On the list of dynamic forces that propelled skiing to its explosive growth before 1970-plastic boots, fiberglass skis, step-in bindings-sex appeal is rarely mentioned. However, natural impulses may have had as much to do with skiing's burgeoning popularity as market forces did.
America began to see skiing as a sexy sport after the mid-1950s, when, for the first time, the stretch pant exposed the human form-especially the female form-during the chill of winter. The adulation of the female skier may have reached its apogee not long after a popular pinup calendar featured a woman so intent on improving her ski technique that she apparently forgot to finish dressing (below).
From there, it was downhill all the way. SKI displayed attractive women on foldout spreads, in hot tubs, on snow-and once even put a winsome Miss America on its cover. (She was Miss Colorado, and she could actually ski.)
The ultimate confluence of skiing and sex appeal may have occurred when the Playboy Club opened resort hotels next to ski slopes in Wisconsin (Grand Geneva Resort) and New Jersey (Vernon Valley, now Mountain Creek) in the late 1960s. This was a time when ski instructors-bronzed and handsome, often with foreign accents-typically treated female pupils as athletically challenged, but also worthy of the most passionate après-ski pursuit.
What makes it all seem so odd now is how much more successful the North American female skier was than her male counterpart. Fiercely competitive, female racers won 90 percent of all Olympic and World Championship medals awarded to North American alpine racers before 1970. Yet editors were more likely to celebrate a woman's success not with a photo of her bashing gates or with a medal around her neck, but by stretching her across a color gatefold-or a pinup calendar page.
Today's female skiers are no less sexy, but are accorded more respect for their skills on the hill.