Monday, December 13, 2010

The Man Who Taught Us Modern Skiing

Georges Joubert studied world-class skiers and translated their winning techniques into lessons that recreational skiers could learn

By Ron LeMaster
Georges Joubert
Georges Joubert, a giant in the world of ski coaching and instruction, passed away on November 1, 2010. From the late 1950s through the late 1970s he analyzed and described, in print and pictures, the significant movements of skiing being developed by the best competitive skiers in the world, and how the rest of us could learn to make them ourselves. It is fair to say that no single person has had a greater impact on our understanding of how modern skiing works, and how it can be taught.

Joubert was a professor of physical education and the president of the Grenoble University club when Jean Vuarnet joined its skiing program in the mid-1950s. Vuarnet was eighteen years old, and had done little skiing before then. After four years of training under Joubert, he was the French national champion in slalom, giant slalom and downhill, and in 1960 won the Olympic gold medal in downhill at Squaw Valley. Joubert went on to train many top-level racers, including world championship and World Cup winning skiers Patrick Russel and Perrine Pelen, and did an ill-fated stint as head coach of the French Ski Team. Although it is commonly thought that Joubert unilaterally fired the leading members of the French men’s World Cup team in 1973, that action was the majority decision of a panel of five, one of whom was Joubert, who cast a dissenting vote and later characterized the panel's decision as a “gross error.” Yet, over the following decades, he accepted responsibility and suffered the ensuing criticism without complaint. Read more!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Squaw Valley sale marks end of Cushing era

By Seth Masia

In November, when the Squaw Valley Development Co. was sold to KSL Capital Partners, it marked the end of 61 years of control by the Cushing family of California’s winter Olympic venue.
Sandy and Wayne Poulsen
Squaw Valley was the brainchild of Reno's Wayne Poulsen (at right, with wife Sandy), who first skied into the valley in 1931, two years out of high school. A powerhouse athlete and coach in Sierra ski competition in the late 1930s, Poulsen became a pioneer of rope-tow skiing in the Tahoe area, then an instructor at Sun Valley and then a U.S. Army Air Force pilot flying Pan Am Clippers to supply Pacific combat zones. He invested every dime he earned in Squaw Valley real estate. In 1945, after discharge as a lieutenant colonel, Poulsen pioneered new routes for Pan Am. With his wife Sandy he built a home at Squaw, and began looking for investors.

He found Alex Cushing, a New York socialite, Wall Street attorney and Navy veteran. Cushing and his friends, including Lawrance Rockefeller, in 1948 invested about $400,000 to build a lodge and lifts; Poulsen’s contribution was the 640 acres he owned right where the lodge and lifts were to be built (he then bought another 12,000 acres on the valley floor for future development).

Alex CushingCushing (left) proved to be an aggressive developer and promoter, eager to build the resort fast. Poulsen wanted to plan and build with conservative respect for the harsh alpine enivironment. A month before the resort opened in 1949, Cushing took advantage of Poulsen’s absence on a Pan Am flight to vote him off the board of directors. Thereafter Poulsen’s business was real estate development in the Valley, while Cushing ran the resort and the mountain.

Cushing envisioned a vast and varied resort on the European model. He hired Emile Allais as his first ski school director. Allais, and his successor Joe Marillac, made sure that Squaw became a magnet for world class skiers. Top skiers loved Squaw’s cliffs, and its immensely varied and often challenging snow conditions. The steep terrain drew the attention of photographers and film-makers like Warren Miller, who spent a couple of winters there in the early days and helped to popularize the resort. The extreme terrain also produced powerful native skiers like Jimmie Heuga, the Poulsen and McKinney clans, Edie Thys Morgan, Kristin Krone and Jonny Moseley. Meanwhile, the resort became one of the incubators for the craft of extreme skiing, famous for producing talents like Rick Sylvester, Robbie Huntoon and Scot Schmidt.

Characteristically, Cushing.threw lifts up every peak within reach, opening super-steep terrain that would have been considered prohibitively dangerous anywhere else. Lift towers were built in avalanche zones, and some were swept away. Squaw employees habitually hooked an arm around the chairlift hanger in anticipation of a catastrophic stop.

In 1954, with backing from Lawrance Rockefeller and the governor of California, Cushing submitted a bid to host the 1960 Winter Olympics – and after dogged lobbying of the IOC, scored one of the great sports marketing coups of all time. The ’60 games were the first ever to be televised, the first with an Olympic Village to house the athletes, and the first to be electronically timed. Television made Squaw Valley a household name, and helped the heady growth of the ski industry through the following decade. In the course of development Poulsen staged a successful fight to keep the Meadow from being paved over for Olympic parking.

Cushing’s aggressive growth policy drew the ire of state bureaucrats and environmentalists. He was a great believer in “build it first, then get permission.” He was an early investor in every ski lift innovation proposed, and the result, for some decades, was the most efficient uphill transport network in North America. At one point some 33 lifts served 4,000 acres of patrolled terrain, hauling 49,000 skiers per hour. Cushing paid a price: Squaw was repeatedly fined for cutting trees and building before permits were final. The low point of Squaw’s lift operation history was the 1978 disaster when a cable derailed in a wind storm and fell onto a tram car, killing four passengers.

Cushing acquired a reputation as a difficult man to do business with. Over the course of decades, a number of projects to build lodging at the base area collapsed amidst recriminations. With an inadequate bed base, most Squaw Valley skiers had to drive in from lodging in Truckee and Tahoe City. Despite clearing snow from a vast parking lot, Squaw never seemed to have enough parking. The lot gained a few more acres when Blyth Arena, the historic Olympic hockey venue, collapsed under the weight of uncleared snow in 1983. Eventually, Intrawest Corp. was successful in negotiating a deal to build a village with about 285 rooms in the parking lot, beginning in 2001. Ironically, the village reduced the available parking and actually cut the number of lift tickets sold thereafter. Intrawest, crippled by the 2009 recession and facing foreclosure, sold the village to Squaw in January 2010 for an undisclosed sum that probably represented a small fraction of its cost to build. KSL is thus acquiring a viable resort at well below its original value.

Poulsen was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1980, and died in 1995. Cushing was inducted into the Ski Industry Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2003. He died, at 92, in 2006.

The new corporate owner, KSL Capital Partners, owns dozens of golf resorts and a cruise line. It’s part of the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. complex headed by financier Henry Kravis. Its managing directors are two former Vail Resorts executives: Michael S. Shannon was president and CEO of VR from 1986 to 1992, and Eric C. Resnick was treasurer, and then VP of strategic planning and investor relations from 1996 to 2001. Another executive, Marla Steele, was Vail’s director of strategic planning from 1998 to 2007. The company is pledged to invest $50 million in capital improvements.

For the Wayne Poulsen biography, see "Finish Line" by Eddy Ancinas, Fall 1995 Skiing Heritage

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Query from Maurice Woehrle

Maurice Woehrle, who was a top design engineer at Rossignol for several decades, wrote to ask about some old skis:

As regards K√§stle slalom skis, I had no answer from Kidd. I suppose that he does not remember if there was fiberglass in his skis. Another question about winning skis of the 64 Olympics: the downhill was won by Egon Zimmerman with Alu Steel from Fischer. As far as I remember, the edges of these skis were not bonded by glue but fixed by screws. Have you some idea about it? 

The question matters because Head had purchased the Chris Hoerhle patent on the continuous bonded edge, and was defending it aggressively. Thus a factory like Kneissl that refused to pay a royalty to Head had to use screws to hold on the edges, even if they were covered by the base plastic. Some 30 years ago I asked Joe Fischer about the Alu Steel. He had no access to the flexible contact cement used by Head to glue the steel to the aluminum. Instead he put rubber strips -- neoprene -- above the steel as shear layers, He believes he was the first to do this. So the answer, I believe, was no screws in the Alu Steel, and I don't know if Fischer paid royalties to Head.

Concerning the Kastle Slalom of 1964, I wrote an article about it for Skiing Heritage, because it was the last great wooden race ski and was used by all three medalists in slalom at the Innsbruck Olympics that year. The ski was of laminated ash top and bottom with a light core of okoume, and a decorative red plastic top skin -- but no fiberglass. Read the article here:


Sunday, October 31, 2010

ISHA Benefit, Essex Junction, Nov 21

Essex Outlet Shops, Essex Junction, Vt.
A private screening of “THE EDGE OF NEVER”
Followed by Italian dinner at RUSTICO’S
Send check to 
P.O. BOX 4236
Include your email address for ticket delivery
The International Skiing History Association is a 501 (c) (3) organization.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jake Moe on Jean Claude Killy

I just received John Fry's sales pitch letter and the reference to Jean Claude.
And, immediately my mind races back to 1969 - a couple of years before I started Powder.  I was one of the professional ski patrolmen on the Sun Valley Ski Patrol.  One afternoon, the patrol director pulled Richie Bingham and me into a meeting and informed us that we were not going to be patrolling the next day.  He had chosen us to do avalanche control workfor Jean Claude Killy in the back country.  Killy was starring in a Disney film and the film crew needed to have some pre-skiers attack the slope to make sure that it wasn't going to slide on him during the filming.  Talk about being honored with a most incredible project - hanging out with Killy for a day?  Obviously, it was impossible to sleep with all that excitement.
We arose early and got all of our gear for the helicopter ride - and, with Olympic Champion Killy on board we were dropped at the top of a high ridge.  Over the radio, we heard the film director say - "send the patrolmen"!  We jumped off the cliff and immediately were shocked to be in the middle of the most impossible breakable crust that we had ever experienced in Sun Valley  The wind apparently had hit the slope hard the night before and turned a perfectly awesome powder field into 'sheet of crust' three inches thick - and a foot of fresh snow stuck underneath.  We would get some speed up and just barely start to make a turn and our skis would break through and as a result the hard crust would just kill our shins like ice driving into our legs and bringing us to a complete stop creating somersault after somersault.  After falling atleast seven times each from the top of the ridge to the specially built filming platform far down the slope, we slid up to the director and announced that it was no use filming because the slope was completely and totally UN-SKIABLE!  "Like @#$%" he said, "I didn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancel this!"  And, with that he waved for Killy to launch into the slope and ordered film to roll.
We had never seen Killy fall in the days that he ripped the slopes of Sun Valley - and, we almost couldn't keep our eyes open knowing that our hero was about to do headers just as we had done multiple times each.  To our surprise, Killy blew through the crust with such power and grace from top to bottom that it left our mouths wide open.  Richie and I turned to each other with the look that said "Did he just ski the slope we skied?"  Later, when reviewing the footage shot that day in slo-motion, it looked as though blocks of snow the size of rail cars were exploding off his ankles and shins.  I have never seen such execution in such impossible conditions in my life.
He is definitely my hero

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Historic storm opens Colorado season

Great snow at Copper: From Sunday to Tuesday, a storm of historic proportions pounded across the Great Plains. Its western edge brought blizzard conditions to the Colorado Rockies, with strong winds drifting snow up to two feet deep in places. On Thursday, PSIA and AASI demo team members had clear skies for their final day of pre-season training, and Copper mountain lift operators were still digging out. Midwinter snow on Oct 28: Very sweet!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Entries for ISHA Awards

Authors of ski histories published in 2010, and makers during the past year of films and videos about the sport’s past, are invited to submit work for judging. Deadline for entries is Dec. 15, 2010. Three copies of the work should be sent to Rick Moulton, Chairman, ISHA Awards Committee, Box 97, 109 Moulton Drive, Huntington, VT 05462. Winners will honored at Skiing Heritage Week in Sun Valley, Mar. 31, 2011.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stratton photos from Kimet Hand

Stratton ski school director Emo Henrich, and his daughter Benzi, around 1968.

Frank and Jessie Snyder in 2004.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

From Ken Moore

Has Skiing Heritage done a piece on Fritz and Moo-Moo Wiesner? They spent a season in Aspen. a lot of fun and Moo-Moo never took off her fur coat. Their xmas card had a photo of their two very good looking kids.

Did you ever use HuxFlux on your x-country skiis? Dick Durrance gave me some a long time ago. I was with the rescue party that went up Snowmass Creek with Charlie Houston when he discovered that some high altitude sickness was a heart, not a lung, condition. We used skins but Dick used wax and beat us all to the victim.
This rescue began around 5 am on new year's day which meant no partying for the group. Our wives were not too happy about this. I had a medical book with this story in it but moved and lost it. It had a  photo of the rescue group on the trail. Maybe Bob Craig has a copy?

Also, has Skiing Heritage done an article on  the New England college ski team competitions after the Durrance years?  I was skiing for Williams in 1940-41 & 42. Dartmouth and New Hampshire were strong. Great bunch of guys  in those years. That's when Percy Rideout put Beat Me Daddie Boogie on a victrola before anyone was awake and the Dartmouth team ran across all the lined-up cots the teams were sleeping on in the Middlebury gym.

I am more or less house bound and working to keep my memory alive. Skiing Heritage is a great help in this endeavour.

--Ken Moore

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Head Flexible

Dick Crumb, who had a long career in sales and marketing at the original Olin Ski Co., writes:

While cleaning out my in-laws basement I came across a pair of Head "Flexibles" which look like a late 50's - early 60"s model based on the bindings. I have never seen or heard of these. A few questions for you: 
1.) Are you familiar with these? 
2.) If so, are they rare or am I not as good a ski historian as I think I am? 
3.) Is there someone or some place (museum) that might want these? They will just continue to gather dust I if keep them. I'm not looking for $ for them, just a good home. 

The Ski Free bindings look like they're no later than around 1954, and probably earlier (I have a pair on my 1948 Northland Hickories). Ian Ferguson, who joined Head in 1955, confirms that the Flexible pre-dates his era. He says it's a soft-flexing ski built in the same mold as the original Standard, and meant for lighter skiers. "It's not a powder ski," he said. "No one was thinking about specialized skis for powder yet. The first real powder ski we made was the Deep Powder, about 1956."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lovett XC skis

Had lunch with John Lovett yesterday. One of the advantages of living and working in Boulder: From my office I can see the entire history of the Colorado ski industry.

Lovett began making cross country skis in high school, and selling them, too. In 1970, at age 19, he set up his own factory in Boulder to make what may have been the world's first mass-produced fiberglass cross country skis -- and sold about 2,500 pairs that first year. By 1976 the factory was moving 30,000 pairs of skis a year and Lovett was also building alpine skis for a couple of boutique brands. By then he'd sold the company to Eastern Mountain Sports and was getting ready to move on.

John has some adventures to relate, involving helicopters and three Bobs named Burns, Lange and Redford. We'll get to some of those stories soon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

V-Link and electronic speed training

By Seth Masia

VLink, a high-tech device invented by Hewlett-Packard scientist Richard Kirby, is now in use by the U.S. Ski Team to improve the carving precision of world class athletes and Development Team trainees. The chip, attached to the ski behind the binding, uses three microminiaturized optical tracking circuits to record movement through space in three dimensions and three axes. In training mode, the VLink transmits an audio signal to a set of earbuds, telling the skier about any sideways drift, to a precision of half a millimeter. VLink records data 6500 times per second, and is accurate to 70 miles per hour.

Bill Johnson at Sarajevo, 1984 (Sports Illustrated photo)
By looking at the graphic readout, a racer and coach can see where in the course of the turn the ski is skidding or slipping enough to cost speed.

This development reminds me that back in the ‘80s some of the national teams used downhill training skis equipped with pressure-sensing transducers above the steel edges. If a racer could equalize the pressure on the two edges of each ski, it meant that he was riding a perfectly flat ski and the theory at the time was that this was the way to maximize glide speed. Bill Johnson's string of downill victories in 1984 -- including the Olympic gold medal -- was thought at the time to be due to his talent for riding a "loose" flat ski.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who can tell us more about the transducer-equipped skis. If you were a racer or coach who used them, or if you were a tech working with the skis, please give us more detail on how they worked and whether they were effective in improving glide speed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Great Rossignol Boondoggle

By Seth Masia

I’ve just stumbled across a reminiscence by Jackson Hogen of a Rossignol-sposored junket to the Alps in the winter of 1993-1994 (see Because Jackson mentions me in the article, I feel some obligation to elaborate, and to set the record straight on a few minor points.

Jackson is entirely correct on the market situation of the era. Salomon was on a roll, and had recently introduced its line of “monocoque” alpine skis. They were growing very quickly, mostly at the expense of Rossignol and Dynastar. Salomon was a powerful marketing machine. One of its tools was the full-bore press trip – the company would round up a dozen or so ski magazine staffers and fly us off to some snowy venue for a three-day new-product introduction. On occasion, the Austrian Trade Commission did something similar for Austrian ski and boot manufacturers. But Salomon seemed happy to spend the most money. By 1993, Rossignol’s management felt they needed to put on a full-court press in answer. The company sent invitations to all the American ski magazines (SKI, Skiing, Powder, Snow Country, Ski Racing) and flew us off to Europe.

In attendance were two or three writers plus a publisher or advertising rep from each publication, escorted by the senior management of Rossignol’s U.S. subsidiary, and Rossi had hired Andy Mill as athlete-host. We were supposed to have a good time. Jackson’s idea of a good time consisted very largely of ingesting whatever fell to hand, and then skiing hard.

The woods above Val Floret, Tignes.
First stop was Tignes. In theory there was a FIS race to be attended, but a blizzard was in progress so four of us (Mill, Hogen and me, and a local guide) jumped on some GS skis and headed for a steepish out-of-bounds hardwood forest on either side of the Les Lanches lift. The upper slopes were a complete white-out but in the trees we could see perfectly and the new snow lay about 18 inches deep. I should have felt sleep-deprived and jet-lagged but it was one of the glorious mornings of my life. I love skiing with Andy Mill – his knees are trashed enough that I can keep up with him, but not so trashed as to keep him out of trouble. Les Lanches was then a double chair, and because Mill and I were well-matched for speed (at least in powder) we sort of lost touch with Hogen and the ESF guide.

At lunch, Hogen passed out. In addition to the sleep deprivation and jet-lag, he was hung over and dehydrated. I was the volunteer who helped him stagger back to the bus and found him an overdose of aspirin and eau minerale.

We then toured the new ski factory. Rossignol had built this production line to make the 4SV, a light squirt ski meant to replace the popular 4SK recreational slalom ski in the line. Fat skis were already in wide use for powder skiing, Elan had already introduced the SCX shaped ski and the Austrian factories had their own shaped skis in prototype, so I thought it curious that Rossi had just spend about a million bucks to create a light, overdamped straight ski that would be obsolete before it cooled.

Then it was off to Grenoble for cocktails chez Boix-Vives, a fabulous penthouse. Then a late-night charter flight on a ratty but durable old Gulfstream I turboprop, to Venice. About two dozen of us were massed into what was really a 19-passenger airplane, so we got to make use of the cockpit jumpseat, the head, and the overhead luggage bins.
Jackson here begins to make frequent reference to a “whacked-out” boot editor. I won’t identify this personage, save to note that he seemed a marginal Asperger case, obsessively focused and oblivious to social skills. His obsession on this trip was to annoy the hell out of our host, Jacques Rodet, president of Rossignol's North American operations.

We toured the Caber factory in Montebelluna. Rossignol had just purchased the facility and begun making a bright yellow race boot under its own label, a stiff four-buckle boot that would eventually make a suitable stable-mate to the Lange race boots Rossignol already made in Bolzano.

There was some kind of mix-up over luncheon plans but we wound up in a wonderful haute-cuisine country inn somewhere between Montebelluna and Venice. Our table made far too much noise, disturbing a dining room full of well-dressed civilized folk. Jackson showed off his Italian with a loudly-declaimed toast in the form of an obscene bit of doggerel.

The Gulfstream I lofted us over the alps at dusk, and I was glued to the window watching the alpenglow from a new perspective.  We landed at Le Bourget half an hour after dark. On the bus to our hotel – an old monastery on the Left Bank converted to deluxe rooms -- the whacked-out boot editor asked Rodet, in all seriousness, “What river is that?” Rodet, who had graciously suffered fools for three days, finally lost it. “There’s only one river in Paris!” he barked. 

Dinner was at a three-star establishment overlooking said river. My chief memory of the meal is watching Rodet glare as the boot editor served himself with bare hands. The good-time tour concluded at the Crazy Horse. Like Jackson, I’ll leave that experience to your imagination.

Back at the hotel, we found that our hosts had thoughtfully left us each a pair of 4SV skis and a pair of bright yellow race boots. I’m sorry to say that the skis proved to be submarines, going to the bottom of any soft snowpack and staying there. They lasted one season in the market, then got blown away in the shaped-ski revolution. The boots worked well.

Related articles: 100 Years of Rossignol.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tribute to climate scientist Stephen Schneider


By Suzy Chaffee
Stanford's Dr. Stephen Schneider, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, (shared with his IPCC team), who publicly praised the Native American Elders for saving ski areas from snow droughts since 1963, passed on July 19.  This Climatologist skier also praised the ski areas for reaching out to share the joy of skiing and snowboarding with tribes in their beloved ancestral mountains, which inspired them to lead the snowdances.  
Dr. Stephen Schneider
The first known snowdance, which saved Vail,  was covered on the CBS Huntley-Brinkley Report.  Southern Ute Elder, Eddy Box Jr, whose father so graciously led it, and four generations, who are treated like family, have continued, said, "We wanted to create more harmony between our cultures and Nature." 
Snowdances are prayer ceremonies led by gifted Elders of many tribes.., often with singing and drumming that calls in the Spirits, and magnificent dancers in regalia at the base of the mountains, like Aspen’s Gondola Plaza.  The tribes sincerely thank Creator, Mother Earth and the Nature Spirits/Angels/Divas in advance for the gracious snow blessings.  I was surprised to find this is similar to how Essenes like Jesus prayed, also facing the "Sacred Four Directions." 
Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment was the first university known to exchange environmental wisdom with Indigenous Peoples - the Hawaiians and Maori of New Zealand.  As a Senior Fellow of the Institute, Dr. Schneider went on to create a partnership with many North American Elders through our Native American Olympic Team Foundation (NAOTF), a partnership of tribal Elders and leaders and Olympians.  

Read the rest of this post at

Durrance and breakaway poles, 1932

John Fry's column in the new September 2010 issue SKI Magazine recounts the modern history of the breakaway slalom pole. But he reports that he missed an earlier development. John writes:

In John Jerome's book The Man on the Medal, when Dick Durrance was racing as a teenager in Bavaria in 1932 he recalled, "A friend of mine named Hannes Totenhaupt and I devised slalom flags that would stay put when they were hit. We'd take an old bedspring, wind it around a steel spike on one end, and stick a dowel on the other end to hold the flag. I guess we sort of invented precursors to the breakaway poles they use nowadays."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1964 Olympic poster: Who is the skier?

Hey, Corky here...   I received an inquiry from a skiing fan in Michigan who recently read the article on my career in SKIING HERITAGE...  He asked me if I knew who the skier is in this 1964 Winter Olympic poster.  I remember the poster well as it was hanging on the wall in the Pine Chalet where I lived during my first winter in 1964 as a ski instructor on the Sun Valley Ski School staff...  I dimly remember thinking it was shot by Fred Lindholm or maybe Willy Bogner...  Not sure, though, and never did know who the skier is...

If anyone knows, could you please send me a note and I'll pass the skier's identity along to the skiing "fan" in Michigan...

Thanks and have a good one! 

--Corky Fowler

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bradley Packer-Grader, in historical context

Swiss reader Luzi Hitz recently sent us a collection of photos of snow rollers used to groom pistes in Switzerland and France during the 1950s and 1960s. The picture at right, for instance, was apparently taken above the St. Bernard Pass in 1950 (but it may be as late as 1964). This raises the question whether any of these devices predate the packer-grader first used at Winter Park in 1950.

Well, yes and no. In both Europe and the United States, the process of rolling snow to achieve a smooth surface long predates the development of ski lifts and trails. Snowy roads were commonly packed out hard by hauling heavy agricultural rollers behind teams of horses. The purpose was to provide easy gliding for sleighs and sledges, and solid footing for the horses pulling them (horseshoes were often equipped with caulks to give them traction on hard and icy surfaces). In the American Ski Annual for 1945-46, Phil Robertson, manager of Mt. Cranmore, described using an agricultural roller in the fall of 1939 to pack down the early season snow so it would freeze to the ground and make a solid base for later snowfalls. The resort used a small Caterpiller tractor to haul the roller. European snowsports operators had the same idea in the prewar years, but by November of 1939 they had more pressing issues to worry about.

Repeated rolling did nothing to break up the icy surface that developed under heavy skier traffic, or after a melt-freeze cycle. Robertson wrote “We remedy this condition by scarifying late in the day, creating a powder surface which freezes during the night to the harder snow below. This operation is carried on with our invention called the Magic Carpet, a network of chains and caulks 10 by 14 feet, weighing 1200 pounds, which is hauled over the slopes with a tractor.” Find photos of this device in action accompanying Jeff Leich’s article on early snowmaking and grooming in the Spring 2002 newsletter of the New England Ski Museum.

After the war, new resorts used pre-war grooming methods. Despite the development of early snowmobiles (and the 10th Mountain Division’s Weasel), no over-the-snow vehicles yet existed with the power to drag rollers through the deep soft snow found in the Western states, and bulldozers were too heavy – they sank out of sight.

In the United States we generally credit Steve Bradley as the father of snow grooming. Bradley assumed management of Winter Park in June of 1950 and immediately began working with Ed Taylor on ideas for stabilizing and smoothing the snow surface. Taylor, a member of the Winter Park board of directors, was a former chairman of the National Ski Patrol and had a special interest in snow physics, based on his work controlling avalanches.

Bradley and Taylor appear to be the first experimenters to focus on the problem of smoothing out moguls. At the time Winter Park was smoothing out moguls manually, by sending out teams of men with shovels. According to Jerry Groswold, who watched Bradley and Taylor at work, they tried a number of devices to automate the process, beginning with their own version of Cranmore’s Magic Carpet, a six-foot length of chain-link fencing they pulled down the slope while skiing.

By the close of the year Bradley had designed and built a roller design, but with a difference: First, it was a “slat roller,” which had the effect of packing half the snow and “powdering” the rest for a soft, skiable surface. Then, in front of the roller he put an adjustable steel blade, spring-loaded to shave the tops off moguls. It worked like a road grader and steamroller ganged together. It wasn’t just a packer-and-smoother: it was the Bradley Packer-Grader. The January 15, 1951 issue of the National Newspaper of Skiing reported on the successful use of the Bradley XPG-1 -- X for experimental, PG-1 for the first packer-grader.

The gravity-powered Packer-Grader weighed about 700 lb and was steered by a skier. The technique: go straight down the fall line, depending on the blade for speed control. At Winter Park, Bradley sent teams of “pilots” down the mogul fields in V-formation, like a squadron of fighter planes. According to Groswold, they earned 25 cents an hour “combat pay” over and above the trail crew wage. Rig and pilot returned to the top of the hill via T-bar.

Bradley filed for a patent in December 1951. By 1952, Fred Pabst was using his new Tucker Sno-Cats to pull slat rollers up and down the Bromley slopes.

Patent number 2,786,283 was issued to Bradley in March, 1957, covering “Apparatus for grading and packing snow.” That year Bradley mounted a Packer-Grader behind one of the new Kristi snowcats just going into production in Arvada, Colo., rigging a hydraulic cylinder to control blade height in place of the original steel spring. Thiokol Corp., then beginning snowcat production in Utah, licensed the Packer-Grader technology and modern powered snow grooming was born.

Returning to the St. Bernard photo: Note that this is a slat roller machine without a grading blade, and that the skier behind the roller controls the speed by sideslipping or snowplowing. A note on the French website suggests that more sophisticated powered grooming machinery was introduced by Emile Allais, who arrived at Courchevel in 1954 after having worked in North and South America since the opening of Squaw Valley in 1948. He brought American and Canadian ideas with him.

Pre-history of slope grooming

Luzi Hitz writes to us:

Here some info re groomers used in Switzerland in the 50ties and 60ties.

The photo 374 of the Slovenian book is neither from Grand St.-Bernard (Switzerland) nor Petit St.-Bernard (F). It may be above Crans-Montana (unfortunately the weather was bad the two days my son was there – so I may check it this summer). However, I met there an oldie who used these rollers to groom ski runs in the 50ties; he was an employee of the gondola owners.

By the way, the same photo is shown under with as a comment that the idea was brought by Emile Allais, the French ski racer, in the 60ties from the US to Courchevel (France) – which I doubt as already before there were many in switzerland.

The photo Wintersportmuseum show the groomer (roller) exposed in the museum at Davos. It was likely used at Lenzerheide (Switzerland) in the 50ties.

I was told that such rollers were already used in the 30ties for grooming roads at Davos and later for ski lifts trails.

The other photos show groomers used in Braunwald (Switzerland) in the early 60ties, see also the site of "my ski lift friend" Jakob Schuler who collects skilift and gonndola parts and which one day hopefully will end in a museum:

Best regards.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Whitey Sandeen

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Default Whitey Sandeen

I have known Whitey since the early seventies. I was a sales rep for Beconta at this point in time and Whitey was one of my customers. He had a very intersting life. He arrived in America from Norway shortly after WW II on a freighter and jumped ship in New York. He had a variety of jobs until he founded Olympic Ski Shop on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn. He then expanded his operations to Manhasset and Huntington NY. He also had the concession at the Ski Shop at Mount Snow for a number of years. Although a skiing and jumping enthusiast he was never part of the Norwegion ski team. He was a good jumper and organized many events at Bear Mountain in NY.
His children Donald and Sylvia are - to the best of my knowlegde - still on Long Island.
He was a character and a driving force of the Metro NY retail trade.

Klaus Zimmermann

Originally Posted by Vassily View Post
Greetings to all! Is there anyone out there who might have a quick historical reference to the 1932 Olympics held at Lake Placid, New York? I'm looking for a list of the Norwegian Team members. I used to work for a gentleman by the name of Asmund Sandeen, who jumped for Norway. Can anyone tell me about how he did? I believe that he may have been a Bronze Medalist, and I am really curious to find out. While I am but a humble amateur skiier, I did learn a few things from, "Whitey", (as he was called by his friends), and I would be most grateful for any information on Asmund Sandeen, Olympic Ski Jumper for Norway, 1932.


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Old 03-17-2009, 03:33 PM
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Hello. Though you say "There was never any site in California under consideration" for the 1932 Winter Olympics, in the late 1920s the California State Chamber of Commerce did lobby to have the Winter Olympics in California, because LA was hosting the Summer Games. Big Pines, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe were discussed as possible locations.
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Old 01-14-2009, 10:32 AM
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The 1932 Olympics were secured by Godfrey Dewey for Lake Placid. There was never any site in California under consideration. There was definitely a snow drought, and snow for the ski jump was brought in from Canada via rail car. The cross-country races were held on a modified course high in the Sentinel Range where there was enough snow in the woods to shovel onto the trail and make it skiable. The mention of moving the cross-country events to Rumford comes from the 1950 World Nordic Championships when again there was a snow drought. The jump was again snowed with snow from Canada, but rumford picked up enough snow from a coastal storm that the races could be held there.
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Old 01-16-2007, 10:45 AM
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Default More on Whitey

I passed the question along to Art Tokle Jr, who responded:

"Norway took a clean sweep in the 1932 Jumping event (only one hill in those days)
Gold: Birger Ruud
Silver: Hans Beck
Bronze: Kaare Wahlberg

"Asmund 'Whitey' Sandeen was the owner of the Scandinavian Ski Shop, located next door to the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manhattan, with two other locations on Long Island. He jumped at Bear Mountain for many years in the late thirties and early forties before becoming an Eastern Judge. I believe he was a past president of the Scandinavian Ski Club, who hosted many jumping events at Bear Mountain over the years. As far as being a member of the 1932 Norwegian Olympic Team, I kind of doubt it, as there were many outstanding jumpers in Norway at the time, and I'm sure that someone would have said something about him being on the team during the Bear Mountain Days."
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Old 01-15-2007, 09:27 AM
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Nope, Lake Placid's hosting of the 1932 games was arranged by Godfrey Dewey in the usual way. Lake Placid itself suffered a snow draught in 1932 and the cross country ski races were moved to Rumford Maine.

Old Jumper (all from memory)
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Old 12-26-2006, 05:16 PM
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Default 1932 Jump Record and 32 Olympics.

I think the 32 Olympic Games was to be held in Southern California at Big Pines near Wrightwood. I maybe wrong about this but I think a record jump was made at this location. The lack of snow forced the games to Lake Placid. I don't know who made the jump.
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Old 06-20-2006, 12:47 PM
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Default Not a Norwegian Jumper...

I have had a look in a book titled "III Olympic Winter Games Lake Placid 1932" published by the III Olympic Games Committee in 1932, Compiled by George M Lattimer
There is no mention of your skier, in any of the skiing events.
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Old 03-31-2006, 04:32 PM
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Default 1932 Olympics - Lake Placid

Greetings to all! Is there anyone out there who might have a quick historical reference to the 1932 Olympics held at Lake Placid, New York? I'm looking for a list of the Norwegian Team members. I used to work for a gentleman by the name of Asmund Sandeen, who jumped for Norway. Can anyone tell me about how he did? I believe that he may have been a Bronze Medalist, and I am really curious to find out. While I am but a humble amateur skiier, I did learn a few things from, "Whitey", (as he was called by his friends), and I would be most grateful for any information on Asmund Sandeen, Olympic Ski Jumper for Norway, 1932.