More than 1,000 ropetows ran up America’s mountains in the mid-1950s, but only 78 ski areas were equipped with wire-cable lifts—chairlifts, pomas and T-bars. Destination resorts like Sun Valley and Stowe, with restaurants, bars, hotels and lodges, were scarce; people flew to Europe for a big-mountain, amenity-filled ski vacation.
Then change came suddenly. Scores of ropetow hills upgraded: In a single year, as many as 200 chair and surface lifts were added. To guarantee better snow surfaces, ski areas installed two homegrown inventions of the 1950s: snowmaking and slope grooming, vaulting ahead of European slopes in technology.
But lift lines remained long. Ski-area expansion couldn’t keep up with the tsunami of young postwar Baby Boomers entering a sport that had suddenly become sexy.
Howard Head produced the first viable metal ski, transforming the sport. Putting on boots got easier when buckles replaced laces. Leg fractures and sprains dropped dramatically with the introduction of better release bindings, including designs from Cubco, Marker and Look. A Sun Valley ski repairman, Ed Scott, devised the first aluminumshaft pole, with a swing weight that revolutionized the act of triggering a turn. To preview products for retailers, the first ski industry trade show took place in 1953.
The reverse shoulder turn used by slalom racers evolved into a popular recreation turn: wedeln, a series of short, down-thefall- line direction changes. America’s most successful racer of the decade, Brooks Dodge, revealed the secrets of “How to Ski the New Way” in SKI’s October 1956 issue—a scoop. —J.F.