's twentieth-century present.

Son of a shoemaker, Karl Hovelsen was born in Christiania in 1877 and, along with ten his brothers and sisters, grew up skiing.102 His extraordinary

image

°1 1Evelyn Runnette, "Skiing With the C.M.C.," The Ski Bulletin (March 19,

1937), 6-7.

102See Hovelsen, 13-64 for Carl Howelson's biography.


56

stamina and ability to jump soon became apparent, and he developed an unmatched enthusiasm for the sport. Sondre Nordheim, Fridtjof Nansen, and other King's Cup champions were popular idols, and Huseby Hill and Holmenkollen sacred ground. As he grew, Hovelsen only got better at skiing. He entered local competitions age 17 and represented his local Baerum Ski Club. By 1902 and 1903 he was winning almost every cross-country and jumping contest he entered, including ones at Holmenkollen and other national competitions. At the first Nordic Winter Sports Week in 1903 in Christiania, Hovelsen took home the Prince Regent's Cup for the 50 kilometer race, King Oscar's Cup for the combined races, and the Holmenkollen Gold Medal, the highest award of the Holmenkollen races: he had won every ski event.

From 1900 to 1905, however, Norway underwent an industrial depression


which made it difficult for Hovelsen, a stonemason and bricklayer by trade, to find work. He spent 1904 working in Germany to earn money for his passage, and immigrated to America the next year. He found work in Chicago and, now as Carl Howelson, joined the recently established Norge Ski Club. A trip to Riverview Park one day made his future travel plans quite exciting and literally launched Howelson to fame. Noticing a ride at the amusement park near Chicago that

consisted of cars that slid from the top of a 90 foot tower down a chute and landed in a pool, Howelson decided to try it on skis. One morning he altered the chute, jumped about 60 feet in the air before landing, and entranced the guards so completely that they let him keep doing it on weekends for the crowds. When the director of the Barnum and Bailey Circus came along and offered him a job, Howelson convinced two of his Norwegian friends to join him in his adventure.

After almost an entire season of performing "a lightning dive, dash and glide, on skimming skis down a declivitous incline; a sweeping, soaring, sensational flight through space, across a gruesome gap, and a final landing on a resilient


57

image


landing platform," Howelson hurt his back falling off the jumping platform, left his friend Aksel Henriksen to continue the act without him, and headed back to

Chicago.103 Howelson missed the outdoors, and, like many urban residents looking

for the great outdoors, hopped on a train to Denver. The reputation of the Rocky Mountains and news of ample work in Denver drew the "Flying Norseman" to Colorado in the spring of 1909, where he promptly joined the Denver local of the Bricklayers and Masons International Union. This working-class Norwegian immigrant set out to explore the mountains in the region, and in the process he taught both urban and rural residents the fun of skiing.

In December of 1911, Howelson and a Norwegian friend Angell Schmidt took the Moffat Railroad to the top of the Continental Divide and set out on skis toward Middle Park. They talked with a Swedish rancher in Fraser--Doc Susie's stomping ground--and skied on to Hot Sulphur Springs, where they met John Peyer. Peyer had heard of Hot Sulphur's curative baths and hot springs all the way from his home in Switzerland and so came to settle in Colorado. Coming from a country where winter sports were an institution, Peyer was eager to get them going in Colorado. He helped organize Hot Sulphur's Winter Sports Club in the fall of 1911. In a fortuitous coincidence, their first carnival to be held December 30, the day after Howelson and Schmidt turned up at his house on skis. After a quick demonstration, the two Norwegians added skiing to the winter carnival events and showed local residents as well as visitors from Denver the fun of ski jumping. The carnival was such a success the Winter Sports Club planned a larger, three-day carnival for the coming February, in which Howelson and Schmidt agreed to

participate. 104 This Hot Sulphur Carnival of 1912 created quite a stir. The

Denver Post published an article in January that exclaimed "Sulphur Springs


image

103Barnum and Bailey Circus ad copy, from Hovelsen, 29; see also Wren, 9-12. 104Hovelsen, 36-40; Jim Wier, "Skiing at Hot Sulphur Springs," Grand County Historical Association Journal, 4 (January 1984), 13-14.


58


image

Successful Winter Sports Awaken Interest for Skiing Carnival in Denver," "Former Residents of Norway Give Exhibition that Pleased Spectators," and "Carl Howelson and Angell Schmidt Return From Trip in Mountains and Wonder Why Coloradoans Are Not Ski Experts."105

With that first trip to Hot Sulphur, Howelson and Schmidt re-introduced recreational skiing to mountain residents who already owned and used "snowshoes," but lacked the tighter bindings that would enable them to jump and ski downhill more easily. The Norwegians also attracted the attention of Denver residents who had come to the carnival at Hot Sulphur or who read about their skiing and jumping in the paper, thus generating support for ski clubs and competitions in Denver as well as in neighboring mountain communities. Winter sport carnivals and skiing competitions would, many businesspeople and residents hoped, draw tourists to Denver and its nearby mountains in winter--especially those tourists interested in health, the outdoors, and beautiful scenery. ,

Carnivals required competitors as well as spectators, and John Peyer set out to catch as many of each as he could for the February carnival in Hot Sulphur. He invited ski clubs from the East and Midwest as well as people from all over the West asking experts on skis, sleds, and skates to attend. The Rocky Mountain News wrote in late January that entries were coming from "nearly all the States of the Union where snow and ice are to be found," and from Canada, too. "Many people residing in Western Colorado will participate in the carnival, as will many from Denver." The article noted that hundreds of spectators from Denver and elsewhere in Colorado would attend, as would writers and photographers from Eastern

publications.106 The huge success of the 1912 carnival paved the way for an even


image

105"Sulphur Springs Successful Winter Sports," Denver Post, 7 January 1912, clipping, general ski collection, Grand County Historical Society (GCHS), Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado.

106 Rocky Mountain News, 29 January 1912, as cited in Hovelsen, 39.


59


image

bigger celebration the next year, which would include the Norwegian sport of skijoring, where skiers fly behind galloping horses, as well as Howelson and Colorado jumpers competing against two of the best ski jumpers from Red Wing, Minnesota. The January 31, 1913 Daily News announced that "judging from the reservations already made at local hotels, the attendance this year will far outnumber that at the carnival last year. Accommodations for 65 Denver people

has already been engaged. The Moffat [rail]Road," it continued, "is making a special round-trip of only $7.40 from Denver."107 The success of this second carnival

was ensured when Howelson, the local favorite, emerged victorious over the visiting jumpers.

Celebrations of winter and sport imported from Norway, Colorado's local winter carnivals served important cultural purposes. They brought together groups of people otherwise separated by residence, class, and ethnicity; they engaged women, men, and children in games and sporting competitions, and they provided some mountain communities with their biggest social event of the year. These annual events fell short of classic Bakhtinian carnival in which class,

gender, and racial identities became inverted.1OB They represented, instead, a

more historicized, diluted version in which people of different classes and backgrounds mingled on equal terms, cultural restraints upon women temporarily lifted, and ethnic differences dissolved. In this context wealthy CMG members cheered lustily for their local champion Carl Howelson, whose working-class ethnicity and swarthiness contrasted sharply with their own ivy league educations and upper-class constructions of masculinity. In this atmosphere, too, spectators became participants. Women and children competed in their own events--


image

  1. Daily News, 31 January 1913, as cited in Hovelsen, 41.

  2. s ee Michael Holquist, Diologism: Bakhtin and His World (New York: Routledge, 1990), 89-90; and Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. by Helene lswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984).


60 ·


image

including jumping contests and events with ambiguous names like the "Ladies' Free-for-All." It was within the context of a winter carnival, significantly, that

Carl Howelson met Denver outdoor enthusiast and CMC member Marjorie Perry--a woman with whom he shared little in common. That sport which they did have in common, however, would become the base for a close friendship between these two individuals in years to come just as it would unite mountain town residents with their distant city neighbors.

Key to the growth of winter sports clubs, carnivals, and competitions in the state was the railroad, which brought contestants and spectators to events they otherwise would not or could not attend. It was on the Moffat Railroad where Carl Howelson first met Marjorie Perry. The fact that both were traveling on the railroad, moreover, underlined the new connections between urban center and hinterland upon which recreational skiing would come to depend. Perry's identity as an upper-class outdoorsperson required trips between Denver and her second residence at Steamboat Springs, just as Howelson's skiing associations required him to leave his Denver masonry work for Hot Sulphur Springs. One winter day in 1913, their paths crossed. Perry was on her way to Steamboat in February and, when the train stopped at Hot Sulphur, friends who were there suggested she stay on and watch the ski jumping exhibition the next day. She did. And she met Howelson, and asked him to come demonstrate the sport at Steamboat Springs, which he did. After seeing the town's mountains, open valleys, and ranches, he moved there and began a tradition of local skiing that would earn Steamboat Springs the nickname, "Ski Town USA."109

In February 1914, Steamboat Springs held its own annual winter carnival and although '"due to the irregularity of the trains' only twenty spectators arrived from Denver, everyone in town fit for boots and mittens was there, and ranch

image

109Towler, 51-52; Hovelsen, 51-64; Wren, 9-31.


61


image

families from miles about hitched up sleds and were on hand." Estimated attendance was between 1,500 and 2,000. Events ranged from the center-stage ski jumping to a shooting match, cross-country races, and a Ladies Free-For-All, as well as street events including the Boy Scout Fire Race, the Wheelbarrow race, a Hazard

race, a log sawing relay on skis, and skijoring.110 Immediately integrated into the

community calendar, Steamboat Spring's winter carnival continues even today as a major event where visitors and residents come together to celebrate winter and sport.

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club was formed to plan the carnival and continued after 1917 as the Steamboat Springs Ski Club. With its ladies auxiliary the S.K.I. Club and a high school affiliate, Steamboat's ski club--and the carnival it put on--stood out as larger, more well-known, and boasting a broader community base than any other carnival and club of the time. As with most rural ski clubs, Steamboat's was rooted in the town's working-class population.

Howelson himself, along with a few other Norwegian immigrants nearby, continued to earn their livings through manual labor.111 Rather than a sport for elite

outdoor recreationists, the kind of skiing Howelson brought to Steamboat Springs encouraged everyone in the community to enjoy the mountains on skis. Indeed, the weekend trips he led encouraged the town's residents to ski together as a community. He promoted an appreciation of the mountain landscape that recognized that landscape as home.

Howelson's encounter with Marjorie Perry led him to bring Norwegian ideals of community skiing to life in the Rocky Mountains at the same time that it publicized the sport in the region. Howelson himself taught hundreds of people how to ski between 1912 and 1921: people from Denver, Estes Park, Leadville, Yampa,


image

11owren, 14-21.

111Towler, 52.


62


image

Craig, Clark, Breckenridge, Golden, and Hayden.112 Other Norwegians joined Howelson in promoting the sport in Denver and beyond. Peter Prestrud, for example, moved to Colorado in 1910 and became the postmaster in Frisco (near Breckenridge). He organized the Summit County Ski Club, which helped build a large jumping hill in Dillon and held its first meet there in 1919.

The combined influence of Howelson and his fellow immigrants who taught

people how to ski, winter carnivals which publicized the sport, and railroads that increased access to the mountains, prompted the CMC to add skiing to its winter activities in 1915.113 Enos Mills, who had been using Norwegian snowshoes for

his naturalist studies and winter camping trips for years, noticed that recreational skiing had taken hold in the Estes Park area by 1917.114 The growing visibility of the sport and the influence of local Norwegian immigrants helped recreational

skiing expand among the upper classes in Denver as well as among residents of rural towns.

In December of 1913 Carl Howelson and fellow Norwegian C. Andrews


helped form the Denver Ski Club, a group of rather wealthy Denverites who wished to further winter sports and hold their own winter carnival. That club grew and changed its name a year later, when Norwegian B.O. Johnson introduced Howelson and the sport of skiing to wealthy Denverite and instant ski enthusiast Dr. Menifee Howard. Together the group built a jump at Inspiration Point outside of the city,

held a carnival there in January of 1914, and established the Denver-Rocky

Mountain Ski Club.115 Howard would prove vital to the promotion of skiing and



image

112Hovelsen, 46.

113Runne tte, 6.

114Mills, The Spell of the Rockies, 109, 309; Mills, The Story of Estes Park,

101; Hovelsen, 62.

115"Ski Jumping Added to Denver Winter Sport Schedule," Denver Post, 2 December 1913, clipping, GCHS; Hovelsen, 47; Rachel Zeiner, "The Jump at Genesee," Denver Post, 15 November 1981, 37, clipping, recreation-skiing file, CHS.


63

winter tourism in the Denver area. In December of 1915 he wrote in the Rocky Mountain News that skiing "comes to us as a healthy, clean and exhilarating out­ of-doors pastime that brings the beautiful nature of the Almighty close to the

hearts of men and women. The mountain slopes, as we have them in Denver, present an ideal place for such sport in the wintertime." 116

A few years later Howard and the Ski Club bought ten acres of land on Genesse Mountain and took out a lease on 300 more to build a better jump site and a club house. Denver skiers held their first meet there in 1919, and the whole city looked forward to 1921, when they would host the national championships. As the Coloradans had hoped, thousands of spectators flocked to Denver and Genesee, and Carl Howelson took home the gold medal. Competitions such as these, like winter carnivals, brought together two distinctly separate kinds of skiers. Wealthy urbanites who understood skiing as a scenic, rejuvenating experience tied to

upper-class status and an accordingly intellectual kind of masculinity joined and cheered working-class Scandinavian immigrants who came from Colorado's hinterland and towns across the country to test their manhood by flying through the air on homemade skis.

As one of many Norwegian immigrants, Carl Howelson traveled across the Atlantic and across the United States in search of work. As a skier his mobility was far more startling, because his travel on skis and on the railroads, combined with his legendary skill and enthusiasm, publicized the sport and united--in a

strikingly lasting way--very different groups of people. Urban and rural, upper and working class, tourist and local all joined in recreational skiing by the late 1910s. Mountain scenery, healthy exercise, and outdoor air attracted educated, upper-class city folk to skiing in Europe and the Rocky Mountains. The Norwegian


image

116 Dr. Menifee Howard, "Sport of Skiing in the Rocky Mountains," Rocky Mountain News, 5 December 1915, as cited in Hovelsen, 47.


64

image


snowshoes that mountain town residents had once used to hold their communities together and communicate with the rest of the world became--when outfitted with bindings and shortened a little--new sources of recreation. Scandinavian immigrants like those who had introduced snowshoes in the nineteenth century turned up in mountain towns again to create community-wide ski clubs and teach the joys of skiing and jumping. But these townspeople skied, as they always had, because they lived in mountains, not because they had extra leisure time and a hankering for a change of scenery. Early skiing 'thus fostered contrasting perceptions of the mountain landscape and took on different cultural meanings depending on the skier's class and location.

While their economic status and position between the "center" and "out there" changed little, the mobility granted them by the railroads and the new ski technology and technique from Norway allowed these disparate groups to relax and recreate in the mountains. The carnivals and competitions that Howelson and others established in Colorado brought residents of mountain towns and Denver railroad tourists together in the interest of sport. While in the 191Os and 1920s distinctions between the "center" and "out there," upper and working class, local and tourist merged during carnivals and competitions, those distinctions remained important. During the 1920s and 1930s two skiing traditions, one associated with wealthy European resort culture and one linked to Colorado mountain communities in a period of economic decline, would continue to characterize the development of Rocky Mountain skiing.


65

image


CHAPTER TWO


On Edge: Masculinity, Femininity, and Alpine Skiing


In 1939 Friedl Pfeifer saw Hoyt Smith in Sun Valley's ball room, asked her to dance, and fell in love. The Austrian ski instructor courted her and captured her heart, but her parents would not agree to the marriage. President of the largest chain of banks in Utah and part of Salt Lake City's high society, Mr. Smith could not see his daughter marrying a ski instructor and only consented to the wedding after his daughter threatened to elope. Otto Lang empathized with Pfeifer, his friend, countryman, and fellow ski instructor. A year earlier Lang had also fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of wealthy and well-respected parents. Upon meeting them, Lang "could sense immediately that Sinclair's parents were not too happy about their daughter's fast-developing attachment to an itinerant sportsmeister,

such as I was."1 That Lang and Pfeifer both found themselves in such a similar and

tense romantic situation demonstrates that skiing often created complicated gender dynamics--dynamics moreover, that conflicted with common assumptions about ethnicity and class. One wonders, rightly, how Friedl Pfeifer ended up in Sun Valley's ballroom dancing with a woman like Hoyt Smith in the first place.

Friedl Pfeifer and his fellow Austrian instructors embodied a masculine ideal explicitly linked to their Austrian-ness and their expertise on the slopes--a masculinity that gave them status within the ski resort world despite their rural, working-class roots. The story behind Pfeifer's appeal to women like Hoyt Smith


image

1Otto Lang, A Bird of Passage: the Story of My Life (Helena MT: Falcon Press, 1994),167.


image

begins with the development of alpine skiing in Europe and the ways in which it spread to the American West during the 1920s and 1930s. The move from a Scandinavian skiing technique to one originating in the Alps signified more than a change in athletic practice. It fostered a new winter resort culture, rooted in communities like St. Anton and St. Moritz, and attached new status to the European skiers who taught the sport and competed successfully in it. A recreational sport connected to an upper-class leisure culture, alpine skiing spread throughout America via urban outdoorspeople who traveled to Europe and tried to recreate that resort culture in the United States. Europeans came to America to teach skiing and altered Colorado's winter recreation in the process. While wealthy Denverites latched on to alpine skiing first, middle-class residents took up the sport without its elite trappings and spread it to surrounding mountain communities--many of which simply added it to their own, older skiing traditions.

At once artistic and rugged, personal and social, introspective and competitive, skiing could elicit a palette of experiences. Its cultural meanings grew even more complicated, moreover, when skiers tried to incorporate the experience into their own class-oriented constructions of gender. Mountain town residents crafted a masculine ideal that differed from one to which upper-class tourists subscribed. So too, did working- and middle-class constructions of femininity contrast with those embodied by wealthy urban women. Americans struggling to reconcile outdoor sport with femininity thus defined women skiers alternatively as moving fashion plates or boyish kid sisters. In the context of Sun Valley, where ski instructors epitomized a cosmopolitan masculine ideal and wealthy socialites went to find a touch of European charm, it made perfect sense for Friedl Pfeifer to ask Hoyt Smith to dance, and it made sense for her to say yes.


67


image

Alpine Skiing in Europe and Its Masculine Ideal


Friedl Pfeifer grew up in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria, the birthplace of alpine skiing (known more generally as downhill skiing). That the Austrian Alps fostered the development of a new downhill style of skiing was no accident. Style was linked, in many ways, to environment. The skiing style that had caught on across Europe and America during the nineteenth century--and in Colorado with the help of Norwegians like Carl Howelson--was designed for traversing Scandinavia's rolling landscape. When skiers attempted to negotiate a different topography--the steep mountain landscape of the Alps--they naturally had to make a few adjustments. Austrian Mathias Zdarsky, for instance, read of Fridtjof Nansen's trip across Greenland on skis and invented the "stem" turn while experimenting on his local mountain west of Vienna. Zdarsky began teaching people to climb and descend mountains on skis before the turn of the century, and trained troops to ski downhill and wage mountain war in the Southern Tyrol during World War One. Mountain climbers from France, too, adapted mountaineering techniques to work with skis as early as the 1870s, opening up the Alps to winter recreational enthusiasts and creating new Jobs for guides to lead guests up and down the mountains on skis.

Because many alpine towns were at once farming communities and resorts, downhill skiing developed hand-in-hand with the local community and its tourist trade. Local ski clubs like the Ski Club Arlberg (in Pfeifer's home town of St.

Anton) organized the town's youth and sponsored competitions between neighboring clubs as early as the 1890s. Resorts offered alpine ski tours to their winter guests and provided guiding jobs to local skiers with enough expertise. Future skiing icon Hannes Schneider, for instance, took a job as a ski guide at the Hotel Post in St. Anton when he was seventeen, after which he went on to win so many competitions he became recognized as the best and fastest skier in Austria. Already


68


image

a center for alpine ski tours due to its Hotel Post, great scenery, snow, and train


access, St. Anton am Arlberg capitalized on Schneider's reputation by advertising "permanent classes of instruction by the Austrian champion" in 191o.2

During World War One few people vacationed in Austria. After the war tourists began to return to St. Anton, where they could enroll in Schneider's new ski school and learn his "Arlberg" system of skiing, a system that allowed students to learn, and racers to race, faster than ever before. He had students use two poles and the shorter, narrower, more maneuverable skis that World War One mountain troops adopted, but the most revolutionary aspect of the Arlberg system was the progression of turns that Schneider taught. His students learned to ski by mastering one skill and then moving on to a more difficult one that incorporated the first. By 1922 wealthy tourists were raving about Schneider's system, and he had starred in the first instructional ski movie--starting a trend that would not only spread skiing's popularity but pave the way for skiing's inclusion in more glamorous films. That same year, eleven year old Friedl Pfeifer represented St.

Anton in junior competitions.3 Two more movies ensured the success of skiing and

of Hannes Schneider--after the release of "Fox C.hase in the Engadine," Friedl

Pfeifer recalled that "almost overnight, skiing became a social phenomenon. "4 Their paths finally crossed in 1925, by which time Pfiefer had made a name for himself as a talented young racer and Schneider had decided to recruit him as an instructor in his prestigious ski school. Pfeifer's tenure as an instructor in St. Anton coincided with the growth of downhill racing in Europe, international recognition for Hannes Schneider's ski school and his Arlberg system, and the


image

2Friedl Pfeifer with Morten Lund, Nice Goin': My Life on Skis (Missoula MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., 1993}, 6. See also Lang, 54-61. 3Pfeifer and Lund, 10; for more on Schneider's Arlberg system see E. John B. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing: One Hundred Years of an American Sport, 1840- 1940 (Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 96-98.

4Pfeife r and Lund, 14.


69


image

evolution of a ski resort culture. Friedl Pfeifer was a part of all three developments in Austria, and he would bring them with him to America.

At the same time St. Anton was gaining an international reputation for its winter tourism, it also claimed a leading role in international ski competition.

Skiing had become so popular throughout Europe by 1913 that Norway, Austria,


Switzerland, and Germany joined the first international ski association and sponsored its own competitions.5 After World War One alpine skiing joined the

Scandinavian-style (or nordic) cross-country races and jumping contests as part of this international competition. "Downhill" races tested who could get from the top of the mountain to the bottom fastest and allowed racers to choose their own path. The difficulty of negotiating trees led British skier Sir Arnold Lunn to develop a separate race called slalom, in which skiers raced down through a series

of poles.6 While "downhill" races often accompanied nordic events in competitions,

the first alpine-only competition did not take place until 1927. Sponsored by the Ski Club Arlberg, this race would later be known as the Arlberg-Kandahar. The club awarded prizes in a slalom race, a downhill race, and for the fastest combined time. Soon resorts throughout the Alps--in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, and ltaly--were holding similar races, establishing a circuit of alpine contests through which the sport would spread.?

image

5Charles M. Dudley, Sixty Centuries of Skiing (Brattleboro VT: Stephen Daye Press, 1935), 86.

6For a more extensive discussion of the Lunn's development of slalom racing and how it spread to the Eastern U.S., see Allen, 98-103.

7Many of the resorts which first held alpine events in the early 1930s are still famous for their races, and continue to attract tourists and ski racers from all over the world. They include, among others, Davos and St. Moritz in Switzerland, Megeve and Chamonix in France, Germany's Garmisch, and the Austrian areas Kitzbuehel and Innsbruck. Alpine skiing gained the ultimate recognition when downhill and slalom events became part of the annual FIS championship competition in 1933. FIS stands for Federation International du Ski, which is the international governing body of skiing. The first FIS that included alpine events took place in Innsbruck, Austria. Dick Durrance, an American boy living in Garmisch­ Partenkirchen, raced in Germany's first slalom race in 1932 at the age of eighteen. He won, and would go on to become the best and most famous American downhill


70


image

Downhill skiing and tourism in small European mountain towns like St.


Anton--and in more famous ones including St. Moritz and Davos in Switzerland-­ blossomed in the 1920s. It was no accident that they did so together. Resort towns organized ski clubs, sponsored races, and financed traveling teams to represent them precisely to improve their tourist business, which represented one of the few economic opportunities for those towns during the 1920s and 1930s. The skiers who represented these towns in races and taught in the resort ski school became the locus of fame and fortune. In their roles as instructors, mountain guides, and competitors, some European skiers constructed a masculine identity for themselves that placed them at the center of alpine resort culture.

Hannes Schneider, Friedl Pfeifer, Otto Lang, Luggi Foeger, and Rudi Matt were some of the main reasons why people in Europe--and later in America-­ wanted to take up alpine skiing. These men all worked at the same place: Schneider's ski school in St. Anton. They advertised the beauty of skiing in their physical form, infused the sport with images of masculinity in their behavior, and established Austria as one of the hotbeds of talent with their racing. Schneider and Rudi Matt appeared in a popular ski film called "The White Ecstasy," made in 1931 and shown all over Europe, in which an elaborate ski chase highlighted the style and

excitement of dowhnill skiing.8 Many of St. Anton's ski instructors--Pfeifer and

Otto Lang included--took extensive exams that qualified them to be mountain guides and so join what Pfeifer called "a select brotherhood." 9 Alpine guides had led tourists through the Alps for decades--Pfeifer's father was one--and in the 1920s and '30s trips on skis grew quite popular. Without the benefit of ski lifts and


image

racer in the 1930s. Dick and Miggs Durrance, interview by Jeanette Darnauer, 18 August 1993, video tape, AHS. See also Dick Durrance and John Jerome, The

Man on the Medal: The Life and Times of America's First Great Ski Racer (Aspen CO: Durrance Enterprises, Inc., 1995).

8Pfeifer and Lund, 23.

9Pfeifer and Lund, 30; Lang, 50.


71


image

designated trails, tourists who wanted to ski difficult terrain had to first climb up it, and cope with the dangers of avalanches, snowstorms, and cold, as well. As Pfeifer explained, "Skiing the Valluga [the highest mountain above St. Anton] was a

wilderness experience that called for a protecting leader to intercede between the skier and raw nature. The St. Anton instructor was expected to be that leader."10

One American's "cherished memory" was of a July, 1931 ski trip up the Breithorn in Switzerland, during which his group's guide cast quite a figure. Rousting skiers at 3:00 a.m., setting "a terrific pace" up the mountain, and breaking trail in thigh­ deep snow, the guide protected his reputation by reaching the summit with his group before another guide from outside the district could. Once on top the wind and weather prevented a leisurely respite, so the group strapped their skis on

again and "looked forward with great anticipation to a five or six-mile coast down the glacier."11 This guide's leadership and control--even his reputation and rank

in the world of ski guides--helped make the group's trip both memorable and enjoyable. Another American, on a different ski trip in Switzerland, noted the difficulty of such pursuits when he noted that after a brief rest stop, "We resume[d] our march [up the mountain]... having peeled shirts and undershirts

and gotten our second wind." On the way down, he continued, "the descent becomes a sort of race."12 Skiing in the Alps was no easy task; it took strength, endurance,

and competitiveness on the way up and on the way down. Mountain guides epitomized this ideal in their role as leaders, an ideal which their group members could only hope to emulate. In addition to being guides, examples, and protectors, then, these men defined a masculinity that was embedded in the experiences of tourists, resort culture, and a particular way of interacting with the landscape.

image

1Opfeifer and Lund, 30.

11Carl Blaurock, "A Ski Trip on the Breithorn, Switzerland," Trail and Timberline, 160 (February 1932), 21, 25.

12Lee C. Ashley, "As the Swiss Does It," Trail and Timberline, 158 (December 1931), 187-188.


72

Alpine racing offered a critical venue for constructing these masculine identities. The talent gathered at Schneider's ski school produced an environment in which instructors could refine their technique together and so improve their racing. Friedl Pfeifer and Rudi Matt made names for themselves on the European racing circuit, while others competed on lower levels. Pfeifer, representing the Ski Club Arlberg, won the very first Hahnenkamm race in 1929, traveling to the tourist haven Kitzbuehel and beating experienced racers much older than he. Two years later he won Austria's national championship. While Schneider's ski school served as a training camp for its local instructors/racers, its main business was attracting tourist dollars. These goals, however, were not mutally exclusive, or even in conflict. Friedl Pfeifer explained that "My sphere of interest was managed by the authoritative but benevolent Hannes Schneider, whose fame had reached

almost mythic proportions. An instructor's job was to teach skiing and to convey that authority and benevolence to our students."13 Having well-known racers as

instructors certainly helped business, and racing victories only added to the masculine authority instructors already exercised as mountain guides, group leaders, and skilled ski technicians.

Students of skiing came to alpine resorts from Vienna, from England, and from neighboring European countries, though some Americans made the trek, too. They came to watch ski races, learn to ski themselves, and partake in a self­ contained winter resort culture designed for and supported by elites. One resort a few hours by train from Vienna, the Semmering, had been a popular playground for affluent merchants, aristocrats, and celebrities of the Austro-Hungarian empire before the war, and it balanced its post-war clientele of tubercular summer

image

13Pfeifer and Lund, 36. Austrian ski schools in general, and Schneider's in particular, were much more regimented and formal than ski schools today. Students attended the same class with the same instructor daily for their entire stay and had to pass rigid standards of qualification to advance into the next-level class.


73

visitors with a ski school in the winter. Even aft'er the war, Otto Lang explained, "there was a sizable population of healthy nouveaux riches who looked for ways to

spend their money in an environment of prewar luxury."14 Other resorts in

Switzerland enjoyed a similar clientele, mainly of British ski enthusiasts and followers of Arnold Lunn. Hannes Schneider's fans swelled Kitzb0hl and the little town of St. Anton. By the early 1930s Lang had moved to St. Anton to teach in Schneider's school, Pfeifer's family had opened a hotel of their own, and "celebrities, nobility, millionaires, and even royalty [were] all lugging their skis

to the ski school meeting place."15 Lang recalled that "St. Anton had truly become a

skier's mecca," and remembered teaching famous Italian race car driver Piero Taruffi, a prince of the ancient Roman Ruspoli clan, French nobleman the Compte de Chambrun, and the Marchioness of Londonderry, who brought her entourage and the Duke of Hamilton with her.16 Even King Albert of Belgium came to St. Anton for ski lessons, although on one very rainy occasion the instructors convinced him

to retire to the bar in the Hotel Post instead.17

While not every student wore a crown (skiers came from a variety of social worlds and countries to St. Anton}, they generally took part in a "resort culture" associated with wealth, consumption, and conspicuous socializing. "With a new fall of snow there came a change in the town of St. Moritz," one American skier noticed in 1931. "From everywhere came people. Sleighs jangled down the curved streets. The store windows, filled with soft woolen things and smartly tailored skiing suits,


image

14Lang, 41; see also Paul P. Bernard, Rush to the Alps: The Evolution of Vacationing in Switzerland (Boulder: East European Quarterly, distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 1978).

15pfeifer and Lund, 33. Lang came to St. Anton the winter of 1929-1930 as a government-licensed ski instructor and mountain guide. From Salzburg and fluent in French and English, Pfeifer characterized him as "exactly the kind of instructor Hannes needed for his growing international clientele." Pfeifer and Lund, 32; Lang, 49.

16Lang, 63.

17pfeifer and Lund, 36.


74

image

were irrestistible," and "[s]mart people from all the world filled the hotels."18 A group of American skiers vacationing in 1926 noticed that skiers in Switzerland tended not to retire early, despite the physical demands of skiing. "In

Switzerland," one wrote, "the social life is as attractive as the skiing. We change wet clothes for evening dress, and dine, dance, and make merry in the bar."19

As the business of resort town ski schools grew inextricably intertwined with that of local hotels and ski clubs, instructors became more than simply guides, teachers, and famous racers. They had to woo clientele and fit in with the tradition of high-society resort culture in which their students had invested. In doing so these men transformed themselves into icons of cosmopolitan, sexual masculinity, in the process leaping across the cl.ass lines that divided elite tourists from service employees. Most began their careers as simple country boys. They had to learn, as did Friedl Pfeifer, not to come to the ski school in clothes that smelled like the barn. Schneider insisted that his instructors be clean, neat, prompt, and polite. He wanted their classes to be fun and safe, so he taught them to build a relationship with their students and develop camaraderie by discussing the mountains around them while they climbed. In order to improve his status in the ski school and the impression he made on his students, Pfeifer copied the diction of a more educated colleague and then took English lessons. This also helped him earn

more money, since Schneider paid instructors double for teaching in a foreign language. 20 When Otto Lang joined the ski school in 1929 from Salzburg, his

cosmopolitan image and his fluency in French and English proved a great asset. Pfeifer noticed, and in 1933 he took up the study of French.


image

18Stephen H. Hart, "Skiing at St. Moritz," Trail and Timberline, 158 (December 1931), 189.

19John L. Jerome Hart, "Skiing in Switzerland and Norway," Trail and Timberline,

95 (August, 1926), 1-3.

20p feifer and Lund, 24-25.


75

image


Both men self-consciously cultivated a cosmopolitan image, picking up nuances of language and manners wherever they could and becoming favorite instructors of influential people in the process. Often the relationships instructors formed with their students on the mountain slipped into the social

world. Initially reluctant to do so, Schneider eventually allowed his instructors to socialize with their students. Guests and instructors alike enjoyed unwinding over a glass of beer at the end of the day, and sometimes made dinner plans as well.

Instructors sometimes found themselves dining in quite distinguished company, meeting important people and so enhancing their own images. Occasionally relationships went even farther, as the masculinity, status, and worldly image of Austrian ski instructors came to outweigh their modest origins, educations, and bank accounts. Otto Lang wrote that "Some of the instructors, handsome by nature

and bronzed by the sun, developed an amazing aptitude for sexual encounters," according to stories spread through the ski schooi.21 One American heiress

apparently fell so in love with an instructor that she stayed for the summer and


built a house, leaving when she finally realized that he would not return her affections. 22 The camaraderie that skiing fostered both on the hill and off combined

with the resort culture to create a ski world where handsome ski instructors became sex symbols. Their jobs put them in social situations with people of wealth, fame, and title, but their masculinity and status as expert skiers enabled them to mingle with confidence.

In some cases, ski instructors made social connections at St. Anton that would serve them well in later life. One winter morning, for example, an American movie star appeared at the ski school meeting place seeking a private instructor. So began the friendship between Friedl Pfeifer and Claudette Colbert, a


image

21Lang, 62.

22pfeifer and Lund, 27.


76


image

relationship that would ease Pfeifer's transition to living in America. They would meet again, in Sun Valley and then Aspen. Pfeifer also met one of his future employers in St. Anton--Alice Kaier. She had been visiting St. Anton since the 1920s and hired Pfeifer as a mountain guide in 1935 to see if he would do as a coach for her pet project, the U.S. Women's Ski Team. Otto Lang also met future friends and sponsors through Hannes Schneider's ski school. After rescuing an injured man he found with his ski class and easing the distraught wife's fears, Lang made the formal aquaintance of Larry Dorcy (the injured man) and Maud Hill Dorcy (the distraught wife), plus two of Maud's brothers, all of whom proved to be grandchildren of railroad magnate James J. Hill. Lang became close friends with Jerome Hill, and learned from him to appreciate music, literature, painting, theater, and films. The Hill family practically adopted Lang, urging him to travel with them, stay with them, and accept their moral and financial support. Through the Hill family Lang would cultivate a cosmopolitan life and meet his future American employer, Katherine Peckett. She joined the Hill entourage in St. Anton from Franconia, NH, where her family owned an inn that would soon be open for winter guests. Schneider's reputation drew her to St. Anton in search of ski instructors, and in December of 1935 Otto Lang started work as the first St. Anton instructor in America. Many others would follow. These "Arlberg" instructors from St. Anton--and instructors from other European ski schools as well--served as emissaries of skiing to countries all over the world during the 1930s. They brought their enthusiasm for the sport, familiarity with resort culture, knowledge of mountainous terrain, and experience as both teachers and competitors to America, where skiers embraced them as experts. American ski enthusiasts accepted their masculine image and a hometown in the Alps as recognizable signs of that expertise. For upper-class outdoorspeople who subscribed to European resort

culture, the ski instructor masculine ideal resonated with their class identities and


77


image

they adopted it as their own. This construction of masculinity would have less appeal to skiers unfamiliar with European resorts. In working-class mountain communities, masculinity came from toughness, strength, and endurance rather than style, expertise, and cosmopolitan image.


Alpine Skiing and Instructors in the United States


European skiers came to America during the 1930s for professional and political reasons. By that decade news of Schneider's Arlberg technique had spread around the world; influential Americans had experienced it first-hand in Austria; and they wanted more. European ski instructors became export commodities in high demand. Introduced by tourists who had visited Lunn's camp in Morren and Schneider's ski school in St. Anton, downhill technique came to the United States in

the late 1920s and concentrated, at first, in the Northeast.23 College outing clubs

and urban clubs like Boston's Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) popularized downhill skiing during a period of optimism, economic boom, and unprecedented leisure time. During the 1920s Americans participated in sports as never before,

with an enthusiasm and freedom that crossed boundaries of class and gender.24

Unlike many popular sports in the 1920s, however--baseball, basketball, track, and football among them--alpine skiing appealed to wealthy urbanites who were familiar with recreational trends in Europe, had money for equipment, and the

image

23Allen, 100-103.

24Mark Dyreson, "The Emergence of Consumer Culture and the Transformation of Physical Culture: American Sport in the 1920s," Journal of Sport History, 16, 3 (Winter, 1989), 261-281; see also Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Roy Rozensweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Richard D. Mandell, Sport: A Cultural History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994); Allen Guttman, Women's Sports: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991); Susan Cahn, Coming On Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Sport (New York: The Free Press, 1994); Steven A. Riess, "From Pitch to Putt: Sport and Class in Anglo­ American Sport," Journal of Sport History, 21, 2 (Summer 1994), 138-184.


78

image

time to travel and practice. It also drew in residents of mountain towns for whom skiing required little financial or temporal investment at all. During the 1930s American skiers who could afford it embraced European ski resort culture; those who could not welcomed downhill skiing without its elite trappings and incorporated it into their communities.

As with the spread of nordic skiing during the nineteenth century, immigrants brought technique with them to America. Some European ski instructors acted as catalysts for the explosive growth of American skiing in the 1930s, and others responded to that growth by arriving in ever greater numbers. Both sets came, in part, because their employers guaranteed them jobs and (relatively) handsome salaries. Of the European "experts," Otto Schneibs was one of the first to arrive. He came from Germany and instructed Boston's AMC on the Arlberg technique during the 1928-29 season and took over as coach of the

Dartmouth Outing Club ski team in 1930.25 In 1935 Otto Lang was the first St.

Anton instructor to come to America, where (along with Sigi Buchmayr and Kurt Thalhammer from Salzburg) he instructed at Peckett's on Sugar Hill in New

Hampshire.2 6 After that year European skiers seemed to arrive in droves. Walter

Prager, a well-known Swiss skier, took over as Dartmouth coach in 1936, and Austrians Hannes Schroll, Sigi Engl and Otto Tschool also made names for themselves.27 At least five of Hannes Schneider's instructors established their own ski schools in America: Otto Lang started an Arlberg ski school of his own at


Mt. Ranier; Benno Rybizka started one in Jackson, NH and brought eight others from St. Anton with him to run it; Toni Matt ended up at Whitefish, Montana; and

image

25Allen, 103; John Litchfield, interview by the author, 29 September 1994, Denver, Colorado.

26Lang, 80, 99-101; Pfeifer and Lund, 49; Litchfield.

27Sigi Engl and Hannes Schroll, from near Salzburg, came to start a ski school at Yosemite Valley; Otto Tschool probably instructed somewhere, as Pfeifer saw him at the 1938 Boston and New York ski shows. Lang, 107-108; Pfeifer and Lund, 52, 66.


79


image

Hans Hauser set up a crew of Austrians in his Sun Valley ski school, which Friedl Pfeifer would take over two years later. These men found work across the country--in established mountain resort areas, wherever outdoor clubs had formed, and at new resorts built explicitly for skiing, from Peckett's in New Hampshire to Sun Valley, Idaho.

For many, the promise of work (and status) as ski instructors in America was enough to bring them across the ocean. Other Austrian skiers, however, came to America for political reasons. Conflicting sentiments over Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s divided Hannes Schneider's ski school, and Hitler's invasion of

Austria in 1938 wreaked havoc in the town of St. Anton. After the Anschluss a group of strong Nazi supporters in St. Anton emerged, including some of Hannes Schneider's instructors, one of whom became the new Nazi mayor. Friedl Pfeifer opposed Hitler and found himself trapped in St. Anton, until another instructor helped him escape. They and another skier friend made it to Australia, where they taught skiing for a season before heading to America. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, Pfeifer called up his old student Claudette Colbert and found himself at dinner with

her, hearing about Sun Valley.28 Instructor Luggi Foeger also fled Hitler and ended

up in Yosemite, California. Hannes Schneider had a more difficult time leaving Austria. An outspoken critic of Hitler amongst what turned out to be some ardent Nazis in his ski school, the most famous man in St. Anton--even in the whole world of skiing--was pulled from his bed and thrown in jail when the Nazis took over. A Nazi sympathizer took over his ski school. According to Otto Lang, "a cadre of loyal

townspeople, other ski instructors, and legions of influential former ski school


students in Europe and abroad ... tried everything in their power to set [Schnedier] free." 29 Finally a long-time friend and skiing companion, Dr. Karl



image

28pfeifer and Lund, 53-60. 29Lang, 180.


80


image

Rosen, heard of Schneider's imprisonment and called in a favor from Hitler himself. Rosen got custody of Schneider and brought Schneider to his home in Germany, where Schneider finally realized that he would have to abandon his country. In this endeavor another powerful skiing enthusiast, the President of Manufacturer's Trust Company in New York and chairman of the American Banking Committee (which negotiated loans with Germany), stepped in to help. Harvey Gibson made a deal with Hitler's exchequer to free Schneider and his family, and then arranged for him to live and work at a resort Gibson owned at Mt. Cranmore, NH. Hannes, Ludwina, and their two children finally arrived at the North Conway train station on February 12, 1939,30

The Anschluss mobilized the power of the growing international ski community at the same time that it brought untold amounts of talent to ski slopes all over the United States. Encouraging the growth of skiing in America with their enthusiasm, experience, and skill, these instructors established themselves as experts and infused American ski culture with alpine references. In the 1930s they established ski schools and taught the Arlberg technique at mountain resorts from California to New Hampshire. They also taught skiing in cities themselves, where the heart of America's skiing population lived. This feat, of course, required some planning. Department stores in Boston and New York, interested in selling

ski clothes and equipment, orchestrated giant indoor ski shows and quite literally made European experts into commodities on display. Otto Lang starred in the first indoor ski show, sponsored by the department store B. Altman and held in December of 1935, where he demonstrated the Arlberg system by skiing down a short slide on

synthetic "snow."31 He was such a success that the next year organizers planned

mammoth shows in Boston and New York, recruiting Otto Lang, Benno Rybizka, and


image

30Lang, 180-183; Pfeifer and Lund, 73-74.

31Lang, 95-99.


81


image

Hannes Schneider himself to demonstrate their technique. American ski enthusiasts filled both Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden--according to Lang, 80,000 people saw the show in New York alone. The December 11 New York

Times reported that "Skiing hysteria has seized New York with a tremendous

grip." 32 These shows continued for at least a few more years, with European skiers on center stage.

Alpine skiers also demonstrated their expertise in smaller arenas. Rural and urban ski clubs continued to pop up across the country as they had since the late nineteenth century. Europeans who had emigrated to America appeared as guest

speakers and instructors at these clubs all over the country. Otto Schneibs gave his first talk in Boston to an audience of about forty people. Three hundred came to his second one. Upon his retirement as Dartmouth ski coach (1930-36), one follower said: "Otto, the brilliant apostle of the religion of skiing and camaraderie, combined with his classic way of picturing his ideas in a vivid mosaic of English and German, seemed to ignite all New England." His influence upon Dartmouth College seemed equally profound. The same author, who raced for Dartmouth, wrote that "skiing has claimed more enthusiasts than football or Smith; there are more skis in Hanover than dogs, an unprecedented situation; and Dartmouth's ski consciousness

has threatened to replace the old life blood--the 'Beat Yale' complex."33 While in

this case Schneibs was preaching to the converted, there is no doubt that he boosted downhill skiing in America. In addition to his lecture, he established and taught a ski school workshop for Eastern ski instructors, coached the Dartmouth ski team to victory in the intercollegiate championships every year, and even took his show on

the road.34 His favorite saying immortalized him; it rang true for skiers all over


image

32Lang, 124-127; Pfeifer and Lund, 51-52.

33David J. Bradley, "Heil, Ottol" American Ski Annual (1936-37), 63-64. 34Bradley, 65, Carl E. Shumway, "America's First Ski School," Trail and Timberline, 173 (March 1933), 32, 38-39.


82


image

America. He said, "skiing is not just a sport; it's a way of lifel" For those enamored with European resort culture, his claim referred to a specific leisure experience. For those not familiar with such a world, Schneibs' comment referred to the sport's social aspects and the fact that if you tried skiing once and liked it, chances were you would continue to ski as much as possible. For both sets of skiers, however, skiing's "way of life" was tinted with ethnic signs pointing to the Alps and gender signs pointing toward a particular masculine ideal.

By the 1930s European skiers such as Schneibs, transplanted Arlberg instructors, and famous racers found themselves in the center of an expanding American ski world. Their Europeanness granted them immediate authority in this culture, where terms like "schuss," "sitzmark," and "Ski Heill" peppered skiers' speech, and students listened extra hard to instructors with German accents. The

status of European skiers had reached the point, one author noted, where imposters could simply say "bend zee knees, two dollars pleez."35 Usually, however,

European skiers who came to America earned the respect and admiration of their colleagues and students; who better to teach the Arlberg system, after all, than an instructor from Schneider's school?

Race results further legitimized European prowess in downhill skiing.


Austrians, Germans, and Swiss dominated the FIS slalom and downhill competitions during the 1930s, and America's greatest racer during that period, Dick Durrance, had learned to ski and race while living in Germany. Averill Harriman imported European racers--even the Swiss national team--to compete for Sun Valley's Harriman Cup and attract attention to his new resort. Their very presence in America seemed to legitimize skiing in the states. One Dartmouth racer called the Swiss team's visit a coup d'etat, and their participation in ski races throughout America and Canada "an intoxicant from which our ski spirit may hope never to

image

35Editors of Ski Magazine, America's Ski Book (New York: Scribner, 1973), 42.


83


image

recover." "Their personalities as well as their prowess," he went on, "have insensibly produced [an indelible impression] on those skiing centers fortunate

enough to be their hosts."36 Dick Durrance astounded and excited Americans when

he won Sun Valley's Harriman Cup three times--despite stiff competition from Swiss, Austrian, and German skiers--and retired the trophy. He was by far the most celebrated American skier in the 1930s. His performance in the 1936 Olympics, while stunning for an American, did not earn him a medal. American ski enthusiasts of the 1930s thus paid attention to international race results, and judged as authentic those they could associate--however vaguely--with those results.


Alpine Skiing in Colorado


European influence, while firmly established in New England during the 1920s and 1930s, certainly did not stay confined to that area. Downhill skiers familiar with the Alps had to adapt their expectations of snow and terrain in the

East. Upon seeing photos of his new home in Mt. Cranmore, New Hampshire, Hannes Schneider supposedly asked, "where are the mountains?"37 For those

Arlberg instructors who came to Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, Sun Valley, and later Aspen, that question did not come to mind. They often found, furthermore, longstanding traditions of skiing in small town and city ski clubs that had existed for years or even decades. Ski clubs accepted the new European techniques enthusiastically. One of the earliest Europeans to bring downhill skiing to Colorado, Lt. "Bend more the knee" Albizzi, "revolutionized" Colorado skiing in 1923 by teaching some members of the Colorado Mountain Club (CMG) to turn and


image

36David Bradley, "Invasion of the Swiss," The Ski Bulletin, 26 March, 1937, 5. See also David J. Bradley, "S.A.S.," The American Ski Annual (1937-38), 115- 11 9.

37pfiefer and Lund, 73.


84


image

stop without the hitherto obligatory sitzmark. "His skiing position," the author

noted in 1939, "was exactly that used today by the very expert."38 A succession of these European "expert" skiers came to Colorado in the 1930s. Unlike the Scandinavian skiers that preceded them, these alpine skiers came to Colorado precisely to teach skiing. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the job opportunities for instructors--especially ones with an accent. One resident of Climax, in Summit County, Colorado, recalled that sometime in the 1930s two local ski "addicts" taught some others the rudiments of skiing, and "it wasn't too long before members of the group decided they needed some formal skiing instruction."

They got Bob Balch, an eastern skier who had moved to Denver, to come and teach for a week. Other instructors of different nationalities followed him. "It seems as though," Gerald McMillin remembered, "I learned to snowplow and counterstem in

seven different languages."39 Otto Schneibs also visited Colorado. In 1937 he came

to Denver to teach and lecture to local ski enthusiasts with European ski champion Florian Haemerle. Denver ski club sponsors advertised their workshops with gusto, and when Schniebs went to Aspen, residents recognized his presence as "probably the highest recommendation or recognition that can be accorded any

winter sports center in the country."40 Denver skiers and Aspen skiers alike

received Schneibs enthusiastically and accepted his visit as acknowledgment of Colorado's potential as a skiing region.


image

3BHenry Buchtel, "Skiing B.E.P.," Trail and Timberline, 241 (January 1939), 5- 6; J.C, Blickensderfer, "Reminiscences of Skiing in Colorado, 1922-1968," Ski Collection, CHS.

39"Climax Ski Area Has Had a Lively, Exciting History," The Summit County

Journal, 11 March, 1960, 4, Agnes Wright Spring Collection, University of Colorado Archives, Boulder, Colorado (herafter cited as CUA).

40"Famous Skier Will Conduct School Here," Aspen Times, 4 March, 1937, 1;

notice from the Arlberg Club, the CMC, and the Colorado Ski Runners, n.d., Colorado Ski Clubs and Associations manuscript collection, Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado (hereafter cited as CHS).


85


image

One group of businessmen, led by Billy Fiske, a wealthy, world-traveling athlete, sought to recreate St. Moritz in Colorado's Rockies. They hired, accordingly, a Swiss ski mountaineering expert named Andre Roch as a consultant. Roch arrived in Aspen, with his colleague Gunther Langes from Italy, in November, 1936. Their job was to survey the snow conditions and recreational advantages of the area and then designate the best place to build a winter resort. By the time Roch returned to Switzerland the following June, he had designated the best spot for a resort, taught many locals and visitors from Denver to ski, helped establish a popular downhill skiing club in Aspen, and set ski club members to cutting the

soon-to-be-famous Roch Run on Aspen Mountain.41 A group of CMC members

spent a week skiing in Aspen and wrote, "Two European guides were there, and they

proved themselves to be high-class experts, both in skiing and teaching. We plan to go again next spring vacation."42 Roch was so influential to Aspen's development as a ski town that its residents declared October 26th "Andre Roch Day."43 European instructors, coaches, racers, and mountaineers thus brought their


experience and expertise to Colorado, where the sport--with their help--was being transformed.

People in Colorado could have a diversity of skiing experiences in the 1920s. Colorado ski clubs held local, regional, and sometimes national competitions. Ski clubs in Denver and in mountain towns, still influenced by Scandinavian immigrants who arrived in the early 1900s, held nordic ski events that continued to grow in popularity. Regional races and carnivals involved men,

image

41See Frank Willoughby, "History of Aspen's Course and Jump," The Aspen Times, n.d., clipping, Ski Collection, AHS; Fred Willoughby, "Andre Roch Brought Racing, a Dream," The Aspen Times, 31 January, 1980, 5A, Andre Roch biography file, AHS. See also Anne Gilbert, "Re-Creation Through Recreation: Aspen Skiing from 1870-1970," (1995}, Ski Collection, AHS, 14-35. Chapter 3 will discuss the formation of Colorado resorts and the results of Roch's recommendations in more detail.

42"Definite Advantages," The Ski Bulletin, 26 March, 1937, 15.

43City of Aspen Proclamation, n.d., Andre Roch biography file, AHS.


86


image

women, and children from the community in the sport, as well as contestants and spectators from Denver, and national competitions drew skiers (and media attention} from across the country. Some mountain residents, however, without organized ski clubs or connections to Denver, retained traditions from their mining years and skied informally on their own.

Outside the town of Aspen, farm and ranch kids like Russ Holmes skied on their ranches, "straight down on homemade skis."44 Others, like Hildur Hoaglund,

went on ski trips with local Swedes.45 For kids in Aspen itself, skiing provided adventure and thrills during long winters. Fred and Frank Willoughby would climb up the back of Aspen Mountain from their family's mine and ski into town, and kids from Aspen's East End made similar use of the mountain. Those with more timid instincts satisfied themselves by using the upper end of Aspen Street. "The neighborhood bunch used to make their own skis," Jim Snyder remembered. Frank Dolinsek said "we tied boards on our feet and went for it. We would slide off a pile of snow from the shed roof. There were some cow paths on Aspen Mountain we

would follow."46 The skiing legacy of Aspen miners, the cultural memory of

Swedish immigrants, and the reality of long winters kept young people skiing in Aspen through the 1920s and early 1930s, after which Roch galvanized the town with downhill skiing. Locals continued to ski in Gunnison as well, despite the early demise of its nineteenth-century ski club. Like Aspen's East End crowd, Gunnison's Western State College students had few diversions besides skiing once winter set in and connections to the outside world shut down. Students and locals skied around

image

44Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, "The Town Got Excited About Skiing," Aspen Times, 2 March, 1978, Skiing 1938-45 file, AHS.

45Hildur Anderson, interview by Ramona Markalunas, 18 January, 1979, tape recording, AHS.

46"Miner and Ski Pioneer Fred Willoughby Dies, Aspen Times, 27 January, 1983, BA, clipping in Willoughby biography file, AHS; Frank Willoughby, "Aspen Skiing: An Account by Frank Willoughby," n.d., manuscript, Early Skiing file, AHS; Kathleen Krieger Daily and Gaylord T. Guenin, Aspen: The Quiet Years (Aspen CO: Red Ink inc., 1994}, 220, 468.


87


image

town and also rode the train to Quick's Hill near Crested Butte, encouraged by the college, which established skiing as a regular sport In 1916. A more formal ski club would form in 1938, when three local men organized a special ski trip to

Marshall Pass, between Gunnison and Salida.47

Denver ski enthusiasts enjoyed organized ski trips and competitions throughout the 1920s--events which featured Scandinavian-style skiing and jumping but set up the structures in which alpine skiing would grow. The Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) began sponsoring Annual Winter Outings starting in 1916, four years after Denver outdoorsmen and women founded the club. Until 1937 these outings were to Fern Lake, near Estes Park. Club members did their own labor, packing in equipment, clothes, and provisions for a weekend, and spent the days skiing and the evenings socializing. In this way, one member explained, "mountain-clubbers first began to make the most of Colorado's glorious mountains in winter, and began to realize the thrills of skiing for real pleasure and

enjoyment." 48 By the mid-1920s the popularity of these trips had spread; the

Boulder branch of the CMC and the University of Colorado both sponsored winter sports and cross-country trips in February of 1925. 49 The Denver Rocky

Mountain Ski Club, established in 1914, focused less on trips to the mountains than did the CMC, and more on honing its memb.ers' nordic skiing and jumping skills. Emblematic of the club's enthusiasm was their song: "Ski-i-n-g, wonderful ski-i-n-g--You're the only spo-r-t that I adore. When the snow falls

image

47Abbott Fay, Ski Tracks in the Rockies: A Century of Colorado Skiing (Evergreen CO: Cordillera Press, Inc., 1984), 25.

48Evelyn Runnette, "Skiing With the C.M.C.," The Ski Bulletin, 19 March, 1937,

6-7. The CMC's programs proved so popular that affiliate clubs popped up in Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Estes Park by the early 1920s. See Hugh E. Kingery and Elinor Eppich Kingery, The Colorado Mountain Club: The First Seventy-Five Years of a Highly Individual Corporation, 1912-1987 (Evergreen CO: Cordillera Press, Inc., 1988).

49Colorado Winter Season Program, January 1 to April 1, 1925, Rocky Mountain

National Park Ski Club, Groswold Ski Collection, Grand County Historical Association, Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado (herafter cited as GCHA).


88


image

over the hillside I'll be bumping down the hill till I'm sore."50 This ski club held annual competitions at its Genesee Hill site outside of Denver, which drew competitors from Hot Sulphur Springs, Dillon, and Breckenridge as well as from the city.

The national competitions held there in 1921 and 1927, however, topped them all. Carl Howelson and ski club president Menifee Howard convinced the National Ski Association to hold its championships in the West for the first time since its founding in 1904, and the 1921 meet took place at Genesee. Newspapers

estimated 40-50,000 came to watch; and local crowds went home happy when Carl

Howelson won the National Professional Championship.51 Denver boosters were even more excited when Howard secured the National Championships for the city again in 1927. They expected contestants from every ski club in the country, champions from Canada and Norway, and 15-20,000 spectators; they planned a week of events in Denver including "street stunts, floats, folk pageants, and carnival ball, besides skiing and skating contests;" and they appropriated $1,500

for improvements on Genesee Hili.52 This event, and the one held in 1921, showed

Coloradans the best skiers in the country and introduced those skiers to the state's Rocky Mountains. By promoting the sport to locals and the region to visiting skiers, the Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club and its supporters hoped skiing and winter tourism would play a larger role in the state's economy.


image

50Program, Annual Amateur Ski Tournament of the Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club, January 28-29, 1922, General Ski collection, GCHA.

51Leif Hovelsen, The Flying Norseman (Ishpeming Ml: National Ski Hall of Fame Press, 1983), 76-77. An interstate tournament in February of 1923 attracted tough competitors from Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, and Minnesota, leading Denver newspapers to claim "Denver Will Cinch Fame as Center of Winter Sports In Ski Tourney on Genesee Mountain Slide Today." "Denver Will Cinch Fame," clipping,

18 February, 1923, general ski collection, GCHA.

52"Denver Will Have Week of Winter Carnival Sports in February," clipping, 1927, general ski collection, GCHA; "national Ski Meet is Coming to World's Playground in Rockies," clipping, Denver Post, 1927, general ski collection, GCHA


89


image

Most skiing in the 1920s revolved around town ski clubs and the carnivals they held, which united Coloradan skiers who lived mountain towns with those who lived in Denver. During those years ski clubs created a circuit of carnivals and competitions, all accessible by train or car to Denver. Ski clubs in Hot Sulphur Springs, Steamboat Springs, Dillon, and Denver, for instance, started before 1920 and all held tournaments throughout the decade. The Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club tried something new in 1923--it held its First Annual Fourth of July Ski Tournament on St. Mary's Glacier. Jumpers from Denver, Allens Park, Hot Sulphur, Dillon, and Steamboat all made the trip, and the contest continued to attract competitors and spectators through the 1930s. By the 1923-24 season the Allens Park Ski Club and the Rocky Mountain National Park Ski Club held tournaments as well, and were joined that summer by the Pikes Peak Ski Club, which held its First Annual ski tournament there in June. Another Colorado Springs club, the Silver Spruce, held one in 1931. Still other areas joined in the local tournament circuit in the 1920s: the Homewood Ski Club out of Denver (1926), the Pioneer Ski Club of the University of Denver (1928), and the Woodbine Ski Club (1931). These competitions and carnivals united skiers across lines of class and established a structural framework through which alpine skiing­

-initially an upper-class leisure activity--could spread throughout Colorado's mountain communities in the 1930s.

Formed by a group of Denver skiers, the Arlberg Club embodied the new enthusiasm for alpine skiing in Colorado and would shape the development of the sport in years ahead. Members came from Denver's social elite and, though deeply enamored with downhill skiing itself, they fully embraced the social culture surrounding it. The group came together when Graeme McGowan, a "gentleman skier from Denver," discovered the potential of the West Portal area for skiing and

built a small clubhouse there. The Moffat Tunnel offered dependable railroad access


90

image


to the area from Denver in 1928, opening up a new playground for Denver skiers that would eventually become Winter Park.53 The original members of the Arlberg

Club had been skiing West Portal in 1928 and decided to organize a club one day during the train ride home. They chose its name from a magazine article that featured Hannes Schneider and his ski school in St. Anton. Although they got the name from an article in Vogue, chances are these skiers were already familiar with Schneider and his Arlberg system. They were all members of the CMG; some had attended college in the East at schools with ski teams like Williams and Yale; and many had leisure time and money to spare. Even if they had not been to European resorts themselves (McGowan learned to ski from books written by European experts), this group successfully transferred the cosmopolitan and social image of European resort culture to Colorado. By adopting the Arlberg name, furthermore, they expressed their desire to be associated with Europeanness, and with the legitimacy and status that came with it. The club, members agreed, was to "encourage the development of downhill skiing in Colorado, encourage desirable persons to take up skiing and learn it by club standards, and to assist the

development of Colorado resorts."54 Their by-laws thus embraced the sport, its

elite participants, and its resort culture--recreating it to a degree in Colorado. The Denver businessmen who formed the club worked towards their goals by spending weekends skiing at their clubhouse in West Portal, hosting and promoting


image

53The road over Berthoud Pass was not regularly kept open until 1933, and until 1928 trains had to travel over the often-snowed-in Corona Pass. Blickensderfer,

2. See also Steve Patterson and Kenton Forrest, Rio Grande Ski Train (Denver: Tramway Press, Inc., 1984).

54Grand County Historical Association, Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite for Fifty

Years, 1940-1990 (Winter Park Recreation Association, 1989), 17-18. One original member of the Arlberg Club was a Denver native, graduate of Williams College, and head of the Merril Lynch offices in Denver. Another graduated from Yale, practiced law with the Hughes and Dorsey firm, and enjoyed tennis and polo before taking up skiing. This member was known to show up at the clubhouse in a chauffeured Packard--he died in a skiing accident on Loveland Pass in 1939.

Winter Park, 18, 19.


9 1


image

annual slalom and downhill races there starting in 1929, and developing the area as a ski center. The club also hired its own professional instructor, Norwood Cox,

from Grenoble in the Italian Alps. 55

Other less exclusive Denver skiers also took to alpine skiing in the 1930s.


The Denver Winter Sports Club, formed in 1932, conducted a free school for general touring and downhill skiing taught by the best local skiers. "Now that professional coaches are available," one news item noted in 1937, "the club has

given up this activity."56 In return for genuine European instruction, the

announcement implied, members should expect to pay. Downhill ski enthusiasts in the CMG made frequent group trips to Rillie! Hill on Lookout Mountain or traveled to West Portal and Berthoud Pass. Experienced local skiers volunteered their services as instructors until 1936, when the CMG hired Robert Balch, originally from the East but now "one of the leading skiers in our part of the country," to give lessons for 50¢ each on Berthoud Pass.57

In addition to holding practice sessions and offering formal instruction, Colorado ski clubs incorporated downhill skiing in local tournaments and carnivals. Grand Lake inaugurated the tradition with its first annual winter carnival in January of 1932. The Denver Post reaffirmed the cultural power of carnival in its


image

55Bill Engdail, "Mountain Club Making State Skiing Center," clipping, General Ski Collection, GCHA. This article comes from either The Denver Post or The Rocky Mountain News, sometime between 1929 and 1933.

56"Rocky Mountain Notes," The Ski Bulletin, 2(3 March, 1937, 14. 57Volunteer instructors included Arlberg members Frank Ashley, Graeme

McGowan, George Berger, as well as Thor Groswold, who was a significant player in the Denver ski world as a skier and a ski manufacturer. "Ski Instruction Classes," Trail and Timberline, 182 (December 1933), 178. David Rosendale, "Skiing in the Colorado Mountain Club," Trail and Timberline, 208 (February 1936), 11.

For reports on winter outings and other CMG ski events, see "The Winter Outing," Trail and Timberline, 160 (February 1932), 19; "Ski Trips, 1932-33 Season," Trail and Timberline, 179 (December 1932), 174; "Winter Outing," Trail and Timberline, 170 (December 1932), 177; Albert Bancroft, "The Winter Outing," Trail and Timberline, 173 (March 1933), 31, 37; "The Winter Outing," and "Skiing Notice," Trail and Timberline, 186 (April 1934), 46; "Ski Schedule," Trail and Timberline, 229 (December 1937), 135.


92


image

headline when it called Grand Lake "A sparkling, snowy, Norse Mecca--a St. Moritz right in Denver's backyard." 58 The Second Annual Ski Carnival in Grand Lake was

even more exciting. In addition to ski joring (a Scandinavian tradition where a horse tows a skier behind}, snow shoeing, hockey, jumping, and cross-country competitions, this carnival featured a down-mountain race on a course almost two miles long with over 2,000 feet of vertical drop. "Indications are," one Denver newsman wrote, "that a group of experienced racers from the Colorado Arlberg Club will attempt to stave off challenges of entrants from Rocky Mountain National Park Ski Club, Steamboat Springs, Denver Winter Sports Club and other

organizations." 59 Spectators could look forward to Arlberg members

demonstrating "the Austrian style of down mountain skiing" in this event, the first ever to be held except at West Portal, and one in which "unprecedented interest [was] being shown."60 A week later the Hot Sulphur Springs Ski Club took up the

mantle, explaining in its carnival program: "The .Down Mountain Race was first entered as an event in U.S. Western Ski Ass'n tournaments by the Grand Lake W.S. Club. The H.S.S. Ski Club is the first club to enter the Slalom Race. A formal challenge has been issued by this club to the Ahrlberg [sic] Club, for honors in this even t."61 Local ski clubs, often established more than twenty years earlier around

cross-country skiing and jumping, embraced the new European sport of downhill skiing with gusto.


image

58"Grand Lake Will Hold Winter Sports Week," Denver Post, 25 December, 1931, clipping, ski scrapbook, Grand Lake Historical Society, Grand Lake, Colorado (hereafter cited as GLHS}.

59Dave Lehman, "Varied List of Events Included in Ski Meet," Rocky Mountain News, 17 January, 1933.

60•N ew Style Ski Race in Grand Lake Meet," Denver Post, 20 January, 1933; Dave

Lehman, "Leading Skiers in Meet," Rocky Mountain News, 20 January, 1933, clippings, GLHS.

61Program, Twenty-Third Annual Winter Sports Carnival, Hot Sulphur Springs, Coiorado, January 29, 1933, General Ski Collection, GCHA.


93


image

Like the Arlberg Club founders, skiers throughout Colorado formed new clubs dedicated to downhill skiing. Denverites with an equal enthusiasm for the sport but different social goals responded to the Arlberg Club by forming the ski

club Zipfelberger in the 1930s. The Colorado Ski Runners, also based in Denver,

welcomed downhill ski enthusiasts to its ranks as well.62 Andre Roch and Gunther Langes brought the bug to Aspen locals in 1936 and helped them get skis from Denver, taught them technique, and hosted a race that winter which attracted

competitors from the CMC, the Arlberg Club, Ski Club Zipfelberger, and the Colorado Ski Runners. 63 In 1938 and 1939 the Aspen Ski Club hosted the Rocky

Mountain Downhill and Slalom Championships on Aspen Mountain's Roch Run, as

well as the National Championships in 1941.64 Even in Steamboat Springs, Carl Howelson's hometown and a bastion of nordic skiing even today, residents could not stay away from downhill skiing. Graeme McGowan demonstrated new techniques to skiers there in 1931, Robert Balch taught lessons there in 1936, and by 1937 Balch wrote that the town was experiencing "that evolution now so familiar, out of

Scandinavianism into Alpinism." 65 Some mountain towns jumped straight into

"alpinism." During the winter of 1937-38 about fifty skiers appeared on the slopes above Ouray. The next year, the San Juan Ski Club formed with about 100 active skiers from Ouray, Montrose, and Grand Junction. They and the Glenwood Springs Ski Club concentrated on building ski courses for their respective members in 1938. Even in the southwestern part of Colorado, the San Luis Valley


image

62Giles D. Toll, interview by the author, 2 February, 1996, Denver, Colorado. 63Fred Willoughby, "Andre Roch Brought Racing, A Dream," Aspen Times, 31 January, 1980, 5A, clipping, Andre Roch biography file, AHS.

64The first National Downhill and Slalom Championships were held at Mt. Ranier.

For a description of the 1938 and 1939 regional championships and their results, see "Ski Heil to Aspen," Trail and Timberline, 232, (March 1938), 31-33; "Aspen Antics," Trail and Timberline, 244 (April 1939), 43-44.

65Robert Balch, "Steamboat Springs," The Ski Bulletin, 19 March, 1937, 8.


94


image

Ski Club made "a fine ski course" on Wolf Creek Pass, where over 5,000 people skied in 1938. They planned to Install a lilt the next year.66

In little southwestern towns as in the metropolis of Denver, alpine skiing took hold during the 1930s. Spread by Americans who had been East or to Europe, and by Europeans themselves, it eventually overtook its mining and Scandinavian cousin in popularity. For many Coloradans, skiing down nearby mountains simply proved more rewarding than touring up, down, and across the local landscape. And while all the implications of resort culture were linked to the history of alpine skiing, this history was also fundamentally connected to mountainous landscapes. Regional tournaments throughout the 1930s included more and more participants and advertised new downhill and slalom events. In competition skiers from different places and different classes came together. Despite advances in transportation and technology that helped make recreational skiing more accessible to Coloradans, however, enthusiasm still centered in Denver or towns with

mountains nearby. Upper-class urbanites, familiar with European resort culture, adapted characteristics of that culture to their skiing in America and Colorado.

Middle-class Denverites and mountain town locals, in contrast, treated skiing as a community sport. For both sets of people, skiing offered an opportunity for men and women to enjoy themselves. Because skiing required neither brawn, brute strength, nor a competitive mind frame, neither age nor sex determined who could learn or excel. Physical coordination, a degree of fearlessness, and a willingness to get a little snowy proved more relevant. The sport encouraged contrasting definitions of masculinity depending on the skier's class and location, providing an upper-class European ideal emphasizing style and expertise on the one hand, and an earlier, working-class mountain town ideal emphasizing toughness and strength on

image

66Western Colorado and Eastern Utah (January 1939), Ski Town file, Routt County Collection, Buddy Werner Memorial Library, Steamboat Springs, Colorado (hereafter cited as BWML); Ski-Hi Stampede, 1939, Oversize Pam file, CUA.


95


image

the other. For women the experience of skiing sent even more complicated messages about gender, simultaneously undermining and reinforcine different aspects of their social roles.


On Edge: Masculinity, Femininity, and Alpine Skiing


When Hoyt Smith accompanied her parents to Sun Valley she entered a selling infused with signs of ethnicity and class. The hotel, restaurant, and ballroom recreated a world of leisure reminiscent of alpine resorts--a world in which upper-class men and women had traditionally enjoyed each other's company and played out gender roles appropriate to their class status. That this setting highlighted a ski hill as its center, however, and its daytime activities focused on a vigorous, outdoor sport, raised complicated questions as to how upper-class women like Smith could incorporate skiing into their feminine identities. The very act of skiing produced a range of experiences that could be construed--by skiers of any class and any gender--as masculine, feminine, or some ambiguous mix of both.

Skiing down a mountainside, for example, placed the skier in a relationship to the landscape that people experienced in different ways. Some skiers understood that relationship as one of raw power and masculinie dominance over feminine nature. "The great thrill of skiing," one male author explained in 1938, "rises from the mastery of the individual, unaided by mechanical means, over the forces of nature--her treacherous snows, her vast space--over the forces of gravity, over the pull of speed. It is the feeling of being completely in control when in

contest with these forces--to go here or there at will, to schuss, to temporize, to turn, to dodge--this is the enchantment of skiing."67 To others, a skier's

relationship to the landscape was more aesthetic than visceral. For them, skiing


image

67Dick Tompkins, "'Much Ado About Nothing,'" Trail and Timberline, 230 (January 1938), 3.


96


image

both allowed access to beauty and created it. The form of a skier in powder snow evoked poetic responses from observers as early as 1865, when a California reporter exclaimed "Nothing on a bright shiny morning can be more graceful and

beautiful than a fair young lassie with sylph like motions over hills and plains on her Norwegian shoes."68 Beauty in form, in the smoothness and rhythm of turns,

and in the natural landscape surrounding the skier could invoke images of dancers on a stage. In responding to the question "Why do we ski?" one writer explained in 1953 that the attraction of speed was not the whole answer. "Beauty," he wrote, "is the very essence of skiing ... it could not be escaped if one were foolish enough or dull enough to try, for skiing is an esthetic[sic] experience compounded of the

magnificence of nature and the form, grace and symmetry of a sport which is at the same time an art."69 As an audience may interpret art in many ways, so did skiers

understand the mountain landscape. While some thrived on the challenge and danger it represented, others basked in the scenery and the silent, solitary experience that skiing could offer. And while some skiers understood the act of skiing itself as an aesthetic experience, others saw it as a way to explore and observe the beauty of

the natural landscape. One woman in 1938 scoffed at skiers who whizzed down


mountain trails while she stopped to "relax and look around in calm wonder at the


sheer beauty of my surroundings ... the deep silence of the mountains, the whiteness of the snow and strength of the tall trees."70 While this woman's desire

to appreciate the landscape contrasts sharply with the more masculine goal of competing against nature and the terrain, such interpretations of the skier's

image

68Marysvil/e Daily Appeal, 17 March, 1865, as quoted in E. John B. Allen, "Research Notes Document: Sierra 'Ladies' on Skis in Gold Rush California," Journal of Sports History, 17, 3 (Winter 1990), 349.

69John L. Frisbee, "Why Do We Ski?" Ski (November 1953), 19, 36-37. Robert

  1. Lewis, Jr., "Ski Racing," Trail and Timberline, 218 (December 1936), 143 also stressed the double pleasures of thrilling speed and beautiful alpine scenery inherent in skiing.

    70Mary V. Mclucas, "Skiing For Pleasure," Trail and Timberline, 230 (January 1938), 5.


    97


    image

    landscape did not always fall into neat, gendered patterns. Through their experience of the sport and their interpretation of that experience, moreover, men and women skiers could redefine their gender identities in ways that accepted, challenged, or re-shaped dominant norms.

    Men and women have appreciated the beauty and solitude they felt in the mountains. Olympic gold medalist Stein Erikson ·remembered skiing as a child behind his house in Norway and watching animals. "These were my first

    experiences on skis," he wrote, "an early feeling of oneness with nature."71

    Indeed, "who can remain untouched," another male skier wrote, "by the majesty of a mountain mantled in snow, glistening in the clear winter sun with a purity man has never reached in his greatest creations?"72 These men understood their

    relationship to the landscape as complex rather than oppositional. Otto Lang wrote that skiing had "captivated the imagination" of one of his closest friends, who "loved the pristine beauty of the mountains and the meadows covered with snow. The flowing movements of a skier and the mastery of an otherwise inaccessible terrain, while leaving a geometrical design in the freshly fallen snow, intrigued him no

    end." Of himself and his friend, Lang wrote, "Skiing bound us together."73 In so

    describing their skiing experiences, these men crafted their identities in terms that de-emphasized traits like overt power and dominance over the landscape that Colorado mountain residents would define as masculine. Instead, they defined their masculinity in terms consistent with the European resort ideal which they held up as their own.74


    image

    71Stein Eriksen, Come Ski With Me (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1966), 12.

    72Frisbee, 36.

    73Lang, 79.

    74The fact that Lang's friend was gay, and the fact that Lang did not realize it for years, raise interesting questions about how skiers' sexual identities relate to the gender identities and personal relationship to the landscape they craft through the sport.


    98


    image

    Skiers reaffirmed and recrafted gender identities through their relationships with skiers of the opposite sex as well as with the landscape. The social aspects of skiing, when considered next to its intensely individual side, further muddied the sport's relationship to gender categories. "No bounds can restrain the joys of freedom and forgetfullness, of independence and intimacy, of companionship," one skier explained, "which at once drug and stimulate the threadbare senses of the metropolis-refugee who has at last found the solace of

    mountain solitudes." 75 The act of skiing, as well as the experience of skiing, have

    drawn men and women together since the nineteenth century. Because American culture has defined heterosexual identities as normal, heterosocial activity-­ through skiing or by any other means--helped define men as masculine and women as feminine. In this way the social aspects of skiing provided ample opportunities for men and women to subscribe to accepted gender norms. Climbing mountains (and later riding lilts), warming toes, and relaxing after a long day were all conducive to conversation and socializing. Community ski clubs and mountain resorts incorporated social gatherings into their agendas, fostering a sense of camaraderie and even the potential for romantic interludes. Snow-shoeing parties, CMC winter outings, and resort culture all brought women and men together through their interest in skiing, and so established social relationships as part of the sport. Indeed, this pattern was so well-established by the early 1950s that some people learned to ski precisely so they could meet members of the opposite sex. "This aura of romance is the 'special introductory offer' which inspires a great many people to take a first fling at skiing," one skier remarked. "Once the

    ice-covered Rubicon has been crossed," however, "there is no turning back," as the thrills of skiing "usually commit the beginner to a lifetime of skiing."76


    image

    75David J. Bradley, "S.A.S.," The American Ski Annual (1937-38), 115. 76Frisbee, 36.


    99


    image

    Women's participation in recreational skiing, however, did not always fit smoothly into accepted constructions of femininity. The varying degrees of tension between women's behavior on skis and dominant cultural norms shaped to some degree whether women skied and how. Relations of class, ethnicity, and sex mitigated that tension for some women who chose to ski with particular enthusiasm and zeal; and others created new space and freedom for themselves through the sport.77 Skiing offered ways for women to escape, loosen, and even re-shape social constraints limiting their behavior as outdoor athletes.

    American women enjoyed an unprecedented range of acceptable feminine behavior during the 1920s. To a large degree, that range was due to women before them who attended colleges and universities, joined the paid labor force, generated political reform movements, drove cars fast and far, and generally subverted

    Victorian notions of womanhood.78 These upper- and middle-class, educated "New

    Women," who took to bicycles and golf courses in the 1880s and 1890s, helped demonstrate that sports could be healthy. By the 1920s women were competing publicly in basketball, softball, tennis, swimming, skating, and track and field.

    These changes affected the skiing behavior of urban women more than women in Colorado mountain towns. There, women kept skiing as part of community life. They did so, moreover, to an astounding degree. Within the

    image

    77For overviews of women and sport see Susan K, Cahn, Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Women's Sport (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994); Helen Lenskyj, Out of Bounds: Women, Sport and

    Sexuality (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1986); Guttman, Women's Sports: A History; J. A. Mangan and Roberta J. Park, From "Fair Sex" to Feminism: Sport and the Socialization of Women in the Industrial and Post-Industrial Eras (London: Frank Cass and Company, Ltd., 1987).

    78See Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian

    America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Virginia Scharff, Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991); Maureen Honey, "Gotham's Daughters: Feminism in the 1920s," American Studies, 31, 1 (Spring 1990); 25-40; as well as Lenskyj, Out of Bounds, and Cahn, Coming on Strong.


    100


    image

    context of winter carnivals, women skiers could bend even their already loose local restrictions on feminine behavior to include outright competition. Colorado's first winter carnival in 1912 at Hot Sulphur Springs, where Carl Howelson demonstrated his jumping skills to an enthralled crowd, also featured a jumping

    exhibition by the women of Hot Sulphur.79 Steamboat Springs' first carnival in

    1914 included a "ladies' free-for-all" race across a half-mile course, and street events for everybody--man and woman, boy and girl.80 Two years later town residents declared they would crown a carnival queen each year to lead the carnival parade and "reign as queen of beauty for twelvemonth." 81 The carnival queen

    successfully integrated notions of femininity and community power with winter sports, albeit in the ambivalent context of carnival. Other women made more

    clear, permanent connections by creating local ski clubs for themselves. Women in Steamboat Springs established their own S.K.I. Club in 1917 "to create, develop and sustain interest in ladies' skiing and in all outdoor sports; to encourage the formation of local ski clubs throughout the country; to assist in defraying the

    expenses of the annual Mid-Winter Sports Carnival; and to aid and foster the carnival spirit."82 Many of these same women established the Ladies Recreation Club in 1920, formed specifically to support young women athletes.83 In this way Steamboat Springs women linked their desire to enjoy outdoor sports with the


    image

    79Jim Wier, "Skiing at Hot Sulphur Springs," Grand County Historical Association Journal, 4 (March 1988), 13. The next year junior jumpers had their own contests, as well. Children participated in local skiing communities more often and to a higher degree than most adults.

    80w ier, 14-15; Jean Wren, Steamboat Springs and the "Treacherous and Speeky Skee": an Album (Steamboat Springs: Steamboat Pilot, 1972), 17. Only two women competed in the free-for-all race in 1914. Sureva Towler, The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs (Denver: Frederic Printing, 1987), 68.

    81 Wren, 21-22.

    82Towler, 85; "Winter Sports Club Active in Steamboat," Steamboat Pilot, 16

    May, 1930, 2.

    83Towler, 84.


    1 01


    image

    cause of the sport nationwide and their support of the community, re-shaping definitions of feminine behavior in the process.

    While Colorado mountain town women created structures to support their participation in community ski activities, some upper-class Colorado women cultivated a more general freedom of movement and the power that came with it by driving cars, traveling overseas, and by donning skis. Generally Denver residents educated in the East at colleges like Smith, these "New Women" of the 191Os and 1920s combined a love of the outdoors with the sport of skiing. Marjorie Perry, friend of Carl Howelsen and the embodiment of New Womanhood, moved freely between Denver and Steamboat Springs on the train, on horseback during the summer, and on skis in the wintertime. In 1928 she and Elinor Eppich Kingery took the train from Denver to participate in Steamboat's winter carnival. On the way home their train was delayed on the top of Rollins Pass and rather than wait, the two women decided to ski down along the tracks to Tolland, sixteen miles distant. "We could see three long switchbacks through the open timber and tiny Tolland far

    below," Marjorie Perry recalled. "We left the track and went straight down the

    hill, making big curves, with the perfect powdered snow swirling in the air."84 When Colorado's ski clubs and tournaments grew during the 1920s and the

    1930s, Denver women like Perry and Kingery came together with mountain town women in order to compete with each other. Between the development of the sport in Denver and nearby towns, and the increasingly public space women occupied in

    sport during the 1920s, Colorado women found many opportunities to enter competitions. 85 The Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club tournament in 1922 offered


    image

    84J anet Robertson, Magnificent Mountain Women: Adventures in the Colorado Rockies (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 43.

    85Historians have labeled the 1920s as the golden age of women in sports, citing

    widespread public participation in athletics and less criticism of it than before. Women athletes, Cahn points out, took advantage of the new standard of womanhood embodied by the image of the flapper. See Cahn, Chapter 2.


    102


    image

    girls' "sliding," ladles' sliding, and ladies' jumping contests, for instance, along with boys' and men's jumping, cross-country, and "fancy skiing." Twenty-three of

    the contestants were male; nineteen were female.86 Hot Sulphur Springs' carnival

    that year included ladies' contests in cross-country and ski joring, among others. Girls and ladies also jumped in the Fourth of July Ski Tournament on St. Mary's Glacier in 1923, and continued to compete, though in fewer numbers than men, in most tournaments throughout the 1920s.87

    Women's participation in ski competitions, however, did not preclude their more typically feminine participation in the growing consumer culture and fashion industry. This too, became part of skiing, and may have served to lessen the conflict between feminine roles and behavior represented by women skiing

    competitively.88 "The Genesee mountain ski course was given over to something

    more than a contest between champion jumpers in the interstate ski tournament held there yesterday afternoon," one reporter wrote in 1923. "Altho(sic] it had not been announced that a style show would be held in conjunction with the skiing, the brilliant display of sporting toggery was all of that, and caused many eyes to wander frequently from the tournament itself in the direction of some lair maid or

    matron."89 As Americans invested increasingly in the emerging consumer culture

    of the 1920s, and skiing grew slowly more pop\Jlar nationwide, image-makers discovered the aesthetic value of a woman skiing and began to cover magazines with pictures of them (Figure 1). Advertisers, too, sought to associate the sleek, freely

    moving form of skiing women with their products, notably automobiles, which,


    image

    86Program, Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club Annual Amateur Tournament, January 28-29, 1922, General Ski Collection, GCHA.

    87See General Ski Collection and Groswold Ski Collection, GCHA.

    88See Mark Dyerson, "The Emergence of Consumer Culture and the Transformation of Physical Culture: American Sport in the 1920s," Journal of Sport History, 16, 3 (Winter 1989): 261-281.

    89Eiieen O'Connor,"Genesee Mountain Ski Tournament Proves to Be Winter Fashion

    Display, clipping, 19 February, 1923, General Ski Collection, GCHA.


    103


    image

    like skiing, promised freedom, speed, and adventure (Figure 2). By depicting or describing women skiers as feminine, or by simply placing a picture of a woman skier on the cover of a women's magazine, these illustrations reconciled outdoor sport with accepted notions of femininity. These illustrations, moreover, placed images of women skiers in the center of consumer culture--popular magazines and


    104

    image


    Ladies Home Journal, 46 (January 1929), from Gary H. Schwartz, The Art of Skiing, 1856-1936 (Tiburn CA: Wood River Publishing, 1989), 49.


    Figure 1. Ladies Home Journal, 1929


    105

    image


    Gary H. Schwartz, The Art of Skiing, 1856-1936 (Tiburn CA: Wood River Publishing, 1989), 93.


    Figure 2. Franklin Automobile Company advertisement, 1931


    106


    image

    advertisements--thereby reinforcing the skiers' femininity as worthy of consumption, also a feminine behavior.

    These images continued to appear on magazine covers and in advertisements throughout the 1930s, despite the declining power of the New Woman/flapper ideal (Figure 3}. Women, too, continued to ski--in increasing numbers--at a time

    when physical educators and organizers of women's sports tried to reconcile women's athletics with a more feminine ideal by casting women athletes as either

    beauty queens or wholesome and modest girls.90 The rise of alpine skiing coaxed

    women out of doors in spite of these contestations over feminine behavior, and in spite of different, class-based feminine ideals. The influx of European experts and technique during the 1930s created an enthusiasm for downhill skiing in which women skiers --elite Denverites and mountain community members alike-­ participated. One skier wrote in the mid-1930s of "girls, who, fired by Otto [Schneibs'] ski talks, have abandoned silks and fragile shoes for ski clothes and battleship boots, and have fled to the ski country."91 Wealthy Americans familiar with European resort culture, and residents of small mountain towns in Colorado, were not affected by the Depression in ways that prevented them from skiing. One group had enough money to keep skiing despite the Depression; the other needed so little to ski that they just kept on doing it. Some towns, in fact, sought to boost skiing in their communities in order to revive the local economy. These class and regional dynamics, combined with the immigration of European experts, boosted participation in recreational skiing for men and women despite changing constructions of gender.

    In Denver and Colorado mountain towns, local women joined ski clubs and took on new levels of responsibility. Within the CMC, women assisted in leading


    image

    90Cahn, Chapter 3. 91Bradley, "Heil, Ottol," 65.


    107

    image


    Saturday Evening Post, 203 (February 14, 1931), from Gary H. Schwartz, The Art of Skiing, 1856-1936 {Tiburn CA: Wood River Publishing, 1989}, 53.


    Figure 3. Saturday Evening Post, 1931


    108


    image

    ski trips, led ski trips themselves, and even volunteered as ski instructors.92 "That skiing is a woman's sport as well as a man's," one local wrote, "was very clearly indicated here at Aspen when, during this difficult summer, Aspen Ski Club's active women members outnumbered the men, and their total efforts in helping to finance the construction of the Roch Run was certainly equal to or

    greater than the total accomplished by their men companions."93 The CMC new

    members list for the same year--1937--demon·strated a similar trend.94 Leading ski trips, instructing classes, and financing local development fell outside the usual definitions of feminine behavior and helped women craft a more complicated gender identity for themselves through sport.

    At the same time that skiing stretched and reshaped gender constructions for men and women, social interaction between male and female skiers tended to emphasize more traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity. At ski hills throughout Colorado and the nation, men and women skiers shared stories of their day and relaxed together over drinks in clubhouses, restaurants, and hotels. Early skiers in Aspen frequented the Hotel Jerome, where they could drink "Aspen cruds" and talk about skiing. Women who shed their silks and fragile shoes for "battleship boots" transformed from women athletes back into socialites once off the slopes, adding an air of social festivity to the apres ski world. Arlberg Club members thus encouraged women to go skiing with them, even though the club did not allow them to be members until 1938, almost ten years after the club's inception. Some of

    those women skied in order to follow social prescriptions and find husbands; they stopped going on club trips after they had married one of the members.95 Other

    image

    92"Ski Trips, 1932-33 Season," Trail and Timberline, 170 (December 1932), 174; "Skiing Instruction Classes," Trail and Timberline, 182 (December 1933), 178.

    93Frank Willoughby, "History of Aspen's Course and Jump," Aspen Times, n.d.,

    clipping, AHS.

    94"New Members for 1937," Trail and Timberline, 229 (December 1937), 135.

    95 Winter Park, 22.


    109


    image

    women such as Marjory Perry, however, used the sport to help her defy such prescriptions. More enamoured with the sport than the idea of marriage, Perry remained single. Upper-class women skiers like Perry could thus enter into the heterosocial ski culture in Denver, reinforcing their femininity in the process, and so create room for them to operate outside other culturally prescribed gender norms that might question their athleticism or single status.

    Women who skied without the pretext of mingling with men had the most trouble reconciling their skiing with dominant gender constructions. Separated from the social world of the CMC and the Arlberg Club, women alpine racers placed themselves in the very male context of competition. While there were not as many women racers in Colorado as men, their decision to hurl themselves down often frightening courses--with no control gates and packed only by foot--potentially placed them beyond the pale of womanhood. Youth and the context of carnival helped to ease the tensions presented by women's racing. Dorothy McLaren Howard's

    father urged her to compete with the boys in the Grand Lake Winter Sports Club in cross-country events because there were few other girls to compete against.96 He

    could do so more easily because she was young. Women's racing first began in winter carnivals. It took a few years from the first downhill race to attract enough competitors for a separate women's race, but by 1937 at least, Hot Sulphur's

    Girls' Down Mountain Race and its Ladies' Down Mountain Race had become part of

    the winter carnival program.97 Downhill skiing probably caught on faster for women in Denver than in local clubs, since at least four clubs in the city encouraged the sport and sponsored women-only races. Five Denver women raced in the CMC slalom competition at Berthoud Pass in 1937, representing Denver's


    image

    96Dorothy McLaren Howard, interview with the author, 22 August, 1995, Grand Lake, Colorado, tape recording.

    97 Program, Twenty-Sixth Annual Winter Sports Carnival of the Hot Sulphur Springs Ski Club, February 6-7, 1937, General Ski Collection, GCHA.


    11 0


    image

    Colorado Ski Runners and the CMC. Louise White took home the prize for first place at the Berthoud Race, which was no surprise since she was the defending regional champion. She kept her streak for years, beating nine others to win the 1939 Rocky Mountain Ski Association Championships for downhill and slalom and the 1940 championships, as well.98

    Reports of her victories seemed to emphasize White's prowess and daring, qualities that reporters usually employed in descriptions of male racers. At the Berthoud Races in 1937, a Rocky Mountain News reporter applauded Barney McLean's "masterful" performance, that of the winner, and of the second place finisher, who "traversed the trail at breakneck speed." When it came to White, the reporter characterized her as "walking away with the women's title ... over the same route [as the men]." The reporter described the women's second and third place finishers only in their relationships to "the conqueror" and "the masterful

    maneuvering Louise White." 99 A few years later descriptions of her had changed

    little. Again racing on a "treacherous" course, White "beat out" her competitors. In an odd mix of adjectives--illustrative, perhaps, of the sportswriter's fondness

    for cliches--these reporters emphasized White's power over other "feminine" skiers at the same time they referred to her as Mrs. White.100 Louise White filled

    an uncomfortable role as both a successful downhill racer and a woman. While reporters admired her abilities, they acknowledged them as masculine and sometimes felt compelled to reassure readers that she was, in fact, married. White and other women who embodied the conflict between womanhood and


    image

    98"C.M.C. Members Place in Berthoud Ski Races," Trail and Timberline, 229 (December 1937), 136; "Aspen Antics," Trail and Timberline, 244 (April 1939), 43, 44; "Ashley Wins Downhill at Berthoud," "Asheley Wins Downhill Race," and "Frank Ashley Wins Slalom at Berthoud," clippings, General Ski Collection, GCHA.

    99"C.M.C. Members Place," 136.

    100Ashley clippings, GCHA.


    1 1 1


    image

    competitiveness ran the potential risk of having their femininity and their sexuality called into question.101

    All U.S. women ski racers during the 1930s faced tension between their athletic pursuits and their femininity. Because the best women racers competed internationally, however, they could ski and live within a cosmopolitan resort culture that eased their athleticism with images of class and status. Indeed, it took a woman immersed in such a culture to organize the U.S. Women's Ski Team and train a team for the 1936 Olympics. Illustrative of the upper-class, cosmopolitan "New Woman" of the 1920s, Alice Kaier was the daughter of Walter Damrosch, famous conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society, the Metropolitan Opera, and New York Symphony Society. She had vacationed in St. Anton since the 1920s

    and, according to Otto Lang, she knew everybody in Who's Who.102 Upon learning

    that the International Olympic Committee would ,allow alpine events in the 1936 Olympics, she took it upon herself to organize and finance a women's team.

    Accordingly, she chose twelve women and sent them off to Austria, to practice in St. Anton. 103 After the Olympics, in which the U.S. women fared rather badly, they

    image

    returned to St. Anton to train under their new coach, Friedl Pfeifer. He helped them with their technique so much that three American women finished in the top ten of the 1937 Arlberg-Kandahar, and Clarita Heath finished fourth in the world championships --the highest ever for an American. The next year Betty Woolsey tied the record by finishing fourth in the 1938 world championships, and would go on to win the U.S. National Downhill in 1939, beating the star of the visiting Swiss team in the process.104 After Hitler's invation of Austria, Pfeifer and the U.S.

    101Cahn, 81.

    102Lang, 157.

    °

    103pfeifer and Lund, 49.

    1 4Pfeifer and Lund, 53, 73. She was in St. Anton with Pfeifer when Hitler took over Austria, and at the parade the Nazis staged in St. Anton two days later. She showed some of her ski-racing fearlessness when she organized a counter­ demonstration and walked beside the parade shouting the skier's greeting"Ski Heill"


    11 2


    image

    Women's team had to find a new training site. They re-grouped in Sun Valley where Harriman had hired Pfeifer to direct the ski school and invited the women's team to train.

    This decision placed a group of educated, young, female athletes right in the middle of a social whirlwind, where they incorporated their fearlessness and competition into an upper-class, social culture. One young racer, who would go on to marry the famous Dick Durrance, created quite a spectacle with her risk-taking. Miggs Durrance joined the team in Sun Valley after learning to ski from Sigi Engl and Hannes Schroll, two Austrians who had set up a ski school in Yosemite. She had raced for the Yosemite Ski Club and placed well enough in the regional Jeffers Cup race held at Sun Valley--third of about thirty--that Alice Kaier asked her to stay on and try out for the 1940 Olympic team. When asked about Pfeifer, she said "He scared the hell out of mel" She remembered being frightened by her first training session, when he had them schuss such a steep pitch she thought "Never will I live

    through that."105 Pfeifer saw her as more of a risk-taker than she saw herself.

    He wrote that "her inexperience and daring led her to terrible spills, but she usually bounced right back up again."106 Durrance would later take a fall that put

    her in the hospital with a concussion. She and countless other women racers shared the experience of getting hurt.107 Despite initial moments of fear, they hurled

    themselves down mountains in the interest of winning. Traveling to competitions all over the world, traveling to Sun Valley from their home towns, and skimming


    image

    and, as Pfeifer put it, giving "a decidedly different hand salute to the Nazis." Policemen tried to seize Woolsey but she escaped through the crowd. Pfeifer, 57. 105Durrance, 1993.

    106pfeifer, 68.

    107s ally Niedlinger Hudson, for example, joined the F.I.S. team in 1950 after one of the initial members broke her leg. She broke her own foot training on the downhill course a few days before the race. She remembered skiing later on a sprained ankle, and said "We used to get hurt a lot--we were always breaking things." Sally Niedlinger Hudson, interview by Ruth Whyte, 9 March, 1987, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording, AHS.


    11 3


    image

    down mountains, they exercised a freedom of movement often viewed and perhaps felt as masculine.

    The racers in Sun Valley, training for an Olympic team and taking risks in the interest of speed while wealthy and famous vacationers flaunted their

    femininity nearby, raised questions about the proper role of women in skiing. One author in 1939 argued that the "Ski Rabbit" (precursor to the "ski bunny") uses skis merely as "a vehicle of support for a glamorous female whose main interest in the out of doors is to dazzle and not to ski." This image, she implied, relegated

    women skiers to the status of sex objects. Her remedy: young women should learn

    to ski not for social reasons, but for the fun and power of making good turns.°1 8

    While this author would applaud the skill, confidence, and enthusiasm of the U.S. Women's team, hers was not the only opinion.

    Another woman expressed fears common during the 1930s: that high-level

    competition put one's femininity at risk.109 Despite the excitement and thrills that international competition offered women skiers, she argued, it was not clear that women could compete without temporary or permanent injury. The author went on to argue that training as much as would be necessary to compete against the German "Amazons from beyond the Rhine," if possible at all, would put women in constant danger of injury, and it would mean giving up any social life for that one goal. Finally and worst of all, she concluded, would be the demise of their

    "feminine charm." As her last piece of evidence, the author produced a photo of the women's F.I.S. team and said they were ugly.110 According to this reasoning,

    women who continued to compete in athletics would start turning into men.


    image

    °1 8 N eale Howard, "Junior Skiing for Girls," American Ski Annual (1939-40),

    93.

    109See Cahn, Coming on Strong.

    110The editors of the Ski Annual disagreed. Helen Boughton-Leigh, "Racing for Women," American Ski Annual (1936-37), 41-45. Apparently at least one husband agreed with her. He made his wife diet so she would be thinner and prettier, and as a result, she--a French racer had a chance of winning the 1948


    11 4


    image

    Rather than accept the purported masculinity of women ski racers, some writers cast them in less threatening images. Just as Louise White, the "conqueror," was also "Mrs. White," the dutiful wile, women racers in the 1940s were generally characterized as cute or pretty as well as fast and tough. In an article with the tag line "Ski Moppet," one author juggled tension between strength and femininity by emphasizing one racer's youth. "No ski slope is too steep or too tough for nineteen year old Barbara Kidder--Colorado's own pigtailed wonder," he wrote. "Although she's America's number one skier, her charm and modesty make

    her seem like somebody's kid sister."111 Kidder could be even boyish in her desire

    to ski fast without seeming masculine, because as a cute kid sister, she could indulge in tomboy-ish activities like ski racing and still grow into a woman. One might ask whether she would have posed a more troubling picture ii she had not worn her hair in pigtails. Many American men and women, then, relied on a few adjectives here and there to ease the tension they felt between women's accomplishments on skis and socially acceptable feminine behavior.

    The most powerful way skiers eased the tension between their sport and social constructions of gender was through the culture of the resort. Women who skied at European resorts and suscribed to that upper-class resort culture in America closed the gap between skiing and cultural definitions of gender most securely. Resort culture was so focused on the consumption of fashion, food, sex, and handsome ski instructors that women could excercise power as skier­ consumers without calling their womanhood into question. European-style resorts in America in the 1930s, however, were few and far between. Aspen skiers and outside investors tried to establish one in the Hayden-Ashcroft area that Andre


    image

    Olympic downhill--grew weak and fell in the race. One may wonder why he let her race at all. James Laughlin, "Inside Report," Ski, 13, 1 (November 1948), 9.

    111Eugene F. Pilz, "Barbara Kidder--Queen of the Slopes," Rocky Mountain Life

    (December 1946), 46.


    11 5


    image

    Roch had recommended, but the project stalled after the onset of World War Two. Its small lodge nonetheless grew popular in the 1930s with Denver skiers, especially the Arlberg Club and the CMC, and racers attended the National Downhill and Slalom Championships on Aspen Mountain in 1941, but the area did not achieve national fame until after the war. Sun Valley in Idaho drew more European skiers, wealthy vacationers, and movie stars than any other resort before the war, and illustrated the purest form of European-resort-culture-in-America.

    This culture, carefully recreated by Averill Harriman and his promotional wizard Steve Hanagan, united European skiers and images together with American socialites, movie stars, and upper-class skiers. Otto Lang came every year as instructor for Nelson Rockefeller, whom he had met at Peckett's in New Hampshire. Friedl Pfeifer found his way there because Claudette Colbert, an old student of his from St. Anton, had recommended it and was a regular herself. A group of skiers from Denver, Colorado Springs, and Albuquerque went to see the spectacle in 1938 and reported that "The picturesque pseudo-Swiss, nee-Austrian, quasi-Bavarian" village about the new Challenger Inn "offered every delight and the Lodge a step up in the direction of dignity and ritzyness." Festive people and atmosphere added to the physical setting. "Beer abends[sic], skating festivals, bal en masque swimming in the hot pools, Bavarian music, the Austrian instructors schussing down Dollar

    [Min.] with red flares--never a dull moment there either."112 Socializing defined

    the ski culture at Sun Valley. Friedl Pfeifer remembered it as a "romantic oasis." "The social whirl," he explained, "that centered around the Duchin Room in the Sun Valley Lodge, where an orchestra played every night, made Sun Valley a never­

    never land where everyone was rich and young and all invited to the dance."113

    Women in this never-never land, who flew (or tumbled} down the slopes during


    image

    112"Echoes From Sun Valley," Trail and Timberline, 232 (March 1938), 28. 113pfeifer and Lund, 68.


    11 6



    image

    the day on equal terms with the men, changed in_to their dinner clothes ready to eat, drink, and be merry in a most feminine way. As fashion plates and dinner dates they obeyed the imperative to consume that created the social, sexual, resort culture. They kept up with the latest ski fashion, frequented the best bars, and boasted the handsomest, most masculine escorts--Austrian ski instructors. When Friedl Pfeifer instituted an eleven p.m. curlew for his ski instructors in the interest of establishing some discipline, he said "I found some opposition to my changes. Not from the instructors but from the guests, particularly from the

    starlets who flocked to Sun Valley."114 Pfeifer could not complain too much since

    it was here, dancing in the Duchin Room, that he met his bride Hoyt Smith.


    Indeed, skiing had become such a socially acceptable sport for upper-class women by the late 1930s--and so inseparable from social gatherings--that the sport itself sometimes fell from view. "Skiing has now reached the point," one woman from Smith College wrote in 1939, "where participation in the sport has become a social asset. Most modern girls want to be able to swim and play a lair game of tennis or golf. Now skiing falls in line with these sports in being an

    activity which men and women may enjoy together." The thrills and exhilaration of skiing, the author went on to argue, were an added bonus to its primarily social benefits. As a nod to the woman athlete less interested in the social whirl, she finally noted that many women had no "ulterior motive" for skiing--they just

    loved the sport.115 For upper-class women in the 1930s, the prevalent resort

    culture--filled with opportunities to wear sexy clothes and flirt--mitigated the tension between the potentially masculine act of skiing and upper-class visions of womanhood, redefining that vision of womanhood in the process.


    image

    114pfeifer, 70.

    11 5Harriette Aull, "Smith College 'Shees'," American Ski Annual, 1939-40, 72.


    11 7


    image

    A few women in that culture, however, exercised so much power through their skiing that no amount of socializing could contain it. They were women ski instructors. While few and far between, they had graced the hills of American ski resorts since at least 1939, when Friedl Pfeifer hired Clarita Heath, Marion McKean, and Elli Stiller to teach for him at Sun Valley. (Other women, in the CMC and probably other clubs as well, acted as volunteer instructors, but did not earn pay checks in the process.) As women entered what was an elite group of masculine European instructors, they took on unfamiliar authority and power that their roles as teacher, leader, and expert commanded. As accomplished skiers, instructors moved with ease through resort culture as well as down the mountain. This expertise empowered them, especially in relation to their students, who, by definition, needed help. The instructors' skill, combined with their assigned role as leaders and teachers, gave them authority over students feminized and infantalized by their inability to negotiate the mountain. Beginners took their lessons--and still do today--on "nursery slopes" and "bunny hills." This power relationship between teacher and student made sense in St. Anton, where the instructors exuded masculinity and expertise from their pores, but it raised questions when women took control over often very wealthy and otherwise powerful male students.

    Just as a European name and accent qualified many skiers as "experts" in American ski clubs, associations with Pfeifer, periods of training in St. Anton, and places on international racing teams granted these instructors power and authority at Sun Valley. Of the three women Pfeifer hired in 1939, two had competed on the

    U.S. Women's Olympic Team and trained with Pfeifer in St. Anton, and the other, also coached by Pfeifer, had been a member of the Austrian women's team. All this power, authority, and expertise, however, centered around their "masculine" ability to ski fast and with confidence. Despite all this, these women retained their


    11 8


    image

    femininity. The contradictory characteristics of skiing helped. Men as well as women wanted to learn how to ski smoothly and beautifully; who better to learn that from than a woman? For those students more interested in apres-ski life than

    technique, women instructors may have filled a role as objects of beauty and sex-­ a role comparable to that played by male instructors for their starlet pupils.

    Their inclusion in Sun Valley's ski culture, finally, placed these women instructors in a context that encouraged others to see them as women first and as athletes second. They, too, probably made appearances in the Duchin Room.

    What few American skiers realized was that the cause of all this tension around gender--and the solution to it, too--was the sport of skiing itself. The very range of emotions it evoked in both women and men, and the difficulty in characterizing the sport as either masculine or feminine, were part of what made the sport so appealing. Women found power within the ambiguities of skiing. As club members, instructors, racers, and fashion statements, women skiers found

    ways to act (or ski) outside dominant constructions of gender and even to transform them. As ski instructors and resort-goers, men crafted and emulated a new kind of masculine ideal linked to the Alps. Women competitors, too, carved new identities for themselves as either kid sister/tomboys whose youth allowed for their athletic exploits, or as elite, cosmopolitan racers as capable of dancing as negotiating a downhill course. For both women and men, association with upper-class, European resort culture gave them room in which to craft these identities, and left these versions of masculinity and femininity tinged with images of European whiteness.

    In this context, then, Friedl Pfeifer and Hoyt Smith made the perfect couple: he, the stylish, romantic, and Austrian head of the ski school; she, a beautiful, wealthy young woman on vacation in Sun Valley. Although separated by class and national origin, Pfeifer and Smith represented the masculine and feminine ideals of European resort culture. It made sense that they would marry and have children


    11 9


    image

    together. They could not live their entire lives in Sun Valley's never-never land, however. Once outside the resort culture that created and affirmed their respective gender identities, Pfeifer and Smith felt their class and ethnic differences pull them apart. She would ultimately return to her parents in Salt Lake City; he would make a life for himself in the tiny, depressed town of Aspen, Colorado.


    120

    image


    1 21


    image

    CHAPTER THREE


    The Networks Behind Colorado Skiing to1945


    At a party in Pasadena in the spring of 1936, T.J. Flynn struck up a pointed conversation with two- time Olympic bobsled champion and Cambridge graduate, Billy Fiske. At first the charismatic Fiske was put off; he was not interested in buying Flynn's mining claims in Aspen, Colorado. After Flynn described Aspen's beautiful, high mountains and the local tradition of skiing, however, Fiske took more notice and they found themselves deep in conversation. The two ultimately teamed up with New York banker Ted Ryan in order to develop a winter resort in Aspen. They wanted to build an American version of St. Moritz, a Colorado resort to rival Idaho's Sun Valley. Flynn had local connections, Fiske had an unquenchable enthusiasm for winter sports--as well as an influential circle of friends in Europe and America--and Ryan had financial know-how.

    Together the group created the Highland Bavarian Corporation (HBC) and constructed a small lodge in the Castle Creek Valley, seven miles from the town of Aspen. They brought Andre Roch and Gunther Langes from Europe to make recommendations on the resort's development and to instruct its first clientele. The Highland Bavarian Lodge drew immediate attention from skiers who participated in upper-class ski resort culture, boasting guests from Denver's CMC

    and Arlberg Clubs, soon-to-be Senator Stephen Hart, famous Colorado skiers Frank Ashley and Thor Groswold, Dartmouth ski coach Otto Schneibs, and radio

    personality Lowell Thomas--all in 1936-37, its first season. Visitors usually took the train to Glenwood Springs, drove to Aspen, and were carried by sleigh to


    image

    the lodge, a modest development that could accomodate sixteen guests in the main lodge and about thirty more in four other cabins.

    Despite its advertising, well-connected customers, and optimistic plans that called for developing a resort to rival any in the Alps, however, the Highland Bavarian Corporation would not last. By the start of 1941 the company's plans to build an aerial tramway up Mt. Hayden and a resort village in the ghost town of Ashcroft (twelve miles outside of Aspen) remained unrealized. Negotiations for funding the project had finally come together only to be overshadowed by America's impending entrance into World War Two. To make matters worse, Billy Fiske, the charismatic force driving the HBC, was dead--killed while flying for the RAF in the Battle of Britain. Alter America's entrance into World War Two, Flynn and Ryan gave up on the project. Ryan offered the HBC's land to the U.S. Army Ski

    Troops as a training site for one dollar.1

    During the same period that the HBC struggled and failed to build an American version of St. Moritz in Colorado, a small, local ski area grew up right next door in the town of Aspen. Besides choosing the Mt. Hayden/Ashcroft site for a world-class resort, European consultant Andre Roch helped Aspen residents start up their own ski club and marked a trail for them to cut on Aspen Mountain so they could have a ski run close by. Aspen residents had traditionally embraced downhill


    image

    1Theodore S. Ryan, interview by George Madsen, Jr., 23, 26, and 30 March, 1965, transcript of three "Commentary" programs recorded and broadcast over

    WSNO, Aspen, Colorado, manuscript, Highland Bavarian Corporation file, AHS; T.J. Flynn, "History of Winter Sports Developments at Aspen," Aspen Times, n.d., clipping, Skiing 1938-45 file, AHS; unidentified manuscript, Highland Bavarian Corporation file, AHS, 171-175; Andre Roch, Ernie Blake, trans., "A Once and Future Resort: A Winter in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado," Colorado Heritage, 4 (1985), 17-23, originally published as "Un Hiver aux Montagnes Rocheuses du Colorado," Der Schnee Hase (1937); "Highland Bavarian Winter Sport Club Dedicated Sunday," The Glenwood Post, 24 December, 1936, clipping, Highland Bavarian Corporation file, AHS; T.J. Flynn, "Mount Hayden to Date," The Ski Bulletin, 8 December, 1939, 6. For a more detailed history of the Highland Bavarian Corporation, see Anne Gilbert, "Re-Creation Through Recreation: Aspen Skiing from 1870-1970," manuscript, 1995, AHS, 14-35.


    122


    image

    skiing as a community activity--they now looked to it as a potential catalyst for their now-defunct mining economy. Local volunteers cut what would be known as the Roch Run on Aspen Mountain and built, with some funding from the WPA, a "boat tow" to carry people up the lower part of the run, a warming hut at the top of the run, a jumping hill, and a small clubhouse. Local businesspeople supported the Aspen Ski Club and its efforts to hold local and regional races in town. In a few years the Roch Run's growing reputation, the Aspen community's support of the sport, and improved transportation networks in Colorado, enabled the club to host the Southern Rocky Mountain Regional Championships. Aspen and its ski club were so successful in holding these divisional championships from 1938 to 1940 that the U.S. Ski Association asked them to host the National Downhill and Slalom Championships there in 1941. These races brought skiers from all over the country to the town of Aspen and its mountain, placing the area in a spotlight for the national skiing population to see.2

    That Aspen residents could witness the failure of the Highland Bavarian's ski resort and the success of their own run on Aspen Mountain during the late 1930s, demonstrates that not all kinds of ski areas could grow in Colorado during those years. A series of material and interpersonal networks formed between

    1930 and 1945 to support the development of small, local ski areas like the one on Aspen Mountain. Physical infrastructures including roads and railroads enabled Coloradans to move more easily along certain routes; technological developments allowed clubs to build their own ski tows; local communities sought to revive their economies through skiing and received limited funding from New Deal agencies to do so; and a small population of dedicated skiers worked with the U.S. Forest Service to promote skiing in places accessible to Denver enthusiasts. These new networks, established within the context of the Depression, encouraged a regional and local

    image

    2Gilbert, 25-31.


    123


    image

    kind of skiing in the Rockies that contrasted sharply with the international, elite resort culture recreated at Sun Valley. The Highland Bavarian Company thus failed at the same time Aspen's local ski area grew. Participants in upper-class resort culture eventually came together in Colorado as members of the 10th Mountain Division, establishing ties with each other and with the Rockies that, in America's post-war economy and culture, would enable them to replace some of Colorado's local areas with European-style ski resorts.


    Community Networks for Winter Tourism


    Downhill skiing's growing popularity and a renewed hope for tourist dollars in the 1920s and 1930s encouraged communities throughout Colorado to promote skiing events and build local ski areas. Rather than appeal explicitly to the upper­ class tourists who frequented places like St. Mortiz and Sun Valley, these communities encouraged a more egalitarian kind of skiing accessible to working­ class and middle-class skiers as well as urban elites. Local businesses and residents in Denver and mountain towns alike thus formed economic and interpersonal networks to support their ski clubs and host competitions. As early as the 191Os and '20s, even, Denver embraced the sport of skiing and its potential for promoting regional tourism. "The mountain slopes, as we have them in Denver, present an ideal place for such sport in the wintertime," a Denver paper noted in

    1915. "As there seems to be an ever-increasing interest in the beauty of our mountains in snowy season, an increase of popularity in ski sport will make them

    still more popular." 3 Local hopes for winter tourists grew when the Denver­

    Rocky Mountain Ski Club hosted the national ski championships at Genesee in 1921. While these championships attracted many Scandinavian, working-class athletes,


    image

    3"Sport of Skiing in Colorado Mountains," Rocky.Mountain News, 5 December, 1915.


    124


    image

    city residents set their sights even higher. The next year the club's president proclaimed that "Denver should be the St. Moritz of America. It is the greatest

    place in the world for winter sports... [and] is destined to become the ski sport center of the nation."4 Publicizing regional and national meets at Genesee in 1923

    and 1927 respectively, newspapers crowed: "Annual Ski Tourney Will Clinch City's Fame as Winter Sport Center," and "National Ski Meet is Coming to World's Playground in Rockies." Ski clubs and newspapers raised enthusiasm for winter tourism and ski meets within and outside the confines of their own organizations. In 1927 the Denver Post noted that it "ha[d] enlisted the co-operation of every

    service and athletic club and every civic organization in the state in its extensive plans for making Colorado the winter sports headquarters of the world."5

    Denver businesses and skiers were not the only ones to see the sport as a potential money-maker. Small mountain towns all over the state, hurt by the decline in mining and lighting off the "ghost town" label, embraced skiing and the winter visitors it would attract. "This spirit of developing the asset of the sunshine-tempered winter in Colorado," one journalist noted in the mid-1920s,

    "has manifested itself from Fort Collins thruout[sic] the state, touching Durango, Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs."6 The Durango Exchange, which would become the Chamber of Commerce in 1930, marketed the city as a "complete

    vacationland," promising local businessmen and prospective visitors alike that people who "Come to PLAY" will "Want to STAY."7 From the 1910s through the

    1930s, local towns and ski clubs advertised winter carnivals and ski competitions, fun community events that would also put them on the tourist map. For its first


    image

    4Menifee Howard, Rocky Mountain News, 7 November, 1922.

    5clippings, 18 February, 1923, and n.d., 1927, General Ski Collections, GCHA. 6"Towns in Colorado Active in Support of Winter Sports," unidentified clipping, General Ski Collection, GCHA.

    7Duane A. Smith, Rocky Mountain Boom Town: A History of Durango, Colorado

    (Niwot CO: University Press of Colorado, 1980), 112.


    125


    image

    gala winter carnival, Grand Lake, the "St. Moritz right in Denver's backyard," opened private cabins, hotels, and camps, devoting all "its excellent accomodations to the festival."8 By 1927 Steamboat Springs had its own Commercial Club, which published promotional brochures advertising the "Magnificent Scenery" and

    "Healthful Climate" of the area.9 Steamboat Springs' entire community helped

    finance and organize its annual winter carnival, which had been popular since its beginning in 1914. Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) member Henry Buchtel wrote that "perhaps the best reason to go to Steamboat is that the residents are so glad to have you and so anxious to have you enjoy yourself."1O By 1940 the local Steamboat Pilot was publishing an annual recreation edition, encouraging readers to "Do Your Vacationing Friends a Favor --Tell Them About Steamboat Springs." As Buchtel had noted, local residents and businesses welcomed the development of winter sports in their sleepy ranching town. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the Lions Club, and the American Legion all "used their influence and funds to further the cause of winter recreation in a town that seems destined to rank among the first ski resorts of our state."11

    Other Colorado towns fought for that honor, similarly seizing upon winter recreation and tourism as a possible solution to their economic problems. Aspen, for instance, entered its "quiet years" after having flourished as a silver mining town in the nineteenth century, and existed as the center of a small farming and

    ranching community in the 1920s and 1930s.12 After Flynn, Fiske, and Ryan



    image

    8"Grand Lake Will Hold Winter Sports Week," clipping, General Ski Collection,

    GCHA..

    9 Steamboat Springs Commercial Club, "Steamboat Springs, Colorado," pamphlet, Steamboat Springs Promotional Brochures file, Routt County Collection, BWML. 10 Henry Buchtel, "Steamboat Springs," Trail and Timberline, 254 (February 1940), 28.

    11The Steamboat Pilot, 30 May, 1940, Routt County Collection, BWML.

    12For more on this see Annie Gilbert Coleman, "'A Hell of a Time All the Time': Farming, Ranching, and the Roaring Fork Valley during 'The Quiet Years," Montana: The Magazine of Western History (forthcoming, February 1997).


    126


    image

    announced their plans to open the Highland Bavarian Lodge in 1936 and brought Roch and Langes from Europe to help them, town residents latched on to skiing and tourism with vigor. "Winter Resort Plans are Revealed," the Aspen Times declared in November of 1936, and "Aspen May Become Leading Snow Sports City in the Entire United States." The author went on to argue that "a determined, enthusiastic and cooperative effort on the part of the citizens of Aspen and Pitkin County should be given to both Mr. Fiske and Mr. Flynn in putting over this, the greatest economic

    boom that this community will enjoy since the early '90s."13 The town followed

    his advice. The Aspen Band, professional and amateur skiers, Mayor Willoughby, and State Senator Twining joined hundreds of local residents and Denver skiers for the Highland Bavarian Lodge's gala opening in December. It was then, one Aspenite noted, that "the town got so excited about skiing." "The people felt it was such an opportunity for the kids," he said. "Mining was faltering and people felt they had a

    new thing going."14 The ski club that Roch helped start in Aspen offered

    instruction, competitions, and social events, involving most of the community in skiing and in the local development of winter sports. A few years later and forty miles down the river from Aspen, the Glenwood Springs Winter Sports Club and Chamber of Commerce were "[doing their] utmost to encourage skiing and winter sports in western Colorado."15

    Competitions brought skiers and spectators to Colorado towns. Generally local in scope, the people who attended and participated in these races came from working-class mountain town ski clubs as well as from middle- and upper-class clubs from Denver. Class lines, like gender lines, blurred on the slopes. They were deconstructed when lower-class racers won, and reaffirmed in clubs and

    image

    13 Aspen Times, 26 November, 1936, clipping, Skiing 1938-45 file, AHS. 14Russ Holmes, in Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, "The Town Got Excited About Skiing," Aspen Times, 2 March, 1978, C1.

    1 5 Weste rn Colorado and Eastern Utah, January, 1939, 10, Ski Town file, Routt County Collection, WML.


    127


    image

    social activities that drew boundaries around socio-economic groups. The sport of skiing even transformed class lines when local and European skiing traditions-­ built around contrasting class identities--came together for competition and leisure. Because skiers from different classes all competed against one another, socio-economic distinctions became less important than skill and speed. Upper-class ski clubs such as the Arlberg Club and the CMC had talented racers to represent them, but so did every other ski club. Indeed, carnivals and competitions took place in a community context where every skier had the chance to win.

    Towards that end--as well as to have some fun--Hot Sulphur Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Grand Lake hosted elaborate carnivals, and Colorado Springs, Idaho Springs, Allens Park, Estes Park, Dillon, Aspen, and Denver held ski competitions and tournaments. Local Aspenites still attribute their town's later success in part to the fact that they hosted the Southern Rocky Mountain Championships there in 1938, 1939, and 1940, and the National Downhill and Slalom Championships there in 1941. Race results peppered the Denver papers and Colorado skiers like Frank Ashley and Thor Groswold (in the 1930s), ·and Barney McLean, Gordon Wren, and Barbara Kidder (in the 1940s), became regional heroes. They became heroes, moreover, almost because of their modest backgrounds rather than in spite of them. Hot Sulphur, Steamboat Springs, and Denver skiers respectively claimed McLean, Wren, and Kidder proudly as their own. The kind of skiing that Colorado communities promoted, therefore, existed in contrast to the resort culture that attracted wealthy skiers from across the country to Sun Valley. Instead, it celebrated local skiers from local communities who rarely came from privileged backgrounds.

    The local orientation of Colorado skiing during the 1930s and 40s resulted


    largely from the geography of resort culture. Wealthy western urbanites traveled to resorts in Europe to ski during the 1920s and; in the 1930s, to the posh Sun


    128


    image

    Valley where Hans Hauser and then Friedl Pfeifer ran the ski school. Those in the East frequented resorts in Europe and in New Hampshire, where Hannes Schneider and a cadre of Arlberg instructors had settled. Some wealthy Californians took up skiing at Yosemite, where a couple of Austrians had opened a ski school. Upper­ class skiers interested in resort culture, in other words, followed the European experts that epitomized that culture. In its first season, when the Highland Bavarian Lodge advertised its own European experts, the lodge managed to attract a

    small but elite clientele from Denver as well as the East Coast.16 Without

    permanent European instructors, however, the lodge could not increase such business. The movement of wealthy tourists thus mirrored that of European experts, few of whom came to Colorado before World War Two.

    Most of Colorado's skiers during the 1930s and early '40s participated in a local, community skiing tradition. Mountain town residents--especially young ones--skied in their back yards, around town, on whatever mountains were most

    convenient.17 They had neither the economic resources nor the inclination to

    travel and take part in resort culture. Instead, they joined their local ski clubs, competed against neighboring towns, and, if they were good enough and got financial help from their club, traveled to regional or national races. Denver skiers also

    image

    16The Highland Bavarian Corporation had the most elite and cosmopolitan clientele of any Colorado ski area. Fiske and Ryan convinced their friend, New Yorker humorist Robert Benchley, to write and illustrate a brochure entitled "How to Aspen." Benchley's brochure targeted an audience familiar with the Alps who wanted a similar resort experience without the hassle and expense of going to Europe. His brochure, and the rumors generated by Fiske, Flynn, and Ryan from New York to California, created enough interest for the eastern-based Ski Bulletin to publish a piece entitled "I'm Aspen You," documenting the author's troubled search for information about the town. Robert Benchley, "How to Aspen," pamphlet, Skiing: Aspen History file, AHS; Delphine Carpenter, "I'm Aspen You," The Ski Bulletin, 5 February, 1937, 5.

    17When Gordon Wren was growing up in Steamboat Springs, "every kid had a

    jumping hill in their back yard." They all had names, like Webber's Hill, Wither's Hill, Studer's Hill, and more creatively, the Suicide Six, the Man Killer, the Baby Amateur. "We'd just take a shovel, build a jump, and jump." Gordon Wren, interview by the author, 25 August, 1995, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 1o, 1.


    129


    image

    joined local ski clubs and competed in local and regional races. Members of the upper, middle, and working classes, these men, women, and children tended to ski close to home. For many that was a decision based upon class. Arlberg Club and CMC members could afford to travel if they wanted, but most were such dedicated skiers that they skied near Denver so they could go every weekend. That Colorado skiers tended to ski close to home during the 1930s, then, was a reflection of where they could actually get to on the weekends as well as a reflection of their class status.


    Transportation Networks


    A physical network of roads and railroads determined where most Coloradans could travel. The advent of the automobile in the 1920s enabled throngs of Boston and New York skiers to travel to New Hampshire and Vermont on the weekends. Colorado mountain passes, however, were much more difficult to negotiate than New England roads. Most were closed to automobile traffic during the winter until the 1930s. For skiers who lived in mountain towns, this situation posed no particular threat--they skied at home. For those who lived in Denver, it limited their skiing to places either near the city or to places accessible by train. By World War Two road and railroad networks had improved tremendously, but not to the point where skiers could get across the state for a competition or carnival.

    The shape of these routes thus encouraged the growth of a limited regional skiing community with Denver at its center. Ski areas closest to Denver and its skiing population developed faster and to a greater degree, therefore, than did those in distant mountain towns.

    Railroads and highways criss-crossed the landscape. Shaping the movement of people within the state, they granted tourists and skiers access to the mountains and towns along their routes. Before 1930 skiers had little choice of destination.


    130


    image

    Efforts to improve automobile transportation within the state began at the turn of the century and increased through the 1920s, but Colorado's weather and geography limited their success. In 1902 Denver's first 42 automobile owners formed the Colorado Automobile Club and began a campaign for wider, safer, faster roads. The Colorado Good Roads Association, established three years later, pushed for the creation of a State Highway Commission and better financing. By 1914, 1,192 miles of improved roads marked the state. Matching funds from the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in 1916 and the first gasoline tax in 1919 helped bump the miles of improved roads up to 8,600 by 1925, including roads over Berthoud,

    Fremont, Tennessee, Monarch, Poncha, and Wolf Creek passes.18

    The definition of "improved" roads, however, remained relative. The road from Denver to Middle Park over Berthoud Pass, built as a wagon road in 1874, had been "improved" in 1911 and again in 1918 to allow automobile traffic. By 1918 40,000 cars had crossed the pass, but only in the summer and autumn months. Heavy rains and unsafe bridges often closed the road, which reached

    11,300 feet in elevation at the top of the pass.19 , The Berthoud Pass road attracted

    traffic despite these difficulties. It was part of the transcontinental auto route known after World War One as the Victory Highway, its popularity a testament to the trials motorists during the 1920s expected to face in their cross country travels. By 1928 the Berthoud Pass Road and much of U.S. Highway 40 to which it belonged, still fell short of current standards for "improved" status. While thousands motored "madly past [the mountains] every summer, vacation bent on the scenic miles of the transcontinental Victory Highway," they still limited their


    image

    18 A. Ridgeway, A History of Transportation in Colorado, manuscript (1926), CUA, 83; Colorado Department of Highways, Paths of Progress, manuscript, n.d., CUA, 8-9.

    19Steve Patterson and Kenton Forrest, Rio Grande Ski Train (Denver: Tramway Press, Inc., 1984), 11. ·


    1 31


    image

    explorations through Colorado to the summer.2° After World War One Coloradans voted five and six million dollar bond issues for highway construction and improvement to last until 1927, but only in 1931 did the Highway Department try

    to keep the Berthoud Pass road open all winter.21. The road over Loveland Pass,

    which would provide another main link between Denver and the Western Slope, was not even under construction until 1928. It would reach an elevation of 11,992 feet and eventually connect Silver Plume to Dillon, though as late as 1939 the road was still dirt.2 2

    Improvements in the 1930s made automobile travel in the mountains more feasible, if still challenging. An ambitious federal project that started in 1929 connected Estes Park through Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Lake after four summers of work. Trail Ridge Road attracted summer automobile tourists to the park in unprecedented numbers. New roads, though seasonal, provided jobs as well as boosting tourism. Roosevelt's New Deal government seized upon road construction as a means of both employing large.numbers of men and improving access to rural places. Focusing on farm-to-market routes and scenic parkways such as the Blue Ridge, vast federal expenditures through the WPA created a general surge in road construction that would strengthen Americans' reliance upon

    the automobile for recreation.23 For its part, Colorado voted a $15 million


    image

    2° Frances Higgins, "Presenting Breckenridge Peak," Trail and Timberline, 95 (August 1926), 3; Steamboat Springs Commercial Club, "Steamboat Springs, Colorado," pamphlet, Steamboat Springs Promotional Brochures file, Routt County Collection, BWML.

    21Other sources say Berthoud Pass was not open in the winter until 1933; still

    others recall it was 1935. Snow storms and slides probably closed it temporarily throughout this period.

    22 Paths of Progress, 12; Patterson and Forrest, 11; Continental Oil Co. Official Road Map of Colorado, c. 1928, CUA; Texaco Touring Map of Colorado, 1939, map case 9, CUA; see also Carl Ubbelohde, Maxine Benson, and Duane A. Smith, A Colorado History, sixth ed. (Boulder CO: Pruett Publishing Company, 1988),

    327-329 for more on the impact of the automobile and tourism on Colorado during the 1920s.

    23Phoebe Cutler, The Public Landscape of the New Deal (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 50-63.


    132

    image


    warrant issue to improve state highways.24 Denver skiers seeking automobile access to towns like Hot Sulphur and Steamboat Springs noticed the difference. Between 1928 and 1939 workers completed the road over Loveland Pass and covered it with gravel, and they paved Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass and most of the way from Denver to Steamboat Springs. Residents of Durango could drive on

    paved roads to the base of Wolf Creek Pass or north about 25 miles towards Silverton, as could Leadville skiers on their way to Climax or Tennessee Pass.25

    "Only yesterday," Graeme McGowan noted in 1937, "all mountain roads were little better than narrow, winding footpaths clinging precariously to the canyon walls.

    Not only were they closed all winter, but any summer cloudburst rendered them impassible." "Today," he went on, "a few places are accessible by magnificent

    broad highways, safe and easy any day in the year."26 The operative word here may

    be "few." Colorado highways crossed the Continental Divide in at least thirteen places; only three of those passes, however, were paved, and little funding or man­ power were available for further improvements after America's entrance into World War Two (Figure 1).

    Between 1920 and 1945, then, state and federal funding produced a system of roads that linked Colorado's cities to its mountains, but roads were rough and skiers were slow to take full advantage of them.· Denver skiers rarely drove past Berthoud Pass; those in Colorado Springs frequented Pikes Peak; Grand Junction residents kept close to Grand Mesa; and skiers in mountain towns stayed on their


    image

    24Paths of Progress, 12.

    25The State Highway Department allocated $30,000 for improvements on Loveland Pass in 1929, which was the biggest chunk of funding for any pass. State Highway Department, Annual Budget for the Year 1929, CUA; Continental Oil map, 1928, CUA; Texaco Touring map, 1939, CUA.

    26Graeme McGowan, "A Rocky Mountain Prophecy," The Ski Bulletin, 19 March,

    1937, 5.


    133


    image

    local slopes.27 Denver skiers particularly depended upon their cars. They drove


    image

    27"Until recently," one spokesman noted In 1937, "few of the mountain highways were kept open during the winter and it was difficult to reach those mountain areas where the best skiing is found." Fred R. Johnson, "Colorado's National Forests," The Ski Bulletin, 26 March, 1937, 15.


    134

    image



    Thomas J. Noel, Paul F. Mahoney, and Richard E. Stevens, Historical Atlas of Colorado (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), map 31.


    Figure 1. Paved Roads in Colorado, 1940


    135


    image

    to Berthoud Pass, and, after skiing down, drove back up to the top so they could do it again. This ritual required enlisting someone willing to shuttle friends rather than ski. In response to "the strain of driving their own cars" to Berthoud, and to "the great demand for such transportation," the CMC financed and operated Berthoud's first ski bus on January 5, 1936. Offering "for the first time a dependable means of transportation between the summit of the Pass and the Fraser River switchback at the bottom," the CMC ski bus not only brought skiers from Denver to Berthoud, but also shuttled them up the Pass at regular intervals. The price: $1.75 for the round-trip from Denver, 15¢ for members each ride up the Pass, and 25¢ for

    non-members. 28 By February the CMC emphasized the regularity, dependability,

    and reliability of its bus to Berthoud Pass, though skiers seemed more interested in using it as a ski lift once there than riding it from Denver. The increasing patronage of skiers riding the bus to the top of the pass just a month after it

    started, one member noted, "proves conclusively that the bus is indispensible on the Pass itself."29 In this way the CMC helped downhill skiers negotiate Colorado

    highways in the interest of sport--even though most continued to drive their own cars from Denver.

    At the same time that the structure of automobile roads expanded throughout the state, an older system of railroads remained in place. As a system of tourist transportation the railroads were eventually overtaken by the automobile, but not until they had shaped the development of skiing in Colorado. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad moved ore from Leadville, Durango, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Silverton, and Dillon in the 1880s, and from Aspen, Ouray, and Telluride a few years later. Even older lines connected Denver and the mining districts around Breckenridge and Como, where Father John Dyer had made his living carrying the

    image

    28"The C.M.C. Ski-Bus," Trail and Timberline, 207 (January 1936), 153. 29David Rosendale, "Skiing in the Colorado Mountain Club," Trail and Timberline, 208 (February 1936), 12.


    136


    image

    winter mail. In opening access to these mining towns the railroads put mailmen like Dyer out of business and encouraged others to hang up their Norwegian snowshoes for good. After that skis functioned more as toys than tools, and recreational skiing spread along railroad routes as the old utilitarian version of the sport was fading away.

    Scandinavian immigrants and Denver ski enthusiasts in the early twentieth century rode trains into the mountains so they could ski; Carl Howelsen and Marjorie Perry, for example, spread their winter sport gospel along the Moffat Road. Formed in 1902, David Moffat's Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway was to cross the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass and connect Denver with Salt Lake City. The need for immediate revenue delayed plans to build a tunnel through the divide; engineers instead laid tracks up Rollins Pass on a four percent grade (twice the normal pitch) and reached the summit of the divide at Corona, 11,660

    feet above sea level. The Moffat Road reached Hot Sulphur Springs in 1905,

    Steamboat Springs in 1908, and ended in Craig in 1913, after Moffat had died and the railroad had gone bankrupt.30 The costs of maintaining the railroad outweighed its income from carrying coal, lumber, and cattle over Rollins Pass to Denver.

    Clearing snow and blockages off the highest railroad in North America ate up 41 percent of the Moffat Road's operating expenses. Reorganized as the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad Company, the Moffat Road kept up operations and enjoyed new importance during World War One when it transported coal and oil from northwestern Colorado.31

    Despite frequent stoppages at Corona--even because of them at times--the Moffat Road encouraged the spread of recreational skiing in Colorado. Howelsen first visited Hot Sulphur Springs after having ridden the train to Corona in search


    image

    30Ridgeway, 78; Patterson and Forrest, 14; Ubbelohde, Benson, and Smith, 253.

    31Patterson and Forrest, 14.


    137 ,


    image

    of skiable terrain. Marjorie Perry met Howelsen when she was on her way home from Steamboat Springs and got off the train at Hot Sulphur to see him jump.

    Perry, Howelsen, and friends from Denver took advantage of delays at Corona by hopping off the train, strapping on their skis, streaming down the mountains, and meeting up with the train sixteen miles later in Tolland. More important for Hot Sulphur and Steamboat Springs, the Moffat Road carried Denver skiers to their carnivals. Competitors and spectators filled local hotels, turned out in big numbers for carnival events, and recounted their adventures to friends after they went home. From the 191Os through the 1920s, then, the Moffat Road helped Hot Sulphur and Steamboat Springs earn fame as early ski centers.

    This railroad continued its tradition of carrying skiers to the mountains after downhill skiing became popular in the late 1920s. Escaping the storms and snow on top of Rollins Pass was the key: it kept the railroad in business and opened up new terrain for Denver downhill skiers. The Moffat Road's hope of building a tunnel under the Divide started to take form when the Moffat Tunnel Bill passed the state legislature in April of 1922. Work began late in the summer of 1923, and the 6.2 mile tunnel opened for business in the end of February, 1928,

    representing an investment of $18 million and 28 lives.32 Not only did the tunnel

    improve transportation from Denver to Hot Sulphur and Steamboat Springs, it also helped promote a new downhill ski area. Denver skier and U.S. Forest Service consultant Graeme McGowan had identified the West Portal area as ideal, so he turned an old Moffat Tunnel staff building into a club house, bought a placer claim

    called Mary Jane, and established Portal Resorts. 33 He and a group of Denver

    skiers rode the train to West Portal regularly as soon as the tunnel opened, and, united as the Arlberg Club, promoted alpine skiing at what would become Denver's

    image

    32Patterson and Forrest, 14-15.

    33Grand County Historical Association, Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite tor Fifty Years, 1940-1990 (Winter Park Recreation Association, 1989), 17.


    138


    image

    Winter Park. Regular ski trains ran to West Portal in 1930 and several years afterwards, until the automobile road over Berthoud Pass was kept open all winter

    long.34 With completion of the Moffat Tunnel, West Portal became one of

    Colorado's most well-known downhill runs.


    In 1936 The Denver Rocky Mountain News brought Colorado's traditions of tourism boosting, winter sport carnivals, and Denver ski enthusiasm together on the train. The News sponsored Denver's first snow train, to carry passengers on a 172 mile round trip from Denver to Hot Sulphur Springs for the 25th Annual ski tournament and winter sports carnival. "You can get a nice ride on a railroad

    train--which a lot of Denver folk haven't done in years," the newspaper promised. "You can watch the thrilling snow and ice gamesI You can use your own skis and skates and toboggans! And," the paper went on, "the whole day's outing, including round-trip rail fare and admittance to the carnival, will cost you an even

    $1.75."35 The News could not have wished for better success. Tickets sold out;

    Denver department stores placed ads for ski equipment and fashions in the paper; the whole city got involved. Over 2,200 people rode the trains to the carnival-­ some coming from as far away as Cheyenne. In Hot Sulphur they met up with 500 others, including fifty jumpers and a 42-piece high school band, who had ridden another train from Steamboat Springs. In all, Hot Sulphur counted 7,000 visitors for the day _36


    image

    34CMC member Robert Collier, Jr. arranged for the first special train to carry skiers through the Moffat Tunnel and drop them off at West Portal in February of 1930. Before then, skiers made more informal arrangements with the conductor. The CMC also managed to reduce the fare by filling an entire car with forty or fifty skiers. The railroad company simply left their car on a siding at West Portal.

    Evelyn Runnette, "Skiing with the C.M.C.," The, Ski Bulletin, 19 March, 1937, 7; David Rosendale, "Skiing in the Colorado Mountain Club," Trail and Timberline, 208 (February 1936), 13.

    35oenver Rocky Mountain News, 24 January, 1936, as cited in Patterson and Forrest, 18.

    36patterson and Forrest, 19.


    139


    image

    The success of this campaign sparked others. Just six days after its Hot Sulphur train, the News sponsored a special D&SL Pullman snow train with overnight service to the winter carnival in Steamboat Springs. its snow train to Hot Sulphur became an annual event. Other Denver businesses including Safeway Stores, the Denver Post, and Montgomery Ward jumped in and sponsored other snow trains, working with the railroad company and organizing trips in return for

    publicity. As railroads from Boston to Seattle had learned, ski trains attracted business.37 Even when no train catered to a specific event, skiers made good use of

    the railroads. By 1938 railroad pamphlets advertised regular Sunday snow train service to West Portal on the D&SL through the Moffat Tunnel, as well as DS&L and D&RG service to other "Western Winter Playgrounds" in Aspen, Hot Sulphur

    Springs, Steamboat Springs, and Marshall Pass.38 Winter tourism and skiing had

    grown along the routes of Colorado's railroad system, expanded that system to include ski trains, and influenced its winter advertising campaigns. The railroads, in turn, welcomed winter tourists and skiers and opened access to some winter sports centers. Colorado's system of highways and railroads grew hand in hand with recreational skiing during the 1920s and 1930s, actively promoting winter tourism at the same time they responded to the growing popularity of the sport.

    This growth of skiing, however, like the transportation networks that influenced it, remained limited to a specific region. The onset of World War Two, moreover,


    image

    37The Boston and Maine Railroad carried almost 200 skiers to the mountains of New Hampshire on its first ski train, January 11, 1931. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad first experimented with its own ski train in 1935, the Snowball Express brought skiers from San Francisco to Truckee starting in 1932, and the University Book Store in Seattle sponsored a ski train to the Cascades in 1935. See E. John B. Allen, From Skisport to Skiing (Amherst MA: University of Massachusettes Press, 1993), 104-109.

    38Be rthoud Pass, Pikes Peak, and Rocky Mountain National Park were also listed as "Western Winter Playgrounds," but no trains serviced those particular areas.

    Burlington Route, "Winter Sports," pamphlet, Recreational Skiing file, CHS. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad offered service to Aspen from Denver, Pueblo, or Colorado Springs. Patterson and Forrest, 21, 22.


    140


    image

    ushered in a mood of seriousness that brought an _end to special snow trains headed for winter carnivals.

    The geography of skiing in Colorado, shaped by localism and limited transportation networks, differed greatly from the geography of European-style resorts. Colorado skiing encouraged the crossing and blurring of class lines that paralleled the ski-induced refiguring of gender. In local and regional carnivals and competitions, Coloradans focused these crossings around distinct events and performances and placed them in a mountain landscape. Political and financial networks in Colorado, while beginning to encourage the influx of outside money into mountain communities, actually enhanced skiing's geography of localism during the 1930s.


    The Political and Financial Networks Behind Colorado's Early Ski Areas


    The transportation structures that opened physical access to the mountains in winter fit into another framework of relationships that encouraged the growth of local ski areas before the end of World War Two. As ski clubs recognized the need to build lodges and lifts, they forged connections to local businesses and community members, linking downhill skiing with new technology and the world of finance.

    Too, local ski clubs and businessmen formed personal relationships with U.S. Forest Service rangers, even receiving small-scale support from New Deal agencies to boost their local economies through skiing. In short, Colorado's local ski clubs established a political and financial network that connected their clubs to local businesses and governments as well as to the Forest Service and federal New Deal agencies. Set in America's post-war economy and culture, this framework would support the development of a national ski industry in Colorado. During the 1930s, however, it produced more modest results.


    1 41



    image

    Graeme McGowan, founding member of the Arlberg Club and an avid outdoorsman, worked as a consultant for the U.S. Forest Service surveying skiable terrain on forest land and recommending improvements to develop it. With the Forest Service's support, he promoted winter recreation and skiing from Berthoud

    Pass and West Portal to New Mexico and Arizona. 39 Interested in employing

    unskilled workers as well as improving the civic and recreational landscape of the country, FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration, and the Public Works Administration also helped develop and finance small ski areas across Colorado. The CCC often carried out plans formed by the Forest

    Service to cut ski trails, and the PWA and WPA helped local communities finance tows they wanted to install.40 While it is unclear exactly how New Deal

    government agents understood skiing, the financial support and physical labor that they offered small ski areas almost certainly represented a commitment to the development of recreation and tourism. At the very least, funding the development


    image

    39See Graeme McGowan, "Future Skiing in the National Forests," Trail and Timberline, 218 (December 1936}, 145-146, reprinted in The Ski Bulletin, 1 January, 1937, 4-5; Graeme McGowan, "Ganchos de Nieve," The American Ski Annual (1937-38), CHS, 87-95. The National Park Service also promoted skiing and winter recreation at this time. Rocky Mountain National Park officials kept Trail Ridge Road open to timberline in order to open access to ski trails. It developed ski trails and built shelters at Hidden Valley, a ski area within the Park, but did not install tows. The Park Service promoted skiing most actively in Yosemite National Park, where facilities in the 1930s could not accomodate the 25,000 skiers who came to Badger Pass in the winter. The Park Service built a huge new lodge from which skiers could see the lift and the bottom of three downhill runs, and expanded the trail system after skiers continued to crowd the area during the 1935-36 season. "Ski Trip," Trail and Timberline, 219 (January 1937), 9; "Skiing Comes of Age in California," American Ski Annual (1936-37), 159-160,

    CHS; Fanning Hearon, "Skiing in the National Parks," American Ski Annual

    (1941-42), 69-86, CHS.

    40The luxurious Timberline Lodge, built by the CCC on Mt. Hood, Oregon at the cost of $650,000, represents the largest and most visible single federal investment in skiing. More important were the many smaller investments made across the West. One could argue that early support from the CCC and the PWA enabled communities to develop local ski areas--many of which became destination resorts after the

    war--that they would not have been able to develop otherwise. For a discussion of the New Deal and America's recreational landscape, see Cutler, The Public Landscape of the New Deal.


    142


    image

    of local ski areas provided jobs and economic support to Denver and many of Colorado's rural mountain communities.

    During the 1930s the sport had progressed to the point where skiers sought specific, developed places to ski. Ski lift technology was in its infancy In the 1930s, and most skiers appreciated rope tows despite the fact that one arm usually

    felt longer than the other at the end of the day.41 Even simple rope tows cost

    money, though, and required a place to set them up. Where to put them was easy; National Forests covered most of the Rocky Mountains, and the U.S. Forest Service issued special use permits for ski tows freely. Ski clubs had a more difficult time raising money and recruiting labor for cutting trails, building cabins, and operating tows. Most got help from a combination of sources including the CCC and PWA New Deal agencies, the Forest Service, local businesses, and sometimes town or city governments in addition to their own club members. The two main ski areas that grew up near Denver in the 1930s both depended on this complex support network.

    Ardent CMC members had been practicing their downhill technique on Berthoud Pass since the early 1930s, and the area became quite popular once the road over the pass was kept open through the winter. The CMC helped develop the trails, which all lay within the Arapahoe National Forest, in coordination with the Forest Service, the CCC, and whoever else they could get to help. The trail from the summit to the highway, built in 1934, represented "the best efforts of the CCC and a chilly party of local surveyors." The Forest Service cleared stumps from the


    image

    41The first rope tow for skiing was patented in Switzerland in 1931; the first of its type in the U.S. appeared in Woodstock, Vermont, in 1934. During the 1930s rope tows were the most prevalent ski tow in the country, although some areas experimented with new technology. Sun Valley operated the first chair lift-­ derived from a device used to unload bananas--and Aspen, Yosemite, and Steamboat Springs operated "boat tows," which hauled skiers up the hill in two counter­ balanced sleds. For a good synopsis of ski tow technology in the 1930s, see Allen, From Skisport to Skiing, 109-114.


    143


    image

    practice hill.42 The next year CMC members spent "long, hot summer Sundays planning and marking the trails" that CCC recruits would build under supervision

    of the Forest Service.43 This system of trails attracted regular skiers from

    Denver in increasing numbers. Where the group of skiers had once been so small, one man recalled, that everyone knew each other by their first names, just a year or two later "the top of Berthoud Pass, crowded Sunday after Sunday with four to five hundred cars, became so that there was scarcely room for comfortable

    skiing ."44

    In order to oversee the development of local ski areas like Berthoud Pass, a dozen or so ski clubs and communities came together and formed the Colorado Winter Sports Council in November, 1936. This organization continued development at Berthoud Pass, building trails, improving parking, and installing

    Colorado's first rope tow. Funded by the May Company department store in Denver,


    the tow opened on February 7, 1937. By charging a small fee for rides, the CMC

    recouped $500 the next season, about one fifth of the tow's cost.45 Not to be left out of the picture, the Forest Service financed the construction of a new, three­ story lodge, complete with telephone, water, and toilet facilities.46 By 1941 the



    image

    42Reynolds Morse, "The High Trails of Winter," Trail and Timberline, 194 (December 1934), 163.

    43David Rosendale, "Skiing in the Colorado Mo ntain Club," Trail and Timberline,

    208 (February 1936), 12.

    44J.C. Blickensderfer, "Reminiscences of Skiing in Colorado, 1922-1968," manuscript, n.d., CHS, 2; Frank Ashley, "Colorado Skiing," The American Ski Annual (1936-37), CHS, 110.

    45Jac k Kendrick, "Winter Sports Development," Trail and Timberline, 238 (September-October 1938), 104; Blickensderfer, 3; letter from L.R. Kendrick to

    J.R. Pechman, 22 August, 1938, Colorado Ski Clubs and Associations Collection, CHS.

    46The U.S. Forest Service supported such development on National Forest land in the interest of managing public use of the National Forests that might otherwise have gotten out of control. While it is unclear how top officials in the USFS

    understood the sport of skiing, the agency had an established tradition of encouraging wise use of such public lands for grazing and logging. Skiing, while recreational rather than extractive, presumably fit under the same wise-use rubric. Personal relationships among USFS rangers and skiers, and forest officials


    144


    image

    area at Berthoud Pass offered skiers lunch or refreshments at the lodge, plus six different trails, two rope tows, and parking space for 600 cars.47 The second­

    largest ski area in Colorado at the time, Berthoud Pass represented the results of a support network encompassing the federal government, local surveyors, Denver ski boosters, and local businesses. Winter Park, then the largest ski area in Colorado, did, as well.

    West Portal attracted skiers from Denver, especially when the road over Berthoud Pass proved impassible. Arlberg Club members, CMC members, their friends, and other Denver downhill enthusiasts rode the train there and skied on "the old sheep driveway," cut by the Forest Service in the 1920s to connect grazing areas and known more popularly as the Mary Jane trail. The Arlberg Club, who regarded West Portal as its home turf, leased land and a make-shift clubhouse from Graeme McGowan's Portal Resorts. Instead of asking the Forest Service to build a public lodge on national forest land, the Arlberg Club built its own on private land adjoining the Arapahoe National Forest in 1933, financed primarily through a

    large donation from one wealthy club member.48 A few years later the CMC also

    built a cabin near West Portal for its members and guests, with 17 bunks and meals available.49 As the skiable terrain lay on forest land, the Arlberg Club

    worked together with the Forest Service and the CCC to clear and improve the Mary Jane trail in 1933. That relationship continued the next year, when the CCC built

    a steep, straight, downhill racing course on which the club held its annual competitions.50 The Forest Service thinned and cleared three more trails in the


    image

    like Graeme McGowan who enjoyed skiing themselves, helped solidify good relations between the government agency and local ski areas.

    47"Thri lling Winter Sport in Colorado, Top of the Nation," pamphlet, 1941, CUA.

    48Barrion Hughes, an original Arlberg Club member who worked as a lawyer in Denver, donated $3,000 to build a lodge for the Club. Winter Park, 17-19.

    49"Ski Cabin," Trail and Timberline, 210 (December 1938), 126, 127. 50Morse, "The High Trails of Winter," 163; "The Ski Races," Trail and Timberline, 198 (April 1935), 45.


    145


    image

    West Portal area in 1936 and 1937 (one of which led skiers there from the top of Berthoud Pass), and made plans to build a public lodge, as well.51

    Efforts to build ski lifts at West Portal plunged supporters into an even larger web of political financial relationships that would make it distinct among Colorado ski areas. Tows represented a significant investment, one that few individuals or clubs wanted to handle on their own. The Colorado Winter Sports Council and the May Company had financed the ones at Berthoud Pass; the City of Denver decided to take on West Portal. Manager of Parks and Improvements for the City and County of Denver in 1938 was George Cranmer, an outdoorsman who had learned to ski from Carl Howelsen and wanted to expand the city park system. He, like some Denver businessmen and the Denver Rocky Mountain News, thought "the

    fun of sliding over snow with a couple of boards tied to the feet may bring millions of dollars to Colorado."52 Crowding at Berthoud Pass further convinced him that

    skiers could support more areas. After having inspected the West Portal area with experts including Otto Schneibs and Bob Balch, Cranmer and the Denver Chamber of Commerce's Winter Sports Committee decided that "this area can afford pleasure

    for several thousand skiers every day after proper development," and that the City of Denver was just the organization for the job.53

    After that, financial wheels started moving quickly. Cranmer got a Forest Service permit held by the city for 6,400 acres between Berthoud Pass and West Portal, incorporating the ski area into Denver's Mountain Parks System. The City Council raised the $25,000 necessary to build tows and trails by applying for a WPA project that would cover 45% of the bill, and soliciting subscriptions from local businesses and individuals for the remaining $14,000. The city's backing

    image

    51 Ashley, "Colorado Skiing," 112; letter from L.R. Kendrick to J.R. Pechman, 22 August, 1938, Colorado Ski Clubs and Associations Collection, CHS.

    52 Winter Park, 24.

    53Kendrick, "Winter Sports Development," 105. Kendrick was Chairman of the Committee on Winter Sports.


    146


    image

    "gave this undertaking a permanence and stability formerly lacking in the eyes of business interests," encouraging Denver businesses, ski club members, as well as the Moffat Road, the Burlington, and the Union Pacific Railroad to invest in the ski

    area.54 When Cranmer ran out of money to cut trails, he called for volunteers and

    got ninety--Arlbergers, CMC members, skiers from other Denver clubs, both male and female. In 1939 Bob Balch became the first manager of the Winter Park ski area, overseeing city employees who had volunteered to build trails and a J-bar lift there on the weekends. Its grand opening in January of 1940 brought racers from ski clubs across the state as well as some from Wyoming and Sun Valley. The next year it operated two T-bar lifts, a tractor sled lift, over a dozen trails, a 35 meter jump, a lodge with food concessions, a well-equipped race course, and

    offered accomodations only two miles down the road.55 While tiny by current

    standards, in 1941 these facilities made Winter Park the biggest ski area in the state. The city of Denver, and people who skied there, could thank a collection of supporters that ranged from the WPA and railroad companies to local volunteers and city workers.

    Farther from Denver's concentration of cash and recreational skiers than Berthoud Pass and Winter Park, a number of smaller ski areas throughout Colorado depended on similar support networks for their growth in the late 1930s. They, like the two larger areas, served local skiers interested in taking day trips. One group of Denver skiers pooled their money and built a ski lodge in Empire called the Trap Door--after the spider's nest the building resembled--from which they could ski terrain on Loveland Pass, Jones Pass, St. Mary's Glacier, and Fremont


    image

    54Kendrick, "Winter Sports Development," 105; letters from Jack Kendrick to

    J.R. Pechman, 22 August, 1938 and 30 August, 1938, Colorado Ski Clubs and Associations Collecion, CHS; "Ski Tows," Trail and Timberline, 240 (December 1938), 125.

    55 Winter Park, 28-35; "Thrilling Winter Sports in Colorado, Top of the Nation," CUA; Patterson and Forrest, 25.


    147


    image

    Pass.56 A more ambitious group from Denver, ski club Zipfelberger, started to develop Loveland Basin. By 1939 the Forest Service had built a lodge there and four downhill trails, including the Zipfelberger racing trail. The club built a cabin just below timberline that same year, and put up a small tow on the practice hill.

    By 1941 they had three rope tows in operation. To the South, Colorado Springs skiers frequented the area at Glen Cove, where the Forest Service built some trails, a jump, and the Pikes Peak Ski Club installed a tow. Still other ski clubs across the state teamed up with the Forest Service and local businesses to build ski areas. Grand Junction skiers put up rope tows and built a lodge in the Grand Mesa National Forest, and the Continental Ski Club of Climax built a small area near Fremont Pass

    that stayed open for night skiing.57 Steamboat Springs hosted slalom and downhill

    races and built a tow of their own in 1938. Along the D&RG line in Glenwood Springs, the winter sports club, the chamber of commerce, officials of the White River National Forest, members of the local CCC camp, and high school volunteers

    all came together to build a downhill course in one of Glenwood's city parks on Lookout Mountain.58 Local infrastructures and \he enthusiasm characterized

    Colorado ski areas in the 1930s, big and small.


    Farther from Denver, and so even more dependent upon local skiers and support networks, downhill ski areas grew up in the southwestern part of Colorado as well. Long connected with the sport, the Gunnison and Crested Butte region installed Colorado's first chairlift at the Pioneer area, offering skiers a rope tow and the well-known Big Dipper trail as well. Western State College had a practice hill in Gunnison itself. Telluride skiers followed Bruce Palmer's portable rope tow


    image

    56Blickensderfer, 4-5.

    57Blickensderfer, "Reminiscences," 4-5, 8-9; J.C. Blickensderfer, "One Day Skiing Trips from Denver," Trail and Timberline, 253 (January 1939), 10-11; "Colorado's National Forests," The Ski Bulletin, 26 March, 1937, 16.

    58"Glenwood Springs," Western Colorado and Eastern Utah (January 1939}, 10, Ski Town file, Routt County Collection, BWML. ·


    148


    image

    around the area and formed the Ski-Hi Ski Club to sponsor local competitions and

    raise money for a new rope each year.59 Durango businessmen and civic organizations bought a rope tow which the San Juan Basin Ski and Winter Sports Club operated 25 miles outside of town. Locals facetiously referred to Chapman

    Hill, closer to town and funded in part by the WPA, as "Durango's Sun Valley: •60

    The San Juan Ski Club of Ouray also used WPA funds--about $5,000 worth--to clear a course by Its practice slope. They got permission to do so in the form of a

    Forest Service permit, and club membership funds financed a ski shelter.61

    Salida, too, had its own ski area by 1941, when the Monarch Pass area opened for business with two rope tows and a ski club lodge. The San Luis Valley Ski Club

    drove to Wolf Creek Pass for its snow, where a Forest Service shelter, two rope tows, and long runs attracted skiers.62

    image

    These Colorado ski areas, built for the most part in the late 1930s, shared more than their mixture of local and federal support. They were small. They were simple. Amenities, if any, consisted of a ski shelter where it might be possible to buy lunch. Tows were prevalent, though many skiers hiked above the top of the lift to reach better terrain. Thirteen of the 33 Colorado ski areas listed in a 1941 brochure had no lifts at all. These areas were populated, furthermore, by local skiers. People wanting to spend more than a day skiing had to travel to the nearest town with a hotel and return to the slopes the next day, or if they were club members, they might opt to spend the night in a clubhouse bunkroom. Limitations

    59Bi11 Mahoney, interview by the author, 6 June, 1994, Telluride, Colorado, tape recording; David Lavender, The Telluride Story (Ridgway CO: Wayfinder Press, 1987), 60, 62.

    60The club and the Forest Service were waiting in 1941 for highway 550 to be

    relocated before they planned a larger ski area on forest land. C.R. Towne, "Durango Skiing Area," Rocky Mountain Winter Sports News, 16 January, 1941, 2; Smith, Rocky Mountain Boom Town, 125.

    61"Ouray," Western Colorado and Eastern Utah (January 1939), 10, Ski Town file, Routt County Collection, BWML.

    62"Thrilling Winter Sports in Colorado," CUA; Southern Rocky Mountain Ski Association member clubs, 1941-42, McLaren Collection, GCHA.


    149



    image

    in highway development, ski lift technology, and financing--despite New Deal support--kept Colorado ski areas and the groups that ran them locally oriented.

    Even the Highland Bavarian Corporation, with its European experts, Wall Street connections, and images of an American St. Moritz, could not buck the trend. While Flynn, Fiske, and Ryan tried to find financing for the tramway and resort village they envisioned below Mt. Hayden, the Aspen Ski Club's little boat tow and Roch Run on Aspen Mountain gained fame. Like other local ski areas across the state, Aspen's area opened and attracted skiers because a series of local networks that emphasized community skiing supported it. Local businesses and governments joined their ski clubs to forge relationships with the Forest Service and New Deal agencies. Community members understood skiing as a benefit to their local economies during the Depression, and they counted on improved roads and railroad access to bring visitors to their slopes. The growth of these physical, financial, and political infrastructures, while encouraging the development of skiing in Colorado, encouraged a particular kind of community skiing with its own class meanings. The sport remained centered in mountain community and Denver ski clubs, which--except for the Arlberg Club and the CMC--had working- or middle­ class members. European resort culture and its accompanying wealth had yet to establish itself in Colorado.

    With America's involvement in World War Two, the development of Colorado skiing changed course. During the war Berthoud Pass ski area closed down. Sun Valley became an army hospital. Hopes for the HBC disintegerated. Materials for tows and lifts, money for construction and labor, gas for travel, and time to ski all seemed to disappear overnight. At the same time that the war slowed ski area activity, however, it also formed another piece of infrastructure for Colorado skiing. The Army's 10th Mountain Division brought icons of European resort culture, and upper-class participants in that culture, to the Rockies. As a


    150


    image

    military embodiement of resort culture stationed at Colorado's Camp Hale, the 10th Mountain Division introduced cosmopolitan skiers to the state's community skiing traditions and so added a new class dynamic to the sport. After the war, veterans of the 10th would return to Colorado and recreate ski resort culture in the state's mountain communities, calling upon local networks established in the 1930s but expanding ski areas' scope to regional and national levels.


    A Network of Elite Skiers in Colorado - The 10th Mountain Division


    01 all the Army divisions in World War Two, it's a safe bet that the 10th Mountain formed the tightest group. The first American troops organized for mountain warfare, the 10th Mountain Division locked the world's best skiers together--as only military regulations and discipline can--on ski slopes in Colorado. These soldiers grew close through training and by sharing their skills and ideas. By the end of the war, the10th Mountain Division had produced a cadre of

    individuals, each of whom had similar blueprints for post-war ski areas. These men shared so much in common by the end of the war that they continue as a sell­ conscious unit today, holding annual reunions, publishing books, and appearing in

    10th Mountain Division documentaries.63


    image

    63There are as many as 34 books published about the 10th Min. Division. See Minot Dole, Adventures in Skiing (J. Lowell Pratt and Co., Inc., 1965); Hal Burton, The Ski Troops (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971); Curtis Casewit, Mountain Troopers: The Story of the Tenth Mountain Division (New York: ?? , 1972) for excellent overviews and how the 10th fit into developments in skiing. For primary source material see Dole; Kenneth S. Templeton, ed.,10th Mountain Division: America's Ski Troops (Chicago: privately published, 1945); Harris Dusenbery, Ski the High Trail: World War II Ski Troopers in the High Colorado Rockies (Portland OR: Binford and Mort Publishing, 1991}; and more recently, John lmbrie and Hugh W. Evans, eds., Good Times and Bad Times: A History of C Company 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment 10th Mountain Division (Queechee VT: Vermont Heritage Press, 1995). For a complete bibiography, see "The 1Oth's

    Books," Skiing Heritage: Journal of the International Skiing History Association, 7, 2 (Fall 1995), 33. Two recent documentary films on the 10th are Soldiers of the Summit (Council for Public TV, Channel Six, Inc., 1987), and Fire on the Mountain (1995} by Beth and George Gage.


    1 51

    image


    A small group of upper-class skiers first came up with the idea of recruiting and training mountain ski troops in the United States. One evening after the Hochebirge Ski Club of Boston's annual races in 1939, a group of men started talking about the Russo-Finnish war. They applauded the skill and tactics of the Finnish ski troops, and came to the conclusion that America would need similarly trained forces to repel any attack on her northeast coast. That night Minot

    "Minnie" Dole and Roger Langely, both presidents of national ski organizations,


    decided to offer their services and those of their organizations to the Secretary of War. 64 A long series of letters, proposals, and meetings--facilitated by Dole's

    connections to fellow Yale alumni--finally led to official cooperation between the War Department and the National Ski Patrol (NSP) on the issue of equipment development. In November of 1941, the Army activated the 87th Infantry

    Mountain Regiment--the first of three regiments that would ultimately make up the 10th Mountain Division.65 The National Ski,Patrol's job was to provide men to

    fill this Regiment and satisfy later demands for mountain troops. The only civilian agency authorized to recruit for the Army, over the next four years the NSP recruited 10,634 enlisted men and 370 officers for what would become the 10th Mountain Division.66


    image

    64Dole, 90-91. Minot Dole founded the National Ski Patrol System; Langley was president of the National Ski Association. The National Ski Patrol was an organization of volunteers that worked to ensure the safety of skiers at ski areas across the country. See chapter 4 for a more detailed treatment of the NSP.

    65See Dole, 90-125; Fred H. McNeil, "Skiing and the National Defense," American Ski Annual (1941-42), 5-21, CHS; Charles Mclane, "Of Mules and Skis," American Ski Annual (1942-43). 21-34, CHS.

    66H. Benjamin Duke, Jr., "Skiing Soldiers to Skiing Entrepreneurs: Development of the Western Ski Industry," paper given at the 1989 Western Historical Association conference, 4, DPL. The War Department also experimented for a time with ski paratroops. Dick Durrance headed the teaching staff at Alta, Utah, where a company of trained parachutists from Fort Benning, Georgia learned to ski and camp outdoors in the mountains. The project lasted a year, after which Durrance reported "maybe a third of them got to like it and ended up being pretty good, a

    third of them were so-so, and a third of them were just wrecks." Durrance concluded that it would be easier to teach skiers to parachute than parachutists to


    152


    image

    With a national structure that united local ski patrols under regional chiefs, who were in turn responsible to divisional chairmen, the NSP could recruit skiers and outdoorsmen from all over the country. Not just anyone could join the 87th Regiment, however. In order to build elite mountain troops, the NSP called for "[m]en who have lived and worked in the mountains, such as rock climbers, trappers, packers, guides, prospectors, timber cruisers ... if they ski, so much the better." "Good skiers without extensive mountaineering experience," Dole's bulletin continued, "if they are physically fit for rigorous winter and mountain

    training, will be acceptable."67 Volunteers had to fill out a questionnaire on their

    background and experience as well as submit three letters of recommendation to

    verify their qualifications.68 The reach of the NSP and publicity about "Minnie's Ski Troops" spread the word to skiers and outdoorsmen all over the country that draftees and volunteers could join this elite group of ski troopers. The idea appealed--mainly to men associated with cosmopolitan ski culture either by virtue of their class or their expertise. Ski racers of regional, college, national, and even international fame signed up for the 87th and headed to Fort Lewis, Washington.

    Charlie Mclane, who had captained the Dartmouth ski team, was the first to arrive. Before long he was only one outstanding skier among many. They included the head of the Mt. Hood ski school, head of the Mt. Ranier ski patrol, ex-coach of the University of Washington ski team, ex-captain and coach of the University of Vermont ski team, ex-New Hampshire State captain, an Olympic jumping coach, as


    image

    ski. Quite a number of famous American ski racers helped Durrance train these troops, many of whom went on to join the regiments in the 10th Mountain Division. James Laughlin IV, "Ski Parachute Troops," American Ski Annual {1942-43),

    94-96, CHS; Dick and Miggs Durrance, interview by Jeanette Darnauer, 18 August, 1993, video and transcript, 8, AHS.

    67Charles M. Dole, "Mountain Forces to be Enlarged, Bulletin 10C," American Ski Annual (1942-43), 108, CHS.

    68For examples of letters of recommendation, see Jack Pechman re: Frank Bulkley II, 27 January, 1942, and Pechman re: Muldrow Garrison, 22 March 1942,

    Colorado Ski Clubs and Associations Collection, CHS.


    153


    image

    well as instructors from Sun Valley, Mt. Hood, Yosemite, and Franconia NH, competitors from Williams College, Dartmouth College, Denver, and Steamboat Springs, and a skiing mail carrier from the Sierra Nevadas. Foreign-born skiers also joined up, including Dartmouth coach Walter Prager, German national team member Peter Pringsheim, a 10-year veteran of Polish army skiing detachments Wladyslaw Thomas Mietelski, Norwegian jumping coach Harold "Pop" Sorensen and

    jumper Torger Tokle, Italian Swiss-born mountaineer Peter Gabriel, Laplander Eric Wikner, and instructors Olaf Rotegarrd and Hans Kolb. 69 This collection of

    men represented every aspect of America's ski history, from Scandinavian jumpers and European mountaineers, to Austrian instructors and college outing club members. While from different economic backgrounds, the ethnicity and expertise of these men, and often their class as well, ensured that the 10th Mountain Division would embody an American version of European resort culture.

    Besides competitors, instructors, college athletes, and coaches from across the United States and the world, the 87th also attracted a weird combination of wealthy resort-goers and rural outdoorsmen. Minot Dole got to meet actress Norma Shearer when her escort came to volunteer for the mountain troops; he had noticed the couple the night before, dancing at New York's Plaza Hotel. George Frankenstein, son of the last German Ambassador to England, also came to see Dole and signed up for the 87th.7° To these upper-class personalities the 87th brought together skiers, snowshoers, Maine woodsmen, dog-sled people, big-game hunters, Norwegian farmers, and more. "This remarkable collection of people," Peter Wick

    said, "was to have a truly distinctive stamp on the 10th Division."71 The mountain


    image

    69McLane, 24-27; McNeil, 18-20. For short biographies of Walter Prager and Torger Tokle, including their role in the 10th Mountain Division, see Templeton, 172, 174.

    70Dole, 109.

    71Peter Wick, letter to Robert Woody, 29 December, 1981, in lmbrie and Evans, 188.


    154


    image

    troops drew this group of men together, disparate in their class, occupation, and places of birth, but united by their enthusiasm for the mountains. As outdoorsmen in an organization made famous by its expert skiers, these men would become further united by exposure to, if not participation in, a typically upper-class ski culture.

    During the winter of 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the men of the 87th Regiment moved to the Paradise Lodge on Mt. Rainier to train in earnest. And

    they trained with enthusiasm and spirit. "After a day's drill," Minot Dole noticed

    during one visit, "they would form a singing group and get out guitars."72 Indeed, as one member said, "a rare spirit cast a glow on our activities" on Mt. Rainier, and he had "no doubt that the 87th that winter was one of the singingest outfits to

    ever shoulder an army pack."73 A testament to their foreign-born members, to

    the Scandinavian images associated with skiing, to their sense of humor, and to the strange unity of the 87th, the song "Oola" soon became a favorite. The first two (of many) verses read:

    I'm Oola, ski-yumper from Norway brought up on Lutefisk and Sil

    Ay come to New York to find me some work but I guess I go vest right away. Ay yomp on a train for Ft. Lewis to fight for the U.S.A.

    Ay yoin up the Mountain Battalion and here Ay link Ay will stay.


    Each day and each night at Ft. Lewis, yee vhissl how it would rain. And if it vould keep up dis vedder, ay never go skiing again.

    At last ve go up to the mountain. She's one doggone place you should see. The minute I get there I'm happy. I run out and yomp on my ski.74

    The camraderie that these first members of the 87th shared stemmed from their common interest in skiing and their mutual respect for one another. Members of the 87th shared songs, training experiences on Mt. Rainier, and a familiarity with


    image

    72Dole, 111.

    73Lt. Charles C. Bradley, "A Mountain Soldier Sings," American Ski Annual

    (1944-45), 37-38, CHS.

    74Bradley, 38-39.


    155


    image

    each other that would make them the core of the 10th Mountain Division. That core would soon move to Colorado.

    In June of 1942 the Army decided to expand its Mountain Infantry and activate the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 87th Regiment. As Fort Lewis fell short of the ideal mountain training facility, General Marshall appointed a team to find a new one. Of the four final possibilities, the Aspen site that the HBC offered and Wheeler Junction in Colorado were too inaccessible, and West Yellowstone was home to the threatened Trumpeter Swan who had friends in high places--namely FDR's uncle, who presided over the Wildlife Conservation Committee and made protecting the bird his personal mission. So the winner was Pando, Colorado, a

    sheep-loading station just north of Tennessee Pass on the main line of the D&RG

    railroad, near Leadville on U.S. Highway 24.75 Construction on Camp Hale was finished in November, 1942. It would be home to 15,000 men of the 10th Mountain Division, formally activated in the spring of 1943 and made up of the 85th, 86th, and 87th Regiments. Minnie Dole of the National Ski Patrol sent notices to all patrolmen asking for volunteers and toured colleges in the East looking for recruits to fill the new regiments. He found 3,500 men in sixty days,

    most from colleges.76 Those men, combined with the 87th, made up one of the most

    highly educated--and correspondingly elite--military forces in the Army. Some 64% of the enlisted men in the 86th Regiment, for instance, qualified for officer training school.77 Quite a few members of the 10th Mountain Division (initially known as the 10th Light Division) thus knew each other from college or college

    image

    75Duke, 5; Jack A. Benson, "Skiing at Camp Hale: Mountain Troops During World War II," Western Historical Quarterly, 15 (April 1984), 164; Dole, 117.

    76Dole, 118.

    77Duke, 5; Burton, 143; Benson, 173; One source said the majority of volunteers came from the Universities of Dartmouth, Vermont, Maine, Williams, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, and Washington. During the winter of 1944, about 60% of the 10th Mountain Division were college students, about 20% had been born and raised in the Rockies, and the rest were foreign-born Americans. Templeton, 15-18.


    156


    image

    athletics. Gordy Wren knew a number of them from racing and ski jumping competitions he had taken part in across the United States. "It was a mixture of

    guys from everywhere," he remembered, "South, West, North, East--everywhere that anyone had heard of skiing."78 Working-class athletes and wealthy men who

    wanted to become skiers joined elite skiers themselves in the 10th, fostering an atmosphere and tone that existed in stark contrast to those of other military organizaitons.

    That this division operated within the context of an upper-class ski culture tended to lessen--or loosen--standards of discipline and behavior based on

    military rank. While this made some officers a little nervous and worried that the

    Division was too much like a ski club, it made the 10th even more appealing to its members and enlistees.79 One member joined specifically because he "disliked military organization, per se," and felt he would have the greatest amount of

    freedom as a rifleman in the ski troops.80 Steve Knowlton called the 10th "great," because "It threw me into a group of skiers that I had heard about who were probably the best skiers in the United States at that time. People like Toni Matt ... these were people I had heard about and read about ... and I got to rub elbows with

    them."81 The division's reputation, combined with the chance to fight Hitler,

    attracted still more foreign skiers to Camp Hale, including Sun Valley's Friedl Pfeifer and Florian Haemmerle, and St. Anton natives Luggi Foeger, Toni Matt, and Herbert Schneider(Hannes' son). They officially declared their allegiance by

    becoming United States citizens in Leadville.82 These icons of international resort


    image

    7BGordon Wren, interview by the author, 25 August, 1995, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, tape recording and transcription, 3-4.

    79David Brower and Morely Nelson, in Beth and George Gage, Fire on the Mountain

    (1995); Dole, 116; Benson, 166-167.

    BODusenbery, 9.

    B1Steve Knowlton, interview by the author, 19 October, 1994, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 1, AHS.

    B2Abbott Fay, Ski Tracks in the Rockies: A Century of Colorado Skiing (Evergreen CO: Cordilliera Press, Inc., 1984), 29; Friedl Pfeifer and Morten Lund, Nice Goin':


    157


    image

    ski culture, who represented the European masculine ideal, further enhanced the reputation of the 10th and its character as a fraternity of elite skiers. The 10th Mountain Division would become the largest ever volunteer lighting force, its appeal and reputation further cementing a group of men initially drawn together by

    their connections to skiing and outdoor sport.83

    Of course the 10th had its problems, too. The often unpleasant reality of Army living often contrasted with the memories of its veterans. Not all of its members had volunteered for the Mountain Troops. Nor were they all familiar with the mountains. Their presence in the 10th resulted from organizational

    mistakes for which the Army was known, and from the need to fill out the division's ranks. The 10th Cavalry Reconnaisance Troop came from Meade, South Dakota and consisted primarily of cowboys, and the 31st Dixie Division came to Camp Hale from Leesville, Louisiana, one of the flattest, hottest, and lowest parts of America. The quality and unity of the 10th "went downhill a little bit," Gordy Wren recalled, one time when the Division was low on numbers. "So they sent out a bulletin open to all military personnel to send their people to Camp Hale. What happened," Wren

    explained, "is we got a lot of the riff raff." 84 When men from disbanded tank

    destroyer units showed up, many of them "from the hoots and hollers of


    image

    My Life on Skis (Missoula MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., 1993), 116. When Torger Tokle, a ski jumping champion from Norway, joined the 87th Regiment he said to friends "I will do everything for my adopted land to help it remain the champion of the small and downtrodden nations of Europe." Templeton, 172. It is also possible that the U.S. Government made Austrians and Germans choose between signing up for the military or returning home.

    83Practically every 10th Mtn veteran testifies to the common love of the outdoors

    and the mountains that they shared. See for example, Fire on the Mountain; John Litchfield, interview by the author, 29 September, 1994, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 3, AHS; Knowlton, 1994, 1. Harris Dusenbury considered himself "a passable skier and loved tlie moutnains." He joined up in part because he thought he would be safer fighting in the mountains than anywhere else. "Alpine terrain is familiar and comforting," he wrote, " I feel at home there, but war offers only the terrible unknown conjured up in vivid Imagination." Dusenbery, 10.

    84Wren, 1995.


    158

    image


    Appalachia," one member of the 85th's C Company remarked "The 10th was

    beginning to get a dual personality." "Harvard could talk about Nietzsche and Einstein," he said, "but Harlan County played a lot better poker." 85 These men had a tough time adjusting to the cold, rigorous, high-altitude training exercises expected of them, and to the Division's unorthodox ski fraternity atmosphere.86

    Once put on the ski slopes at Cooper Hill (Camp Hale's ski area), some officers were hard put to obey their instructors who were of lesser rank.87 Army

    bureaucracy occasionally weakened the unified identity of the 10th by breaking up the core group of skiers and outdoorsmen. The Army assigned many original members of the 87th to different regiments, and sent at least one 20 man detachment of elite outdoorsmen to instruct other Army units in the U.S. and then

    the British Army in Europe.88 The changes in personnel that worked against the

    unity of the 10th seemed to have had only limited impact, however, especially in the judgement of division veterans.

    Far more influential were the experiences they shared at Camp Hale and then in Italy. "Life at Camp Hale was filled, as all army life is," veteran C. Page Smith wrote, "with multitudinous small dramas a,nd bits of high and low

    comedy."89 Often referred to as "Camp Hell," Camp Hale introduced members of

    the 10th Mtn to the problems of high altitude living as well as to the beauties of Colorado's Rockies. Both sets of experiences drew the soldiers together and


    image

    85Robert Woody, in lmbrie and Evans, 129.

    86Minnie Dole watched one exhausted soldier returning early from an overnight mountain exercise. "Ah'm goin' back to camp," he said, "Ah'm from the Deep South an' I just cain't take this stuff." Dole also saw two Gl's trying to get themselves evacuated from the same exercise by trying to freeze their feet. Dole, 122-123. 87Benson, 166.

    88Gordy Wren was part of this detachment. They taught mountain skills at Pine Camp New York and in West Virginia. They went to Italy before the 10th and Wren

    "hardly saw my outfit all the time I was over there," since the detachment was assigned to the British troops. Wren, 3. Commanders at Camp Hale came and went as well, lessening any sense of continuity that had grown there. Benson, 169-170.

    89Jmbrie and Evans, 31.


    159

    anchored their identity in place, to the mountains of Colorado. Built in eight months at an altitude of 9,200 feet, Camp Hale gave a bad first impression. When the 87th Regiment arrived there in November of 1942, a coat of snow covered what turned out to be a muddy quagmire studded with nails, glass, and tools left over

    from its hasty construction. Their trucks did not get far that day. Troops arriving later on noticed an imposing cloud hovering over the Camp, a result of 500 individual soft coal burning furnaces and frequent triple-engined steam trains climbing the 4% grade between Pando and Tennessee Pass. This cloud, trapped in the high valley and often reducing visibility to a. city block, fathered the ever­ present cough known as the "Pando Hack." Other troubles plagued the residents of Camp Hale. Extreme cold led to dozens of cases of frost bite; the altitude made marching more difficult than Army manuals acknowledged; and the equipment they tested sometimes backfired, as when troops who had camped out at 12,000 feet woke up in the morning to find themselves trapped in their sleeping bags, the

    zippers frozen.90 One veteran recalled life at Camp Hale as "strenuous activity

    conducted always with some experimentation." 91 These hardships, however, paled in comparison to the D-Series.

    Lasting about four weeks in the spring of 1944, these divisional maneuvers proved to be the most rugged training exercise in the U.S. Army. Troops lived outdoors for the entire series, sleeping, marchi g, climbing, camping, and trying to keep their feet warm, often 12,000 feet above sea level in temperatures that reached 30 degrees below zero. "Designed to test our ability to operate in the mountains in subzero temperatures," one division historian wrote, "the operation

    succeed[ed] in pushing both men and machines to the limit of their endurance."92


    image

    9DDole, 124; see Benson, Skiing at Camp Hale, for a thorough critique of the 10th at Camp Hale.

    91Litchfield, 1994, 3. 92Imbrie and Evans, 6.


    160


    image

    "Looking back," another wrote, "it will be hard to realize that we actually went through that agony of cold, with clothes constantly wet and no way to dry them out, with no time for sleep, and with no time for more than a bite on the run." Being wet, cold, tired, and hungry characterized the D-Series for most. In one day alone

    over 100 men with frostbite had to be evacuated.93 "No one who took part in those

    maneuvers," one rifleman argued, "will ever forget them."94

    The very toughness of D-Series bound members of the 10th Mountain Division into an even tighter unit than before. Conducting war games in subzero temperatures and snowstorms with only half an atmosphere to breathe required teamwork. "Through these past few days of hardship our squad had become a family," one man recalled, "closely knit, and concerned above all in the welfare of

    its members."95 This feeling applied to the entire division, as well. The D-Series

    became understood as a rite of passage into the i 0th, and stories of the maneuvers became part of the division's lore. "We of the ten thousand who went through the

    great experience," Dusenbery argued, "had an elan that could have been acquired in


    no other way. Whatever the 10th Mountain Division was, it had its nucleus in the multiform and arduous experiences of our D Series."96 Their common experience

    of cold and hardship in that spring of 1944 served the 10th well in battle. One skier and mountaineer from Oregon remembered that "later when we had really heavy shelling in Italy, and had a real rough day with a lot of firing going on, you'd

    hear somebody say 'If this gets any worse its going to be as bad as D-Series."9' 7

    "For high morale the rifleman must know what fear and pain are," another soldier pointed out, "and he must have confidence in his ability to meet whatever pain lies


    image

    93Imbrie and Evans, 6; Fire on the Mountain. See also Hugh Evans' recollections of D-Series in lmbrie and Evans, 198.

    94Dusenbery, 13.

    95Dusenbery, 150.

    96Dusenbery, 157.

    97Ralph Lafferty, Fire on the Mountain.


    1 61


    image

    in store for him. We in the 10th Mountain Division could always look back upon D Series and say that this is but child's play."98

    D-Series represented the culmination of a year and a hall of training in the mountains surrounding Camp Hale. From July 1943 to December of 1944 members of the 10th Mountain Division called Camp Hale, Colorado, home.

    Members of the 87th Regiment had been together since the beginning of 1942. The length of their training gave the 10th an edge on the battlefield, since "most divisions at that time during the war didn't have that luxury of being together that

    long to either form friendships or to function and train as a lighting unit."99 More

    importantly for the post-war ski industry, that period of training introduced outdoorsmen from across the country and around the world to the Colorado Rockies. Training exercises--skiing in winter and mountain climbing in summer--gave members of the 10th Mountain Division an intimate knowledge of the mountains around Camp Hale. Even during strenuous maneuvers-or perhaps especially during them--men took time to notice the scenery. A volunteer from Wisconsin wrote about one winter bivouac near Cooper Hill: where the 2nd Battalion of the 86th was scheduled to train for two weeks. "Here, practically on top of America,"

    he wrote, "we were high in the sky and it seemed as if we could reach out and help boost the moon up over the Divide."100 Even during the D-Series Colorado's

    mountains enchanted soldiers of the 10th. One member of the 86th's C Company recalled his experience while on a windy lookout. "I raised my eyes to the view that stretched out before me," he said, "range after range of mountains, dazzling white peaks and long ridges, Holy Cross, Homestake, Elbert, Massive, and a thousand

    image

    98Dusenbery, 156. Hugh Evans agreed when he wrote "D-Series was a truly rough exercise. But it did prove to us we could maneuver and survive in the mountains under very extreme conditions. It gave us confidence that we could do anything." lmbrie and Evans, 198.

    99Utchfield, 1994, 3.

    100 s1Sgt. Edwin C. Gibson, "On Cooper Hill," American Ski Annual (1944-45), 60-61, CHS. '


    162


    image

    lesser peaks and mountain ramparts." "The majestic beauty of these ranges," he went on, "made me realize that there were some compensations for being in the mountain troops."101

    More than just beautiful mountains, the Rockies often triggered images of sport in the minds of Camp Hale's soldiers. During D-Series, Harris Dusenbery and his squad noticed terrain that they thought would make a great ski hill,

    plotting, even, where the lilts ought to go.102 Some foreign-born members of the

    10th noticed, as wealthy tourists had since the nineteenth century, the resemblance between the Rockies and the Alps. Friedl Pfeifer recounted his first view of Aspen, when he came down Hunter Creek while on maneuvers from Camp

    Hale. "The first look I had I thought I was home," he said. "The mountains reminded me of home."10 3 Few others could comment on the similarities between Aspen and

    St. Anton with his authority.

    They could, however--and did--sample what Colorado had to offer in the way of ski areas. Trapped in a cycle of "training for two weeks and then you couldn't wait to get out of camp," soldiers from Camp Hale spent their free weekends with their wives, partying in Denver, or skiing.104 The practice of skiing recreationally on the weekends introduced the 10th's cohort of elite skiers to the community-oriented ski areas of Colorado. Steve Knowlton said "we all went skiing on the weekends," even ii it meant driving all night Friday to get there and all night Sunday to get back before revele. (Knowlton, it should be noted, represented a particlularly enthusiastic group of 10th Mountain Division skiers.) Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, and Aspen were the favorites, though a trip to



    image

    101Dusenbery, 109.

    102Dusenbery, 28, 74.

    °1 3Friedl Pfeifer, interview by the author, 21 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape

    recording and transcript, 2, AHS.

    104Most spouses lived in Glenwood Springs, Buena Vista, or Denver; a few lived in Aspen and Leadville. Litchfield, 1994, 3; Knowlton, 1994, 1-2.


    163


    image

    Salt Lake City and Alta was not out of the question.1°5 This weekend skiing gave the soldiers opportunities to ski for fun rather than work, and without ninety-pound packs on their backs. They could indulge in skiing's social aspects with members of the opposite sex, and they could enter whatever races they could find. Colorado ski areas that stayed open during the war and were accessible from Camp Hale thus found themselves inundated by Gls on the weekends. Members of the 10th experimented with the best way to ride Climax's idiosyncratic rope tow, went home with friends to Steamboat Springs, and competed in races at Steamboat, Winter Park, and Aspen.106 In addition to its regular regional races, Winter Park sponsored a "civilian race" in January of 1943, which pitted a team from the 10th Mountain Division against a team of other racers. Needless to say, the Gls from Camp Hale won.107

    Aspen turned out to be the Camp ski area of choice. In the words of one local, "every weekend the place was full of skiers and Gls that came over. They stayed at the hotel and they skied ... there was a lot going on."1os Those who had had enough skiing at Camp Hale came for the social part of the sport. Percy Rideout, an ex-Dartmouth skier who coached the college's team for a year after its European coach was drafted, said simply, "it was fun to come [to Aspen] and hang around the Jerome Hotel and drink cruds."109 Composed of a vanilla milkshake with anywhere from one to six shots of whiskey, Aspen cruds were all the rage. "It



    image

    105Knowlton, 1994, 1; Wren, 1995, 4.

    106"Climax Ski Area Has Had a Lively, Exciting History," Summit County Journal,

    11 March, 1960, 4, pam file, CUA; Wren, 1995, 4; Knowlton, 1994, 1-2. 107Barney McLean, interview by Ruth Whyte, 15 October, 1986, tape recording #C89, AHS. Barney McLean was one of the few Colorado ski champions who did not

    sign up for the mountain troops; he went into the Air Force and competed against

    the team from Camp Hale at Winter Park.

    10 8Elizabeth Oblock Sinclair, interview by the author, 26 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, AHS, 3.

    109percy Rideout, Jack O'Brien, and Steve Knowlton, interview by Ruth Whyte, 24 March, 1991, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording, AHS.


    164



    image

    was healthy," Rideout explained, "and it made the weekend interesting. 0011O A night at the Jerome cost $1 then, and meals 50¢; the nightlife centered around the Jerome bar and an occasional community dance at the Armory. Through their visits to the old mining town and to other ski areas, members of the 10th Mountain Division grew familiar with Colorado's mountain landscape and the people who lived there. They brought their elite racing and cosmopolitan resort roots to Colorado's tradition of community skiing, and, in the process, they linked their national, interpersonal network of skiers to the skiing landscapes of Colorado. Camp Hale anchored their group identity to the Rockies, and it was thus united that the 1oth Mountain Division left for Camp Swift, Texas, and from there to the Italian front.

    Once in Italy, the 10th finally had the chance to show the world what it


    could do. Under the leadership of Major General George Hays, the Division entered the war in February, 1945.111 As with most units in war, the combat experiences

    that members of the 10th shared cemented relationships that had already formed. The 10th Mountain Division, however, also enjoyed the distinction of achieving military successes that few believed were possible. Those who survived the Italian campaign came home famous, with a sense of pride and accomplishment that reinforced the 10th Mountain Division's identity as a group of elite outdoorsmen.

    Their main points of battle in Italy were on Riva Ridge and Mt. Belvedere, from which the Germans controlled the rich, agricultural lands of the Po Valley. This position also gave the Germans observation of Highway 64, one of two main supply routes to the central Italian front, thereby preventing an Allied offensive up that road. The Germans had repulsed at least two earlier attempts to take Mt.

    image

    11DRideout, 1991.

    111There are considerable primary and seconday sources recounting the military actions of the 10th Mountain Division. This narrative pulls from first and second­ hand accounts in Dole, lmbrie and Evans, Templeton, Soldiers on the Summit, and Fire on the Mountain, and accounts from veterans Duke, Pfeifer, Litchfield, and Knowlton. For a detailed timeline starting in 1940, see "A 10th Mountain Timeline," Skiing Heritage, 7, 2 (Fall 1995), 10-13.


    165


    image

    Belvedere; their position on Riva Ridge allowed them to direct artillery onto advancing troops. General Hays thus proposed an assault on the hitherto considered un-climbable Riva Ridge.112 On the night of February 18, after hiding in nearby farmhouses and planning their routes of ascent, members of the 86th Regiment silently scaled 1,500 foot Riva Ridge, suprising the Germans above and taking control of the ridge the next day. While the 86th held Riva Ridge against seven

    German counter attacks in the next two days, the 87th and the 85th attacked Mt.

    Belvedere and the peaks nearby.113 It took four days to control Mt. Belvedere and longer to secure the surrounding ridge of mounta,ins. During those days the brutality of war made itself clear to the members of the 10th Mountain Division

    and the numbers of dead and wounded rose. More than one GI told another "I wish we had that bastard Dole over here now." By the middle of March, however, the 10th secured the region and had the Germans on the run. After a short rest, the

    Mountain troops broke through final resistance in mid-April and spearheaded the 5th Army's attack up the Po Valley. Moving so fast that they had no flank protection and sometimes led the 5th Army by 30-40 miles, the 10th Mountain Division crossed the Po River and reached Lake Garda right on the Germans' heels. On May 2, a few days after the battle at Lake Garda, the German commander in Italy surrendered all his troops. Their celebration tempered with loss, soldiers of the10th Mountain Division shipped out of Italy back to the United States in late July, 992 of their 14,300 members dead and over 4,000 wounded.


    image

    112Lieutenant Ralph Lafferty wrote Minot Dole about the battle: "My memory went back to those bare pine trees we started on back at Fort Lewis ... and to the rock climbing on the face over by B slope at Hale, and I thanked God for this training when I saw what we faced." "Snow wasn't the problem," he wrote, "but boy, those cliffs. I pity the poor bastards who have to lug machine guns and the heavy equipment." Dole, 130.

    113 General Alexander of the British Army commented that "the only trouble with

    the 10th Mountain Division was that the officers and men of the Division did not realize that they were attempting something which couldn't be done, and after they got started, they had too much intestinal fortitude to quit." Templeton, 29.


    166


    image

    Though the 10th Mountain was the last division sent to Europe and the first to be shipped home after the war's end, its men experienced the full onslaught of war. "With their supporting troops," General Hays wrote, "my one division has been opposed at some time throughout the entire operation by approximately

    100,000 German troops."114 The death of close friends and colleagues, a landscape

    devastated by artillery and mortar shells, and the gruesome realities of battle all affected the mountain soldiers. Their experience of war isolated them--just as it has isolated soldiers before and since--and unified them as people who have seen too much. "Only a front line soldier can understand a front line soldier," Pfc.

    William Douglas wrote to his uncle in March of 1945. "I find it absolutely impossible to write home of the war. It is impossible to give the greatness of the whole thing. It is muddy. It is dirty. Nobody likes it. It can be funny at times. But above all, it is big."115

    The encounter with war and its hardships together in Italy gave these men another set of experiences in common. They could also take pride in a job well done. After their successful attack on Riva Ridge and Mt. Belvedere, telegrams from Army commanders covered General Hays' desk. From Lieutenant General Truscott, Commanding General of the 5th Army: "Congratulations on the magnificent manner in which you have accomplished a very difficult assignment. .. Your outstanding success in your first operatic augurs well for a brilliant future

    . I am proud indeed to have this division fighting shoulder to shoulder with the veteran divisions of the Fifth Army .''116 From Major General Crittenberger,

    Commanding General, IV Corps: "The 10th Mountain Division has again demonstrated on the battlefield its right to be classified as a splendid combat unit ..

    image

    114General Hays, letter to Donald B. Douglas, 14 May, 1945, in lmbrie and Evans, 255.

    115Wiiliam C. Douglas, letter to Kent Clow, 28 March, 1945, in Templeton, 109. 116U eut. General L.K. Truscott, Jr., telegram toMajor General George P. Hays, 8 March, 1945, in Templeton, 34.


    167

    . it is a great pleasure for me hereby to commend you and your officers and men, not only for a precise and masterly execution of your mission, but as well for the

    dash and vigor that never for a moment left the issue in doubt."117 For their eight

    day race up the Po Valley from the Apennine Mountains to the Alps, the 10th Mountain got its highest praise from Lieutenand General von Senger, who commanded the opposing XIV Panzer Corps. The 10th, he told General Hays after the war was over, was the best division he had encountered in Italy, Russia, and France; it had broken completely through two German Panzer corps and forced

    himself, his staff, and many of his troops to swim the Po River on the same day that

    the 10th crossed it in assault boats.118 Von Senger's admission only emphasized what members of the 10th already knew: that they had led the entire 5th Army drive, had been first across the Po River, and had helped bring a quick end to the war in Italy. In letters home then and in reminiscences well afterwards, they showed intense pride in their division.119

    Once home and deactivated, members of the 10th Mountain Division spread out across the country. They left, however, a network of fellow soldiers crafted by a common exposure to elite ski culture, years of training together at Camp Hale, and combat experience in Italy. As one veteran put it, the 10th Mountain Division

    "was not an army, it was a fraternity. It was a brotherhood of outdoorsmen. It was


    image

    11 7Major General Willis D. Crittenberger, telegram to Major General George P. Hays, 8 March, 1945, in Templeton, 35.

    11BGeneral Hays, letter to Donald Douglas, 14 May, 1945, in lmbrie and Evans, 255.

    119u. Rawleigh Warner, Jr., excerpts of letters to his parents, 1 May, 1945, and

    7 May, 1945, in Templeton, 105, 106, 108. Almost all of the letters published by Templeton that were written after May 1 emphasize soldiers' pride in the 10th Mountain Division and its push up the Po Valley at the head of the 5th Army. At a 1959 reunion of the 10th, division historian and combat commander of the 87th Dave Fowler remarked thta "the men who served in that organization [the 10th] have the firm conviction that the Tenth Mountain Division was the finest combat division our Army ever had." Dole, 151. They paid a price for their accomplishments, however, and they knew it: of the eight divisions in the 5th Army during the push up the Po Valley, the 10th suffered one-third of the casualties.


    168

    a vivid life experience, and one we treasure, still."120 The idea that the 10th was a brotherhood of outdoorsmen illustrated that, despite differences among its members, the 10th developed a group identity and that, in many ways, that identity was linked to elite resort culture. European ski icons, upper-class college students, and mountain town athletes united as ''America's elite ski troops," reinforcing European resort culture among them and merging that culture's definition of cosmopolitan masculinity with a kind of masculinity formed by war.

    A visible minority of 10th Mountain veterans chose to pursue skiing as a profession after the war ended. Some of this momentum, of course, came from the number of veterans who were skiers before they joined the Army. Dartmouth coach Walter Praeger predicted that "the thousands of Gls who learned or taught

    skiing in the 10th Mountain Division will be taking an active part in every phase of skiing [after the war]."121 He was right. According to one estimate, about 2,000

    veterans of the 10th became ski instructors, and many others designed resorts, built lifts, manufactured equipment, or became involved in some other aspect of the sport. Sixty-two ski resorts in America were either founded, managed, or had

    their ski schools run by 10th Mountain Division veterans.122 These men plugged their areas into the network of relationships that they had formed during the war, thereby helping skiing become a national rather than merely a local or regional sport.

    image

    Their impressions of the landscape surrounding Camp Hale brought many of them back to Colorado after the war. Home tor some and second home to all, the Rocky Mountain landscape attracted veterans who had grown up all over the country and even abroad. They had not forgotten the scenery and opportunities tor skiing that the region ottered. Friedl Pfeifer wrote that when he first looked down on

    120Bill Bowerman, from Fire on the Mountain.

    121 Ski News, 1 December, 1945, as cited in Duke, 7. 122Duke, 8; Fire on the Mountain.


    169


    image

    Aspen and thought of his home town in the Austrian Alps, "I felt at that moment, an overwhelming sense of my future before me." The next day he and fellow soldier Percy Rideout hiked Aspen Mountain with the conscious goal of building a new resort there. He even went so far as to talk with the city council and ski club, gaining the support he sought for his future plans.123 He and Rideout talked at

    Camp Hale and again in 1945 before they were discharged, agreeing that Aspen would be a great place to live, start a ski school, and work together.124 John Litchfield joined them. Originally from Maine and a Dartmouth graduate, he spent most of his weekends from Camp Hale with his wife who had moved to Denver. Of Aspen he said, "I certainly had a love of the mountains and the area, and it was nice

    to come back to something like that after the war."125 Pfeifer, Rideout, and

    Litchfield were only three of many 10th Mountain veterans to move to Aspen after the war. Despite their status as elite skiers, many of these men were not independently wealthy. They sought jobs in Aspen, but they did not necessarily want to become wealthy; they wanted to keep skiing. Fritz Benedict tried his hand at ranching there before he established a career in architecture. "The whole concept of living in the mountains was so appealing," he said, "whether you made

    money was not important."126 Aspen was so popular with these men in that

    respect that it became the jumping-off place for 10th Mountain vets who decided to manage or start up ski areas of their own. Steve Knowlton, Florian Haemmerle, Dick Wright, Hans Hagemeister, Pete Seibert, Len Woods, Curt Chase, and John Jay all spent at least some time skiing and living in Aspen before moving on to other skiing-related projects. Tenth Mountain veterans, for example, opened Arapahoe Basin ski area, managed Loveland Basin Ski area, managed Winter Park and ran its


    image

    123pfeifer and Lund, 111. 124Rideout, 1991.

    125Utchfield, 1994. 126 Fire on the Mountain.


    170


    image

    ski school, designed, opened, and operated Vail, started up Ski Broadmoor, and became involved in Powderhorn, Breckenridge, and Howelson Hill ski areas.

    The connections these veterans had developed to each other as a group-­ connections that formed from experience in battle and from their common allegiance to an elite kind of skiing--transformed Colorado skiing after the war. Veterans of the 10th brought national and even international skiing expertise and experience to mountain communities' local ski areas. Alter the war they continued to work with each other as they had during their training and combat, creating a national support network for ski area management that helped broaden the scope of the political and financial networks forged during the 1930s. They also lent their military reputation to the sport. Before World War Two the center of alpine skiing lay in Europe. No international competitors took American racers seriously, nor did they have to. The skills and performance of the 10th Mountain Division changed all that. Even though they hardly used their skis at all in Italy, their military successes turned them into international heroes, elite mountain troops who seemed to have conquered the Germans practically single-handedly. The fact that so many European and Scandinavian skiers had volunteered for the 10th made the Division much more reputable. When they came home these Gls represented America's top echelon of skiers and outdoorsmen, and embodied a corresponding masculine ideal that merged the older European resort ideal with one based on combat. This new masculinity was, moreover, distinctly American. Membership in the 10th and training in Colorado connected these men to an American government and landscape; lighting for the U.S. and claiming victory over European nations further emphasized their American-ness. So, when they got involved in small Colorado ski areas, as Pfeifer did in Aspen, they brought a new kind of elite skiing culture with them. They did not simply impose European ski resort culture upon Colorado's mountain towns and ski clubs. They introduced a new American ski ideal, elite


    1 71


    image

    culture, and a far-reaching interpersonal network to Colorado skiing, all forged out of their experiences in the 10th Mountain Division. When combined with the physical, economic, and political infrastructures already established in the 1930s, the network and culture of 10th Mountain skiers changed the orientation of Colorado skiing. They connected local clubs to a national network of elite experts, and so expanded the focus of the sport from its local, working- and middle-class club roots to include skiers--wealthy and middle-class--from across the country. Their influence, when placed the context of America's post-war economy and consumer culture, turned isolated mountain communities like Aspen into elite, American ski resorts.


    172


    image

    CHAPTER FOUR


    Call of the Mild: Constructed Landscapes for Skier-Tourists


    Hundreds of faces looked up Aspen Mountain one sunny Saturday in January, 1947. Businessmen from Denver, Colorado Springs, Chicago, and Washington, famous skiers, 10th Mountain Division veterans, and the Governor-elect of

    Colorado joined Aspen townspeople at the base of the mountain, waiting for the lift

    to start. 1 Set in motion with the push of a button, Aspen's Lift No. 1 carried skiers a mile and a half through the air and up 2,200 feet, where, after a short hop on Lift No. 2, they could enjoy the scenery from the top of the mountain, have a snack at the Sundeck, and ski down the famous Roch Run. The world's longest chairlift, and (moving 275 skiers an hour) the fastest, Lift No. 1 introduced masses of people to the joys, thrills, and fears of skiing Aspen Mountain. Two locals guessed that a good skier, equipped with "a stout heart and seven spare legs," could ski 38,000

    vertical feet in a day.2 This was a staggering thought for men and women used to

    riding short rope tows or hiking up a mountain for one savored run down. Now they could appreciate the scenery and the experience of skiing down the mountain as many times as their skill, strength, and desire would allow.

    A coalition of skiers and businessmen, the Aspen Skiing Corporation and its Lift No. 1 kicked off the post-war shift from small, community-run ski areas to


    image

    1For accounts of Aspen's opening ceremonies, see Dick Smith, "Once Again Aspen is a Boom Town," Rocky Mountain News, 11 January, 1947; Leonard Wood, "Aspen Ski Club to Celebrate Opening of Longest Chair Lift," Aspen Times, 12 December, 1946, 1; and Friedl Pfeifer with Morten Lund, Nice Goin': My Life on Skis (Missoula: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., 1993), 145-150.

    2Leonard Woods, "Aspen, Now," American Ski Annual (1946-47), 158, CHS. See

    also Leonard Woods, "Memorandum," to Directors of the Aspen Skiing Corporation, 15 October, 1946, AHS.


    image

    corporate-owned resorts marketing themselves to a national audience (Figure 1). At these new resorts skiers were transformed from outdoorspeople into customers. Once at the resort, access to the Rocky Mountain scenery and the experience of skiing came with the price of a lift ticket ($3.75 for a day during Aspen's first season). Ticket holders with skill, as the locals had pointed out, could experience the joys of skiing down a mountain not just once or twice a day, but over and over again--cramming in the scenery and thrills of Aspen Mountain until their muscles and psyche could take it no longer. Longer and faster lifts ushered in a new world of skiing where more people could make more runs than ever before. Building that world, however, was no small task. Behind the opening of Aspen's first chairlifts lay a labyrinth of enterprises and jobs: organizing a corporation; finding

    investors; getting loans; acquiring surface rights to the patchwork of mining claims that lay over Aspen Mountain and getting permission from the Forest Service to use the National Forest land in between; cutting new trails; and finally constructing and running the lifts themselves. In its physical reality on the mountain, in the myriad of relationships that it represented, and in the increased access to the slopes that it provided, Aspen's Lift No. 1 fundamentally altered the Rocky Mountain landscape. It changed, as well, skiers' physical, sensual, and perceptual relationship to that landscape.

    Far from static, the experience of skiing in the Rockies has changed historically. Nineteenth-century miners, female community members, and Scandinavian immigrants, twentieth-century resort goers, Austrian ski instructors, 10th Mountain Division soldiers, and local racers have all felt the exhilaration of skiing fast and well for a moment, just as they have all picked themselves up and brushed the snow from their clothes after a bad fall. (Different individuals, of course, grew more familiar with either one experience or the other.) The meanings that they attached to that common experience, however,


    174

    image


    Thomas J. Noel, Paul F. Mahoney, and Richard E. Stevens, Historical Atlas of Colorado (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), map 52.


    Figure 1. Major Colorado Ski Areas


    175


    image

    depended upon the larger context in which they were skiing--a context that included relationships of work and leisure, class, and gender. This larger context shaped how skiers understood the mountain landscape. The post-war developments of skiing in Colorado represented a significant change in all skiers' relationships to the landscape because, for the first time, ski area managers had to design and develop ski areas that could handle crowds and still provide ticket-buyers with a positive individual experience.


    The Experiences of Skiing


    Ever since people started skiing in America, they have articulated physical and psychological responses to the sport that are strikingly similar. After an initial period of frustration and learning, many skiers have described the sport as thrilling and exhilarating, as well as peaceful and scenic. They tell, further, of a personal kind of connection to the mountain landscape. One nineteenth-century

    outdoorsman expounded on the joys (and pitfalls) of Norwegian snowshoes: "The ski has an unpleasant way of running in opposite directions, of gelling crossed, and finally of piling the pupil in a snow-bank. But ... to one who is persistent the joys of jumping and running with the ski are finally opened." When faced with a hill, the author continued, "[the skier] shoots the hill like the wind, and is off down the

    valley without stopping in his flight. This may appear to be dangerous," he said,

    "but it is exhilarating." 3 An author in 1905 similarly wrote: "as the experienced skidor [skier] dashes down the crusted hillsides with the speed of the wind, there comes to the sport an added exhilaration and excitement that postively knows no

    equal."4


    image

    3Rolf W. Jackson, "A New Year's Day Ski Run," Outing, 31 (January 1898), 395. 4Theodore A. Johnsen,The Winter Sport of Skeeing (Portland, ME: Theo. A. Johnsen Comany, 1905), reprinted by The International Skiing History Association, New Hartford, CT, 1994, 6.


    176

    Skiers since then women and men have continued to echo these authors' characterizations of the sport. In 1928 , for instance, Marjorie Perry and her friend Elinor Eppich Kingery got off their train, which was delayed on the top of Rollins Pass, and decided to ski down along the tracks to Tolland, sixteen miles distant. "We could see three long switchbacks through the open timber and tiny Tolland far below," Marjorie Perry recalled. "We left the track and went straight

    down the hill, making big curves, with the perfect powdered snow swirling in the air."5 When asked what had attracted him to skiing as a nine year old in the mid-

    1930s, Giles Toll readily answered "being in the mountains." "The feeling of


    rhythm," he said, and "to some extent the speed, but mostly the feeling of being able to come into synchrony with the mountains and the snow."6 Expert skier (and Deep

    Ecologist) Dolores LaChappelle has described the experience of skiing perhaps most self-consciously. "Once this rhythmic relationship to snow and gravity is established on a steep slope," she wrote, "there is no longer an I and snow and the mountain, but a continuous flowing interaction.''7

    In addition to expressing exhilarating and personal relationships with the mountains and the snow, skiers have also described the sport in terms of freedom. Beth Sinclair, who learned to ski in the late 1930s, said that what attracted her to the sport was "the freedom and the speed." Fellow Aspen resident Cherie Oates, who took up the sport in the 1940s, also liked to ski downhill fast. "I'd be picking up pieces [of equipment and clothes] out of the trees [after a fall], I'd always be losing something," she said, "but there was just a real thrill about that, a real challenge .


    image

    5Janet Robertson, The Magnificent Mountain Women: Adventures in the Colorado Rockies (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 43.

    6Giles D. Toll, interview by the author, 2 February, 1996, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 5.

    7Dolores Lachappelle, Deep Powder Snow: 40 Years of Ecstatic Skiing, Avalanches,

    and Earth Wisdom (Durango CO: Kivaki Press, 1993), 101.


    177

    image

    .. [and] a freedom that you're on your own power."8 Descriptions of skiing in terms of thrill, exhilaration, freedom, and personal connection to the mountain landscape are so pervasive, in fact, that they have almost reached the point of cliche. It is important to recognize, however, that these feelings and experiences have attracted people to the sport since its very beginning. When placed in the position of providing a fun skiing experience to large groups of people after World War Two, ski area managers and designers had to think carefully about those feelings of exhilaration, freedom, and connection to the landscape in order to reproduce them for their customers.

    While skiers have articulated common experiences of the sport over time and even across lines of gender and class, the context in which skiers have skied has changed dramatically. The meaning of the sport and the experiences it elicits, therefore, depend largely upon historical context and the relationships of labor and leisure, gender, and class that place each skier within that context. To skiing mailmen in the nineteenth century, then, the act of skiing and the exhilaration it could elicit acquired meaning within the context of work. The mountain landscape represented a series of dangerous, physical obstacles to negotiate, and through skiing in this isolating landscape these mail carriers created and embodied a self­ reliant masculine ideal particular to their mountain communities. For female residents, however, skiing gained meaning as a combination of work and community recreation within an explicitly social landscape. Skiing in this context reinforced a femininity focused on community that contrasted with the tough, individual masculinity of the mail carrier.


    image

    8Elizabeth Oblock Sinclair, interview by the author, 26 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcription, AHS, 2; Cherie Gerbaz Oates, interview with the author, 13 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and

    transcription, AHS, 6.


    178


    image

    Wealthy outdoorsmen and resort-goers in the first part of the twentieth century understood skiing in far different terms. Their class status and urban places of residence defined skiing as a purely recreational activity, albeit one which could purge them of their city stresses and place them in a more manly setting. The mountain landscape became a space for them to act out a masculine ideal rooted in European resort culture, and skiing the means by which they could achieve such an ideal. Upper-class women, like their mountain-town predecessors, experienced skiing through a more social context than men. As part of elite resort culture, upper-class women and international athletes experienced the freedom and exhilaration of skiing within a context that would not call their femininity into question. Women racers in Colorado, therefore, who skied outside that class culture, either became characterized as kid sisters or ran the risk of seeming masculine. Finally, just as the context of local carnivals and competitions translated 1930s Colorado skiing into a working- and middle-class community activity, so did the context of war and the elite membership of the 10th Mountain Division translate their skiing into an ultimate male, American act. After World War Two skiing became a leisure activity for more middle- and upper-class men and women than ever before, and the meaning of the skiing experience changed yet again.

    The sensuous experience of skiing has taken on startlingly different meanings over time. Just as variables of class and gender have altered the cultural significance of the sport, however, so has the landscape itself. The development of ski areas, in particular, affected the ways in which skiers experienced and understood the mountain landscape. For most skiers--from skiing mailmen to women resort-goers--appreciating mountain scenery was part of the sport's appeal. More than mere visual beauty, the mountain landscape offered snow, weather, and terrain that skiers felt as they moved through it. Until the 1930s,


    179


    image

    skiers hiked up mountains before skiing down them; laboring slowly up the mountain was both integral and necessary to the exhilarating act of skiing down.

    Even through the 1930s, after short rope tows became available for use,


    skiers continued to hike and climb for better scenery and longer ski runs than they could get by riding the rope tow. Rather than limit themselves to the short boat tow, for example, visitors to Aspen commonly rode part-way up the back of Aspen Mountain in trucks headed for the Midnight Mine and climbed the rest of the way up the mountain. Reaching the top at lunch time, they would rest, have a bite to eat and a look around, and then ski down into town. Elizabeth Paepcke's memories of such a trip in 1938 came infused with visions of the mountain landscape. "At the top we halted in frozen admiration," she wrote. "Mountain range after mountain range succeeded another, rising and falling like storm driven waves, crested with streamers of snow blowing straight out from each icy, perpendicular 14,000 foot peak." Intensifying the majesty around her was the impression that she and her group were completely alone in the mountains. "In all that landscape of rock, snow,

    and ice," she went on, "there was neither print of animal nor track of man. We were alone as though the world had just been created and we its first inhabitants."9

    Not only did the Chicagoan see herself as intimately connected to the mountains and snow around her, she understood that landscape as pristine, wild, and natural. This was an appropriate understanding for her, given that her normal daily activities placed her in the urban and social landscape of Chicago's high society.

    Long hours of climbing let recreational skiers like Paepcke feel connected to the wilderness of the surrounding mountains. "When you climb," said 1936 Olympic team member Mary Bird Young, "you have a chance to look around--look at the mountains, look at the snow--you have a chance to think." Janet Mead


    image

    9Elizabeth Paepcke, "Memories of Aspen," manuscript, n.d., 7, Elizabeth Paepcke biography file, AHS.


    180


    image

    agreed. She liked "the happy occasion of climbing ... and all of the vicissitudes that take place between the bottom where you start and the top that you reach ... the quiet and the depth of it, or [seeing] animal tracks through the woods." "You come

    upon things," she said, "that you would never see otherwise."10 Skiers across

    Colorado expressed their agreement with her by frequenting ski areas that offered no lifts at all. State ski area directories through the 1940s, published to advertise Colorado's ski areas, included areas such as Highland Basin, Montezuma Basin, Independence Pass, St. Mary's Glacier, Jones Pass, Hoosier Pass, Allens Park, Ouray, and Rabbit Ears Pass, where skiers were obliged to hike up whatever they wanted to ski down.

    Skiing in undeveloped landscapes remained both an individual and a social experience. While skiers skied down on their own, they also shared the work, appreciation of the scenery, and exhilaration of the run down with the friends who accompanied them. Catching their breath together on the way up, resting and looking around at the top, and gathering afterwards around the fire served to reinforce the significance of their experience in the mountains. That trip would become part of a collective memory--of shared effort and rewards--dusted off and relived from time to time, the climb growing more arduous, the mountains more glorious, and the run down more thrilling with each retelling. What better way to destroy such a relationship with the mountains, one might ask, than to make it easily accessible--to remove the effort of hiking up, turn the run down into an imminently repeatable experience, and make it available to everyone willing to buy

    a ticket? Indeed, one skier in the 1930s referred to the increasing appearance of ski lifts and complained that "this way of skiing is so mechanical--you ride up in

    lifts, up and down, up and down--you don't get the feeling of what it's all about."11


    image

    10Bill Barry, Legends of American Skiing, 1840-1940 , produced and directed by Richard W. Moulton (Skiing Magazine, 1986), videocassette.

    11Mary Bird Young, from Legends of American Skiing.


    1 81


    image

    Once ski lifts became more common, however, most skiers welcomed the opportunity to ride up the mountain. They had climbed up, after all, in order to ski down; why not ski down as much as possible? With the development of chair lifts like the one in Aspen, Colorado's post-war ski areas could offer the experience of skiing to far more people than ever before. Far from homogenizing the skier's experience, chances to ski a run more often let skiers try new things. Each run, that is, always differed from the last. Choosing how fast to go, where to turn and when, skiers realized endless combinations of peaceful gliding, rhythmic swooping, scenic resting, and breathtaking speed, interspersed with ungraceful tumbles and the retrieval of various pieces of equipment and clothing. The mountains thus looked different and felt different every run, no matter how many trips one took.

    Moreover, the choices and pitfalls that shaped each run emphasized skiers' individuality on the slopes, helping skiers to feel alone on the mountain even if they shared that space with others. Able still to contemplate the scenery from the top of the mountain together, lift riders could also share their impressions with friends as they had before the ski industry's boom. Lift lines, double chair lifts, and gondolas became opportunities to see friends and make new ones, a process continued at day's end in the lodge or the bar. Stories changed hands as before, featuring still the mountain and its surrounding landscape.

    The post-war birth of the ski industry and the increased access to Colorado's ski areas upon which it was based successfully transformed recreational skiing into a business as well as a sport. This transition put skiing's feelings of freedom, exhilaration, and personal connection to the mountains--feelings central to the sport and responsible for its widespread appeal--in danger on two counts.

    Ski area developers and managers found themselves selling what had been an intensely personal experience to as many people as possible. To them mountains and snow had come to represent natural resources promising physical recreation


    182


    image

    and psychic rejuvenation. At the same time that the physical construction of lifts, lodges, and base areas directly altered Colorado's mountain landscape, they attracted customers to such a degree that skiers' once fairly intimate relationships to mountain ski trails, scenery, and snow could not last. Conflict and tension arose when the potential of crowds endangered those relationships. Area developers tried to restore skiers' relationships to the mountain landscape by re-creating them within an increasingly constructed and built environment.


    Colorado's Post-War Ski Areas


    Colorado's ski areas experienced a boom which began immediately after World War Two, accelerated throughout the 1950s, and reached its peak in the '60s. "When the war is over," one skier prophesied, "youngsters will come streaming back, keened up for the sport far beyond anything we have ever seen in the past." Soldiers, too, would seek the limitless scenery, bright sky, and fresh air of skiing, this skier argued. "When the lads begin shucking their olive drab and navy blues, ... they'll want a pile of individual freedom, quite aside from that they are fighting for now to win for the nation. You'll see our hills thronged as never

    before." 12 After the war ended and the country finally exhaled, this writer's

    predictions came true. Ski areas that had been closed for the duration opened again. Skiers and war veterans--encouraged by the gas, tires, money, and free time suddenly on their hands--hopped in their cars and went skiing. Mountain residents, many of whom had skied throughout the war, approached the sport with renewed enthusiasm. Relieved of war-time stress and presented with a cheery future, white, middle-class and wealthy Americans who had never worn skis before traveled to the mountains for vacation and took up the sport.


    image

    12Fred H. McNeil, "Skiing and the War," American Skiing Annual (1942-43), 99-101, CHS.


    183


    image

    Their behavior coincided with changes in the consumption, travel, and leisure patterns of white, middle-class Americans across the country. As the consumer culture of the 1950s took shape, Colorado's ski industry gained momentum. Most people had more money alter World War II than ever before. The average American's income in 1960 was 35% higher than it had been in 1945; many had savings left unspent during the war; and Americans re-entered the consumer culture with a bang. They bought new cars--58 million of them during

    the 1950s.13 They also enjoyed more leisure time. By 1950 daily, weekend, and

    vacation leisure hours constituted over 34% of Americans' waking lives, and in 1959 each working American took over one week of paid vacation.14

    For many Americans after World War Two, vacation meant getting in the car and seeing the country with the family.15 Visits to Colorado's National Forests

    skyrocketed from 40,340 visitor-days in 1945 to 149,460 in 1947. They rose especially in the mid-1950s, reaching 355,550 in 1956.16 An accompanying


    image

    13Paul S. Boyer, et. al., The Enduring Vision, vol: 2 (Lexington MA: DC Heath and Co., 1990), 1017, 1018, 1022. Skiers could also find cheap, Army surplus ski equipment. Equipment meant for the 10th Mountain Division became surplus after the war. Of high quality and low price, a skier could outfit themselves with skis andn bindings, boots, even parka and pants for about $25. Thousands did. Editors of Ski Magazine, America's Ski Book (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973), 46.

    14Marion Clawson and Jack L. Knetsch, Economics of Outdoor Recreation

    (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1966), 16-17.

    15Recreational automobile travel increased significantly after World War Two, especially for families earning over $10,000 a year. Almost half of American families earning under $4,000 a year, however, also took automobile vacations. Automobile trips, furthermore, accounted for 94% of all outdoor recreation trips in 1953. Those at the top of the socio-economic ladder were more likely to fly.

    John A. Jakie, The Tourist: Travel in Twentieth-Century North America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), 186.

    16s tatistics-takers use visitor-days to measure use of national forests and ski

    areas, a term which refers to one visitor using the forest or area for one day. Use of Colorado's national forests showed a sharp increase immediately after the war from 1945 to 1947, at which point it reached a fairly steady level, increasing again from 1952-56. An unexplained sharp peak occurred in 1951, when use more than doubled and then returned to its former levels. L.J. Crampon and Ronald

  2. Lemon, "Skiing in the Southern Rocky Mountain Region," manuscript, Bureau of Business Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 1957, 32, CHS.


184

image


"unprecedented flood of traffic" swamped Colorado's roads after 1945, forcing the Colorado's government to reorganize its state highway system.17 By 1952 federally-funded paved roads, U.S. 40 and U.S. 6, swept cars over Berthoud and Rabbit Ears passes and Loveland and Vail passes.18 The federal government made

automobile vacations even easier with the Highway Act of 1956, authorizing funds to build a 41,000 mile system of divided, limited access freeways across the country. New highways and the rise of air travel after the war made Colorado's Rockies a reasonable destination for middle-class Americans across the country, increasing both physical and financial access to the sport. Front Range ski areas reported a 48% increase in use during the 1946-47 season from the season

before, and an additional 27% increase for the next.19 The Denver and Salt Lake

Ski Train, too, resumed regular service to Winter Park after the war. Under new management in 1947 as the Denver and Rio Grande Western, the ski train continued to carry passengers to Winter Park and back for three more decades,

peaking in 1966 when it ran 22 cars on each of four different days to keep up with demand. 20 According to one chronicler, "The socio-economic force of the leisure

boom [in the 1950s] changed American skiing in less than a decade from a slightly eccentric preoccupation of a few thousand people to a mass participation sport with the number of participants exceeding a half million."21

image

These national changes in consumption, leisure, and travel introduced new populations to the sport of skiing, and American businessmen knew it. Without

17The Highway Planning Committee's "four pound report" reduced the State Highway System from 12,400 to about 8,000 miles of roads, but made the Department of Highways responsible for construction and maintenance of all 8,000 miles, rather than the 4,000 miles of "primary" highways. Colorado Department of Highways, Paths of Progress, 14, pam file, CUA.

1Bstate Highway Map of Colorado, Colorado Department of Highways, 1952, CUA. 19"Forest Service Surveys 1947-48 Season," Rocky Mountain Skiing, 1 December, 1948, 2.

20Steve Patterson and Kenton Forrest, Rio Grande Ski Train (Denver: Tramway Press, Inc., 1984), 33.

21 America's Ski Book, 50.


185

image



wartime demands on technology and materials, private enterprise had room to grow in new directions. After World War Two, skiers who wanted to turn the sport into their livelihood--often 10th Mountain Division veterans--sought out and found investors willing to help them develop new areas or improve old ones. They bought European lifts, whose manufacturers sent engineers to install them, importing the

world's newest ski lift technology to the states.22 Armed with new leadership,


financing, technology, and more potential customers than ever before, Colorado skiing developed from a community activity into part of a national industry.

The Aspen Skiing Corporation (ASC) first illustrated this change. The ASC represented an alliance among 10th Mountain Division veterans and businessmen from all over the country. Friedl Pfeifer first formed the ASC and tried to develop the area himself after the war, but could not find sufficient financial backing until he won the support of Chicago businessman Walter Paepcke, who wanted to re­ create Aspen as an "ideal" town and cultural center. Paepcke was never really

interested in skiing; he got involved mainly to control the growth of the sport in Aspen. 23 In return for Paepcke's help in raising money to develop the ski area, plus 25,000 shares of stock and exclusive rights to run the ski school, Pfeifer

gave up control of the ASC. With Paepcke's connections and plans to develop Aspen culturally, the company attracted investors including Paepcke's brother-in-law Paul Nitze of the State Department, future president of Denver's Colorado National Bank George Berger, Denver attorney William Hodges, Colorado Springs businessman and close friend of the Paepckes Eugene Lilly, executive vice president


image

22Artur Kuen, for instance, came to America to install lifts for the German company Dopplemayer. He built ski tows and lifts for Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, as well as for Mammoth in California and two ski areas in Alaska. Artur Kuen, interview by the author, 13 July, 1994, Snowmass, Colorado, tape recording and transcription, AHS.

23For more on Paepcke and his cultural goals, see James Sloan Allen, The Romance of Commerce and Culture: Capitalism, Modernism, and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).


186


image

of the Hilton Hotel chain Joseph Binns, as well as local land holder D.R.C. "Darcy"


Brown and Minot Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol and the 10th Mountain Division. 24 Together they owned or sold $250,000 worth of stock in the company

to build the chair lifts; by the end of May, 1947, the Aspen Skiing Corporation owned total assets of over $345,000.25

The ASC's corporate growth was accompanied by an influx of 10th Mountain Division veterans to Aspen after the war. John Litchfield and Percy Rideout ran the ski school along with Friedl Pfeifer, offering ski lessons for a small fee; Steve Knowlton helped cut new trails in the summers and trained for the 1948 Olympics in the winter; and Pete Seibert joined the ski patrol and monitored the slopes,

hoping to learn enough in Aspen to start his own resort someday.26 The

businessmen and Army veterans who converged upon Aspen added their talents, money, and energy to that of the local community. Long-time Aspen residents,

many from families who had moved to town during its mining boom, provided labor, technical knowledge, and community support for the ASC's projects. 27 Walter

Paepcke's bonanza celebration of Goethe in the summer of 1949 and the FIS world alpine championships, hosted for the first time in the United States at Aspen in


image

24Pfeifer and Lund, 136-42; Dutch Hodges, "The Beginning of the Dream," manuscript, n.d., AHS; Smith, "Once Again Aspen is a Boom Town;" Leonard Woods, "memorandum," AHS; Paul Hauk, "Aspen Mountain Ski Area Chronology," (U.S.D.A. Forest Service, White River National Forest, 1979) 2, manuscript, U.S. Forest Service, Aspen Ranger District, Aspen, Colorado.

25"Schedule B," Aspen Skiing Corporation Balance Sheet, 31 May, 1947, Aspen Skiing Corporation Collection, AHS.

26Seibert would go on to develop Vail. His future public relations guru Bob Parker also joined the ski patrol in Aspen, and veterans Dick Wright and Andy Ransom

joined the ski school. Steve Knowlton and John L.itchlield also became Aspen businessmen, owning and operating the Golden Horn and the Red Onion nightspots, respectively.

27Some, such as the Wil\oughbys and the Browns, agreed to sell or lease the

surface rights to their mines on Aspen Mountain so the ASC could build ski trails and run the lift over them. Others, such as Red Rowland and the Willoughby brothers, helped with the construction of the lift. A few locals would enter into the ASC's employ. See Anne Gilbert, "Re-Creation Through Recreation: Aspen Skiing from 1870-1970," manuscript, AHS.


187


image

1950, won national media attention for the town and its young ski resort. Skiers from Denver, Chicago, Sun Valley, and New York showed up to see what Aspen was like for themselves. In its organization, finances, management, and out-of-state customers, Aspen's ski area outgrew every pre-war resort except Sun Valley.

Other post-war ski areas in Colorado reflected a similar change. Berthoud Pass re-opened for business with only two rope tows, but by December of 1947 the area's manager-operator had financed, installed, and opened the world's first

double chair lift.28 Twice as long as Berthoud's longest rope tow and capable of

carrying two people up in one chair, this ski lift earned Berthoud Pass fame along with the capacity to carry even more Denver skiers up its slopes. Similarly innovative was Steamboat Springs' Emerald Mountain lift, which interspersed chairs and T-bars on "the world's longest single-span ski lift." Financed by city revenue bonds and costing roughly $100,000, this lift officially opened for business in February of 1948, with Colorado's governor, town dignitaries, and a

large crowd looking on and plenty of skiers on the slopes.29 The City of Denver

acknowledged the need for new financial organization when it created the Winter Park Recreational Association, a non-profit corporation that took over control of the area's planning, development, financing, mortgaging, and personnel.30


image

28Sam Huntington was the manager-operator for the Toll and Grant interests and Forest Service Permit. He financed his "twin chair" by finding Denver businessmen (Toll and assumably Grant) to invest in the project. Paul Hauk, "A­ Basin Ski Area Chronology," (USDA Forest Service, 1978), 2, U.S. Forest Service, White River National Forest, Aspen Ranger District; "Colorado Ski Areas," Rocky Mountain Life (December 1947), 51; Giles D. Toll, interview by the author, 2 February, 1996, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 6.

29B i11 Fetcher, "A History of the Emerald Mountain Ski Lift," 19 April, 1992,

manuscript, Emerald Mountain Ski Lift file, BWML. Steamboat's "world's longest single-span lift" was longer (at 8,850 feet) than Aspen's Lift No. 1 (at 8,480 feet), but Aspen included its Lift No. 2 in its claim to fame by characterizing its lift as one, albeit in two sections. See also Maurice Leckenby, "Skiing Steamboat," Rocky Mountain Life (October 1947), 23.

30Patterson and Forrest, 25. See also Betty Hosburgh, "Colorado's Newest Ski Developments," Rocky Mountain Life (March 1946), 8-9; "Heavy Snows Open Colorado Ski Areas," Rocky Mountain Skiing, 1 December, 1948, 1; Grand County


188



image

Brand new ski areas also took shape after the war, emulating Aspen's mix of corporate organization, 10th Mountain Division veteran leadership, and local support. The Denver Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Forest Service also encouraged the development of Arapahoe Basin. In May of 1946 10th Mountain vet Larry Jump, along with his friend Sandy Schauffler, local property owner Max Dercum, ski legend Dick Durrance, and Denver ski manufacturer Thor Groswold formed Arapahoe Basin, Inc. Financed by the original incorporators, the sale of 150,000 shares of stock, and a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Arapahoe Basin opened tor the 1947-48 season with two chair lifts, a rope tow,

and a shelter complete with lunch counter and a stall that doubled as the ski shop and the ski school office.31 Without a town or overnight accommodations at their

bases, Berthoud Pass and Arapahoe Basin catered to day skiers rather than the destination skiers who traveled to Aspen and stayed tor a week or more. The three areas had in common, however, their use of new technology and financial organization. Their directors and managers, furthermore, shared the assumption that thousands of Americans would soon take up skiing.

They were right. Americans participating in the post-war consumer and leisure culture flocked to the new and improved ski areas. Speedy chair lifts, T­ bars, and poma lifts replaced rope tows, and ski areas with no tows at all, previously considered worthy of at least a visit , disappeared from ski area listings. During the late 1950s and the 1960s the number of Colorado ski areas rose along with the number of skiers. Between 1957 and 1961 such places as Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Crested Butte, Breckenridge, Ski Broadmoor, and


image

Historical Association, Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite for Fifty Years, 1940- 1990 (Winter Park Recreation Association, 1989), 47-67.

31Hauk, "A-Basin Chronology," 1-5; Abbott Fay, Ski Tracks in the Rockies: A

Century of Colorado Skiing (Evergreen CO: Cordillera Press, 1984), 41-42; Larry Jump, "Arapahoe Basin--The Promised Land," Rocky Mountain Life (January 1947), 38-39, 42.


189


image

Cuchara Basin opened for business. By 1966, Vail, Steamboat Springs' Mt. Werner, Lake Eldora near Boulder, Purgatory outside of Durango, Sunlight in Glenwood Springs, and Meadow Mountain near Vail had added their names to the state's winter tourism and ski area directory; Snowmass-at-Aspen followed on

their heels and opened in 1967.32 These ski areas ranged from ritzy destination

resorts to small areas targeting local clientele. Some opened only for weekends and holidays with one or two lifts; others operated as many as seven lilts all season

long. Most, however, were new. By 1966 only seven of the thirty areas in the state had welcomed skiers in the 1930s.33

No longer was Colorado skiing only a local, community activity. Tenth Mountain veterans' national reputations, new financing and business organization, and the development of longer and faster ski lifts attracted more skiers than ever before to Colorado areas. Colorado residents from all over the state, as well as people from other parts of the country, took up the sport and came to Colorado.

Cuchara Basin and Monarch Pass provided skiing to residents in the southern part of Colorado, and Meadow Mountain served the Hispanic community of Minturn, albeit briefly. As early as 1957 Colorado ski areas did over 30% of their business


image

32"Ski Areas in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico," Rocky Mountain Life (November 1946), 48-50; "Colorado Ski Areas/ Rocky Mountain Life (December 1947), 51-53; "Colorado Ski Directory," Rocky Mountain Life (December

1948), 52, 54; "Skiing Centers of Colorado," Colorado Wonderland (December 1950), 21; The Manual of Colorado Skiing at the Top of the Nation (Denver: Colorado Ski Information Center, 1954); Crampon and Lemon, "Skiing in the Southern Rocky Mountain Region," (1957); 1961-62 Colorado Ski and Winter Sports Manual (Denver: Colorado Visitors Bureau, Winter Sports Committee, 1961); 1966-67 Colorado Skiing: Resorts, Lodges, Services, Transportation (Denver: Colorado Visitors Bureau, 1966); Colorful Colorado, 1 (Winter 1966), 69-83; 1968-69 Colorado Skiing: Resorts, Lodges, Services, Transportation (Denver: Colorado Visitors Bureau, 1968). See also Tommy Neal, "Purgatory--An Exciting New Word in Skiing," and other articles in The Durango-Cortez Herald,

27 November, 1966 for information on the development of ski areas in the southwestern part of the state. See Paul Hauk, "Ski Area Chronologies" for the development of ski areas within the White River National Forest.

33Those areas were Aspen, Berthoud Pass, Grand Mesa, Hidden Valley, Pikes Peak, Winter Park, and Wolf Creek.


190



image

with skiers from out of state.34 America's post--war consumer culture and the nation-wide growth of tourism, combined with start of the ski industry, created a context within which people no longer had to belong to an elite club or live in a mountain town in order to ski.

Nor did they have to be especially rugged to enjoy the sport. During the 1950s and 1960s, downhill skiing became more accessible to men and women outside mountain communities and elite resorts, where constructions of gender and class lessened the impact of skiing's physical demands. After World War Two, technological advances in ski equipment made the sport easier to learn. Army surplus skis and bindings were cheap after the war, but aircraft engineer Howard Head drastically improved the performance of wooden skis when he developed a successful metal ski in 1950. Lighter and easier' to turn than wooden ones, metal skis found a solid niche in the American market by the early 1960s. A few years later fiberglass skis hit the market, furthering the development and success of new ski equipment. Binding technology, too, advanced quickly in the decades following World War Two. In the 1950s cable "beartrap" bindings gave way to step-in "safety" bindings built to release in dangerous falls, easing the fears of timid skiers as well as improving control over their skis. New boots similarly aided their wearers, adding stiffness, height, and hence more control to the leather lace­ up boots typical of the 1940s. The first leather buckle boot hit the market in 1955. Plastic Lange boots appeared ten years later, improving skier control and earning kudos from European racers who called them "les Plastiques

Fantastiques." 35 By technically improving the connection between a skier's feet


image

34Of the state's skiers 69.1% came from Colorado, with another 3.5% from other mountain states. The most out-of-state skiers came from the Central states, contributing 19.7% of Colorado's business. Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, and Kansas, respectively, sent the most skiers to Colorado. Crampon and Lemon, 4-5.

35Stan Cohen, A Pictorial History of Downhill Skiing (Missoula: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1985), 89-106.


1 91


image

and the snow, the new equipment developed in the 1950s and 1960s helped people learn more easily, turn more quickly, ski faster, gain confidence, and ultimately have more fun skiing.

Ski lifts served a similar function, mediating skiers' relationship to the mountain and increasing access to the sport. As new equipment lessened the requirement for toughness while going down the mountain, lifts lessened it for the way up. Ski lifts and tows offered quick rides up the mountain and wiped hours of hiking off a skier's Itinerary; a day of arm-stretching rope tow riding seemed worth the bother only until chair lift and T-bar technology offered easier

alternatives.36 Getting people up the mountain f_arther and faster thus became a

main goal for ski area developers interested in attracting customers. As they attracted customers, so too did new ski lifts reduce the lines that formed at popular areas. In a never-ending cycle of lift-building, areas made sensible expenditures to boost skiers up mountains. In 1966 only eight of the state's 30 ski areas had an hourly capacity of less than 1,000 skiers. Aspen Mountain, then boasting seven lifts, could move over 5,000 skiers in an hour. Arapahoe Basin, Aspen Highlands,

Breckenridge, Loveland Basin, Vail, and Winter Park shared that distinction.37

Whether as a cause or as a result of Colorado's growing ski industry--or more likely both--lift construction and ski area expansion did not slow down until the mid-1970 s. 3 8


Constructed Ski Area Landscapes


image

36One Forest Service poll taken in 1947 established that "most skiers would willingly trade two rope tow tickets for a ticket on a chair lift or T-bar tow." "Forest Service Surveys 1947-48 Season," Rocky Mountain Skiing, 1 December, 1948, 2.

37"Colorado Ski Areas," Colorful Colorado, 1, 3 (Winter 1966), 69.

3BNils Ericksen, P.E., "If You Build It, They Will Come," Ski Area Management,

35, 1 (January 1996), 52.


192



image

Ski area development and lift construction prevented skiers from experiencing the mountain landscape in the same way as those who climbed up ski trails by foot and skied one or two runs down in a day. Ski areas could, however, accentuate certain attractive aspects of that experience. From a developer's perspective mountain scenery became a natural resource; skiers' views of the surrounding mountains, something to plan and frame. Lodges and restaurants sprouted up accordingly--even on mountain tops--featuring picture windows and architectural equivalents to the highway signs that announce "scenic overlook" to every passing vehicle. Arapahoe Basin built its "Snow Plume Refuge" atop a narrow ridge, so "its huge picture windows [could] ... revel in the splendid

panorama of the Gore Range, Tenmile Range, and the Mount of the Holy Cross far to the West." 39 Chair lifts and gondolas, too, offered riders aerial visions of

impressive landscapes on every ride. Even the U.S. Forest Service, in its "Planning Considerations for Winter Sports Resort Development," recognized that while "lifts should be located to serve the best skiing terrain," and "seldom should the type of lift dictate the location of ski trails," it admitted that "a lift intended to provide both ski trail access and scenic views for summer [and presumably

winter] tourists is one exception to this principle."40 Ski area planners had been

noting that exception for some time. One developer of Snowmass attributed the resort's first-year success to its scenic appeal. By virtue of its terrain and lift placement, "even the weaker skiers ... can get to the top of Elk Camp and the Burn, and its almost as if they can get a Sir Edmund Hillary complex," he said; "they're on top of the world."41

image

39Larry Jump, "Arapahoe Basin--The Promised Land," Rocky Mountain Life

(January 1947), 38.

40Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Ski Areas Association, Planning Considerations for Winter Sports Resort Development (1973), 15.

41Jim Snobble, interview by the author, 11 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 2, AHS.


193

image

Skiers--even those who had once hiked to ski--appreciated the views from ski area lifts. "To be able to ride the lift at Berthoud," one CMC member recalled, "and get that view down the west side of the Indian Peaks, was a great thrill. I looked forward to each ride because I could get that view." Nor was that treat limited to skiing at Berthoud. "[It] was the same thing at Winter Park or any of the lifts. To be able to ski Aspen Highlands and get a look at the [Maroon] Bells and Pyramid at the top of the mountain, those are wonderful, important parts of the

experience for me."42 The presence of lifts, by offering better and more frequent

views than hikers could enjoy, increased the impact of mountain scenery and transformed skiers' relationship to the landscape in the process. Their experiences mediated by man-made constructions and planned perspectives, skiers saw the mountains as much as they felt them. The Rocky Mountain landscape thus acquired economic value as a visual resource for skier-tourists; the mountains became objects to view, distant evidence of western wilderness intact. Chair lifts

encouraged the romantic sensibility of being enmeshed in wilderness, in contrast to the up close and personal relationship to the landscape experienced by skiers who climbed up the mountain.

The Forest Service even encouraged ski areas literally to cultivate the image of a romantic, wild, "natural" landscape for summer visitors. "When they ride chairlifts or gondolas," the agency advised, "vegetation on ski trails should not only look as if it is not eroding, but should look natural and perhaps even be

covered with native wildflowers." 43 Ski areas convinced visitors--to at least

some degree--that the landscape around them was indeed untainted by humans. To those unfamiliar with federal land use policy, the fact that most ski areas existed


image

42Toll, 1996, 9.

43H. Peter Wingle, Planning Considerations for Winter Sports Resort Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region (1994), 77.


194


image

on National Forest land may have been convincing enough. City dwellers especially confused the image of pristine"nature" with that of "scenic mountain landscapes," sometimes with the help of the ski industry. One marketing director wrote, "The more hectic cities become, the greater the drive toward Nature, a reward for skiers." He went on to equate Nature (with a capital "N") to "the vast sweep of snowbowls, the play of sun and shade, [and] the changing colors of the winter sky at

dusk."44 (This equation ignored the fact that National Forest land has been used and

managed by westerners since it became National Forest land.) As the ski industry attracted middle-class Americans farther and farther away from the Rocky Mountain West to Colorado's mountains, it became easier to accept the marketing director's figuring. For suburban Chicagoans, Dallas businessmen, or New Jersey housewives, Colorado's national forests represented rugged wilderness beyond compare--a perfectly accurate perception, in light of where they were from.

Ski area developers crafted the visual impact of mountain scenery to help skiers feel connected to "nature." If they stood in a clearly developed ski area, at least they could see that a "wild," "pristine" landscape existed on the other side of the ski area boundary. As they experienced the mountain landscape as wilderness through their eyes, so too did skiers connect with the mountains through their feet. Views from lifts mesmerized passengers on their way up the mountain, overpowering the visual impact of lifts, lodges, and access roads around them. Only on their skis, however, flowing through the snow· and trees and transfixed by that feeling, could skiers believe that they were "in synchrony with the mountains and the snow," embraced by a "natural" landscape that, if they were to stop and look around, flashed "man-made" like a neon sign. Dolores Lachapelle reveled in the sport and the mountains. "Skiing in the fall line," she wrote, "by the very nature


image

44Tod Martin, forward to Skiing Colorado , by Curtis W. Casewit (Old Greenwich, CT: The Chatham Press, 1975).


195


image

of the terrain, allows the skiers to have much the same movement as a flight of birds--seemingly random but never colliding. Obeying the earth," she concluded, "results in perfect freedom."45 The freedom, creativity, and exhilaration that skiers experienced through their sport created a dynamic and intense connection

between skier and mountain. Ski area developers found themselves challenged to foster that connection--one of the most personal as well as appealing aspects of skiing--for large audiences.

In the years immediately after the war there were few experts at cutting trails. Tools and techniques for clearing ski trails had yet to be developed, and where to cut them seemed straightforward. Andre Roch had laid out Aspen's famous Roch Run in 1937. Tenth Mountain Division veterans helped Friedl Pfeifer and the local ski club clear two new short runs in honor of the grand opening. Two years later Aspen Ski Club members, who had cleared the run originally in 1937, continued to appeal to "members and friends of skiing" to help clear brush from the

trails on Aspen Mountain.46 These runs, according to ski instructor and 10th

Mountain vet John Litchfield, were "just plain a labor of love by the people that lived there."47 Locals continued to pitch in when area manager Dick Durrance

decided to open up the terrain and cut Ruthie's Run in 1949. "All we did," he said,


"was simply go up to the top of the mountain and mark a very wide stretch and chop trees down."48

Simply cutting trees down was enough to build more trails. Planning them out took more thought. While the Roch Run had earned a national reputation among downhill competitors even before the war--Roch had designed it as a racing trail-


image

4 5 La Chapelle, 5.

46Aspen Times, 14 October, 1948, 1.

47 John Litchfield, interview by the author, 29 September, 1994, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and manuscript, 4, AHS.

48Dick and Miggs Durrance, interview by Jeanette Darnauer, 18 August, 1993, Aspen, Colorado, video tape, AHS.


196


image

-Pfeifer and Durrance knew they would have to cut some easier trails to sell more lift tickets. Pfeifer designed some by-pass runs so less experienced skiers could avoid the steepest sections of the Roch Run, but that wasn't always enough. Steve Knowlton recalled observing one woman descend the Roch Run that first year the chair lifts were open. "She was sliding down the corkscrew with her hands out in front of her," he remembered, "and she was yelling 'You son of a bitch, why did you

bring me herel "'49 This was not quite the experience that the Aspen Skiing

Corporation was hoping to foster. A few years later Fred lselin convinced the ASC to bulldoze Spar and Copper Gulches into bowls, smoothing the terrain and opening it up to less experienced skiers. "Having done that," one ASC director recalled,

"you couldn't keep the skiers away--it was the best damned skiing in the world." 5 0

Area developers caught on fast. People want non-threatening terrain, one instructor and planner explained. Another instructor agreed: "Those intermediate slopes are really what pays the freight--those are the slopes that get people interested in the sport."51 Building a ski industry, after all, required attracting

new skiers to the sport and to Colorado; areas needed trails to accommodate their numbers and their skill-level.

Trail designers both altered the physical mountain landscape and shaped skiers' relationship to that landscape. Cutting trees, brush, and bulldozing new trails and access roads characterized most trail development until the 1970s. Few designers understood the degree to which they affected the mountain landscape or its

significance to plant and animal populations.52 Caught in the contradiction of


image

49Steve Kowlton, interview by the author, 19 October, 1994, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and manuscript, 3, AHS.

50 Paul Nitze, interview by the author, 20 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 4, AHS.

51Jim Snobble, interview by the author, 11 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape

recording and transcript, 3, AHS; Litchfield, 1994, 5.

52Chet Anderson was the exception. With degrees in Wildlife Management and Forest Ecology, Anderson worked as a snow ranger for the U.S. Forest Service before developing Purgatory ski area outside of Durango. He tried to reduce


197


image

selling a personal, intimate experience to as many people as possible, ski area developers tried to create ski trails that would lessen the impact of crowds. When Friedl Pfeifer cut the first new trails on Aspen Mountain for its grand opening

under the ASC, he said he "[removed] trees only when necessary [and] left much of the mountain untouched, so that skiing would feel like a backcountry tour."53

Twenty-five years later the U.S. Forest Service recommended such planning for all ski areas. "If a mountain is designed permitting inter-connecting, but separate ski

run systems," the Forest Service pointed out, "a skier can have the feeling of isolation and freedom of congestion."54 Designers thus consciously shaped ski

trails to help skiers feel alone, personally interacting with the mountain. They wanted to encourage the kind of experience that helped skiers forget they were in a designed, planned, man-made landscape--ironically constricting vision in order to heighten the sense of freedom and unrestricted movement.

Trail designers tried to emphasize skiers' feelings of freedom and exhilaration through the physical shape of their trails as well as through their visual impact. To accomplish that, they had to think in three dimensions. Along with framing views or hiding crowds, popular ski trails romanced skiers with their terrain. "Variety is key," Chet Anderson, designer of Purgatory, explained. Good trails need steep and shallow pitches, room for cruising, and transitions

between types of terrain. "That," he said, "is what can make it sensual."55 One

famous instructor agreed, comparing such terrain to the human body and


image

bulldozing and soil disturbance when building the area, and redesigned trails rather than cut them through wildlife habitat. Chet Anderson, interview with the author, 7 June, 1994, Durango, Colorado. After 1971 developers used helicopters, rather than building roads and using heavy equipment, to install lift towers in fragile mountain environments over 11,000 feet.

53pfeifer and Lund, 140.

54U.S. Forest Service, "Planning Considerations," (1973), 19.

55Anderson, 1994.


198



image

encouraging students to "caress the mountain, as you would a lover."56 With mountains as their medium, good trail designers.thus shared with artists the goal of creating a work that would elicit a flash of emotions, a work that people could return to again and again, experiencing it differently each time. A few of them became acknowledged masters. Pfeifer's design of Aspen Mountain "had a rhythm you would feel," remembered Steve Knowlton. More interesting than Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, or Vail, according to one well-traveled ski instructor, Aspen Mountain "is really a very romantic mountain." "Friedl did a masterful job in making runs and outruns and dips and changes in the terrain--where it would turn a little bit and romance [sic] and turn a little bit and go down, and you could have a rest." Big resorts like Snowmass and Vail have more space, he continued, but also longer [flat] run-outs [between trails] and more cruising. "You don't feel like your blood is stirring up" there, he said.57 Different ski areas thus developed

their own characters, based in part on how their trails felt. As architects and ski area developers shaped skiers' visual perceptions of the Rocky Mountain landscape, trail designers manipulated skiers' kinetic experience on the slopes.

These men did so by reshaping a landscape they gendered "female." This fact highlighted the idea that for them, skiing was a male experience. As 10th Mountain Division veterans and European skiers, these men understood the skiers' relationship to the landscape as one which contributed to a masculine identity.

Women skiing on these "female" landscapes--and experiencing freedom, thrills, and exhilaration on them, no less--could thus place their own femininity at risk by the act of skiing. One might wonder how the instructor who encouraged his students to "caress the mountain as a lover" handled his female students. It

image

56Peter Miller, "Make Love to the Mountain," Ski (November 1979), 157. Jean Mayer, a former French Junior National Ski Champion, directed the Taos Ski Valley ski school.

57Steve Knowlton from Beth and George Gage, Fire on the Mountain (Telluride CO: Gage and Gage Productions, 1995); Paterson, 1994, 10.


199


image

remains unclear, however, to what degree women agreed with these men's understanding of skiing. Significantly, quite a number of women skiers articulated their skiing experiences as "freedom," a term that could refer at once to the physical sensation of skiing downhill and to behavior they appreciated as outside the dominant constructions of femininity. In their developing of ski area landscapes, then, trail designers did more than encourage particular physical sensations; they infused their trails with gendered meanings that further complicated skiers' relationship to the mountain landscape.

Even skiers' connection to the snow itself changed with the advent of the ski industry. Before lifts dotted the landscape and skiers peppered the slopes, every day was a powder day. No matter where one skied, there was usually room for more fresh tracks. On bad days, soft, heavy snow, perhaps rutted from earlier skiers, presented obstacles that skiers accepted as part of the sport. Racers who wanted a smooth course joined friends, colleagues, and volunteers arm in arm for a hike up the trail, "boot packing" the run. Once the general public began to frequent ski areas, the snow began to show some wear and tear. "Sitzmarks" became a common problem, caused by and most dangerous to beginning skiers. Roughly equivalent to divots on the golf course and formed by skiers' less fortunate full-body contact

with the mountain, sitzmarks needed filling. Before the war skiers tended to accept their individual responsibility for this. Many new enthusiasts, however, embraced traditional skiing etiquette only reluctantly. In an effort to remedy the situation in 1948, one ski patrolman approached 32 different fallen skiers by asking "would you mind helping me fill up your sitzmarks?" "Of the 32," he reported, "eight helped willingly; four grudgingly; and 20 blew [me] various and sundry types of

'birds' and pushed off to their next fall." "Time and time again," he complained, "there were more skiers down in the snow than there were on their feet."58


image

58c. Minot Dole, "Whither American Skiing?" Ski, 12 (January 1948), 15.


200


image

With the introduction of better equipment and shorter skis in the 1960s, and the continual increase in traffic on the slopes, moguls overtook sitzmarks as the meanest snow hazard. These fields of snow mounds, created by skiers repeatedly turning in the same places, tripped up quite a few skiers who had less

command of their turns (compounding the original sitzmark problem), and annoyed even more. As early as 1948 it became apparent that masses of skiers could not be turned loose on the slopes without causing the snow conditions to deteriorate.

As with other problems caused by increased participation in the sport, ski area operators discovered a way to mitigate, med_iate, and manage the problem away. When lifts and lodges took away the "natural" feel of the immediate landscape, developers pointed skiers towards breathtaking views of the neighboring mountains instead; when crowds of skiers left holes and moguls behind them, the ski industry took up "snow grooming." Steve Bradley, manager of Winter Park

after the war, invented the country's first snow grooming tool and accordingly became known as the "Father of Slope Maintenance.5" 9 His "Bradley Packer,"

which he designed in 1951 and continued to modify, smoothed the snow as ski patrollers pulled the contraption behind them. About ten years later at Loveland Basin Gordy Wren developed another early grooming machine pulled by a snow-cat.

It consisted of a culvert with big wheels on the ends of it, and Wren remembered

trying to groom every slope with that one machine.60 Area owners and managers thus found themselves in the business of smoothing trails as well as designing and cutting them.

Post-war ski areas continued to take on new responsibilities in the interest of attracting more customers, solving--or at least re-directing--the problems that accompanied skiers' increasing use of the mountain landscape. By the late


image

59Fay, 43; Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite, 72.

Bowren, 1995, 5.


201



image

1950s ski areas had so much invested in providing a good experience for their customers that they could not afford to depend on the weather for their most valuable resource--snow. One or two lean seasons could hurt even the most successful areas beyond hope of recovery. Ski area owners and managers knew this all too well. Consequently, when the Rocky Mountain Ski Area Operators' Association met in 1963, one member brought up "the question of starting our own weather modification program." He "suggested that some money be spent in investigating the effect of [weather modification] and the means to accomplish

localized storms when conditions are right." The group agreed, budgeting $500 for cloud seeding and making plans to look into long-range forecasting as well.61

Experts in the field, however, soon crushed their hopes. "No one can today speak with authority regarding the feasibility of cloud seeding to increase snow cover," a scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research wrote to the association. "The circumstances in respect to long range forecasts are not very much more helpful." "If I were in your shoes," he said," I would regard the forecast as pretty much a random guess."62

Faced with huge financial losses should the snow refuse to fall, ski area operators turned to making snow themselves. "Guaranteed snowl Think of ill" Ski magazine declared in 1957. An engineering firm in Massachusetts, originally involved in irrigation equipment, had developed a snow-making system that one eastern ski area used profitably that year. "Snow-making promises to take the weather risk out of skiing," the article claimed. It would remove (or at least reduce) "your risk, when you plan your ski vacation or weekend, the operator's risk, and consequently the risk that everyone with a recreational or commercial


image

61Minutes, Rocky Mountain Ski Area Operators' Association meeting, 13 February, 1963, Aspen, Colorado, Aspen Skiing Collection, AHS.

62Walter Orr Roberts, letter to Steve Knowlton, 11 March, 1963, Aspen Skiing Collection, AHS.


202


image

interest in the sport must take."63 While this technology primarily helped ski areas in the East and Midwest (that were at a relatively low elevation}, Colorado resorts occasionally needed a few more inches than the weather provided. Magic Mountain outside Denver led the way in the late 1950s when Earl Eaton installed a snow-making system there, followed by Ski Broadmoor, a small area that catered to skiers in Colorado Springs. In addition to boosting lower Front Range ski areas' snow cover, snow-making could lengthen the season. By 1968 Loveland Basin was using man-made snow to open in mid-October, a month before other areas.64 Corporate competition and increasingly available technology eventually kicked off a race among ski areas to open first.

Bad snow years still caught most Colorado resorts up the proverbial creek, however. Vail and Purgatory each hired Eddie Box and his Southern Ute Ceremonial Dancers to relieve dangerous droughts by performing a "snow dance" for them. He and his group solved the areas' worries when their dances brought results-­ delaying, perhaps, their decision to purchase snow-making equipment.65 After the devastatingly lean 1976-77 snow season, however, most big Colorado areas invested in the technology. They had too much at stake, by that point, to do otherwise. The growth of snow-making in Colorado represented yet another ski industry investment designed to insure its continued popularity and growth. It also added another layer to the built environment of ski areas, now visible in snow guns, hoses, and the weird hills of snow they spewed (which people then had to


image

63"New Future," Ski, 22, 3 (December 1957), 68-72.

64"Ski Areas," Historic Georgetown Centennial Gazette 1868/1968, 23, Colorado Tourism file, Routt County Collection, BWML.

65Eddie Box and his group performed a rain dance and agreed to let it be called a

snow dance in Vail on December 9, 1963. A blizzard hit a week later. Three years later on December 4 Box and his dancers traveled to Purgatory. Before they finished dancing, snowflakes the size of quarters were coming down. It snowed for three days. June Simonton, Vail: Story of a Colorado Mountain Valley (Vail CO: Vail Chronicles, Inc., 1987), 84; Charlie Langdon, Durango Ski: People and Seasons at Purgatory (Durango CO: Purgatory Press, 1989), 43.


203


image

groom). Finally, man-made snow altered human relationships to nature's weather. Ski area operators could manufacture a "natural" resource upon which they depended; and skiers could scratch one more worry off their list, increasingly assured that the ski area would arrange everything for them.


Dangerous Landscapes and the National Ski Patrol


Skiers wanted and needed snow under their feet. Great views and "romantic" trails were an added plus. Post-war ski areas provided these things in the interest of improving business. How skiers behaved at ski areas, however, remained up to them. Contemplative skiers cruised, glided, and stopped to admire the scenery.

More adventuresome types schussed, reaching for that exhilarating high only available through speed. Quite a number did both, according to their mood. This caused yet another dilemma for the ski industry: crowds of creative and willfull individuals on one mountain spelled danger. Complicating the problem was that, for many, the appeal of the sport hinged upon an element of risk. Mountain landscapes and speed, however, posed a more appealing threat than crowds of bumblers on

skis, bouncing off whatever--or whoever--happened to be in their path. With the growth of the ski industry the danger of crowds threatened to overtake that presented by the natural landscape, transforming skiing from a personal, adventurous relationship to the mountains into a slam dance.

Early skiers recognized the risks they took. "Death," outdoorswoman Dolores Lachapelle wrote, "is an ever present possibility in the powder snow world as the snow, gift of the sky, when too deep or unstable, is drawn down by the

gravity of the earth, and this mutual appropriation of the one to the other is called ava /a nche."66 Mail carriers and nineteenth-century travelers accepted avalanches and extreme weather as dangers they would face in their journeys, and occasional


image

66LaChape lle, 46.


204


image

obituaries testified to the reality of those risks. Recreational skiers in the 1920s and 1930s, skiing on scenic mountain passes in small groups, similarly recognized the hazards of their sport. They willingly accepted those risks in exchange for the chance to be outdoors and ski in a rugged, wild, mountain landscape. They had to accept those risks; there was usually no one else to do it for them. Elizabeth Paepcke had a guide to help her in this regard, yE:lt the very act of hiring a guide showed she acknowleged the dangers of skiing. She recalled that "it snowed silently as we followed the faint outlines of a logging road through forests broken by outcroppings of rock and an occasional meadow," on her first trip down Aspen Mountain in 1938. "When we came to a steep bank of snow," she continued, "our guide proceeded alone, testing every step with his ski pole. Only after crossing safely himself were we allowed to make the traverse, one by one. No one spoke or

made the slightest noise in fear that the vibration of a voice should send us and the

entire mass avalanching down the mountainside."67 This real danger heightened the wilderness experience that skiing represented for city-bred Paepcke, adding a level of excitement and exhilaration to the sport that set skiing apart from other kinds of recreation.

For urban and suburban businessmen, skiing and its dangers offered an opportunity to get outdoors that contrasted favorably with their day jobs. When invited on a ski trip in 1933, for instance, Minot Dole wrote, "I was a family man, settled, a commuter, and so on. There was no reason at all why an expedition to the colds of Lake Placid should stir my blood a bit. But there it was," he remembered, "I could hardly wait." Trying to explain his feelings, Dole argued "That is modern man's dilemma: the occasion of security gives rise to the desire for adventure. That is something that the civilized American is not likely to have much of." He concluded: " The mushrooming of the sport of skiing owes a lot to the lack of

image

67Paepcke, "Memories of Aspen," AHS.


205



image

adventure in the life of today's Everyman."68 "Modern men" thus embraced the potential dangers of skiing, according to Dole, and welcomed the opportunity to be outdoors and take the physical chances that the landscape offered. In this instance, then, skiing's exhilaration took on meanings associated directly with class. Men working outdoors, in "uncivilized" conditions or places, Dole implied, would not need to ski to take risks or prove their manliness.

Aside from avalanches, skiers had to worry most about injury from falls or collisions. Before World War Two, one Denver skier remembered, "most skiers were conservative, experienced mountaineers." Accustomed to the local landscape

and its dangers, these men (and some women) "were a very self-sufficient group."

"As there were no safety bindings," he noted, "there was no false sense of safety."69 These Denver club skiers (probably members of the CMC or Zipfelbergers) performed necessary rescue work themselves and all helped bring down accident cases, including one friend with a broken femur. Skiers faced long, painful journeys before they could see a doctor. It was possible, at popular places like Berthoud Pass, to find an M.D. on the slopes to help out. Others were not so lucky. Minot Dole discovered this first hand while skiing at Stowe, VT on the eve of 1936 with his wife and another couple. After having twisted his ankle the day before, a tough fall in his beartrap bindings left him lying in the snow under the morning rain with his ankle "not at the right angle for an ankle." It took until 3:00 for his friends to find help, drag him to the road, and drive him to a doctor, who then told


image

68As much an argument for skiing's widespread appeal to post-war Americans as it was to those in the 1930s, Dole's theory also explained--in part--why is appeal also depended on class. C. Minot Dole, Adventures In Skiing (New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1965), 36.

69J.C. Blickensderfer, "Reminiscences of Skiing in Colorado, 1922-1968,"

manuscript, n.d., 11-12, CHS. "Beartrap" bindings were about the only kind available in the 1930s and 1940s; they tied the skier's foot securely to the ski and did not release.


206


image

him his ankle was so badly broken he should have it set in New York City rather than in the small Vermont hospital.

Even after this harrowing experience, Dole recounted, he did not waver

from "the standard fatalism that skiers had, at that time, about ski accidents."70 He took a more proactive perspective two months later, after the friend who was with him at Stowe was asked to enter a club race for which he was too inexperienced. Dole advised him against it, "but Frank the explorer was too excited about this new possibility to think cogently." Frank died, after running into a tree

on the edge of the race course. His death forced a change in Dole's perspective that would ultimately result in Dole's formation of the National Ski Patrol. 71 Initially,

however, skiers argued that each must accept the dangers inherent in the sport. Perhaps romanced by the masculine power of facing skiing's danger, or overcome by the excitement of the sport's risks, a number _of skiers responded to Dole's

subsequent investigation into ski accidents by calling him and his committee "sissies, spoilsports, and frighteners of mothers." 72 These skiers consciously-­

and vigorously--defended skiing and its dangers as a masculine realm.


With increased use of ski areas in the late 1930s, accidents and injuries became more visible. Some skiers behaved as if they would not get hurt no matter what they did. Although Colorado did not suffer its first recreational skiing fatality (other than by avalanche) until two years later, Denver skier Graeme McGowan observed in 1937 that if skiers had "a moderate amount of assured snow,

mountains, easy access, and uphill transportation," they "will happily hurl themselves over cliffs or rip trails through jungles."73 Ski area landscaping and


image

70Dole, Adventures, 50-52.

71Dole, Adventures, 53.

72Dole, Adventures, 54.

73Colorado's first fatality occurred when Berrien Hughes ran into a rock on Loveland Pass on May 21, 1939. Fay, 21. McGowan had extensive experience with downhill skiers; he helped found the Arlberg Club and scouted out skiing terrain in


207


image

trail design reduced the danger from avalanches and traffic congestion, but skiers' uncontrolled "schussing" caused most falls and collisions resulting in injury.74 As

skiing grew more popular and more people "hit" slopes made accessible by ski tows, a greater variety of skiers mingled there. Each savored the freedom to turn, stop, and schuss where they liked. Wide ski lanes cleared of all trees (common in the 1930s), McGowan argued, "are dangerous not only to the mentally deficient who careen wildly down them at speeds far in excess of their ability to control but also to the timid soul who, with panic gripping his heart, 'stems like hell.' How often," he asked rhetorically, "have we seen collisions between these two

opposites ?"75 Skiers sitting in the middle of the trail, rearranging their ensemble

after a fall, unknowingly offered themselves as further targets. Deep foot holes left by hiking skiers and larger ones from the much maligned sit-and-run culprits compounded the problem.76

Because ski areas before World War Two operated only short rope tows for a local clientele, this circus of skiers was confined to one or two slopes accessible by tows. Those willing to hike to longer and more challenging slopes generally fell into the category of experienced skiers and outdoorspeople. The growth of the ski industry after the war, however, turned everybody loose. With the advances in ski lift technology and growing appeal of the sport, Minot Dole noticed by 1948, "a great number of mountains were suddenly opened up.'' "Where previously only hardy and capable skiers had ventured," he continued, "now, every bunny or basher who had the price of a ticket found him or herself at the top of the mountain with no


image

the Southern Rocky Mountains for the Forest Service. Graeme McGowan, "Ski Landscaping and Improvements," Ski Bulletin, 29 January, 1937, 7.

74Graeme McGowan, "Future Skiing in the National Forests In the Rocky Mountains," Ski Bulletin, 1 January, 1937, 5.

75McGowan, "Ski Landscaping," 7.

76Roland Palmedo, "Ski Patrols," Ski Bulletin, 8 January, 1937, 5.


208


image

one to tell him where he could or could not go."77 Not only did this new population of skiers represent physical danger, Dole's language implied, but they infringed upon skiing's heretofore upper-class Eastern landscape. Beyond skiing where they should not, most bunnies and bashers wanted to ski faster than they knew how. "The average American," wrote one observer, "has a desire to enjoy the thrill, dash, and zip experienced in traveling at high speeds. This trait," he continued,

"comes out strongly in the novice stage of skiing."78 Such circumstances pitted the

dangers of crowded ski areas against the individual skier's right to ski when, where, and hows/he wanted. Less explicitly, these circumstances placed upper­ class skiers who "belonged" on the slopes, against middle- and lower-class "bunnies" and "bashers," who did not. These Eastern class dynamics took a slightly

different form in Colorado, however, where local club skiers were the ones who had established the tradition of skiing.

Faced with the reality of increasingly crowded slopes and reluctant to curtail skiers' freedom to choose where and how. fast they skied, ski areas relied instead upon Minot Dole's National Ski Patrol. Established in 1938 by Dole and his colleagues in the Amateur Ski Club of New York, the National Ski Patrol System (NSPS) trained volunteers at ski areas across the country who were willing to assist accident victims and transport them off the mountain. Local patrolmen who demonstrated "leadership, devotion to patrol work, tact in handling problems of skiers, and practical proficiency in first aid" were eligible for promotion to

national status. A national structure and leadership hierarchy unified this national volunteer organization: Divisional (regional) Chairmen oversaw Section Chiefs, who in turn took responsibility for local ski club patrols. Recreational skiers

image

77Dole, "Wither American Skiing?" 15. Dole's implication was that novices skied down trails that were too advanced for them, not that they skied outside the ski area's boundaries.

78Robert S. Monahan, "Skiing in the National Forests," American Ski Annual

(1938), 129, CHS.


209


image

quickly learned to look for the distinctive rust colored jackets of NSPS patrollers when they ran into trouble. Ski area managers, too, appreciated the organization's

work and handed out free lift tickets to any member willing to work for the day.7 9

Alter the war these patrollers kept busy. The ski industry--in Colorado and elsewhere--embraced the NSPS as the solution to their safety problems. Resorts such as Aspen, too far from a city to depend on volunteers as New England ski areas did, hired their own professional ski patrollers who were certified and registered with the NSPS. Aspen's 1947-48 ski patrol, for instance, consisted of 13 men who packed, shoveled, and maintained skiing areas, flagged, roped off, or otherwise marked danger areas, patrolled all areas in use, checked all trails at the end of each day for stray skiers, gave "any and all assistance possible to all skiers," organized and ran recreational races, and gave first aid and evacuated all who suffered

in juri es. 8 0

If that sounds like a lot of work, it was. Aspen's patrol that year sidestepped up and down each trail on their skis to pack firm base of snow at least once; they spent ten days cutting brush, filling holes, and building ramps for the Little Nell lift; they put up over 50 signs and three bulletin boards on the mountain; strung five emergency telephones; gave 121 injured skiers toboggan rides down the mountain; and they treated 34 fractures, two dislocated shoulders, five lacerations,

two knee injuries, and seven people who managed to get punctured by ski poles.81

As Dole would have predicted, 75% of those who suffered fractures were novice skiers. Still, the accident rate was low--especially compared to the sense of mounting danger that new post-war skiing crowds fostered. Fifty injuries out of an


image

79See Dole, Adventures, for the founder's account of how the NSPS developed. 80Leonard Woods, "Annual Report of the Aspen Ski Patrol, 1947-48 Season," manuscript, 2, Skiing-Ski Patrol file, AHS. The Aspen Skiing Corporation soon divided up these duties between the ski patrol and a trail packing crew.

81Woods, "Annual Report," 2, 5. Seventy-one skiers who got rides down the mountain had only minor injuries, mainly sprained ankles.


210

image


estimated 21,000 skier-days during the 1947-48 season gave Aspen a .2% accident rate. Even twenty years later, with about 2 million American skiers, a report published in Medical World News estimated that only 12,000 would injure

themselves (a .6% rate). More injuries occurred in water skiing or hunting, one reporter noted.82 This level of safety was quite acceptable to ski area managers,

who wanted to provide an enjoyable skiing experience to as many people as possible. To that end, area managers crafted increasingly constructed landscapes for their clientele. They groomed snow to reduce risks from poor snow conditions; they paid attention to traffic patterns and safety concerns in their trail layout; and they worked to control avalanche danger on their slopes. The National Ski Patrol System grew along with the ski industry and worked hard to prevent and treat injuries, protecting skiers from their own love of exhilaration and lack of judgment. Ski areas embraced this organization and its bureaucracy, preferring to introduce yet another mediating force between skiers and the mountain landscape rather than to limit skiers' freedom to ski how and where they wanted. Ski patrollers shaped the mountain landscape in their efforts to make it safer and adopted roles as on-slope managers.


The U.S. Forest Service and Regulated Skiing Landscapes


Post-war skiers thus enjoyed their sport in a "patrolled" landscape largely crafted by the ski industry and its supporting organization, the NSPS. Ski areas kept the mountains' wild landscape at a distance_--outside ski area boundaries but visually accessible from the lifts and lodges--so people could imagine themselves within the "wild," "pristine," and "rugged" mountains and still feel safe. Still another layer of policy, bureaucracy, and control of the landscape affected skiers'


image

82"12,000 Skiing Injuries Predicted in U.S. This Year," Denver Post, 22 January, 1967, 24, clipping, Skiing file, AHS.


211


image

experience because they often skied on public land. Ski patrollers, mountain managers, and ski area owners all interacted with the U.S. Forest Service and its land. Colorado skiers did at least 90% of their skiing on public land in 1946, with

every one of the state's developed winter sports sites either on or adjoining national forest or park land.83 That meant that along with the NSPS, trail

designers, ski area developers, and lift engineers, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) had a say in how skiers experienced the Rocky Mountain landscape.

The relationship between the Forest Service and the ski industry took shape slowly and changed from one of support to one of control and regulation from the 1930s through the 1960s. During the 1930s "the personnel of the U.S. Forest Service, long accustomed to skis, snowshoes, and toboggans for timber cruising, wildlife estimates, snow surveys, and other administrative duties," one USFS representative wrote, "observed this growing interest in winter recreation with a sympathetic personal understanding of the fundamental appeal of adventure in a

winter wonderland." 84 Rangers appreciated skiers' love for the outdoors and the

sport, and the USFS appreciated skiers' recreational use of the national forests. Upon the organization of the Forest Service in 1905, the federal government established that it would let people use national forest resources rather than preserve the land as wilderness. Since then Americans have logged and grazed on forest land with the government's permission, and often with the benefit of government-built improvements. Americans have recreated there, too--in

summer and winter. During the 1936-37 season, for instance, winter sports participants made almost one million visits to America's national for ests.85 Since


image

83Fred H. McNeil, "The Skier and Uncle Sam," American Ski Annual (1946-47), 114, CHS.

84Monahan, 125.

85Monahan, 125.


212


image

skiers used the national forests in winters, tensions between them and different forest users--ranchers, for instace--were slow to arise.

This volume of skiers on national forest land introduced a problem to the


U.S. Forest Service with which ski area managers were also struggling: how to provide skiers with a recreational resource and keep their use from damaging that resource? Or, in the language of the Forest Service, "the planning, construction, and maintenance of sufficient facilities to meet the demand for the various forms of winter sports present to the Forest Service an administrative problem of considerable magnitude." Even before the war, in 1938, one ranger noticed that "the lone winter adventurer has for years made the most of existing conditions and has gloried in his self-reliance. But the increasing army of novices," he warned, "congregating in favored areas, necessitates the introduction of artificial

improvements of a wide diversity." 86 So the USFS got into the business of

parking-lot widening, ski trail cutting, and shelter building. "Fortunately," the author noted in 1938, "most winter sports that are enjoyed by the great mass of winter visitors require only simple facilities, which, if wisely planned, do not measurably mar the intrinsic winter beauty of the National Forests."87 Within the

context of Colorado's local club skiing, this argument rang true. After the war, however, and the subsequent increase in skiing's popularity and ski area development, skiers would place greater demands upon the national forests.

After the war the USFS continued to maintain a supportive relationship to the ski industry despite skiers' increased demands. No one was quite sure how the Forest Service would figure into the post-war ski industry. "The few skiers in the Forest Service were also feeling their way in a little-understood use of National Forest land," one ranger explained. "In fact," he wrote, "those of us in the agency

image

86Monahan, 126.

87Monahan, 126. See also Henry I. Baldwin, "Forestry and Ski Trails," Ski Bulletin, 29 January, 1937, 5.


213


image

who skied were considered slightly crazy by the dominant timber and grazing resource-oriented personnel at the time.''88 Some skiers argued that the USFS,

rather than private ski clubs or commercial organizations, ought to administer ski areas on public land.89 Others argued that since the national forests were tor all to

use, and since skiers represented such a growing percentage of that use, the USFS should increase appropriations "to make possible more installations tor the winter sports public," which would include clearing trails and slopes, building shelters,

warming huts, and comfort stations, and hiring more trained personnel "to care tor the throng."90 One Rocky Mountain forest ranger pointed out in 1948, however,

that "today skiing has definitely become [sic] of age; it can stand on its feet, and the

need tor being subsidized has passed."91 While the Forest Service continued to plan ski area expansion and development, post-war ski companies such as the Aspen Skiing Corporation and Arapahoe Basin Inc. took over responsibility tor making improvements and placed the ski industry squarely within the private sector. "The change," the ranger noted, "has resulted in fine ski lifts, better tows, and vastly improved slopes and trails," not to mention "good resort facilities ... in the

offing." 92 The USFS thus relinquished the responsibility to provide facilities tor

skiers' on national forest land and turned it over to corporations, which were only to happy to take over.

image

Even though it stopped building ski lodges, trails, and parking lots, the Forest Service continued to promote skiers' recreational use of the national forests through the 1960s. Policy required ski areas to apply tor commercial special use permits before they cut trails or built on public land. In the years immediately

88Hauk, "A-Basin Chronology," 3.

89William C. Kamp, "Administration of Skiing Areas--By Whom? How Much?"

American Skiing Annual (1944-45), 93-96, CHS.

90McNeil, 111.

91Slim Davis, "U.S. Forest Service Develops Skiing," Rocky Mountain Skiing, 1O November, 1948, 5, general ski collection, GCHA.

92 Davis, 6.


214


image

after World War Two, the Forest Service made it simple for ski area developers to get the necessary permits and approved of subsequent area expansion. Friedl Pfeifer negotiated the rights to build a chair lift on Aspen Mountain in 1946 with

the local ranger. His initial permit was only three pages long and set the annual use fee at $1o.93 As only 18% of the ski area lay on USFS land, subsequent

development proceeded with little further discussion. Further relationships between Aspen managers and the USFS describe a permit system that was completely taken for granted, only inconsistently enforced, or both. As area manager in the late 1940s, Dick Durrance recalled "no Forest Service regulations." When cutting a new trail "we didn't ask permission, we simply got rid of the trees." As far as lift construction went, Darcy Brown, director and later president of the ASC, said "we just went out and built one--never thought about

asking anyone."94 (Aspen Mountain's permit was amended, however, to cover the

No. 3 lift in 1954, and again in 1957 to increase the annual use fee.) Even at ski areas wholly on forest land the USFS seemed rarely to interfere with development. Gordy Wren managed Loveland Basin and Steamboat Springs ski areas and said "I never thought about [the area] being on Forest Service land. If we wanted to cut a

trail, we'd cut a trail ... put a lift in ... that was all there was to it."95 The USFS

was supposed to approve every ski area development on forest land. It approved Berthoud's double chair lift and Arapahoe Basin's new area, as well as Aspen's lifts and others. Significantly, area managers hardly remember getting such permission. During the 1940s and 1950s the permit process moved along so quickly and seemed so inconsequential to some area managers that they may have overlooked it altogether. Even in the early 1960s, when Forest Service concerns


image

93Pfeifer and Lund, 136; Hauk, "Aspen Ski Area Chronology," 2. 94Durrance, 1993; Brown, 1979.

95Wren, 1995, 7.


215


image

rose along with skier populations, Chet Anderson got a permit to develop Purgatory soon after he wrote a slim three-page letter to the Forest Service.96

The USFS did more to promote skiing on public land than simply grant permits quickly and allow development. As they had since the 1920s and 1930s,

Forest Service rangers continued to scout out the best places to develop ski areas.97

The USFS planned where ski areas ought to be for the same reason they planned where roads, logging activity, and grazing ought to be: to coordinate the forests' public use and the wisest use of its natural resources. Locating the best ski resort sites was equivalent, for the USFS, to choosing the most appropriate grazing ranges or timber lots. It was within this context that the USFS promoted skiing on Colorado's national forests. Forest Service rangers had first discovered the skiing potential at Arapahoe Basin in 1941. It was about to call for bids on the site in

1946 when the members of Arapahoe Basin, Inc. submitted their proposal to develop the area. The company got its initial permit eleven days later.98 Given the

popularity of Aspen Mountain and the growth of its lift lines in the 1950s, the USFS sought to open another ski resort in the area. Local rangers approached Whip Jones, who had purchased a ranch at Aspen Highlands and was "just going to have some horses on it," and suggested he develop a ski resort there. After Jones got some feasibility reports done and the Forest Service approved them, he found

himself in the ski business.99 Aspen Highlands opened for the 1957-58 season. In


image

96 It didn't hurt that Anderson himself had worked for the USFS as a wildlife biologist and snow ranger, or that he applied his graduate degree in forest ecology to his ski area planning. Mike Elliott, interview by the author, 7 June, 1994, Purgatory, Colorado.

97Paul Hauk scouted the White River National Forest for potential ski area sites

and accompanied developers interested in a particular area. Chet Anderson and his colleagues did so for the San Juan National Forest after having worked as snow rangers at areas including Loveland Valley, Winter Park, and Arapahoe Basin. See Paul Hauk, "Ski Area Chronologies;" Charlie Langdon, Durango Ski: People and Seasons at Purgatory (Durango CO: Purgatory Press, 1989), 11; and Anderson, 1994.

9BHauk, "A-Basin Chronology," 2.

99Whip Jones, interview by the author, 12 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado.


21 6


image

the fall of 1959 the Forest Service presented a comprehensive master plan for Colorado "to keep order in the state's booming ski business." According to USFS calculations, Colorado would need at least two new chairlifts each year to keep up with the current growth in pleasure skiing. After surveying potential sites, the

Forest Service presented a list of 21 that could be developed.100 More than simply

doling out permits, then, the USFS helped plan and promote ski area development.


As the ski industry boomed, however, USFS planning and promoting began to seem more like regulation than full-fledged support. The Forest Service set "a target date year by which skiing demand at the current rate will support construction of a new ski area," for each of the 21 sites proposed for

developmen t.101 Ski corporations, therefore, would not be allowed to build as fast

as they might like. In the fall of 1957, snow ranger Paul Hauk field-checked six different sites and proposals on the White River National Forest alone.102 Friedl

Pfeifer had trouble getting a permit for Buttermilk to open the same season as neighboring Aspen Highlands, since the USFS had already committed to Jones' area and there was "no definite public need for another area" yet.103

Forest Service permit fees also became more complicated during these years, changing from a flat fee to one based on a percentage of a percentage of the net lift ticket sales, plus an annual fee. Aspen Mountain's permit fee, for instance, jumped up from its original $1O in 1946 to $300 plus "one and a half percent of 12% of the net sales for the 76 acres of National Forest land" in 1957. By 1976 the Aspen Skiing Corporation (which by then owned and operated three areas in addition to Aspen Mountain), paid $278,277 to the Forest Service for its use of


image

1oo"Forests Draw Ski Boom Plan," Denver Post, 4 October, 1959, 7E, clipping, Skiing 1956-60 file, AHS.

101"Forests Draw Ski Boom Plan." 102Hauk, "Buttermilk Chronology," 1. 103Hauk, "Buttermilk Chronology," 2.


217


public land.°1


image

4 Having initially welcomed the cheap use of national forest lands,

ski area owners, managers, and developers now faced a growing federal bureaucracy and complex fee system. Nor did the problem of overcrowding

disappear with federal planning and control over special use permits. In its effort to address these issues, federal legislation further complicated USFS policy.105

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the means to set up "wilderness areas" within the National Forests to "secure for the American people of present and

future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness."106 This act prohibited any kind of construction or machinery in these wilderness areas, thereby removing that land from any possible ski area development. Skier­ tourists appreciated the view and the added sense of wilderness, nature, and adventure they lent neighboring resorts. More important for the ski industry, however, was the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, or NEPA. After this act took effect, every proposal for ski area development or expansion had to include an interdisciplinary examination of the environmental impact of that development, a consideration of alternative courses of action, and the opportunity for public


image

104Hauk, "Aspen Mountain Chronology," 3-4; "Interview: DRC Brown," Aspen (February-March 1976), 20, DRC Brown biography file, AHS. It is not clear how much of the $278,277 went towards Aspen Mountain's permit fees. Organizations like the National Forest Recreation Association sprouted up in the early 1960s and spent hours of their annual meetings discussing and negotiating permit fees. "Summary of National Forest Recreation Association Winter Sports Section

Meeting," 1o May, 1963, Reno, Nevada, Aspen Skiing Collection, AHS. This

document refers to discussions of the fee system held in 1961, 1962, and 1963 meetings.

105The Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 redefined the policy of highest use by declaring "the National Forests are established and shall be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes." Forest Service policy, therefore, had to let everyone of these interest groups share forest resources and manage the forests "so they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people." Multiple-Use Sustained­ Yield Act of 1960, Act of June 12, 1960 (P.L. 86-517, 74 Stat. 215; 16 U.S.C.

528(note), 528-531, Section 1, Section 4(a).

1oewilderness Act, Act of September 3, 1964 (P.L. 88-577, 78 Stat. 890 as

amended; 16 U.S.C. 1131 (note), 1131-1136), Section 2.


21 8

involvement in the decision.107 NEPA forced the ski industry to examine the effects its lifts, lodges, trails, and snowmaking had upon the physical mountain landscape and to document them for public appraisal. Visual impact, effect on vegetation and fish and wildlife populations, and community concerns all became issues ski area developers had to address self-consciously. NEPA complicated the ski industry's relationship to the landscape--and to the federal government--to such an extent that it made permits extremely difficult to win and so slowed ski area expansion in the 1970s.


Managing Colorado's Ski Areas


By the late 1960s and early 1970s the ski industry had changed character.


Providing newer, longer, faster lifts, comfortable mountain restaurants and lodges, complex trail systems, snow making and grooming equipment, safety precautions, and complying with Forest Service regulations created complex,

multi-layered mountain landscapes. Running a ski area, moreover, required more employees, technology, money, and financial savvy than in 1946. As a result, ski area management grew increasingly complex as well. Ever larger corporations controlled ski areas, combining development of the mountains with that of the base area and the surrounding real estate. Winter Park historians, for example, characterized the 1970s as a "new era of management refinement, sophistication, and expansion." The area changed its organization in 1975 when it placed Gerry

Groswold in the new role of President and CEO of the Winter Park Recreation Association.1° 8 In the next two years the area installed snowmaking systems worth

$1.2 and $1.4 million, celebrated the opening of its adjoining Mary Jane area,


image

107National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Act of January 1, 1970 (P.L. 91-

190, 83 Stat. 852; 42 U.S.C. 4321 (note), 4321, 4331-4335, 4346a-b,

4347), Section 101; "Planning Considerations for Winter Sports Resort Development," 1973, 1.

108Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite, 125.


219

image


which included four new double chair lifts, and then built a new restaurant and bar, cafeteria, and nursery in 1978.109

During this transition men with business degrees often replaced outdoorsmen and 10th Mountain Division veterans as ski area owners and managers. Though representative of an elite class of skiers, 10th Mountain veterans looked positively working-class compared to the businessmen who replaced them. This new class of business ski elites constructed ski landscapes correspondingly different from those built by their predecessors. At Steamboat Springs, 10th Mountain Division and Olympic team veteran Gordy Wren managed the Mt. Werner ski area from 1967 to 1970. Already condominiums, lifts, and a new airport studded the landscape. Development really boomed, however, when the Texas firm LTV Aerospace Corp. bought the area in 1970. Wren lost his job. "I

think they were glad to get rid of me, and I was glad to leave," he recalled.11O Able

to invest larger sums than the earlier local corporation, LTV installed a gondola, five double chairs, and three triple chairs within ten years. "From bottom to top it's a 15 minute ride" on the gondola, the LA Times travel editor wrote, "which looks off toward Rocky Mountain peaks all the way to the horizon." Real estate and base area development accompanied new corporate ownership and investment. "Besides the ski rigs," the writer continued, "the Texans built a couple of shopping

plazas, a rash of condominiums and a seven-story hotel which the locals call the 'Dallas Palace'."111

Transformations such as this occurred at, other Colorado resorts in the 1970s as well. Texas oil man Harry Bass bought control of Vail Associates in 1976, a move that led to the ouster of the original developer, Pete Seibert. The

image

109 Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite, 134-138.

110w ren, 1995.

111Jerry Hulse, "The Idea Is to Keep Them Captive After the Snow Melts ... ," Los Angeles Times, 26 October, 1975, clipping, Routt County Collection, Ski Town file, BWML.


220


image

Aspen Skiing Corporation continued to grow in size. In addition to owning Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, and Snowmass ski areas, it bought Breckenridge ski area in 1970. That transaction spurred plans to develop a $52 million "New Town" at the

base of Peak 9 in Breckenridge1. 12 Even the ASC changed hands, narrowly escaping

being bought out by a bowling alley corporation before it finally merged with 20th

Century Fox Films in 1978.113 This kind of conglomerate ownership became a pattern in the 1970s. The giant Ralston Purina Company took over ownership of the Keystone ski area in 1973 and bought Arapahoe Basin five years later. As one area manager put it, "Thirty years ago area managers and presidents were hard core mountain men--they knew the mountains and they knew how to construct things on the mountain." Now CEOs and ski area presidents lead the ski industry, men who "are good businessmen, hard chargers, who can think and talk on their feet and know all aspects of the business from marketing to engineering." (But not,

necessarily, all aspects of the sport.)114 This shift turned the ski industry into

"big business," where financial organization and power grew to match--and extend


--ski areas' increasingly complex position in Colorado's landscape.


Colorado's Ski Areas - The Best the Ski Industry and Nature Have to Offer


After World War Two the ski industry constantly struggled with problems that arose from increasing access to the sport and to mountain landscapes. The result was the growth of a built, designed, groomed, man-made, patrolled, regulated, and developed landscape--a landscape within which skiers were supposed to feel free, empowered, alone, and personally connected to wild, adventuresome mountains. Rather than undercut business, however, these environmental tensions attracted crowds of skiers to areas everywhere. The ski

image

112Hauk, "Breckenridge Chronology," 7. 11 3 Nitze, 1994.

114 Elliott, 1994.


221


image

industry boomed precisely because of the environmental contradictions which it embraced. Colorado's status within the ski industry, furthermore, resulted from the degree to which the region maintained these self-contradictory landscape images.

Ask any skiers and they will testify to Colorado's image as the best skiing region in America, if not the world. "The perception and connotation that Colorado

carries is second to none," one competitor who joined the ski industry argued, "not even to the French or Swiss Alps." 115 Colorado's resorts drew skiers from across

the country. The developer of Stowe, VT complained in 1957 that "a great increase of traffic to the Rockies ... drained off hundreds of customers."116 Some came to

Colorado from even farther away. When asked if Colorado held a special place within the ski industry, one Aspen lodge owner who had skied all over the world replied "there's no question about it --[the Rocky Mountain region is a] very special place, because of the landscape and the snow."117

The very size of Colorado's mountains prompted some to travel across the country. One Austrian who found himself in New York City after the war "looked at a map and saw the Rocky Mountains," promptly bought himself a bus ticket to

Denver, and never looked back.118 While the Rockies ran through other states,


Colorado boasted more and higher peaks. "Colorado has perhaps the greatest immediate potential of the entire chain of mountains," the Director of Winter Park pointed out in 1958. "The Colorado Rockies have the greatest depth east to west, a vast rugged area compounded of many ranges, with mountains of consistently

greater height than any other section."119 Furthermore, he reminded readers,



image

115Elliott, 1994.

116Roland Palmedo, "Too Many Lifts?" Ski (December 1957), 41.

11?paterson, 1994, 9.

11Bpaterson, 1994, 2.

119 Steve Bradley, "Rush to the Winter Rockies," Colorado Adventure/and, 1 (Winter 1958), 12.


222


image

Denver's accessibility from points across the nation encouraged skiers to try its neighboring ski areas. In their size, scope, and accessibility, Colorado's mountains reigned supreme.

Compounding the beauty and breadth of Colorado's high mountains, the region's climate and snow conditions made the state's ski areas even more attractive. Sunny days and dry snow enhanced all skiers' outdoor experience no matter what their skill level. Colorado could offer both regularly, since it shares the southern latitude of Naples, Italy and the dryness of the Rocky Mountain region.

"Aspen has a climate where the snow is dry, the weather is warm and pleasant," one

well-traveled Aspen local argued, "I think it's excep tional."120 Light, dry powder snow--and lots of it--turned skiing into an exquisitely smooth, soft, and quiet dance of which skiers could not get enough. "To eastern visitors," wrote one skier

in 1936, "it is a remarkable phenomenon to be skiing more than knee deep in light

feathery snow."121 Dolores Lachappelle explained it in more cosmic terms. "Skiing, especially powder snow skiing," she wrote, "provides the ultimate experience ... between the members of a human group, the gravity of the earth,

and the snow from the sky."122 The snow's depth and texture in Colorado enhanced

skiers' freedom and connection to the landscape.


Colorado's mountain landscape, sunny climate, and dry snow impressed skiers so much that they compared the region favorably to the very heart of alpine skiing: Europe's Alps. Otto Schneibs called Colorado "America's Switzerland" and drew attention to "the beauty and the possibilities of this great ski country" in his

1939 book, American Skiing.1 23 Colorado Mountain Club members needed no


image

120paterson, 1994, 8.

121Frank M. Ashley, "Colorado Skiing," American Ski Annual (1936-37), 110,

CHS.

122LaChapelle, 4.

123otto Eugen Schniebs, American Skiing (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc.,

1939), 1, 36.


223


image

convincing. A winter outing to Rocky Mountain National Park in 1932 led one

member to write that "the high country around Fern Lake is unbeatable in the dead of winter, and needs to offer no apologies to Austria or Switzerland."124 In quantity as well as quality Colorado stood up to the Alps, boasting 54 peaks over

14,000 feet in altitude compared to Switzerland's seven.125 Being generally higher in altitude, Colorado's snow and sunshine are more dependable than Europe's and its snow conditions better. "In Europe the tree line is a lot lower," explained one Austrian native, "so you get a lot of this high alpine skiing, where it's completely exposed to the wind and the sun We have so much better snow here

[in Colorado] and in Utah--these two places are incomparable."126 Colorado's

landscape passed the ultimate test when well-traveled outdoorspeople and expert skiers ranked it above the Alps in terms of mountain beauty and ideal snow conditions.

The region's status within the ski industry, however, derived not just from its climate and natural landscape. Utah, for instance, had better powder snow.

Since the 1930s that state's ski areas have become legendary for the huge amounts of powder snow that falls on a regular basis there, attracting hordes of self­ proclaimed "powder hounds" who could not get their fill of its intoxicating qualities. What Colorado has that Utah does not is that strange mix of rugged landscape, good snow, and massive ski area development. One 10th Mountain veteran from Maine said that Colorado was his favorite region for skiing because

"in 100 miles from Denver," he said, "you can ski at probably six of the best areas in the world." 127 And you could ski at any number of lesser-known, but still


image

124Karl Arndt, "Skiing at Fern Lake," Trail and Timberline, 161 (March 1932), 32.

125Roland Palmedo, "Crystalline Empire," American Ski Annual (1941-42), 66, CHS.

126Paterson, 1994, 9. See also Roch, 1967.

12?utchfield, 1994, 5.


224


image

high-quality areas. In 1967, for instance, there were 29 ski areas operating in Colorado.128 Yet "despite thousands of new skiers annually who flood the [Colorado] mountains," one booster insisted in 1968, "there are still slopes and

trails where a skier can feel almost alone in the white wilderness, and especially on weekdays." 129 Skiers tended not to notice the conflicts within this argument. Tourists as well as skiers, these people appreciated the accessibility, scenery, and

the amenities that Colorado ski areas offered. "By the convenience of its location, the excellence of its snow, the extensive and varied ski area developments, and the pleasantness of its winter climate," Winter Park's director summarized in 1958,

"Colorado is destined to become a major playground for the skier-vacationist."130

Juxtaposed with its high mountain peaks and 13 million acres of National Forest land, the state's extensive developments placed Colorado ski areas in a rather tense relationship to its wild, rugged mountains.

Colorado ski areas--and their clientele--seemed content with this arrangement. Beyond sustaining these contradictory landscape images, moreover, Colorado ski areas marketed them vigorously, pointing out Colorado's wilderness and scenery in the same breath that they applauded its restaurants and luxury hotels. The state's ski areas even organized their own promotional group. "Colorado Ski Country USA" sprouted from the Rocky Mountain Ski Area Operators' Association in 1963. Membership extended to all ski areas in the state who cared to join, led by a board of directors and a paid executive. As a promotional organization, Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) got permission to use state funds allocated for advertising skiing and set its object as "a mutual effort to promote,


image

128 Colorado Guestguide, 12 (Winter/Spring 1968), 50. For slightly different statistics for the season before, see Roy Pace, "Colorado is 'Ski Country, U.S.A.,"' Durango-Cortez Herald, 27 November, 1966, 3.

1 29Cal Queal, "Colorado Skiing 1968," Empire, November, 1968, clipping, Skiing 1968 file, AHS.

130Bradley, 12.


225


image

advertise, and sell skiing, lodging, transportation et al in this area to the

world." 131 As CSCUSA's first executive director, Steve Knowlton advertised Colorado skiing at ski shows across the country and through local promotions, developed the Ski Country Map of Colorado areas, and hired Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer to create a distinctive logo to put on brochures, posters, and trail maps. "Everything I did," he recalled, "was to get more people to ski."132

In its efforts to bring skiers from Europe and the eastern U.S. to Colorado, CSCUSA embraced the environmental contradictions that made the region's skiing distinct and embellished them with "western" images. "There's gold in them thar hills," one promotional article began, "and the rush is onI Sheep pastures sprout overnight into shining alpine villages. Mining towns resurrect sights and sounds of

their past. Networks of steel strung on mountainsides bridge peak upon peak," and

"the anxious jet to the foothills to carve into a natural resource." 133 Confronting readers with a cacophony of images, this passage celebrated the growth of "shining" resort villages out of lowly pastures, the re-creation of industrial activity in isolated towns, and the construction of steel nets atop the Rockies, finally encouraging readers anxious for a vacation to "jet" there and use this "natural" resource. These images embodied the tensions between ruggedness and development under which Colorado's ski industry operated.

That these images continued to attract skiers to the state earned Colorado's ski industry the backing of its government. Thoroughly supportive of the ski industry and the tourist expenditures associated with it, state politicians allocated annual funds to advertise Colorado skiing. Governors and Senators appeared at grand opening ceremonies such as those for Aspen's and Steamboat Springs'

image

131Steve Knowlton, "Proposal by Rocky Mountain Ski Area Operators' Association­

-Ski Country USA," letter to Darcy Brown, 14 March, 1963, Aspen Skiing Collection, AHS.

132Knowlton, 1995, 6.

133Co/orado Guestguide, 50.


226



image

chairlifts, demonstrating personal as well as political support of the industry's growth. When two Denver oil men proposed a $2 million ski area development at

Grand Lake, Congressmen Gordon Allot, John Carroll, and Wayne Aspinall all voiced their support for the project and the tourist dollars it would draw to the area.134

Similar sentiments from state politicians and the ski industry prompted special


committees to put forth bids--albeit unsuccessful, and, in the 1970s, very much contested--to host the Winter Olympics in 1960 and again in 1976.135 Even

without the Olympics, Colorado's ski industry represented a significant part of Colorado's economy. "Largely due to the development of a viable ski industry," one reporter noted in 1968, "the Colorado money tree is ever green, bearing fruit on a year round basis. In the winter the money pours, into the state's economy," he explained, "and during the summer a great portion of the profits are plowed back into the slopes to make them even more attractive to the spenders the next

year."1 36 Colorado's businesses and workers thus benefited from the $20 million


ski areas spent on improvements and base area developments in the summer of 1968 as well as from skiers' expenditures during the season, Out-of-state skiers spent significant amounts of money in Colorado, from an estimated $3 million in

1955-56 to $41 million in 1966-67.137 As Colorado's ski industry established


its own niche in the state's economy, many politicians and members of the ski industry understood the region's snow and mountain landscape as ever-present natural resources, available for sale to any paying skier-tourist.


image

134oenver Post, 6 August, 1961, clipping, GLHS.

135Knowlton, 1995; 1960 Olympic Bid newspaper clippings, Skiing 1950-55

file, AHS; Mark S. Foster, "Denver 76," Colorado Magazine, LIii, 2 (1976), 163- 186, CHS; Organizing Committee for the XII Olympic Winter Games, Denver 1976, "Denver 76 Official Bulletin," 1 (Spring 1972), AUCL; "Olympic Bubble," Colorful Colorado (January/February 1971), 43-48.

136Morton L. Margolin, "Colorado Ski Money Tree is Ever Green," Rocky Mountain News "Ski Colorado" supplement, 1O November, 1968, 13.

137Allen, "Colorado Ski and Winter Recreation Statistics," 35.


227

image

Vail and Snowmass - Culminations of Construction


Colorado's Rocky Mountain landscape set the state's ski areas apart from those in other regions because of its ruggedness and its degree of development. Maintaining these contradictory images had become, by the 1970s, a multi-million dollar industry. Ski areas were so successful in crafting a built environment in which skiers could enjoy themselves that they altered skiers' expectations of that environment. By the 1960s many skiers never knew or expected anything

different from the constructed landscapes Colorado's ski industry offered them. Skiers came to demand the contradictory relationships to the landscape that ski area development had created. Far from experiencing the outdoors in all its potential ugliness and danger, skiers sought out a mediated landscape of lifts, lodges, groomed slopes, and ski patrols. "You might say that skiers from the rugged days," one veteran of the industry put it, "are getting fewer and farther

between." 138 The ski industry became increasingly dependent upon technological

advances as skiers demanded more man-made snow in times of drought, faster lifts, longer runs, and carpet-like groomed slopes. Lawsuits increased in the 1970s as skiers transferred the responsibility of their safety from themselves to the ski patrol and ski areas in general. As skiers demonstrated different expectations of the ski area landscape, they forced those areas to invest increasing amounts of money in the built environment from which skiers enjoyed the "wilderness." Restaurants, hotels, bars, and retail shops in base areas and ski towns completed the skier-tourists' vacation experience and thoroughly encapsulate them in a planned landscape. As Vail's owner put it in 1989, "we're not selling just skiing anymore, we're selling entertainmentl We're selling an entire entertainment experience." 139

image

13Bpaterson, 1994, 9.

139George Gillett in William Oscar Johnson, "A Vision Fulfilled," Sports 1/Justrated, 70, 4 (30 January 1989), 82.


228


image

Vail and Snowmass, which opened in 1962 and 1967 respectively, represent the earliest culminations in mediated, planned, and constructed ski resorts. While ski resort planners have long known that they must have hotel

accommodations and adequate ski lifts to attract any customers, planners at Vail and Snowmass took the job a few steps farther.140 Unlike local ski areas or areas

within a two hour drive from Denver, Vail and Snowmass developed as "destination resorts," aimed at attracting customers for a week or more at a time. They shared characteristics that helped put them on the forefront of Colorado's--and the United States'--ski industry. Most importantly, they each seemed to grow, fully formed, from places that had previously only entertained summer livestock. At the

junction of Gore Creek and Mill Creek along U.S. Highway 6, and up Aspen's Brush Creek, Vail and Snowmass took shape specifically to meet the needs and wants of America's skier-tourists.

Developers bought up the ranch land below the National Forest and, once they had acquired the necessary Forest Service permits, built the base areas along with the ski areas. Vail quickly achieved what Snowmass developers planned from the start: an entire ski resort community. During Vail's first season, for instance, three hotels and four restaurants complemented the mountain's gondola, two chair lifts, lodge, and mid-Vail restaurant. By 1966 the Town of Vail had incorporated, real estate sales were booming, and the base area had been transformed into the now-famous Vail Village. Swathed in European references, "every building is built with an eye to an entire architectural concept," one observer noticed. "Shops, apartments, lodges and homes all adhere to a plan to give the effect of a casual but

unified village. Even the gondola house," he added, "conforms to the styling."141

This writer went on to rave about Vail's vast bowl skiing, its great hotels, and its


image

140For an early discussion of resort planning, see Franziska Porges, "On Planning Ski Resorts," American Ski Annual (1946-47), 131-134, CHS.

141Alex Katz, "Skiing," Colorful Colorado, 1, 3 (Winter 1966), 67.


229

European restaurants--a tough combination to beat. Snowmass developers tried. After quietly accumulating 3,400 acres of local ranch land, developer Bill Janss signed a contract with the Aspen Skiing Corporation under which the ASC would operate the ski area and he would develop the base area. Janss hired architect Fritz Benedict to design a resort made up of separate villages, each to be "a balanced community of homes, shops, restaurants, lodges, swimming pools, tennis courts, stables and ice rinks" built with architectural harmony in mind, to accompany a

huge ski mountain with an extensive lift system.142 "The efficiency with which

the area was studied, planned, developed, and sold," one reporter exclaimed, "was without precedent."143

The degree to which these areas were p'lanned testifies to skier-tourists' rising expectations of resort landscapes--and the degree of construction they are capable of integrating into the "natural" experience of skiing. The town of Vail, for instance, lies in a narrow valley along Interstate 70. Skiers driving there park their cars in an underground garage and walk through a covered pedestrian bridge, straight into what looks like a Bavarian village from Disneyland. Hordes of pedestrians carrying their skis clutter the narrow streets, congregating around the outdoor restaurants that lie between expensive retail shops and creating an air of alpine festivity. After a wait in line to buy tickets and another to get on the high­ speed lift, skiers find themselves airborne, looking down upon people zigzagging down a maze of trails or hanging out at the mid-mountain lodge. Finally at the top of the mountain (after another ride), lift buildings, snowcat tracks, ski patrol huts, another lodge, and a dizzying array of signs greet them, pointing them down different trails on which they can enjoy the Rocky Mountains. That the ski

image

142"Snowmass-at-Aspen--exciting new Shangri-la of skiing," Denver Post, 12 November, 1967, 19, clipping, Snowmass file, AHS.

143"AII you add is people ... ," clipping, n.d., Snowmass file, AHS. See also Anne Gilbert, "Re-Creation Through Recreation: Aspen Skiing from 1870-1970," manuscript, 1995, 90-92, AHS, for a more complete history of Snowmass.


230


image

industry has altered this landscape is clear. It has also thoroughly mediated skiers' relationship to the mountains. In its effort to make the Rockies accessible to America's middle class, the ski industry created ski area landscapes that are built, groomed, designed, patrolled, regulated, marketed, and highly financed.

Ski area developers have constructed landscapes they hoped would elicit awe-inspired silence and whoops of joy, as well as sighs of relaxation and comfort.

Skiers proved the industry's success by traveling to and throughout Colorado and spending their money--especially at big destination resorts like Vail.144 Every

landscape, geographers Donald Meinig and Pierce Lewis remind us, "is at once a

panorama, a composition, a palimpsest, a microcosm," both an accumulation and a code through which we can decipher cultural and social meaning.145 Vail's ski resort landscape both reflected important changes in the understanding of skiing


landscapes, and encouraged its visitors to perceive skiing in a certain way. As a carefully crafted resort, Vail represents a landscape of leisure--one built expressly for large numbers of skiers, both middle- and upper-class, and one

built entirely self-consciously. The post-war context in which skiers came to Vail further emphasized leisure and consumption. Far from the local community skiers that characterized the sport in the 1930s, these skier-tourists came from all over to a place in Colorado that represented some of the best skiing and vacationing that American's ski industry had to offer.

Skiers thus understood the experience of skiing as more than a physical and psychological feeling; it had become part of a vacation, only one aspect to a trip that included shopping, dining, and socializing. As such, skiers expected that landscape to be constructed for their enjoyment. Their experience of the sport and their


image

14 41n 1994 Vail ranked first in both Ski and Skiing magazines' lists of the best ski resorts.

145D.W. Meinig, editor, The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).


231


image

relationship to the landscape thus took on new meanings. Previously the domain of Colorado ski club members ranging from elite Arlbergers to the local working- and middle-class skiers of ski clubs in mountain towns across the state, after the war Colorado's ski areas welcomed skiers from everywhere. Skiing thus became not an act that defined one's place of residence or one's class, but an act of popular leisure. Upper-class and local Colorado skiers had to put up with "bashers" and "bunnies" skiing and falling around them. Women skiers, moving through a "female" landscape and experiencing a kind of freedom in the process, could do so without threatening gender norms because they did so within the context of leisure and consumption. The resort landscape that offered them exhilaration on the mountain also placed them in the female landscape of the village or base area, where bars, restaurants, and shops encouraged women to re-establish any femininity they may have lost on the slopes. Male skiers similarly experienced skiing differently after World War Two. In a landscape crafted for enjoyment and patrolled for safey, skiing lost much of its risk and its powers to masculinize. When Tenth Mountain division veterans relinquished their places at the top of Colorado ski areas to new, corporate leaders with more business savvy but less knowledge of the mountains and skiing, the sport moved even farther away from its "manly" roots. Ski area advertizers continued to sell manliness, but one closer to the sexy, European variety than to that of nineteenth-century mail carriers or twentieth-century mountain troops.

In its growth from a local community sport to an industry focused on leisure and consumption, participants in the Colorado ski industry transformed mountain landscapes and offered a new experience to skiers. Beyond altering the meaning of the experience, these new ski area landscapes also fundamentally changed the towns in which they grew. After World War Two, Colorado's destination ski resorts were inextricably entwined with their own consumer-


232


image

oriented tourist culture. Skiing took on new meanings not only for skiers, then, but for Colorado mountain town residents who welcomed these skiers, as well.


233



image

CHAPTER FIVE


Skier-Tourist-Consumers Meet Colorado's Resort Towns


"Plymouth's on the move," Chrysler Motors Corporation announced boldly in 1962, "with a skier's lust for acceleration" (Figure 1). Making an imaginative leap comfortable for Ski magazine's audience, Chrysler's advertisement equated skiing with sex, and both with its new car. "Maybe there's no thrill like a 'schuss,"' it continued, "but Plymouth 63--the new Plymouth--comes as close as anything on wheelsl" Speed, lust, and the thrill of acceleration--on the slopes and on the road--described a masculine power that both Chrysler and the ski industry hoped consumers would pay to experience. With this car, the ad implied through its photo of a smiling blond leaning out the passenger side window, you could get the girl and "schuss." But, the text reminded, "you have to own one to catch onel" Making a three-way link among fast cars, fast skiing, and fast women, Chrysler thus encouraged skiers to associate buying cars and "lusting" with their favorite sport.

Nor was Chrysler alone in connecting its products to the growing ski industry. Consumer goods abounded in the early 1960s, simultaneously boosting and refining the sport. "It was a time when everything was falling Into place in the ski world," 10th Mountain veteran Ben Duke recalled of 1962. Duke remembered Head skis, Bogner stretch pants, buckle boots, release bindings, and airline promotion of winter travel as all part of Vail's opening day that year. These consumer goods appealed to a wide range of skiers. Vail and the ski industry set out to remake traditional associations between skiing and masculinity, often in ways that made manliness more woman-friendly. Consumer culture and western

image



Ski, 27 (December 1962), 11.


Figure 1. Chrysler Motors Corporation advertisement, 1962


235


image

landscapes met in places like Vail, Aspen, and Steamboat Springs. Purchasing products like new skis, sexy cars, or vacation packages, after all, encouraged people to converge upon these destination resorts. In the process, they re-shaped the sport of skiing at the same time that they altered the landscape of mountain towns. Skiing merged post-war leisure practices and a powerful consumer culture through advertisements like Chrysler's, for example. Skiers--even 10th Mountain Division types--transformed themselves into consumer/tourists. Ski areas, once the province of local club skiers from their own towns and Denver, developed into destination resorts attracting skier-tourists from across the country. This is different aspect of the landscape reshaping already discussed. The post-war transformation of ski area landscapes and business organizations accompanied a transformation in the ways consumers, business people, and mountain town residents understood skiing.


The Skier-Tourist-Consumer is Born


The industry and its resort culture took shape alongside skiing's growing popularity in post-war America. As more and more Americans tried it, bought equipment, and traveled to ski areas, the sport itself was transformed. By the end of the 1970s skiing had become a re-gendered, Americanized, and commercialized version of its past self. Skiers took on hybrid identities--skier, tourist, vacationer, and consumer. To them, Vail's high-powered lifts snuggled in Colorado's Rockies made perfect sense. To them, a Plymouth advertisement spoke volumes about suave athleticism, exciting resort landscapes, leisure, and purchasing power.

From the 1950s through the 1970s skiing changed most dramatically in its volume. Skier visits from the 1956-57 season to the 1965-66 season, for instance, jumped from 33,000 to almost 90,000 at Arapahoe Basin; from 83,000


236

to 143,000 at Aspen Mountain; and from 70,000 to 213,000 at Winter Park.

Vail entertained only 31O skier-visits during its first season in 1962-63, but had reached 189,000 by 1966.1 State totals for skier-visits rose equally dramatically through the 1960s, increasing anywhere from 8.7% to 37.6 % each

year between 1963-64 and 1974-75, leaping from 801,000 in 1963-64 to over 5,194,000 eleven years later.2

These numbers tell a story of dramatic and sustained growth in Colorado skiing and hint at a similar national trend. These statistics leave unsaid, however, exactly who made all those new skier-visits every year. Qualitative change accompanied quantitative in America's post-war skiing world. Many of the people who took up skiing in the 1960s had never thought of doing so before. Skiers from unexpected places climbed on busses en masse to vacation with friends old and new. One ski author noted with awe, for instance, that by 1967 every city in Texas had a

ski club and some had two or three. "There are now," he wrote, "between 15,000 and 20,000 active skiers in the unspeakably unskiable state of TexasI"3

Previously associated with wealth, education, and cosmopolitan life styles, the sport began to attract middle-class Americans during the 1960s. Aspen ski instructor Fred lselin remembered in 1968 that "in the 1940s people came to Sun Valley like they would go to Kenya on safari--it was new, challenging, an

adventure....its better now," he explained, "because [skiing's] for the masses and then it was only for the people who were wealthy." 4 One businessman in Jackson

Hole, Wyoming bet his future on skiing's wider appeal when he opened The Hostel, a


image

1J. B. Kline, "Western Mountain Region Study," Business Research Division, Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Colorado, 1967, 32. One skier-visit consists of one skier spending one day at any given area.

2Page Dabney, "An Impact Study--The Colorado Ski Industry: A Study of the

Influence of the Industry Upon the Economies of Selected Mountain Counties and Communities," Colorado Ski Country USA, 1974, updated 1976, 17, BRL.

3Morten Lund, "The Texans Are Comingl" Ski, 32, 5 (December 1967), 90.

4Cal Queal, "Skiing's Still Fun For Fred," Empire Magazine, November, 1968, clipping, Fred lselin biography file, AHS.


237

image


no-frills hotel that offered rooms that slept four for $1O a night. "Some of our

customers really have to watch their budgets," he explained.5 The statisticians concurred: one study done during the 1967-68 season counted 14% of skiers at Colorado areas earning annual incomes between $7,500 and $9,999 and a quarter of them earning between $10,000 and $14,999. Another study from the same season reported 22% of all skiers in Colorado lived on an annual family income of

less than $7,500. 6 Wealthier skiers still hit the slopes as well, as 23% fell in

the $15,000-24,000 bracket and 21% in the $25,000 and over group.7 Supporting the statisticians with their own observations of the broadening ski area clientele, ski instructors described people showing up for their classes as "middle aged, not overly sophisticated, and, from an appearance point of view, not especially well-to-do." As one Seattle instructor put it, his class looked like the

Wednesday night bowling league.8

image

This shift towards a less exclusive market took on dimensions beyond those of class; it encompassed women and new constructions of gender, as well. After World War Two the gendered implications of skiing changed. During the 1940s,

5AI Greenberg, "Lodging on a Shoestring," Ski Area News (Spring 1969), 45, 61. 6Gerald L. Allen, "Colorado Ski and Winter Recreation Statistics, 1969," Business Research Division, Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Colorado, 1969, 4. Many of those skiers earning little family income were probably students, who tended to drive from Denver and surrounding areas to ski for a day or for the weekend. This economic division reflected earlier trends established in the 1920s and 1930s, when working-class people skied if they lived in the mountains.

7Henry Alfred Sciullo, "An Analysis of Skiers to Colorado" (Ph. D. diss., University

of Missouri, 1971), 56. During the 1971-72 season, even Aspen skiers represented a broad range of socio-economic groups. More of them came from households with annual incomes between $10-15,000 than from those earning over $50,000. The $10-15,000 group represented 16.9% of skiers surveyed, second in number only to those earning between $35-50,000, which made up 20.2%. C. R. Goeldner, "The Aspen Skier: Lift Survey," Business Research Division, Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1974, 20. In each study, those in the lower income brackets mainly represented skiers who lived in Colorado, while most of the wealthier ones had traveled to Colorado from out of state.

8John Henry Auran, "New Realities for the Ski Retailer," Skiing Trade News, 9 (Spring 1972), 248.


238


image

rugged outdoorsiness still characterized the quintessential skier. Access to the Rockies and the ability to speed down their "treacherous" slopes remained firmly associated with masculine power, despite women's involvement in the sport. This association grew especially intense during World War Two when the 10th Mountain Division's formation as an elite fighting force became national news. Their victories in Italy turned them all into heroic, larger-than-life figures whose public identities centered upon the mountains. Tenth Mountain Division veterans became preeminent skiers in America's imagination, and their involvement in

post-war ski areas only reinforced that fact. As veteran Ben Duke recalled, "back in the [early] 1960s skiing was a very macho sport."9 This gendered skiing ideal

translated directly to the landscape. "In an era when skiing still retained a lingering aura of danger," Duke explained, "a 'good trail' was a steep trail."10

During the 1960s, however, skiing--and ski areas--took on a more complicated shape. Skier surveys from 1957 to 1977 record the proportion of

women skiing in Colorado as a fairly constant 35%; anecdotal evidence indicates that in the years before 1957 a significant minority of women skied, as well.11

Although women ski instructors had also appeare.d on the slopes since the 1930s, their numbers were relatively small. The regendering of skiing, then, relied less

image

9Ben Duke, in Beth and George Gage, Fire on the Mountain (Gage and Gage Productions: Telluride CO, 1995).

10H. Benjamin Duke, Jr., "Skiing Soldiers to Skiing Entrepreneurs: Development

of the Western Ski Industry," paper given at the Western Historical Association Annual Meeting, 2 August, 1989, 13.

11During the 1956-57 season 65% of skiers surveyed in Colorado and New Mexico

were male (28% said they were female; 7% did not respond). In 1968 Colorado skiers split 65% to 35% male/female in two different studies; Aspen skiers in 1971-72 were 66%/34% male/female, and two years later they were 63%/37%. By 1977-78 Aspen skiers were closer to even with a 59/41% balance, but when combined with four other Colorado area skiers the balance turned out to be 65/35% once again. See L. J. Crampon and Ronald D. Lemon, "Skiing in the Southern Rocky Mountain Region," Bureau of Business Research, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1957, 4; Sciullo, 60; Allen, 6; Goeldner, 1974, 20; C. R. Goeldner, "The Colorado Skier: 1977-78 Season," Business Research Division, Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Colorado at Boulder, 1978, 8, 33.


239


image

on an increasing number of women skiing and more on the widespread redefinition of the sport. One sign of this redelinition--and of a 1950s culture that defined women largely in their relationships to men--was that women instructors earned their positions by virtue of their marital status as much as their technical skill on the slopes. Unlike the female instructors before the war, women in the 1950s and alter did not have to demonstrate their skiing ability on the international racing circuit in order to get an instructor's job. Quite a few, rather, were married to male instructors.12

Skiers in the 1950s also reflected middle-class American culture in their concern with the consumption of fashion. Designer Willy Bogner kicked off the growth of the "fashion factor" in skiing with his introduction of stretch pants in 1955. Women helped redefine skiing alter that because they literally showed up better on the slopes. "What before had been a sea of navy, tan, and black," one ski

historian noted, "suddenly became a pallet of every conceivable color."13 Upper­

class women reaffirmed traditional roles as fashionable socialites at the same time they emphasized their presence on the slopes, by working hard to properly outfit themselves for skiing. In the process they gained power within the ski industry as consumers. And some, like ex-Olympic racer and ski instructor Elli Stiller lselin, opened retail businesses of their own.

Nor was their economic power limited to buying clothes. Women bought lilt tickets as well, and ski areas came to recognize that fact. One area in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, for instance, tried to improve its mid-week crowds by promoting Tuesday as Ladies' Day, Wednesday as Men's Day, and Friday

image

12Thelma Sabbatini, for instance, came to Aspen with her Italian Olympic team member husband, who joined the ski school under Friedl Pfeifer. "I started instructing in 1954 or 1955," she said, "in the meantime I was a housewife." Thelma Sabbatini, interview by Ruth Whyte, 12 August, 1986, Aspen, Colorado, AHS. Friedl Pleiler's second wile Bunny similarly taught some classes in Aspen's ski school. Pfeifer and Lund, 167-69.

13Auran, 51.


240


image

as College Day. The area's mid-week business shot up 60% from the year before and Ladies' Day proved to be the most successful magnet. Local housewives gathered to buy discounted lift tickets, take lessons from ski school instructors--half of whom were women--and participate in workshops including exercise classes and lectures on cosmetics. Their behavior, however, was not a simple reaffirmation of acceptable female gender norms. Slenderizing classes and advice on how to apply make up for skiing reinforced these women's femininity at the same time they experienced the more gender-ambivalent freedom and independence of skiing without their husbands. Initiated by the area's female hill director and ski school

head, the program earned national publicity when the Skiing Area News published an article touting it in 1970.14 Women's visibility thus improved both physically

and economically during the 1960s--and their participation shaped the ski industry itself as well as the sport.

Skiing became re-gendered, too, when groups of people disempowered by physical disabilities--and so in a sense feminized--found power and mobility through skiing. Skiing had been a masculinizing activity in different ways since the nineteenth century. Its cultural function transformed within the context of physically disabled skiers. Unable to perform the physical act of skiing in the same way as most, disabled skiers re-defined the sport's gendered significance. Until the 1960s skiing for disabled people was available only to those with uncommon individual drive, creativity, and resources. Dr. Ernst Fischer, blinded in 1951 from a World War Two injury, took it upon himself to ski again. He called


image

14Rose Marie Cleese, "Building the Middle Week Throng," Skiing Area News, 15 (Summer 1970), 23. Purgatory ski area started a similar program during its first season in 1966; its Wednesday Ladies Club attracted beginners from Durango, Farmington, and other nearby towns. Mothers took turns baby-sitting for one another in the lodge and taking runs down the mountain. The club became a permanent fixture in Purgatory's traditions, hosting parties and even blessing the ski racks annually. Charlie Langdon, Durango Ski: People and Seasons at Purgatory (Durango CO: Purgatory Press, 1989), 47.


241


image

an old ski companion and they headed for the Alps to practice. Before long he and his "Skiing Eye " Grell grew quite comfortable using voice commands to ski up and down the Alps together. "Words fail me," Fischer wrote in 1953, "to describe the

feeling of triumph I experienced.1" 5 He proceeded to gather seven other blind war

veterans so they could feel this triumph, too. While practical and optimistic in his discussion of blind skiers, Fischer also hinted at the gender and power implications of their endeavor. Disempowered by their loss of vision, blind skiers had to re­ learn the sport and trust those around them for help. "A suitable companion, or Skiing Eye," Fischer emphasized, "is indispensable." Moreover, he wrote "women are to be preferred, as their motherly instinct and greater patience make them

ideal companions."16 Likening women skiers to kind matrons and blind war

veterans to children, and then empowering them both, Fischer redefined traditional gender categories and power relationships when he celebrated the degree of autonomy women could give veterans on the ski slope.

Physically disabled people of all ages and sexes found access to the sport during the 1960s and 1970s. These new skiers, and their understanding of the sport, broadened the scope of skiing and empowered themselves. War veteran amputees, like the blind, had to cope with the sudden loss of their physical power and freedom of movement. Disabled veterans and the people who worked with them sought rehabilitative help through skiing. Tenth Mountain veteran Jim Withers started a group of his wounded war buddies skiing again at Donner, California in 1953. After the Korean War informal programs had started up in California, Colorado, Oregon, and the Northeast.17 By the 1960s, when disabled vets starting returning from Vietnam, programs popped up across the country. In 1967 the


image

15Dr. Ernst Fischer, '"I Ski, Though Blind'," Ski (January 1954), 17, 24. 16Fischer, 26.

17Cindy Walker, '"If I Can Do This, I Can Do Anything'," Ski (November 1975), 11 7.


242


image

National Amputee Ski Association formed in California. Originally started to help Vietnam veterans, the organization enlarged its scope when it changed its name to the National Inconvenienced Sportsmen's Association (NISA). Adopting the motto "If I can do this, I can do anything," NISA organizers understood skiing as an enjoyable recreational activity that was rehabilitative in nature. Colorado skiers and vets also reached this conclusion. Larry Jump started the state's first amputee ski program at Arapahoe Basin in 1968 through a joint venture between Children's

Hospital in Denver and Fitzsimmons Army Hospital.18 Though the veterans moved

to Loveland, and Winter Park took over the amputee program in 1970, both continued to grow. So did other programs across the country. In the early 1970s regional ski associations for disabled and amputee skiers formed and sent teams to the National Championships; in 1974 the U.S. and NISA sent a team of fourteen men and three women to compete against eleven other national teams in the World Handicapped Ski Championships.

The success and popularity of skiing among disabled Americans testified to the sport's physical and psychological rehabilitative powers. "What's really beautiful for us," one woman amputee racer and instructor said, "is the feeling of complete control, the feeling of speed and motion for the first time. It's a thrill

that's possible for the amputee," she said, "only in skiing."19 Disabled veterans,

children, men and women thus discovered a rare freedom and power through the sport of skiing. For disabled war veterans that freedom and power helped restore their masculinity; for women it relieved both physical and societal limits on their mobility--without, however, turning them into men. Disabled skiers' presence and visibility on the slopes both caused and reflected a broader move away from the


image

18Grand County Historical Association volunteers, Winter Park: Colorado's Favorite for Fifty Years, 1940-1990 (Winter Park Recreation Association, 1989), 153. See also Langdon, 56-58.

19Walker, 117.


243


image

elite masculine skiing ideal represented by the Tenth Mountain Division and towards a more inclusive one.

Ski area designers and managers encouraged skiing's inclusiveness by shaping ski area landscapes accordingly. After World War Two, ski area managers and designers consciously built trails to welcome skiers with a wide range of abilities and different degrees of daring. They no longer assumed their skiing subject was male and bent on taking big physical risks. Winter Park's Steve Bradley published an article entitled "What's the Ideal Ski Hill?" in 1967. In opposition to the "historic and pioneering days," when "the general trend was toward the big mountain with steep, narrow, expert slopes," Bradley argued that beginner and intermediate skiers now deserved more attention. Well-groomed easy

and intermediate slopes, he said, balanced with a few expert trails, characterized

the ideal ski area of the 1960s.20 Other ski area managers had been discovering this on their own. Vail opened in 1962 with skiing terrain consciously designed for skiers of all levels, and other Colorado areas followed suit. Improved amenities

such as base area restaurants and shops and mid-mountain facilities offered a more feminine landscape to accompany the masculine-gendered mountain. These skiing landscapes filled out the picture of ski area development epitomized by the big new resorts of Vail and Snowmass and made the sport more accessible, comfortable, and appealing to skiers ranging widely in their skill-levels and gender identities.

At the same time that skiers redefined the sport's class and gender categories, they also re-created it as distinctly American. After World War Two and through the 1960s Americans began to understand skiing less as a European import and more as their own. This process was due in part to the sport's inclusion of American middle-class skiers who had little to do with European resort culture,


image

20Stephen Bradley, "What's the Ideal Ski Hill?" Skiing Area News, 2 (April 1967), 36-38.


244


image

but owed more to members of the 10th Mountain Division and American racers and ski instructors. The Americanization of skiing began most visibly with the publicity surrounding Camp Hale and the 10th Mountain Division. Lt. John Jay, member of the 87th Regiment and a ski film maker by trade, became the mountain troop's public relations director in 1942. He set up radio broadcasts from Camp Hale, wrote press releases to newspapers and magazines, and made a movie called

Ski Patrol from footage he shot at Camp Hale.21 Designed to fill the ranks of the

10th Mountain Division with volunteers, his film footage and magazine articles instilled national pride in America's skiing mountain troops. Tenth Mountain Division soldiers on skis, featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (March 23, 1943), became imprinted upon the popular imagination.

Furthermore, that such renowned European skiers as Friedl Pfeifer, Walter Prager, Luggi Foeger, Florian Haemmerle, and Toni Matt had signed up for the 10th seemed to mean that American skiing was on the rise, worthy of even European experts' endorsement and participation. When the American public pinned their military hopes on these elite troops, furthermore, they linked skiing with ardent war-time nationalism. The Tenth lived up to their end of the bargain. America's skiers and outdoorsmen laid low soldiers from Germany, Austria, and Italy-­ countries credited with skiing's very genesis, thereby establishing America's military and symbolic dominance of the mountains.

What the mountain troops accomplished in war, American skiers hoped to repeat afterwards on the race course. Challenging the European dominance of international skiing competition proved extremely difficult but possible, perhaps for the first time since Dick Durrance challenged it in the 1930s. More Americans, it seemed, were learning how to ski fast. "By the war's beginning," as one reporter put it, "U.S. skiers felt they were approaching European

image

21"John Jay: I Am A Camera," Skiing Heritage, 7 (Fall 1995), 7.


245

image

standards." 22 Their first big chance to prove this came in 1948. As the first post-war Winter Olympic Games, this competition was an important international event in which Americans could invest their patriotism and nationalism. Thirty men and women skiers represented the United States at the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland; a few would make names for themselves. Colorado's Barney McLean won the pre-Olympic downhill and combined races against a strong field of European skiers. Gordon Wren from Steamboat Springs became the first (and only) skier to make both the alpine and nordic American Olympic teams. Wren's

Olympic jump was the competition's second longest; the judges, however, scoring his form against the European style, dropped him to fifth place.23 But the U.S.

women racers shone more brightly in the Olympics than the men, whose team included some of the famed 10th Mountain veterans. The men's alpine team suffered after having applied the wrong wax to their skis before the race--a mistake that their skill could not overcome. American Gretchen Fraser had no such trouble. She sped past European women to win a silver medal in the Alpine Combined competition, and followed that performance up with a gold in the slalom. Hers were the first Olympic medals ever won by an American skier.

American women also placed better than men at the 1950 FIS Championship races held in Aspen, Colorado. Colorado's own Katy Rudolph was the top U.S. finisher in downhill and giant slalom placing fifth and eight respectively, and Vermont's Andrea Mead took sixth in the slalom. The men's highest placings were

18th in downhill, 27th in giant slalom, and 4th in the slalom.24 Andrea Mead


image

22Jane True, "FIS Spells 'A Word on Skis' at Aspen," Rocky Mountain Empire Magazine, 8 January, 1950, 3, CUA.

23Jane True, "Colorado Skiers at St. Moritz," Rocky Mountain Life (March 1948), 13-16.

24The top American men finishers were Jim Griffith and Jack Reddish, who placed 27th in the giant slalom and 4th in the slalom, respectively. "FIS World Championship Results--Alpine Events," Ski, 15 March, 1950, 8; Nicholas Howe, "Goodby, Katy and Thank You," Skiing Heritage, 7 (Winter 1995), 42-44.


246


image

Lawrence continued the American women's Olympic spree in 1952 by bringing two gold medals home; Ruldolph took fifth in giant slalom; and both enjoyed national publicity upon returning home. In the ski world of the late 1950s and early

1960s Toni Sailer, Stein Erikson, and Buddy Werner became household names as racers who won international meets. And, as one chronicler put it, "the trials and tribulations of American racers--Tom Corcoran, Penny Pitou, Ralph Miller, Betsy Snite, Brookie Dodge and Sally Deaver--were widely covered as they made their

lonely assaults on the great racing trails of Europe."25

Skiing became even more tightly linked to American national identity through the charismatic racer Buddy Werner. Steamboat Springs' Werner became an American folk hero, winning international races all over Europe and becoming the only American to will the Holmenkollen in Norway--twice. Werner represented national prowess in a Cold War era when Americans sought such an American hero. "As the most exciting personality in skiing today," Ski magazine

published in 1960, "he has become a symbol to young and old."26 Americans

cheered and cried as Werner alternately won more important races than any other American and reached for Olympic medals that thrice eluded him. He died in an avalanche in 1964 while skiing for a Willy Bogner film, an event that forever identified him with skiing and characterized him as an American martyr.

Though the most heart-wrenching, his was not the only story to capture Americans' imaginations. His sister Skeeter Werner made a name for herself as an international competitor, too, before returning to Steamboat Springs and heading the ski school there. And at long last, under coach Bob Beattie, two American men won Olympic medals. Billy Kidd and Jimmie Huega won silver and bronze medals,


image

25Auran, 52.

26"196 0 Olympic Issue," Ski , as cited in John Rolfe Burroughs, "/ Never Look Back": The Story of Buddy Werner (Boulder CO: Johnson Publishing Company, 1967), 136.


247


image

respectively, in the 1964 Olympic slalom. With their victories (more so than


with those of Gretchen Fraser and Andrea Mead Lawrence}, Americans claimed some ownership over the competitive sport of skiing. These American athletes also became role models for skiers all over the country who were just taking up the sport.

A different kind of competition over skiing had begun four years earlier-­ one which emphasized American skiers' authority outside of the race course--and it centered around the way in which these new skiers would learn the sport. As well as producing the world's top racers, Europe sent talented ski instructors to the United States--often they were one and the same people. Stein Erikson, Fred lselin, and Pepi Stiegler, for instance, all made their names as international competitors before directing ski schools in the United States. Resort owners snapped them up, banking on their reputations as teachers and technically expert skiers and giving them the freedom to hire anyone they deemed qualified to teach skiing. In an effort to regulate this growing business, a group of instructors-­ ironically led by a former Swiss racer and instructor--founded the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) in 1960. They developed an "American Method"

of skiing and implemented it at member areas throughout the country.27 The PSIA

was ostensibly aimed at ensuring skiers a high standard of quality ski instruction but clearly represented an effor to consolidate control and status for its members. As a result, the PSIA and its American Method alienates some European ski school directors who defined themselves and their skiing styles outside those categories. They understood the organization and its methods as challenges to their authority as

image

27 "Veteran Ski Instructors Honor Three PSIA Founders," Skiing Heritage, 7, 1 (Winter 1995), 32; James A. Mokres, "They Called Him 'Mr. Ski'," Aspen the Magazine (February-March 1976), 63, clipping, Fred lselin biography file, AHS. The Board of Directors of the PSIA noted that "success in ski competition has led to nationalism and ultimate commercialism of ski techniques," leading, in part, to their own "American Ski Technique." The Official American Ski Technique, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Professional Ski Instructors of America, Inc., 1966), ii.


248


image

directors and their skills as ski technicians. Aspen's Fred lselin "dismissed the system as idiocy" and refused to teach it at his school. When the Aspen Skiing Corporation forced the issue, he quit and accepted a contract with the independently owned and operated Aspen Highlands nearby. lselin fought the American technique

and PSIA's bureaucracy in print and in person through the late 1960s, by which time the controversy had reached a level of bitter intensity.28 At stake lay more

than authority on ski technique; the national character of the sport was on the line. What, after all, was American about a sport whose roots led directly to the Alps and the almost mythic figure of Hannes Schneider? The fight ended in a draw. Ski school directors such as lselin, Steigler, and Erikson remained popular and Europeans retained their images as the best instructors. Many lost their status as autonomous directors, however, as ski corporations took control over their ski schools in the 1960s and instituted PSIA organization and instructors. While successfully constructed as an American sport, then, skiing also retained its appeal as an exotic, cosmopolitan European sport. Skiing in post-war America thus attracted skiers as both an American sport and one associated with elite European ski culture. These different national skiing identities existed in constant, and often creative, tension with one another within the context of a growing American ski industry.


Colorado's Place in a National Ski Industry


American racers and ski instructors improved their visibility at the same time that ski areas dotted the national landscape. If the end of World War Two, Olympic medals, and a national skiing technique fostered ideological connections between Americans and the sport of skiing, the boom in ski area development during the 1960s gave those connections physical and economic reality. Skiing had

image

28Mokres, 63-64.


249


image

moved on to American soil and taken root: in Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington; up and down the Rocky Mountains; throughout the Northeast; even as far south as the Poconos. The very presence of new or expanding ski areas placed the sport squarely in America and gave it a sense of permanence and national scope.

Colorado's increasing number of ski areas testified to skiing's growing significance to the western economy and to its western identity. Colorado resorts new and old sought to attract the growing variety of skiers in the state. Small areas had catered to local clientele and larger ones to Denver skiers and more distant vacationers since the 1930s; these distinctions continued throughout the 1960s and beyond. One student of Colorado's ski areas categorized them into four different groups in 1967. The first group he characterized as accommodating mainly vacation skiers from outside of Colorado who spent more than three days at a time skiing. Aspen's ski areas (Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass) fit into this group, as did Vail. He classified areas including Breckenridge, Crested Butte, and Steamboat Springs' Mt. Werner as areas

attracting mainly Colorado residents (also for extended periods of time). The third group, areas patronized largely by one day or weekend skiers (typically from Denver or the Front Range) included Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, and Winter Park; and the group of smallest areas, open only on weekends and holidays for local

crowds, included Berthoud Pass, Fun Valley, and Cooper Hill.29 His generalizations

agreed with Coloradans' own informal characterizations of the areas.30

Unlike Colorado's ski areas of the 1930s, however, these resorts constantly sought to increase the volume of their regular market and worked to attract skiers from outside that market, as well. As the sport broadened in scope and took root in

image

29Sciullo, 6-7, 32.

30Gordon Wren, interview by the author, 25 August, 1995, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 5-6; Steve Knowlton, interview by the author, 14 November, 1995, Denver, Colorado,. tape recording and transcript, 8- 9.


250


image

America during the 1960s, the ski industry incorporated it into the swirling consumer and leisure cultures of post-war America. In this context, skiing acquired new meaning as a commodity that contrasted greatly with its pre-war community roots. Increasingly commercialized from the 1950s on, the sport of skiing acquired its own industry which entered the national economy as a significant player. As ski area owners and managers recognized their common interests and concerns within the ski industry, they created structures through

which they could further those interests. They joined together to form the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) in 1962, for instance, an organization which boasted

95 dues-paying members five years later and 554 by 1972.31 The ski industry

also spawned its own publications: Skiing Trade News in 1964 and Ski Area News in 1966. Ski Area News enabled area managers to share ideas, technology, and solutions to common problems; Skiing Trade News focused on business. With annual buyers' guides for apparel, equipment, and ski area equipment, directories for retail suppliers, ski area suppliers, and sales representatives, reports on the annual trade show's fashion and equipment, sections on repair services, late season retailing, displays, and even a sales training manual, Skiing Trade News told how to point out and fill every possible consumer need.

Editors documented an increasingly large and complex retail industry. With the application of modern technology to the development and production of ski equipment like plastic ski boots, prestige name producers and retailers were

forced to share the market with newer companies. Scarce materials and skilled labor no longer limited the supply of goods, and manufacturers diversified their products. Ongoing research and development meant that new, better models--of skis, boots, bindings, and poles--came out every year. Technological advances made it necessary to purchase new equipment every single year to keep up-to-date;

image

31"Inside NSAA." Ski Area News, 7 (spring 1972), 28.


251


image

changing fashion mandates similarly reinforced the importance of buying new clothes regularly. Retailers thus found themselves with more complicated and annually out-dated inventories. They encouraged consumers to keep buying the

newest, "hottest" equipment. 32 Ski industry wheels churned to create and market

products that were as fashionable as they were practical. Contemporary American culture reinforced this kind of marketing. The effect was great retail sales.

Controlling their constantly out-dated inventories led retailers to cut prices on older merchandise, a practice which consumers loved and came to expect. In January of 1968 "shops were reporting sales increases well in excess of the 1O to 15 percent gains that had been considered the industry's norm," and one trade magazine editor predicted bigger and bigger retailers would get involved in the industry. The next season, the industry enjoyed 20% growth and the editor exclaimed "what was a slowly developing trend now looks like an invasion." Giant sporting goods companies including Brunswick, Spalding, Wilson, and others had joined the ski business, promising to increase production and sales of ski

equipment and improve the sport's visibility. 33

In this world, growth was gospel and sales meant everything. Those with desire and a little training could go a long way. "Want to turn your skiing knowledge into cash?" one article asked. "Learn, young man," the author responded, "and grow into the industry." "Just as the hunter must learn to stalk

his prey," he continued, "the [ski] salesman must learn to capture his sometimes

elusive sale."34 Targets caught in the industry's crosshairs, skiers found themselves convinced, cajoled, and bullied into spending their money on products


image

32John Henry Auran, "New Realities for the Ski Retailer," Skiing Trade News, 9 (Spring 1972), 247-248.

33AHG, "From the Editor," Skiing Trade News, 5 (January 1968), 6; AHG, "From the Editor," Skiing Trade News, 6 (Spring 1969), 8.

34Frank Coffey, "A Sales Primer for the Rookie," Skiing Trade News, 8 (Fall 1971), 43.


252


image

ranging from new skis, boots, and parkas to the date-getting Chrysler Plymouth. Advertisements and marketing campaigns peeked out from around every corner. Articles in Skiing Trade News popped up with titles including "Selling Dixie, the Over-looked Southern Ski Market," and "How to Transform a Non-Skier into a New Skier-Customer by Throwing a Big Bash on a Mountain." These articles taught that aggressive marketing and "a pioneering outlook" could "turn potential into actual skiers, and, not so coincidentally, make the cash register jingle;" or, how

"Atlanta's unmined skiing population can be the nugget of the retailer who out­ promotes all comers."35 At once prey, cash register jing\ers, and precious

nuggets, skiers' identities grew increasingly complex. Advertisements further encouraged skiers that they could be anyone at all, if properly outfitted and attired, of course. Streeter and Quarles' ads, for instance, poked fun at skier stereotypes at the same time they enticed customers to emulate them by purchasing appropriate

equipment and clothing (Figure 2).36 Other advertisements for ski fashion

promised beauty, sex appeal, and European charm along with the clothes. Skiers during the 1960s who visited destination resorts found themselves inextricably entwined with the process of consumption.

Nor could they simply escape to the mountain. As clothing stores and equipment retailers courted customers, so did ski areas themselves. America's post-war consumerism rested, in many respects, on a corresponding leisure culture that encouraged Americans to get out of the house and take a vacation. By 1960 Americans had twice as many hours for recreation as they did in the 1920s, an increase in leisure that led to the rise of mass tourism. Skiing and tourism dovetailed nicely. As early as 1946 one Aspen local declared that skiing is "part of

image

35Mike Maginn, "Selling Dixie, the Over-looked Southern Ski Market," Skiing Trade News, 7 (Winter 1970), 38-41; George Schelling, "How to Transform a Non-Skier into a New Skier-Customer by Throwing a Big Bash on a Mountain," Skiing Trade News, 7 (Spring 1970), 172, 181.

36"Funny Ads," Skiing Trade News, 6 (December 1969), 56-57.


253

image


"Funny Ads," Skiing Trade News, 6 (December 1966), 56-57.


Figure 2. Streeter and Quarles advertisement, n.d.


254

a winter vacation, and a vacation is a thing that people will want as long as they remain to be people." "More and more people," he noticed, "are finding that winter

vacations can be as much fun if not more fun than summer holidays."37 His

predictions for Aspen's success as a ski resort held true for Colorado as a whole. Neither Aspen nor the state, however, simply fell into prosperity. As new cars and two week family vacations became the norm, states found themselves competing for tourists' business. Colorado and Its ski areas entered the fray with vigor.

Governor Ed Johnson appealed to the U.S. Senate to fund an interstate highway over the Continental Divide in Colorado, arguing that tourism was Colorado's second

largest industry and the state could not afford to see tourists diverted north and

south of its Rockies. 38 Ski area owners teamed up with Colorado politicians and highway officials who, along with President Eisenhower himself, convinced Congress in 1957 to grant the state federal assistance for a four-lane highway over

the mountains and a tunnel under the Continental Divide.39

Ski industry market analysts interpreted this event as an important contribution to growth since it would tremendously reduce travel time to Colorado's Rockies. 40 It was also a sign of good things to come, proof that the state's

mountains merited visiting. Although the Eisenhower Tunnel did not open until 1973, Colorado's roads ushered unprecedented volumes of traffic through the state and to its ski areas in the 1960s. "From every state (and many foreign nations) they come," one author noted in 1966, "skiers bound for Colorado snow centers


image

37Leonard Woods, "Aspen Ski Club to Celebrate Opening of Longest Chair Lift,"

Aspen Times, 12 December, 1946, 1.

3B"Big Ed Makes Plea for East-West Link," Denver Post, 13 April, 1955, 1, as

cited in Thomas Alexis Thomas, "Colorado and the Interstate Highways: A Study in the Continuity of Western Tradition" (M.A. thesis, University of Colorado, 1991). 1 7.

39Thomas, 17-18, 30, 71-72, 77-78, 90-92.

40J. B. Kline, "Western Mountain Region Study," Business Research Division, Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1967, 4-5.


255

image

that rival the long-established ski spas of the Continent."41 Aspen Mountain, one of the most remote ski areas, more than doubled its attendance from 1960-61 to 1970-71. In spite of several new areas in Colorado and the western U.S., the area went from 107,000 visits to 276,000.42 Between 1966 and 1970 in La Plata

County, home of Durango and Purgatory ski area, auto tourists increased annually by 11%, air tourists by 17%, and lodging receipts increased annually by 14%.43

This growth represented the rise of a national leisure culture and a growing tourist industry, and emphasized Colorado's ski industry as embedded within them both.

The pursuit of tourism compelled Colorado's politicians to lobby for their own highway. It also fostered competition between ski areas and other destination resorts, and among ski areas themselves. Sometimes it called for cooperation. In this context, marketing and public relations departments became invaluable. Vail initiated the trend. Robert Parker, a former editor of Skiing magazine and 10th Mountain veteran, became Vail's first director of marketing in 1961. Instead of relying on instructors or area managers to use their social contacts to talk up the area or produce the occasional ski film as Aspen had in the 1940s, Vail hired

Parker to focus on public relations full time.44 Thanks to him, according to one

author, "ski journalists and industry flacks everywhere were pounding the drums

for Vail long before the first lift ticket was sold."4 5 By the later 1960s the Skiing Area News was publishing articles explaining how other ski areas could market themselves better and attract more business, wi ter and summer. "For Summer


image

41Alex Katz, "Skiing," Colorful Colorado, 1 (Winter 1966), 65.

42Paul Hauk, "Aspen Mountain Ski Area Chronology" (U.S.D.A. Forest Service, White River National Forest, 1979), 5.

43Langdon, 53.

44Joh n Litchfield, interview by the author, 29 September 1994, Denver, Colorado, audio tape and transcript, 5, AHS; Pfeifer and Lund, 134; Dick and Miggs Durrance, interview with Jeanette Darnauer, 18 August, 1993, Aspen, Colorado, video tape and transcript, 14, AHS.

45William Oscar Johnson, "A Vision Fulfilled," Sports Illustrated, 30 January,

1989, 77,


256


image

Profits, Try A Little Imagination" described one California area's efforts to grab their share of tourists. "This business is too competitive to allow you to overlook any possibilities which might build clientele," said the area's manager. He hosted summer events such as beauty pageants, marathon runs, camera contests, straw skiing, and bicycle races to attract summer business and improve the area's

visibility.46 Other articles explained how best to use radio and television in

marketing plans, even how to use methods that Disney's "imagineers" had developed to tackle the parking, crowd control, and lilt line problems that threatened to keep

customers from coming back to ski areas as well as theme parks.47

While individual ski areas did what they could to advertise on their own, they also teamed up with surrounding areas to attract tourist dollars to their region. Colorado's resorts created a powerful coalition, bringing out-of-state dollars to the Rockies and establishing the ski industry as a significant part of Colorado's economy. Colorado Ski Country USA ·kicked the marketing spree off in 1963, actively promoting the group and its areas on radio and television and at regional ski shows. In the mid-1960s Robert Parker of Vail started a campaign called "Ski the Rockies" with the support of ten major Rocky Mountain resorts. Their goal was to get Eastern skiers who had been skiing in Europe to come to the

Rockies instead, and they achieved it by convincing tour operators and travel agents to promote the region.48 Airline companies joined in and advertised vacation


image

46Burt Sims, "For Summer Profits, Try A Little Imagination," Skiing Area News,

2 (April 1967), 30.

47Martin Padley, "Are Radio & TV Good For You?" Skiing Area News, 4 (Spring 1969), 50; Ron Taylor, "Add One Large Crowd," Skiing Area News, 5 (Spring 1970), 24.

48Member areas included Aspen Highlands and Aspen Skiing Corporation areas,

Breckenridge, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Taos Ski Valley, Sun Valley, Park City, and Jackson Hole outside of Colorado. As destination resorts with similar characteristics but different strengths, member areas complimented each other and offered tourists from the East and even Europe a variety of skiing experiences. Johnson, 77; Mike Korologos, "Bringing Our Skiers Back Home," Skiing Area News, 6 (Fall 1971), 34.


257


image

packages to the Rockies. United Airlines supported the campaign since it was a domestic carrier interested in keeping tourists in America; later on other airlines ran similar ads. "Colorado's spectacular high country skiing is the best," one brochure exclaimed in 1976, "and, to save you money, Continental has a wide selection of special low-cost air fares. Nothing," it insisted, "can hold you

back l"49 Once teamed up with airline carriers and travel agents, Colorado's ski

industry took off.


First formed in the 1940s and 1950s, Colorado's identity as the ideal skiing region only improved with this kind of industry marketing, Skier-tourists from all over the country turned the sport into one of the state's most important industries, but frequented a small group of cosmopolitan resorts and left the rest for locals. People from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico fleshed out the local skiing

population at areas in the southern part of Colorado such as Purgatory. 50 Larger

destination resorts including Aspen, Vail, Winter Park, and Snowmass appealed to


skier-tourists from the Midwest, the East, and the South, as well as to those from other western states and within Colorado. 51 Indeed, more out-of-state skiers

spent their vacations in Colorado through the 1960s than ever before. Numbering 30,000 in the 1955-56 season, thirteen years later out-of-state skiers

accounted for over 986,000 skier-visits state-wide.52 More out-of-state skiers

came to Colorado than to any other western state. Part of America's post-war


image

49"Ski Colorado," Continental Airlines brochure {1976-77), pamphlet, 3, Recreational Skiing file, CHS.

5° Chet Anderson, interview by the author, 7 June, 1994, Durango, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 2. They also frequented ski areas in New Mexico such as

Sierra Blanca and Taos Ski Valley. See Lund, "The Texans Are Coming," 90. 51Scuillo, 32. ·

52Allen, 35. Based on a total skier-visit figure from a different study, out-of­

state skiers made up over 42% of Colorado's total skier-visits that season. The state total for skier-visits that season was 2, 329,546 according to Page Dabney, "An Impact Study--The Colorado Ski Industry: A Study of the Influence of the Industry Upon the Economies of Selected Mountain Counties and Communities," Colorado Ski Country USA, 1974, updated 1976, 17.


258


image

leisure and consumer culture, they and their in-state companions spent over

$23.5 million on Colorado ski trips during the 1963-64 season.53

The 1960s thus mark the period during which Colorado skiers took on powerful new identities as vacationers, tourists, and consumers. Their increasing numbers and broader representation changed the sport and its meanings. Their economic power carved a niche for them in Colorado's economy and encouraged members of the ski industry to create destination ski resorts geared towards their needs and desires. Such changes in the sport translated directly to the physical, economic, demographic, and ideological landscape of Colorado's ski resorts.


Ski Culture Meets Place: Colorado's Destination Resorts


The highly constructed and managed landscapes of Colorado's ski areas represented more than mere accommodations for growing numbers of skiers. They attracted and reflected the particular kind of skiers that frequented their slopes.

Smaller areas or those within a two hours' drive of Denver attracted skiers for a day or a weekend. Those who courted customers from farther away developed into "destination resorts," where skiers stayed for a week or more. Small communities or merely grazing land before the war, these resorts became playgrounds for vacationers from all over the country and even the world. The ski industry and its accompanying consumer culture took on new significance in these places and altered much more than the physical landscape. Colorado's destination resorts acquired a new economic focus that merged sometimes uncomfortably with older ones; they sprouted new homes, businesses, and condos; they attracted new residents who set themselves apart from the "old timers" yet eventually called themselves "locals" in


image

53California had the most skier-visits of any western state during the 1964-65 season, followed by Colorado and then Washington. Twenty-five percent of Colorado's skiers came from out-of-state, however, compared to 2% of California's and 7% of Washington's. Kline, 21, 23, 25.


259


image

contrast to the still newer residents arriving regularly; and they adopted images for themselves, usually stereotypically western or European, which attracted tourists and further shaped their towns. Economically, physically, demographically, and ideologically, then, the ski industry and America's skier­ tourists changed the face of Colorado's mountain landscapes. This complex and sometimes difficult process crafted destination resorts into places that looked and acted very differently from other Colorado mountain towns.

As the residents of Aspen, Colorado learned, achieving destination resort­ hood could be a confusing process. Accompanying economic, demographic, and ideological transformations rarely occurred in a clear or predictable manner; they usually crept up behind visions of wealth and pounced all at once when residents were looking the other way. The story of Aspen demonstrates the close and complex relationship among these transformations--a point that deserves emphasis before discussing each one in more depth.

Many locals in the 1940s anticipated Aspen's Lift No. 1 as a welcome relief to the depressed mining, farming, and ranching economy that had characterized

their town for the last fifty years. "The opening of the long-awaited chair lilt," ski club member Leonard Woods declared, "is perhaps the first large and really tangible sign that Aspen has found a new, good, and profitable way of life." Town residents excited about the ski area, moreover, encouraged the community to follow up on the economic potential the area represented. "There are many things other than skiing that go to make up a fine winter resort that people will constantly want

to come back to," Woods continued. "It is up to us to find out what these things are, and to improve, develop, and institute them here."54 As a ski club member and

local booster, Woods spoke for a varied group of Aspenites. Tenth Mountain


image

54Leonard Woods, "Aspen Ski Club to Celebrate Opening of Longest Chair Lift,"

Aspen Times, 12 December, 1946, 1.


260


image

Division veterans eager to embark upon careers in the ski industry had joined the ski club and supported Aspen's growth as a resort by 1946. Local support for skiing, then, had already been influenced by newcomers who settled in town and began to call Aspen home.

Aspen's development as a resort took an even more complicated turn when another set of newcomers acted on their own vision of the town's future. Chicago businessman and patron of the arts Walter Paepcke, with his wife Elizabeth, had stumbled on to the town more or less by chance and decided it would make a perfect cultural oasis. They set out, accordingly, to revive and rebuild Aspen as "the ideal American town," where intellectual activities, cultural events, and Rocky Mountain scenery would recruit and inspire an elite population. Paepcke envisioned a town landscape to match these high expectations and so bought up town lots and their dilapidated buildings for back taxes, sprucing them up with the help of architect Walter Gropius and Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer. By 1948 the group had restored the nineteenth-century Hotel Jerome and Wheeler Opera House, as well as a number of homes, to their Victorian splendor. Not particularly fond of skiing, Paepcke wanted to attract intellectual elites to his new mecca. "We want writers and scientists and artists and businessmen," he said, "and we want them to be

citizens of Aspen, not seasonal visitors."55 He organized and advertised a

bicentennial celebration of Goethe's birth for 1949 in a grand effort to promote culture and attract such a citizenry. Albert Schweitzer, Jose Ortega y Gasset, Thornton Wilder, the Minneapolis Symphony, and Artur Rubinstein, among others, came to town. The celebration drew a select audience from all over the country-­ plus some skiers who had decided to stay in town for the summer--and it spawned the Aspen Institute and later annual events including the Aspen Music Festival and


image

55Leavelle, Charles, "Design for Real Living Found by Chicagoan in Ghost City He Revived," unidentified article clipping, 1947, Walter Paepcke biography file, AHS.


261


image

the International Design Conference.56 As Paepcke had hoped, a number of social and cultural elites from Denver and Chicago bought vacation homes in Aspen from which they enjoyed scenery and summer activities as seasonal residents.

In the meantime, skiers had come to town and set up local businesses to support themselves, imposing a different vision upon the mining, farming, and ranching landscapes left from the nineteenth century. Small sport shops, restaurants, lodges, and retail businesses opened their doors, counting on Aspen's growing population of seasonal residents and visitors to keep their owners employed. Layers of economic development thus piled up in this small community, as did proponents of each model, old and new. Such activity drew the attention of the national press in the late 1940s. Look magazine wrote that "sportsmen,

artists, architects, actors and teachers have brought excitement to former Colorado ghost town," and Collier's noted that "for forty years the once bustling town of Aspen, Colorado was virtually abandoned. Then someone fitted it with skis and now everything's booming again."57

"Old timers" watched this process with varying emotions. Still hoping for the resurgence of silver mining, some long-time residents welcomed tourism only as a temporary antidote to slow times. One man who had come to Aspen in 1879

said of tourists in 1955: "we're getting used to 'em. They bring in the most money," he explained, "so we like to see them come."58 Of Paepcke himself they

image

were less sure. Some of the "more corrugated characters," one local writer noted, "looked upon the change with a wry distaste." "To them," he wrote, "this sudden

56For more on Paepcke see James Sloan Allen, The Romance of Commerce and Culture: Capitalism, Modernism, and the Chicago-Aspen Crusade for Cultural Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); for more on Paepcke and his relationship to Aspen's ski history, see Annie Gilbert, "Re-Creation Through Recreation: Aspen Skiing from 1870-1970," manuscript, 1995, AHS.

57 Patricia Collin, "Aspen," Look, 8 (November 1949), 59-67; Evan Wylie,

"Ghost Town on Skis," Colliers, 7 February, 1948.

58Pearl Anoe, "Aspen Was No Ghost Town," Chrysler Events Owner's Magazine,

August, 1955, 15.


262

imposition of a symphony orchestra, erudite professors explaining the nature of man and why he should read Great Books ... is simply a nightmare in lace pants,

too big to ignore but not too big to detest." 59 When presented with the offer of free

house paint on the condition that Herbert Bayer choose the colors, the now-famous story goes, Aspen residents turned Paepcke down to a person. Aspen was still their town, their actions implied, and they refused to accept his authority over them or their houses.

Locals who enjoyed skiing themselves or had kids in the ski club embraced the idea of Aspen's winter development with more enthusiasm. The Wiiloughbys, who ran the Midnight Mine on the back side of Aspen Mountain in the 1930s and '40s, shuttled visiting skiers up the mountain in their truck before any lifts offered smoother rides. The Marolt boys, whose family had come to Aspen in the nineteenth century and survived the transition from mining to ranching, helped ease the town into the skiing world by becoming world-class skiers in the 1950s and '60s and taking local pride along with them. Still others found themselves employed by Paepcke or the Aspen Ski Corporation. By then old-timers had watched a series of newcomers move to town and settle in, redefining themselves as

"locals." Such demographic changes accompanied Aspen's economic shift as the town

grew into a destination resort.60 Old timers who abstained from the world of tourism and skiing distinguished themselves as outsiders; those more accepting of change joined in. By the mid-1950s one author's description of the Red Onion bar


image

59Luke Short, "Nightmare in Lace Pants," Empire Magazine, n.d., 1950, 12-13, clipping, pam file, CUA.

6° For more on Aspen's transition from mining and ranching to skiing, as well as

more in the Willoughbys and Marolts, see Bill Marolt, interview by the author, 11 August, 1994, Boulder, Colorado, tape recording and transcript; John Litchfield, interview by the author, 29 September, 1994, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 3-4; and Elizabeth Paepcke, "Memories of Aspen," manuscript, n.d., Elizabeth Paepcke biography file, AHS.


263

image


lit the town as a whole: "A mixed crowd is found here," she wrote, "as the old­ timers sit in remote corners and watch society rallying around the bar." 61

Aspen became transformed into a destination resort. New people arrived, local real estate and the ski area boomed, and long-time residents and families evolved into supporting cast or local characters. While distinct in its particular story line--in the interests of Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, for instance-­ Aspen's complex relationship among its residents old and new, its physical development, and its changing economic focus characterized the growth of Colorado's destination resorts in general. Neither full-fledged support, all-out conflict, nor simple abandonment described the range of local reactions to resort development. Residents involved themselves in every aspect of their area's growth to different degrees, helping the ski industry alter the economic, physical, and demographic landscapes of their town and shaping its public image, as well.

While some of Colorado's destination resorts virtually appeared from nowhere, most represented an economic transition from mining or ranching to tourism. Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, and Telluride all started originally as mining towns in the nineteenth century. Durango and Fraser, base towns for Purgatory and Winter Park, grew along with the railroads. Steamboat Springs and the areas around Vail and Snowmass all supported ranchers and farmers before

skiers, though only Steamboat could boast its own town.62 From the 1930s to the


image

61Anoe, 15.

62For local histories of these areas, see Richard L. and Suzanne Fetter, Telluride: "From Pick to Powder (Caldwell, ID: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1990); David Lavender, The Telluride Story (Ridgway, CO: Wayfinder Press, 1987); Carl Ubbelohde, Maxine Benson, and Duane A. Smith, A Colorado History, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Co., 1972); Duane A. Smith, Rocky Mountain Boom Town: A History of Durango, Colorado (Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1980); June Simonton, Vail: Story of a Colorado Mountain Valley (Denver; Knudsen Printing, 1987); John Rolfe Burroughs, Steamboat in the Rockies (Fort Collins CO: The Old Army Press, 1974); Jean Wren, Steamboat Springs and the "Treacherous and Speedy Skee" (Steamboat Springs CO: Steamboat Pilot, 1972); Mark Fiester, Blasted Beloved Breckenridge (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Co., 1973); Duane A. Smith, When Coal Was King: A History of Crested


264


image

'50s most of these areas were experiencing somelhing less than economic booms. Of Aspen in the 1930s and 40s one local said "it was all dead, dormant here."63 As

in other declining mining towns or places that could sustain only a small agricultural community, younger generations had fewer and fewer reasons to stay home. They left in search of education, better jobs, and more exciting times. One Telluride miner recalled that "people would go to high school here and go to college, they weren't going to return to go to a mine, so we had a population made up of babies up to eighteen year olds, and from that eighteen year old the next person was 35 or 40 years old, and it was starting to get worse and worse." "Our children

would not be here today, that's for sure," he emphasized, if it were not for the ski area.64 Indeed, some farm and ranch families even encouraged their sons and

daughters to leave because, as one Roaring Fork Valley mother put it, ranching was "just a lot of hard work for not much in retu rn."65 During the 1950s and '60s

mountain valley farmers and ranchers worked to keep up with rising costs of land, labor, machinery, taxes, and federal grazing permits on top of the environmental limitations placed on them by their high altitude and short growing season.

Many miners, farmers, and ranchers across Colorado's Rockies reached the decision to sell their land and move to warmer, less isolated climes--not coincidentally at about the same time that resort developers began noticing the


image

Butte, Colorado, 1880-1952 (Golden CO: Colorado School of Mines Press, 1984); Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), Anhe M. Gilbert, "Rural People With Connections: Farm and Ranch Families in the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado" (MA thesis, University of Colorado, 1992).

63Red Rowland, interview by Elli Fox, 12 February, 1987, Aspen, Colorado, tape

recording #C57, AHS.

64Bi11 Mahoney, interview by the author, 6 June, 1994, Telluride, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 5.

65Art and Amelia Trentaz, interview by the author, 26 March, 1992, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording, AHS.


265


image

potential for skiing and tourism in these areas.66 The landscape that had offered up its ore, grazing land, or both, drew new attention with its snow, skiing terrain, and scenery. In some Colorado towns skiing and tourism thus represented yet another chance at the economic success that had proved so short-lived with mining and so elusive with farming and ranching.

Neither was skiing radically different from these earlier mountain economic systems. Mining, ranching, farming, and skiing have all depended upon natural resources within a particular landscape for their survival, be they mineral deposits, mountain grasses, fertile soil, or beautiful landscapes covered with snow five months out of the year. Each have faced bust cycles as a result of outside forces --in the ski industry's case, slowed growth due to years of little

snowfall or national declines in leisure spending·--and they have all tried to smooth out natural and economic cycles by improving technology. Each industry has

finally depended upon the use of federal land for its success, and so ski area managers and developers, like miners, ranchers, and farmers, have had to establish a working relationship with the federal government and its land use policies. Their common dependence upon the mountain landscape and its resources compelled participants in each economic system, as well as the federal government, to try and minimize risks and maximize profits by altering the mountain landscape and increasing their dependence upon technology. Trail design, snow making, and special use permits were the ski industry's equivalents to the mining techniques and laws, farm equipment and subsidized land use practices, and range management and grazing permits that supported the previous economies. Changes in mountain landscapes brought about by destination resorts and their accompanying tourist


image

66See Mahoney; and Annie Gilbert Coleman, "'A Hell of a Time All the Time': Farmers, Ranchers, and the Roaring Fork Valley During 'The Quiet Years,"' Montana: The Magazine of Western History (forthcoming, Spring 1997).


266


image

economy, therefore, took vaguely recognizable forms and depended on dynamics reminiscent of earlier endeavors in the same places.

This new layer upon the economic landscape incorporated some of the same people, too. While many local residents sold their land to developers or remained in the margins of the growing ski industry as skeptical observers, some joined in. Their experience in the mines or on farms and ranches, in fact, sometimes made them indispensable. To turn to an example outside Colorado, one ski area in Minnesota earned a reputation for its high quality snow grooming. "If I had to pinpoint one thing [to explain our success]," one of the owners said, "it would have to be our farm background." As farmers, the area's two owners approached the

problem of snow grooming by adapting farm equipment to the task.67 Their success

speaks to the technical similarity between farmin·g and skiing, as well as to the continuity some residents experienced between the two economies--a continuity not limited to Minnesota. Some ranchers in the Roaring Fork Valley earned money in their off-seasons (winter) by running lifts. They did such a good job that Skiing Area News published an article commending Aspen's lift operators as key public relations figures--ironically for an industry that had displaced many of them from

their ranches. 68 A few local residents rose to higher positions within the ski

industry. Red Rowland, the son of an Aspen miner, grew up working on local ranches and building diversion tunnels. He started working for the Aspen Skiing

Corporation in 1946 as a private contractor and quickly rose to the status of assistant manager, a post from which he would retire thirty years later.69

image

67Dick Dillman, "Snow Grooming: A Harrowing Experience," Ski Area News, 1 (January 1966), 22-24.

68John Henry Auran, "Lift Attendant: No. 1 P.R. Man," Skiing Area News, 2 (October 1967), 58-59.

69Sam Stapleton, Art Trentaz, and two of the four Gerbaz brothers, at least, worked as lift operators for the Aspen Skiing Corporation. Stapleton did so for 34 years.

Sam and Elizabeth Stapleton, interview by the author, 24 March, 1992, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording, AHS; Arthur and Amelia Trentaz, interview by the author, 26 March, 1992, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording, AHS; Cherie Gerbaz


267


image

People with mining backgrounds, too, helped ski areas with their technical knowledge and forged a link between old and new economic landscapes. Telluride miner Keith Blackburn, who "knew tramways," started working at Purgatory building lifts before it opened and stayed on as a. lift operator. Bill Mahoney used his mining expertise, local business connections, and familiarity with the mountains around his home town to help develop and manage Telluride's ski

resort.7° Despite their reputation as crotchety critics, quite a few Aspen miners went to work for the Aspen Skiing Corporation as well.71 While far from the

majority, these long-time local residents participated In the ski industry and by doing so supported the argument that skiing, even as it radically altered Colorado communities, represented the latest in a series of economic landscapes inscribed upon the Rocky Mountains.

Along with a new economic layer, the ski industry also introduced its own demographic scene to mountain communities. Connected locals, newcomers with vision, and investors with cash combined their e_fforts to help skiing and its

accompanying tourism take root in these places.72 Success for them, the industry,

and the town depended upon attracting business and tourists. In place of a mining


image

Oates, interview by the author, 13 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 12, AHS; Joy Caudill, interview by the author, 26 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 4, AHS; Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, "Red Rowland and the Ski Lifts," Aspen Times, 16 December, 1976, C1; Kathleen Daily and Gaylord T. Guenin, Aspen: The Quiet Years (Aspen, CO: Red Ink Inc., 1994), 415-416.

70Mike Elliott, interview by the author, 7 June, 1994, Purgatory, Colorado;

Mahoney.

71The locally-known Tekoucich and Dolinsek brothers, for instance, all put time in with the ASC doing everything from maintenance work and building lifts to acting as trail boss and filling in for Red Rowland as assistant manager. Daily, 495, 499, 223.

72Locals eager to promote the economic health of their home often invested in the

ski resort that would change the shape of their town. Telluride residents invested in the ski resort in the late 1960s, even after losing money on a similar venture a decade earlier. They sold Frank Zoline their land and bought stock in his company. Durango residents, too, invested in Purgatory ski area through the San Juan Development Corporation, a company formed by area developers Ray and Vincent Duncan. Mahoney; Elliott.


268


image

economy's plethora of transient single men and the more permanent, family­ centered economy typical of farming and ranching areas, therefore, skiing and tourism attracted waves of small businesspeople, second home owners, workers,

and vacationers to mountain towns that came and went with the tourist seasons.73

Many of these temporary residents, moreover, enjoyed themselves so thoroughly that they decided to stay. As a result, the small group of long-time residents left over from the area's mining or ranching days found themselves accumulating layers of increasingly recent residents eager to define themselves as locals.

From the start, visitors found themselves enamored with the landscape and the chance to be a part of a small community. Historian John Jakie has defined tourism as "a principal means by which modern people define for themselves a

sense of identity."74 Coming from cities and towns across the country and even the

world, visitors could take on a new identity in the western towns and ski areas that were transforming into destination resorts. Visiting places like Aspen, Vail, and Steamboat Springs not only offered a relaxing, scenic, and adventuresome contrast to their everyday lives, it also tantalized them with the opportunity of making that world their own. The chance to get in on the ground floor of a burgeoning resort and call its scenic landscape and local community home has attracted people to Colorado's mountain towns since the 1940s. During World War Two, some Tenth Mountain Division members plotted their return to the area surrounding Camp Hale. "We had already talked during the time we were at Camp Hale," Percy Rideout recalled, "about wouldn't [Aspen] be a great place to come after the war--wouldn't


image

73For more on these demographic models, see Walter Nugent, "Frontiers and Empires in the Late Nineteenth Century," in Patricia Nelson Limerick, Clyde A. Milner 11, and Charles E. Rankin, eds., Trails: Toward a New Western History (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1991); and Gilbert, "Rural People With Connections."

74John A. Jakie, The Tourist: Travel in Twentieth-Century North America

(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), 22.


269


image

this be a great place to live, have a ski school, and work together."75 More than a beautiful landscape, Aspen represented a place where Rideout and his companions could work at what they loved and do so together. Veterans like Rideout and other hopeful skiers moved to Aspen and other towns, opening up businesses ranging from

ski schools and ski shops to restaurants, lodges, and architectural practices.76

The sense of community in resort towns like Aspen--a result of their geographic isolation and their small, "colorful" populations of old-timers--drew city folk to the country for their vacations. Many of them bought second homes so they could participate in that community from the inside rather than as visitors. Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke told their friends they should come out to Aspen, that "we love it and want to start something big and make it well known." They convinced photographer Ference Berko and Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer to

move there in the 1940s, when "it was a beautiful place but all the town was 300 miners."77 June Hodges told her husband, who was a prominent Denver lawyer and

president of the Arlberg Club, "we have just got to have a little place in Aspen--it is the most wonderful little town, beautiful mountains, and the locals all were wonderfu l." 78 Friends of the Paepckes from Chicago, Arlberg Club members from

image

Denver, and other upper-class urbanites invested in summer homes in Aspen-­ homes they used in the winter, for skiing, as well. As John Litchfield remembered

75Percy Rideout, interview by Ruth Whyte, 24 March, 1991, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, AHS.

76For example, in Aspen Steve Knowlton bought and operated the Golden Horn, a bar and nightclub; John Litchfield helped run the ski school and owned the Red Onion, a restaurant and popular gathering place; Charles Paterson opened the Boomerang Lodge; Elli lselin opened a clothing store, as did Claus Obermeyer and Thelma and Sandro Sabbatini; and Fritz Benedict worked as an architect after his initial effort at ranching failed. These are only some of the businesspeople attracted to Aspen after the war. Of the many who came to Aspen, quite a few moved on to other ski resort towns as those areas developed, bringing their experience from Aspen along with them.

77Ferenc Berko, Music Associates of Aspen "High Notes" talk, 29 June, 1994, Aspen, Colorado.

78June Hodges, interview by the author, 19 June, 1994, Denver, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, AHS, 1.


270


image

it, "pretty soon [after Paepcke spread the word about Aspen] people came out of the woods and took the place over."79

Visitors who came specifically to ski also succumbed to the attractions of the town. Arriving in town for a week or two of vacation and ski lessons, many

chose to settle there. "People just came and stayed all winter," Friedl Pfeifer remembered, "and the next thing you knew they were building a housel"80 Natalie

Ginoux first came to Aspen because her aunt asked her to make sure her cousin went back to New York instead of staying in the West. "I came out and I made sure that she went back," Ginoux explained, "but I stayed." Ginoux worked odd jobs for a

year or two until she took over the town's only taxi service in 1950.81 Charlie

Paterson bought some land in town after his first visit to ski in the late 1940s; he still runs his Boomerang Lodge on that property.82 By the 1950s enough skiers

visiting Aspen had found ways to stay for the season or even longer that they earned a collective identity. "They'd call themselves ski bums and they'd work in restaurants, cook, set tables, or be waitresses," one long-time resident recalled. "They'd have the day off, and the minute the lifts would close they would head down

to work at night."83 Second-home owners, business people, and employees thus

image

joined local families and old-timers to make up Aspen's community in the 1950s. While separated by occupation and class, these people each made the decision to settle in Aspen for at least part of the year. They all wanted to call the town home and participate in its community as "locals," winter or summer. Visitors, too,

79Utchfield, 4. Litchfield remembered Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker, Bill Douglass and his father, who was chairman of Quaker Oats, a Mr. Bingham who ran the Louisville Courier, and Henry Stein from Chicago, all coming out to take a look at Aspen.

8° Friedl Pfeifer, interview by the author, 21 July, 1994, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, AHS, 3.

81She sold the taxi business in 1962 but continued to work for different companies in Aspen until 1977, when she retired. Natalie Ginoux, interview by Ruth Whyte, 16 September, 1986, Aspen, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, AHS.

82paterson. See also Caudill, 2. 83o ates, 11.


271


image

flocked to the area for summer culture and winter sports, adding yet another layer of less permanent Aspenites. "This influx of outsiders," a Saturday Evening Post

reporter noted in 1950, "has imposed on the old mining community a heady, almost incredible mixture of diverse personalities, ideas and interests."84

Aspen developed earliest in this regard; as other Colorado ski areas grew into destination resorts they, too, acquired their own layers of locals. Vail's community, for instance, resulted directly from its development as a destination resort. The town of Vail was incorporated in 1966, four years after the ski area opened and largely shaped by its parent organization, Vail Associates. By 1970, 484 residents lived within the town and hundreds of others lived nearby. The

resort's vacation-home owners, tourists, and business people hailed from countries from all over the world; its workforce came from all over America.85

These disparate people held in common their identities as Vail locals no matter from whence they came. The ski resort united, at least physically, what Vail's pastor described as the town's diverse constituents: "skiers and nonskiers, old­ timers and newcomers, hard-nosed businessmen who own expensive houses here

and have-not local employees." 86 Nor has this demographic picture simplified.

Layers of locals continue to accrue in mountain towns along with resort business and real estate sales, turning destination resort communities into distinct western landscapes.

Physical changes, of course, accompanied ski resorts' new demography and economy. And, while analogous to the growth mining towns saw during their


image

84Joe Alex Morris, "Aspen, Colorado," Saturday Evening Post, 14 October, 1950, 27, pamphlet file, UCBLA.

85Peter J. Ognibene, "The Travail of Instant Tyrolia," DenverPost Empire

Magazine, 1O October, 1971, 11; Home owners hailed from places including Texas and Mexico; business people and resort managers came from as far away as the Northeast and Europe. See Simonton, 166-187. See also Hauk, Vail Ski Area Chronology, 6-7.

86Johnson, 78.


272


image

nineteenth-century boom years, these changes often startled residents with their speed and scope. Impressive construction on the mountains and at the base areas proved to be only the beginning. Real estate boomed. According to a 1946 article, one real estate man came to Aspen all the way from Florida hoping to buy a small lodge or apartment building, and another from Texas came looking for a dude

ranch.87 By 1950 property that had been unsold at ten dollars a lot in 1945 was

worth $250, and houses once for sale at $1,200 were hard to get for $12,000. 88 Sixteen years later the starting price for a good 30-foot lot (two of which were necessary to build a house) had risen to $7,500, and one woman supposedly rejected a $90,000 offer for her "hillside shack" and homestead land, originally

valued at $950.89 New buildings and refurbished old ones rose on this land right

along with prices. Retail establishments in Aspen sprouted up too; in the first four years after the lifts opened (from 1946 to 1950) about a dozen more bars had started business.90 In 1961 alone the town issued licenses to 29 hotels with

1,139 beds, and the next year brought with it resort towns' most characteristic physical feature: condominiums. To accommodate such growth the city authorized a

new electric system and decided to pave 14 of its downtown blocks.91 The

"condominium craze," sparked by the prospect of affordable vacation homes, affected resorts across the country and did not slow for over a decade. Skiing Area News published an article discussing the relative appeal of condominiums and lodges in destination resorts in 1969. Convincing developers that they needed to build was unnecessary; they wanted only to know what sort of construction would


image

87Jane Nes, "Money Fever Is Running in Aspen Again," Denver Post, 17 March, 1946, clipping, AHS.

88Morris, 174.

89AI Nakkula, "Aspen, Where Everyone Skis," Rocky Mountain News, 9 January, 1966, 52, clipping, AHS.

90Morris, 176.

91Peggy Clifford and John Macauly Smith, "The Distressing Rebirth of Aspen,"

Denver Post Empire Magazine, 16 August, 1970, 9.


273

attract the most customers.92 Between building vacation homes, lodges, and condominiums, real estate threatened to overtake skiing itself as a catalyst for growth. Ski corporations balanced their management and personnel accordingly, creating real estate divisions within their corporate structures and concerning

themselves with growth off the mountain as well as on.93 "Some small towns are

changing," one Coloradan noted in 1970, "sacrificing their singularity to become plush look-alike playgrounds for urbanites."94 Destination resort communities

thus metamorphosed, their landscapes blanketed by a patchwork of architecture beckoning vacationers.

These changes came with their own sets of problems. Old-timers and long­ time local families who chose not to participate in the new economic landscape, or who could not keep up with its snowballing momentum, found themselves pushed to the margins of their community. "The people who started [Aspen skiing] and who were enthusiastic in the beginning have mostly sold their homes and moved," Dick

Durrance explained in 1993. "The new ones have come in and it's become a community, of, well you might say, outsiders."95 This layering had political as

well as social and economic meaning. "There can be no sense of community without



image

92John Jerome, "Condominiums or Lodges: Which Should You Have?" Skiing Area News, 4 (Spring 1969}, 32-33.

93This change in emphasis by the LTV corporation which bought Steamboat Springs

led general manager Gordon Wren to retire. "Eventually the land became more and more important," he said, "I was too much of an old-timer to believe that things could change that much." Wren, 8. Other men, like Telluride-born Johnny Stevens, worked his way up the corporate ladder to become Senior Vice President of Telluride Ski Resort, the ski company's real estate division. Johnny Stevens, interview by the author, 6 June, 1994, Telluride, _Colorado. Aspen had a separate corporation founded by Walter Paepcke which focused on real estate from the start, freeing the Aspen Skiing Company to focus on skiing. When it developed Snowmass developer Bill Janss controlled the real estate development there, leaving operation of the ski area up to the ASC. Both real estate developers and the ASC, needless to say, have profited from each others' activities. For a discussion of Vail's development, see also John Henry Auran, '"Vail-Type Operation'--A Dissection," Skiing Area News, 1 (April 1966), 38-42.

94Clifford and Smith, 8. 95Durrance, 1993, 15.


274


image

a sense of power," explained New York Mayor John Lindsay, the keynote speaker at Vail's 1971 Symposium.96 He was concerned with giving Vail's residents a voice

in the town's development to counter the ubiquitous influence that Vail Associates initially exercised over its company town. In Telluride, established residents wielded political power, not the ski company. Newcomers thus came into conflict with old-timers in their effort to shape local growth and define themselves as insiders. "The new finally took over the politics and they liked to make a big to-do about it," one old-timer noted. "They called themselves 'the slate' [and] they got rid of the old cronies in Telluride, guys like me." With the continuous movement of people to resort towns, however, "the slate" could not last. Achieving political status as "locals" placed these people in the same position as those they had worked so hard to oust upon their arrival. Newer residents, in turn, threw them out of the

political arena.97 Defining local and outsider status in this way often placed the

newest (and wealthiest) at odds with the families and old-timers who had supported the resort's initial development.

Much of what local residents lost in the political arena, they gained through their cultural power as locals. The consumer and leisure-oriented ski industry sold town and resort images to vacationers as much as they sold the experience of skiing, fashion, or equipment. As a result, ski resorts altered the imagined landscape of mountain towns along with their demographic and economic landscapes. Those imagined landscapes, moreover, usually hinged upon a romanticized version of the town's history. Ski corporations thus refused to let old-timers retreat to complete invisibility. "Locals" provided colorful characters and images for the town that attracted more tourists, who increasingly outnumbered the original locals. Resort developers and marketing experts carefully cultivated these images-


image

96Ognibene, 11.

97Mahoney, 5.


275


image

-of western mining towns, cowtowns, or European villages--in order to set their particular ski area off from the competition.98 They based each image partly on

the area's history and partly on what management thought would sell. Vail thus became defined as Bavarian, Steamboat became a wild western cowtown, and Breckenridge, Telluride, and Aspen acquired nineteenth-century mining town identities. Tourists noticed and responded to these images, thereby perpetuating a new ideological landscape to which old-timers lent personality and color. Early Aspen boosters proclaimed "its atmosphere of the old mining days," and the ranching legacy of children ski-joring to school behind the milk truck, as images

that would attract tourists and skiers alike.99 Publicity that emphasized the

town's history with headlines like "Aspen Booms Again" reinforced its image as a small mining town on the rise; residents from the mining days validated this image

just by their presence and gave the town a character and charm, according to one resident, that set Aspen apart from other resorts.1oo Wizened ranchers, too, lent

an atmosphere of the "Old West" that appealed to tourists. By 1979 Andre Roch was proud to announce that "Aspen has become not only a winter resort, but a place of culture combining the saga of the wild West, cowboys, and mining with all the

modern day entertainments. Long live Aspen with its wild surroundings."101 The

image

ski industry had, by the late 1970s, crafted an image of Aspen--as part of the "Wild West"--that few long-time residents recognized in the town's history. The personal embodiment of this Aspen image, ironically, was DRC Brown, a man whose career changes made him as exceptional as he was powerful. A "local" who was

98For a discussion of this issue, see Donald J. Mrozek, "The Image of the West in American Sport," Journal of the American West, 17 (July 1978), 3-15. For an example of how different areas came across to skiers, see Alex Katz, "Skiing," Colorful Colorado, 1 (Winter 1966), 65-67, 84.

99Leonard Woods, "Aspen, Now," American Ski Annual (1946-47), 159, CHS.

1 ooBill Marolt, interview by the author, 11 August, 1994, Boulder, Colorado, tape recording and transcript, 1, AHS.

°1 1Andre Roch, letter or speech, 1o December, 1979, Geneva, Switzerland, Andre

Roch biography file, AHS.



276


image

born into one of Aspen's founding families, went into the ranching business, and then became president of the Aspen Skiing Corporation, Brown became an important symbol for the town as well as its company boss. His family's extensive landholdings in Aspen, his Yale education, and his management position set him apart, needless to say, from Aspen's other "local" population.

Other resorts--those developed from scratch--exercised even more freedom in shaping their image for tourists. Vail Associates, in particular, could

choose "the look, the atmosphere, the layout [they] wanted," because the company controlled the town's development as well as that of the ski area.102 Vail's

managers cultivated a European image designed to appeal to skier-tourists who wanted a cosmopolitan-feeling vacation without traveling to Europe. Colorado Ski Country USA founder Steve Knowlton said Vail's developers knew "they couldn't be another mining town, so the idea was to have a gondola, which most European resorts have, and to build the hotels and the main street ... [with which] Vail tried

to be another European resort."10 3 In doing so, the area's founder referred

directly not only to alpine skiing's historical roots, but to an elite, European resort culture, that upper-class Americans had followed since the 191Os, and that Averill Harriman had tried to recreate in Sun Valley during the 1930s. Vail's designers made this cultural reference self-consciously. Marketing director Bob Parker described the original reasons for building a gondola at Vail as "prestige, glamour, [and] promotional advantages against major European and domestic resorts." These same reasons, plus the unquestionable popularity of the first gondola, prompted Vail to build a second one in 1968. (An eye towards real estate further convinced them; the new Lion's Head gondola would raise property values at its base area to


image

102Auran, 38. Vail founder Pete Seibert had attended hotel school in Switzerland after his stint in the Tenth Mountain Division on the assumption that he would some day develop his own ski area--he used his experience and expertise to shape Vail.

103Knowlton, 1995, 9.


277


image

the same level as those in the original Vail Village.)104 Vail's choice of lifts, architecture, businesses, and base area development in general created a distinctly European image, and it worked. Developers cashed in on their assumption that skier-tourists--the same clientele responding to Aspen's Old West image--would find it appealing.

Developers at Steamboat Springs worked a different angle. They chose, as Aspen resort managers did, to play off the town's past. Steamboat Springs' roots as a ranching town and the legacy of community skiing which Carl Howelsen started in the 191Os gave them plenty of material. As early as 1946 proponents of Steamboat compared themselves with the "young and brash" Aspen by highlighting a historical "skiing tradition" and an unprecedented level of community involvement in the sport. In these claims they did not lie. The town actually owned the local jumping and skiing area, Howelson Hill, and its schools produced world-class athletes on an amazingly regular basis. "Juvenile delinquency is almost unknown," one reporter explained, "the kids keep busy, tired and happy skiing, and their interests are directed into sports rather than into mischief."105 Collier's

published an essay in 1955 that said it all: "Everybody Skis At Steamboat." Indeed, five of the sixteen U.S. Ski Team members in 1954 hailed from the town, population 2,000. Also characterized as a "Ski Happy Town," and more popularly "Ski Town, U.S.A.," Steamboat entered skiers' consciousness as a fun, family, community resort.1 06



image

°1 4Bi11 Tanler, "Vail's Case for the Second Gondola," Skiing Area News, 4 (Fall

1969), 35-36. See also Mrozek, 9.

105Francis Smith, "Ski Town--Ski Padre," Rocky Mountain Life (December 1946), 50; Bob Collins, "Steamboat's Unique Plan Produces Ski Champs," Rocky Mountain News, 14 February, 1954, 36.

106Lucile Maxfield Bogue, "Everybody Skis At Steamboat," Collier's 4 February, 1955, clipping, "Ski Town" file, BWML; "Ski Happy Town," Denver Post Empire Magazine, 2 November, 1958, 9, clipping, "Ski Town" file, BWML.


278


image

Despite its origins as a ranching community, Steamboat Springs only highlighted that part of its history after 1970, when Olympic racer Billy Kidd "came to town." As a teammate and