Modern American skiing, like the magazine you’re holding, was born in the decade preceding World War II. The sport actually flourished and grew in the middle of the Great Depression that left millions unemployed, destitute and in soup lines. Forever after it would be known that not even the toughest of times could quell the passion for skiing in people’s hearts.
The government put the needy to work cutting ski trails. The ropetow, T-bar and chairlift were all invented. Steel edges enabled, for the first time, controlled turns on hard snow and ice.
In Seattle, Hjalmar Hvam invented the first marketable release binding, promising a safer future. Also in Seattle, a young newspaperman named Alf Nydin launched a magazine called SKI, publishing a single issue in the winter of 1935–36.
On the slopes, novices learned how to turn via rigid stages, from snowplow to stem Christie. The progression, called the Arlberg technique, devised by St. Anton native Hannes Schneider, was taught in ski schools mostly headed by Europeans, and officially sanctified when he arrived in North Conway, N.H., in 1939.
America hosted the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, but they were limited to cross-country races and jumping. Downhill and slalom entered the Games for the first time in 1936 in Germany. That same winter at Sun Valley, railroad magnate Averell Harriman built the first American ski resort from the ground up. Two years later another millionaire, Joseph Bondurant Ryan, opened Mont Tremblant.
Department stores, such as Saks, sold wooden skis, leather boots and gabardine jackets and pants. Saks even installed an indoor ramp so customers could try out this exotic new gear. —J.F.